BY AMANDA PIEDIMONTE
A few years ago, I offered to make dessert for Aurélie’s birthday dinner. Not having a huge sweet tooth, as alluded to here, she instructed me to go nutty rather than chocolatey or fruity. And so the idea of making homemade baklava was born! (Actually, I couldn’t decide between baklava or hazelnut crème brûlée so I made both…)
Making baklava is just like making lasagna – it’s all about assembling ingredients, except people are so very impressed. Here’s how to make baklava that’ll rival that of your Greek (or Turkish or Lebanese or…) friend’s Grandmother’s:
1 (16-ounce) package thin phyllo pastry
6 cups nuts – I used walnuts and pistachios
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups melted unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Photo Credit: Katherine Macnaughton
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9 by 13-inch pan (or whatever pan you use to make lasagna)
- Using a food processor – or, like me, large Ziploc bag and rolling pin – crush the nuts. Careful not to turn them into powder! You can buy crushed nuts, but they’ll be significantly dryer than if you crush them yourself. And besides, smashing a Ziploc bag with a rolling pin is very therapeutic.
- Set aside a handful of crushed nuts to use as a finishing touch
- Mix the nuts with cinnamon, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup of melted butter
- Unroll the phyllo pastry – you may need to cut the sheets to fit the pan – and cover your stack with a damp kitchen towel
- Lay 2 phyllo sheets in the pan and using a brush, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 6 sheets layered.
- Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups nut mixture on top.
- Repeat steps 5 & 6 until you have 4 layers of nuts and dough. Top with 6 layers of dough.
- Cut diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. This is the nerve-wrecking part because you want your baklava to look pretty but you’ve got your fingers in the dough and it’s starting to look messy. Don’t worry – just cut away, then reposition the dough and once it’s baked, it’ll look great.
- Bake for 50 minutes, the baklava will be golden and crisp and your house will smell wonderful
- Meanwhile, boil the water and remaining sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the honey and vanilla. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the baklava from the oven, spoon the sauce over it and let cool before digging in.