Sunday, August 15, 2010

Baklava

Baklava

Here's a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of many amateur bakers: "phyllo dough." But fear not -- it's not as bad as it sounds, not at all.

Granted, a lot of Web sites make it sound scary, what with their damp towels and their dire warnings not to let the dough get dry, or overmoist, or really anything at all, 'cause surely, you will ruin it, they seem to imply. But I found that really, all you have to do is thaw it in the fridge overnight, then be careful -- unroll it gently, and use a light touch when peeling the sheets apart and laying them down in a stack.

I will say one thing about this recipe -- it takes a while. Plan on a few hours the first time you make it, 'cause you can't really rush such a delicate dough, not to mention that we're talking about a bajillion layers to put together here. But if you take your time, it really isn't all that hard to make baklava (you don't even have to make a dough!), and the reward is well worth the time.

Layering the baklava

Baklava
Adapted from Allrecipes
1 16-ounce package phyllo dough sheets
1 pound nuts, chopped small (your pick -- I use just walnuts, but almonds and pistachios are also traditional, and feel free to mix them up)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c butter (at least -- have a full pound handy, in case you need more)
1 c water
1 c sugar
1/2 c honey
1 tsp vanilla

1. Put the water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil so the sugar dissolves. Add the honey and vanilla, then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Mix together the nuts and cinnamon.
3. In another bowl, melt the butter. Brush some onto the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13 pan. Set the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Layer the baklava as follows:
      - Place 2 sheets of dough in the pan. Brush butter on top. Repeat this 4 times.
      - Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the nuts over the top. Add 2 sheets of dough. Brush on more butter.
      - Repeat the above step until you're out of nuts. You should have about 8 sheets of dough left. Layer these 2 at a time until it's all in the pan.
5. Score the baklava into pieces for serving, taking care not to cut all the way through.
6. Bake for about 50 minutes, until golden and crisp.
7. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup over the hot baklava. Let cool.

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