For our dessert for our Greek party we made this very straightforward recipe for baklava. Not having any walnuts or almonds as the original recipe suggested, we just used the pound of pecans hanging out in our cupboard and it turned out scrumptious anyways. Once a pounds of pecans are doused in the honey and sugar, how could they not taste anything but amazing?
In other news, I now think of this Aladdin song whenever I hear “baklava” after going to a Disney trivia night where the challenge was to finish the line from a Disney song. This song specifically ends with “How about a little more ____?” The answer was “baklava,” and someone very funny (or truly hearing impaired) wrote in “broccoli rabe.” Say it out loud a few times and it kind of makes sense… sort of.
Anyways while I can’t say this is as healthy as broccoli rabe, it’s a perfect end to a Mediterranean meal, or just a long Tuesday.
3 cups sugar, or 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 to 6 whole cloves, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1 pound blanched almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or any combination, finely chopped or coarsely ground — I used pecans (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cardamom (optional)
1 pound (about 24 sheets) phyllo dough
About 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter or vegetable oil
1. To make the syrup: Stir the sugar, water, lemon juice, and if using, the corn syrup, cinnamon sticks, and/or cloves over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes (it will register 225 degrees on a candy thermometer). Discard the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Let cool.
2. To make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-by-9-inch or 13-by-9-inch baking pan or 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan.
4. Place a sheet of phyllo in the prepared pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with 8 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Use any torn sheets in the middle layer. Spread with the remaining nut mixture and end with a top layer of 8 sheets, continuing to brush each with butter. Trim any overhanging edges.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips (about 1 3/4 inches wide) through the top layer of pastry. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.
6. Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.
7. Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the cooled syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. If the baklava dries out while being stored, drizzle with a little additional hot syrup.