Posted by: dinainsuburbia | November 16, 2008

Baklava

Tomorrow is my step-grandmother’s memorial service (she died a few weeks ago).  As Mary (or, Ya Ya, as Maddie calls her) loved to bake, I am making baklava to honor her and her Greek heritage. 

This is my first time trying to make baklava- not the ideal situation for serving 50+ guests.  I’m always a little intimidated by working with phyllo dough.  I knew if I took my time, (and with the help of my sous chef darling husband) I’d be okay.

So far so good.  The baklava is baking away happily in a 350 degree oven.  The syrup is cooling on the stove top filled with honey, cinnamon, and clove goodness.  I have to run out to the store in a few to get some more butter (mmmm butter) to make batch two.

While I was assembling the baklava, I couldn’t help but think of Mary.  Mary loved to cook, but loved to bake even better. She was famous for rainbow cookies, butter balls, and these rolled-up cookies filled with pecans and cinnamon (they were wonderfully buttery too).  She shared the most UNBELIEVABLE strawberry shortcake recipe with me.  We bought each other cookbooks.  I knew when Mary was bringing dessert, that it would be delicious (well, except for the year she forgot to add the sugar to the pumpkin pie).  Assembling this baklava was a very cathartic experience.  I haven’t been looking forward to tomorrow, especially after the break down I had in church immediately after she passed.  Getting together with a bunch of people, engulfed with the same level of grief will be a little much.  Hopefully, communing with her tonight, over sheets of phyllo dough and chopped nuts, will allow me to get by tomorrow without so much sadness.  And, of course, Maddie will be there, too.  So that will help, a lot.

The recipe from epicurious is here.

It got 80 positive reviews- so I expect it to be good.

 

 

Syrup:

  • 3 cups sugar, or 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
  • 2 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon (optional)
  • 4 to 6 whole cloves, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

Filling:

  • 1 pound blanched almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or any combination, finely chopped or coarsely ground (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

preparation

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.

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