I've been looking forward to this day for a long time. Not only is it my chance to share my most favorite recipe with you, it's a time to celebrate my all-time favorite dessert! Baklava has been around for ages and making it is an art of labor and love.
The first time I ever made this I was hosting international students in my home for a movie night. I had many friends from the Middle East coming and I was nervous to hear their judgements. They loved the recipe and argued for a good thirty minutes over which of them could claim its history! My Turkish friend was confident that Turks owned its past. My Persian friend spoke loudly and emphatically that "Perrrrrsians" had developed the tasty treat. Before I knew it my house was an all out war zone of Saudis, Turks, Persians, and Libyans fighting for rights. See? Everyone wants a piece of this action!
Anyways, having had it tested and approved by "the real deal" I'm confident you'll love it.
I've adapted this recipe from DedeMed's Kitchen. You will need the following ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey
1 (16 oz) pkg. phyllo dough
1 lb. chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 cup butter (melted)
1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
To begin place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over med-high heat until the sugar is melted. Add the vanilla and honey and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Then let cool on the stove top.
*While you are cooking the syrup set out the frozen phyllo dough to let it warm up enough for unrolling.
Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 13x9 pan. Place two sheets of phyllo dough in the bottom of the pan and brush on the melted butter lightly with a pastry brush. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. (Be sure to cover the unused dough with a damp cloth to keep it from drying out.) Working with the dough can be frustrating, but even if it tears and breaks it will still taste the same!
Sprinkle the 8 sheets with a small handfull of the chopped nuts that have been tossed with cinnamon. Top with two sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter. Continue layering nuts, 2 sheets, butter leaving 6-8 sheets for the top layer as you did the very bottom (just layering 2 sheets with melted butter).
Once you've finished layering, cut the baklava into the shapes you desire before baking. I like to do the little triangles, but simple squares work fine to. Bake for 50 minutes, until golden and crisp.
Once the baklava is done baking, pour the syrup over each piece with a spoon while it is still hot. Even though it looks like too much syrup, be sure to use it all. It will make for a sweet, mouth-watering ethnic dessert!
Let it cool, and be sure to lightly cover it with a cloth. Covering with plastic wrap or foil will make the baklava soggy.
Now play a little Nancy Ajram and enjoy the fruits of your labor! :)