Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making Baklava--in photos...

We had a family dinner this past Sunday and it was Chad's turn to choose the meal. Predictably he chose Reuben Sandwiches and Baklava. Baklava is a pain to make, but wonderful to eat. I don't make it very often, but we all love it when I do. This time I took photos of the process to accompany the recipe. So, for those of you who would love to make the best Baklava this side of Greece, here you go:


Make the syrup first, so it will have time to cool off.
Ingredients assembled. The pyrex pitcher has the ground nuts, bread crumbs and cinnamon.
2c sugar
1 1/2C water
1/2 C honey
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves

Syrup cooking on the stove.
Combine above ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and boil gently until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes.  Strain into bowl.  Cool completely.

Nut filling
1 3/4C sliced almonds, toasted, about 7 ounces
1 3/4C walnuts, toasted, about 7 ounces
1/2C fine dry white breadcrumbs
2t cinnamon

Finely chop almonds and walnuts in a processor (or blender).  Transfer to large bowl.  Mix in breadcrumbs and cinnamon.

2   1-pound packages frozen phyllo pastry sheets, thawed, (available in large grocery stores in the frozen food section.
1 1/4C (2 1/2 sticks) butter, melted, lukewarm

Whole cloves

Buttering the pan. I use a pyrex baking dish which is a bit larger than a 9x13 pan.
Athens Fillo now comes in a twin pack, so you don't need to cut it in half first. 
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°.  Butter bottom and sides of a 13x 9x 2" glass baking dish.  Unroll stacked phyllo sheets on work surface.  Press on folds to smooth.  Using heavy sharp knife, cut stacked sheets crosswise in half. [If the dough is the right size to fit in your pan, you won't need to cut it. I found that  Athen's Fillo dough now comes in twin packs and doesn't need to be cut. Also, because of the size, not so much is wasted and 1# was enough.]

Place 1 sheet of phyllo in bottom o prepared dish (keep remaining sheets covered with plastic wrap and damp towel to prevent drying). Because many brands of phyllo are not long enough to touch both ends of dish, it may be necessary to stagger sheets so that 1 sheet touches one end of dish and the next sheet touches the opposite end.

First layer, butered.
Brush first sheet with melted butted.  Top with second phyllo sheet. Brush with butter.  Repeat, using 12 more sheets, buttering each sheet. (14 SHEETS IN FIRST LAYER)  Top with 3/4C of nut mixture.

Cover with 4 MORE SHEETS, IN SECOND LAYER, buttering each.  Sprinkle 3/4C nut mixture over it.

Do THREE MORE LAYERS WITH 4 SHEETS EACH, buttering each sheet and putting 3/4C nut mixture over each layer.

Sprinkling on the nut filling. Make sure to get corners.
Top with 18 MORE SHEETS IN LAST LAYER, buttering each, (reserving remaining phyllo sheets for another use, may refreeze).  Brush top sheet generously with butter.

Sometimes the dough rips. That is OK.

The dough is too short. Just put the next piece over the uncovered parts. With so many layers, it will all even out.
Using a long sharp knife, cut baklava lengthwise into thirds. To form diamond shapes, make 8 diagonal cuts, spacing evenly and forming about 15 diamonds (there will be some smaller pieces around the edge of the dish.)  Press a whole clove into the center of each diamond.

Adding the cloves. When the cloves are all in, sprinkle top with water. I just put some on my fingers and sprinkle the best I can.
Lightly sprinkle top of baklava with cold water.  Bake until pastry is golden brown, about one hour.  Remove baklava from oven and set on work surface.

Out of the oven. It smells heavenly.
Adding the syrup.
Gradually pour syrup evenly over hot baklava. 

Transfer to a rack and cool completely in baking dish.  Can be prepared 1 day ahead.  Cover with foil and let stand at room temperature.  To serve, transfer baklava pieces to a platter, using metal spatula as aid.

Cooled and ready to eat. This serves a LOT and tastes great left over.


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