Now this baklava looks beyutiful, if I may say so myself AND it tastes pretty damn good!; however, you should have seen the two previous attempts. Actually, it is better you didn’t see them because not only did they not look appealing, they tasted, well, like anything but baklava. I don’t even want to remember what went wrong or, ahem, what important ingredients I had forgotten to add. Ah, it is painful to go back to those moments–I used oil and the filo ratio was off. The nuts were too chunky and the filling was too much. I left out the sugar and cinnamon in part of the mixture of nuts, I was upset but determined to get it right so one day I was telling my sad, failed baklava story to a very close family friend and she mentioned that her baklava turns out great. I listened to her explanation and ingredients and a few days later, set off on my epic quest into baklavaland (yes, there is such a place 🙂 ) for my heroic third attempt.
Of course I forgot to take a picture of the syrup and for that I apologize.
Recipe courtesy of Sylva Kalbian
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 whole cloves
A small stick of cinnamon (I broke a long stick in half and threw it in)
A teaspoon of orange blossom water
A few drops of lemon juice
DIRECTIONS: [SEE NOTE]
Stir all the ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. After it comes to a boil, simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. You want to end up with a slightly thick concoction so that when you let it drip from the spoon it drips slower and slower. Another way to test it is to tap the spoon on a plate and what remains on the plate should be sticky. Set the syrup aside and prepare the filling.
*Note: While you are making the syrup, take the thawed filo dough out of the fridge and leave out so it is easier to use. About twenty minutes before you start to assemble the baklava, take out 4 sticks of butter. Yep, you heard me, 4 sticks, and leave it out at room temperature.
Approximately 2 to 2 1/2 cups of nuts, ground (I used a food processor and a combination of almonds (with skin), pistachios, and walnuts) I made a batch first and then made some more. Next time I promise I will be less tired and preoccupied and measure it 🙂
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
Feel free to use whatever nuts you prefer. Either only walnuts or pistachios or try cashews. Anything goes. In this case, I went with the tried and trusted recipe. Mix all above ingredients.
Next, you will assemble the very thing you will devour in about an hour. You have to work pretty quickly but gently with the filo dough otherwise it will dry fast but don’t fret if it tears and just patch it up. Once you get the hang of it you will be fine. After you have taken a few sheets, cover the rest with a clean towel.
Take those sticks of butter and go ahead and melt them in the microwave. Grab yourself a pastry brush and brush the bottom of the pan with the melted butter. Remember that you are going to use half of the filo dough package first. Take 2 sheets and place it in the pan. Brush it with butter–don’t be stingy here. Do some good with that nice hot liquid goodness. Then take 2 more sheets and brush again. I alternated between 2 sheets, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 4. Just play with it. Now pour the nuts and spread with your hand. There should be about half an inch of filling.
You know what to do next. Start covering it up, same as before. When you have put the last sheet on, cut it diagonally, starting from the corner and then again from the parallel corner so that they overlap. The knife should go all the way to the bottom. Do not forget this step as you will have a hell of a time cutting it after it bakes, and the syrup will not be absorbed properly (this is a bad thing in baklavaland). The layers will move when you cut but no worries, just fix it and move on.
Now comes the first fun part. Take the rest of the melted butter and pour it slowly all over the baklava and be sure to get it in the cracks too.
Now with a dreamy look and a drooling face (have tissues handy) place into the oven at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until nicely browned.
And now comes the second fun part. Take it out of the oven and pour the room temperature syrup all over the hot baklava. You will hear a wonderful sizzzzzzling. Don’t stop until you get all that syrup in the crevices and nooks and crannies. Don’t forget the corners. Oooohhh this is gonna be good! Try to stop yourself from cutting a piece. It is hard because it beckons you. Your body goes weak and your mind is overtaken by promises of a heavenly bite of all that is good in the world. Resist! Let the baklava cool down, slightly, because seriously, who has that much patience. I started with one small corner and thought I had done well not eating the entire pan until I decided to even it out and kind of ate all the corners…. oh well.
Hence, I conclude my tale of what started months ago with defeat and what ended with victory. I bid you a good day until we meet again for yet another culinary adventure. Alas, If I have talked your ears off.. what was that? Oh, yes, you didn’t hear a thing I was saying over the glorious sweet goodness and crunch. Enjoy, dear friends. Eat and be merry, for tomorrow we will look with somber eyes upon the empty pan that once contained the very essence of life.