One of my favorite college professors had a wonderful wife who would teach us how to cook authentic Greek food. As someone who loved food, but had no idea how to cook, this was a huge opportunity. (Additionally, as a geeky girl who hung out with the “Classics Department” for fun on the weekends it would also be beneficial in the future to know how to cook in order to get a date, but anywho…)
Mrs. Dr. Beal’s Baklava as adapted by Heather Bryant
Pastry: 1 package of phyllo dough leaves (thawed)
- 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, melted and clarified, to brush
- 3 cups (1 pound) finely chopped or coarsely ground walnuts or almonds
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup water, to brush
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 sticks of whole cinnamon
- Zest of one orange and one lemon
- 1 cup honey
Baking Dish: 13×9
- Unfold the phyllo leaves and cover with a moistened cloth to prevent the leaves from drying out and breaking.
- Clarify butter in a saucepan by melting it slowly over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat; let it rest for 5 minutes, tilt pan, skim off foam and spoon butter into a small cool bowl or cup. Discard the milky solution that remains.
- Finely chop or coarsely grind nuts in a food processor, blender or nut grinder. Place in a bowl and mix with cinnamon and cloves.
- Preheat oven to 350’ F.
- With a pastry brush coat the pan bottom and sides with clarified butter.
- Use eight single leaves to form the bottom of the crust and then three alternating layers of nuts and cinnamon/cloves between phyllo leaves. The number of leaves is not critical nor is the number of layers of nuts and cinnamon/cloves; just do what works cutting off the excess phyllo as you go.
- Carefully peel and lift the first leaf from the stack and place it on the bottom of the buttered pan. Brush the leaf with butter. Add seven more single leaves, brushing each with butter before proceeding. Sprinkle the eighth leaf evenly with about one-third of the nut-spice mixture.
- Cover the nut-spice mixture with a leaf, brush with butter and add two more leaves, buttering each. These middle layers may be made with the crumpled scraps or pieced together smaller leaves. Although you should lay down a whole leaf before and after a nut-spice layer.
- Build three more nut layers and finish with a top crust of eight leaves, each buttered. With the brush push the edges of the leaves down the side of the pan to make a neat, rounded trim.
- Cover dish and put in refrigerator for 1 hour for best results. The butter will become hardened and make it easier to cut.
- Use a sharp (non-serrated) knife to cut through the pastry, including the bottom layer, into diamonds by making parallel lines lengthwise from one end of the pan to the other. This in-depth cut will allow the syrup to penetrate all the baklava when it is poured on after baking.
- Bake in the middle of the oven at 350’F for 1 ½ hours or until it has risen and has a rich golden color.
- Pour all ingredients except honey into a saucepan. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and discard spices. Add honey. Allow to cool, but still remain warm in time to pour over baklava.
- It is best to pour over baklava as soon as it comes out oven. Best results make a sizzling sound.
- Allow the baklava to mature overnight so that the syrup will permeate all the leaves and attain its peak flavor before removing any baklava pieces.
- Baklava may be kept stored in a covered container at room temperature for four to five weeks. Wrapped securely in foil or plastic, baked or unbaked, baklava can be frozen.
Not terribly healthy, but arguably the BEST DESSERT EVER!
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