…is how I like my baklava. Commercially-made filo dough doesn’t taste like much, so why not go where the flavor is? Like any simple recipe, the better your base ingredients, the better the end product will be, so get good butter, grind your spices fresh, you know the drill. This recipe fits a 9″ x 13″ casserole pan.
For the baklava:
1 lb. filo dough, thawed overnight
1 1/2 lbs. nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts or blend thereof)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
8 ounces good quality butter, melted and white solids skimmed off (i.e. “clarified”)
Preheat your oven to 350. Put the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they’re finely chopped (but not to they point they’re a powder or paste). Combine the chopped nuts, sugar and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
Remove the thawed filo from the packaging and unroll it. Since the bottom of your 9″ x 13″ casserole pan is more like 8 1/2″ x 12″, you’ll want to cut the dough to match the size. I generally divide the total quantity of dough into two stacks, cut one stack to that size, and the other to a slightly larger size since the pan broadens at the top. Once your filo is cut, cover it with a kitchen towel spritzed lightly with water.
Using a pastry brush, butter the pan and lay in your first sheet of dough. Butter that, add another sheet and so on until you’ve got a 8 sheets stacked. Spoon on half your nut mixture and pat it down evenly. Lay on four more sheets of buttered dough, the other half of the nuts, and finally 8 more sheets of filo. Put the pan in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to firm the butter so it’s easier to cut. When ready, cut the pastry, five times from end-to-end and as many times diagonally as you need to cut all the pieces to shape.
Put the baklava in the oven on a low rack and bake for 40-50 minutes until the filo is flaky and lightly browned.
For the syrup:
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey (tupelo, orange blossom or other NON-clover, single-pollen variety)
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large strips orange or lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer 10-15 minutes until the syrup thickens somewhat. Take the syrup off the heat, strain it and pour over the baklava, making sure to coat every piece. You want the baklava moistened, remember, not swimming. If you use two-thirds or less of the syrup, that’s OK.
Let the finished baklava sit overnight (at least) before serving.