I love Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food: gyros, falafel, hummus, you name it.
But currently, I have been obsessed with baklava. For those who do not know what it is, it is a pastry dish filled with grounded nut mixture and some spices, interspaced between layers upon layers of heavily-buttered phyllo dough. It is topped off with a honey syrup that gets soaked up into the pastry for an uber sweet treat. I love it.
It is a time-consuming process, especially with the layers, but the end product is worth it. Enjoy!
makes 32 squares
1 packet phyllo pastry (or 20 sheets)
1-1/2 to 2 sticks melted butter
1 cup pistachios
1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
1. Process about 1/4 cup of the pistachios in a food processor until finely grounded. Reserve; this will serve as the garnish.
2. Prepare the filling: combine the rest of the nuts, the sugar, and spices and process until coarsely grounded.
3. Prepare the syrup: add the honey, sugar, water, and lemon juice to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let it cool. (the syrup can be made a day in advance. Just store at room temperature.)
4. Prepare the pastry: coat a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Layer on the first phyllo dough and brush liberally with the melted butter. Layer another phyllo on top and repeat the process until there is a total of 8 layers.
5. Take half of the nut mixture and spread over the top. Use the back of a spoon to press it into the phyllo.
6. Layer on another 8 layers of phyllo dough, remembering to brush each layer with butter.
7. Add the remaining nut mixture to the top.
8. Top the nut mixture with the remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough. Give the top an extra coat of butter.
9. With a sharp knife, score the top of the baklava. You do not need to cut all of the way through; this is just to make sure that the servings are divided evenly.
10. At this point, you can either bake it in the oven, or, if not planning to serve immediately, stick it in the freezer until ready to bake.
11. Bake at 360ºF for 30 minutes. (if it's coming out straight from the freezer, put the baklava in the oven as it is preheating to let it thaw)
12. Cover the baklava with aluminum foil, then bake for an additional 20 minutes.
13. Take it out of the oven, and immediately pour the honey syrup on top.
14. Let the honey syrup soak into the baklava for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle the top with the remaining pistachios before serving.
Because I am oh-so-"clever," I am terming this dish my "bake-lava." Ah, puns...