I think baklava might be my favorite dessert of all time. I'd probably even pass up something decadent and chocolate in favor of the sweet, flaky, buttery layers of a piece of this classic Greek treat.
I've avoided making baklava because I was so intimidated by all of the flaky layers, but phyllo dough is really nothing to be afraid of. It's quite simple to use and assemble in this delicious dessert.
for the syrup:
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup water
for the baklava:
3 cups walnuts (or any mix of walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios)
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 package phyllo dough, thawed
1 stick butter, melted
make the syrup...
Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and boil gently until syrup is reduced to about 2 cups. Cool completely.
make the baklava...
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes. Cool and then transfer to a food processor. Add 3/4 cup sugar, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Pulse to chop until ground to a medium-fine texture.
TIP: When working with phyllo dough, it's a good idea to have everything you need at your fingertips so that you can work easily. Keep your phyllo dough covered with a piece of plastic wrap and a moist paper towel so that it doesn't dry out.
Brush an 8 inch by 8 inch square metal pan with melted butter. Place a single phyllo sheet into the bottom of the pan so that half of it is hanging over the side. Brush the dough in the pan with butter, then fold the other half of the dough over so you have two layers. Brush that with butter.
Continue with another phyllo sheet in the same manner. Continue making layers with three more sheets so that you have a total of ten layers. Spoon 1/3 of the nut mixture on top of the dough. Repeat the layering as before until you have ten layers. Spoon another 1/3 of the nut mixture into the pan. Add the final ten layers on top.
Cut the baklava in the pan so that you have nine equal squares before baking. Bake until phyllo is golden brown (about 35-40 minutes).
Remove the pan from the oven and spoon about 2/3 of the syrup onto the top of the hot baklava while it is still in the pan.
Cool to room temperature. When ready to serve, cut the squares in half to create triangles and drizzle with additional syrup if desired.
recipe adapted from Michael Symon Bon Appetit, April 2011