My son is in a Latin Club at school (they also study ancient Greek culture). This morning, on our half hour drive to school, he advised me that they were having an end-of-the-year party after school today and he requested I make Baklava. He went on to tell me all the different foods other kids were bringing to the party pertaining to ancient Greek and Roman culture such as fresh fruit, bread, olives, cheeses. What? What?!?
Problem is, it has been about 12 years since I last made baklava, so I had to dig through my cavernous recipe box to find the recipe from my Lebanese friend, Ilo. After half an hour of going through chocolate cake recipes, sauerbraten recipes, marinated frog toe recipes (just kidding), I finally found Ilo’s recipe and zipped out to the store to grab the pistachio, rose water, phyllo, and some honey. This was going to be fun!
- 1 package frozen phyllo pastry (16 oz-it should have two rolls inside)
- 10 oz. Pistachio, whole peeled
- 6 oz. Almonds, whole peeled
- 1 1/4 c. Butter
- 1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
- 1/4 c. White sugar
- 1/4 c. Rose water*
- 3/4 c. Water
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon juice (Fresh squeezed is preferred)
- 1 c. White sugar
- 1/2 c. Honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 pan with butter. Place nuts, cinnamon, and 1/4 c. sugar into a food processor and process 2-3 seconds, so the nuts are still a little chunky but fine.
Carefully unroll the first roll of phyllo pastry onto a flat surface. Be careful not to tear it while you are rolling it out. Peel two sheets off and place in the bottom of the pan. Brush with melted butter. Add two more sheets and brush with butter. Add another two sheets and brush with butter. Add two more sheets, brush with butter, and lightly sprinkle nut mixture over the butter. Do not try to spread the nuts or you will rip the dough, just have a light but steady covering on the dough.
Add two more sheets, butter, and nuts. (At this point in time you may be ready to open the second roll of dough.) Repeat the two sheets of dough, butter, and nuts four more times. After sprinkling the final layer of nuts, cover with two sheets, butter, two sheets, butter, and the final two sheets. Brush the remaining butter over the top. Cut the baklava into small diamond shapes.
Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. While the baklava is baking, make the sugar syrup. Pour rose water, regular water, and sugar into a sauce pan. Cook until boiling, lower to medium heat, and add honey and lemon juice. Cook in a slow simmer for about 15 minutes, but watch that the sauce does not boil or simmer too high, because you will have a huge pot of bubbles (which can overflow and make a huge sticky mess.)
When baklava is finished baking, remove from the oven and pour the sugar syrup over the top of the baklava, making certain it sinks into all the nooks and crannies. Allow to cool and serve. Latin club must have liked it–they ate the entire pan!
Do not put the baklava in the refrigerator to cool, or the syrup will get hard, making it difficult to cut. Take my word for it!
*Rose Water is a special water made from rose petals. It is used in various Mediterranean and middle eastern recipes, particularly desserts and cookies. You can find it at gourmet cooking stores and middle eastern markets. If you cannot find rose water, use orange blossom water for a unique flavor.