Unfortunately, I am well past the age of waking up to colorfully wrapped baskets full of candy on Easter morning (I feel so old these days, seriously). BUT, the good news is that I will never become too old to enjoy this flaky, buttery, nutty, and cinnamon-clove-honey infused Easter family tradition.
Regardless of where the credit is rightfully due, let’s just all agree that SO MUCH CREDIT is due.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this Greek or Turkish treat, let me break it down for you: layers upon layers of paper-thin phyllo dough are brushed with butter and sprinkled with a sugary spiced walnut filling which are then baked to crispy perfection and then drenched in a sweet, spice-infused honey syrup.
As far as authenticity goes, I can’t really speak for that – this baklava recipe is adapted from a 1997 Food Network recipe. I’ve also never travelled to either Greece or Turkey and sampled the baklava there, though my brother just recently visited Greece and said the baklava was out-of-this-world amazing.
From what I can gather from his description of the baklava he devoured while on vacation, authentic baklava is heavier on the spices (cloves and cinnamon) and the honey than the measurements indicated in the below recipe. My family loves it this way, though. Any more spice (especially cloves) would just seem like too much and become overpowering, and any more honey would go beyond the territory of “yum, it tastes like honey” into the danger zone of cloyingly sweet.
So, if you like your baklava heavier on the cloves and honey, you may want to consider adding more than what’s required of this recipe. Do try it out, though – trust me when I say you will not be disappointed!! And if you’re at all intimidated by making baklava from scratch, don’t be. It’s really simple, it just takes a bit of time with all of the layering involved – but let me tell you, it’s SO worth it.
Serves 30-50, depending on how large or small you choose to cut the pieces
For the syrup:
3 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick, or 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 cups water
For the filling:
1 lb. of walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 lb. phyllo pastry
1 lb. butter, melted
In a small saucepan, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 40 minutes (if using a cinnamon stick, remove it at this point). Set aside to cool completely.
In large bowl, mix together all of the filling ingredients and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
Choose a pan large enough to comfortably fit a sheet of the phyllo dough ( I used a large roasting pan; it doesn’t have to be a perfect fit, but a pan that’s a little bit too small is better than one that’s too big – you don’t want any gaps between the sides of the pan and the phyllo). Dab some melted butter in the corners and along the center of the pan, then place the first piece of phyllo dough into the pan. Generously brush with melted butter, then repeat with 4 more sheets of dough.
Evenly sprinkle two small handfuls of the walnut filling over the phyllo, then layer 3 more sheets of dough on top, brushing each layer will plenty of butter. Repeat this (a sprinkling of walnut filling then 3 layers of dough) until all of the filling is used up.
Layer the remainder of the the phyllo dough on top (I like to make sure I have at least 6 or so sheets saved for the top layers of the baklava), generously brushing each sheet of dough with melted butter before layering the next sheet. Drizzle any remaining butter over the top of the baklava.
Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the unbaked baklava into small diamonds by cutting across diagonally on both sides. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the baklava is golden brown. Right after removing the pan from the oven, evenly pour the cooled syrup all over the baklava, and allow to cool completely (it will absorb all of the syrup as it cools) before serving.
Recipe adapted from Food Network, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger