Jan 18, 2010

Baklava


(photo courtesy of my sister Emily)

My niece is studying Greece in school, so her family decided to plan a Greek festival last night for the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. It was a fun evening! There was a Greek board game that my niece created for her class, a trivia quiz on Greece (which I won, incidentally), and a delicious Greek meal. My assignment for the evening was to bring baklava, which I'd never made before. I've eaten it but never tried creating it.

The recipe below is one I adapted from allrecipes.com. I'm not a huge baklava fan, to be honest. It's tasty every once in awhile. But I was very pleased with the way this recipe turned out. It wasn't difficult at all. It just takes some time to layer the phyllo dough. But if you like baklava, give this a try!

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped walnuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar

1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and cook until it comes to a boil and the sugar has dissolved. Add vanilla and honey. Turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes. Then let it cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch pan.
3. Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough and cover it with plastic wrap and a dampened cloth to keep the dough from drying out as you work. Place a single sheet of dough in the baking dish and brush it quickly with butter. Add additional sheets one at a time and brush them with butter until you have 8 sheets layered. Then sprinkle the top layer with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture. Place another sheet of dough on top, brush it with butter, and then sprinkle it with nuts. Continue this process of layering until the nut mixture is gone. Then continue adding layers of phyllo dough and buttering each sheet. The top layer should be about 6 to 8 sheets deep. The top sheet of phyllo should also be buttered.
4. Using a sharp knife, cut into diamond or square shapes but don't cut all the way to the bottom of the pan because you don't want all the sauce to sink immediately to the bottom. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
5. Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered because it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.