The first time I made baklava I absolutely swore I would never make it again. I didn’t think it turned out how it was supposed to turn out, it was a lot of work in my opinion for something I just wasn’t impressed with. Well, apparently I was the only person with that opinion. I handed the entire pan to my husband and told him to take it to work and let all the guys that he works with eat it. (This is what I do with most things I make, it either goes to my dad or my husband takes it to work, this is a good way to not have my baking lying around the house).
Well apparently, after letting the baklava sit over night it turned from what I thought was a disaster to apparently everyone loving it and asking if there was more. By this point I told my husband I would never make it again.
Well, I’ve made it again as one of the guys that worked for my husband was retiring and they were having a little party for him. I was offered up to make all the desserts. Yay me!! That was 3 very stressful days of making 90 individual desserts (chocolate raspberry cake, lemon curd cake, red velvet cake, apple spice cake, tiramisu and orange cheesecake). And because everyone had been asking on a daily basis where was more baklava, I told my husband I would make it one more time.
I looked around and found several recipes (apparently there are as many different ways to make baklava as there are days in a year). So, even with my first attempt I fiddled around and mixed a few together and added a bit.
Start off the day before, letting your phyllo defrost over night in the fridge (this is essential – I didn’t do it the first time – this was part of my “I’ll never do this again” statement).
The day you make the baklava start off by making the syrup. Into a pot add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup honey, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup butter, 1 – 2 tsp vanilla bean paste and a pinch of salt.
Let this cook, once it starts to foam up, start skimming off the foam on top (it’s okay if you don’t get it all, but try to get most of it). Let this syrup boil for 5 minutes. The set aside to cool.
Start to pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
Next up is the nuts. The first time I used walnuts, this time I used pecans (only because they were cheaper and I got them at Costco), but use whichever nuts you would like. I had approximately 8 cups of pecan halves, which I ground/coarsely ground in my food processor with 1/2 cup sugar, pinch of salt and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon.
I used a disposable pan (which you need to be careful when cutting to make sure you don’t cut through it – kinda like I did). Give this a quick spray or brush it with butter. Melt approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups butter. (I melted 1 1/2 cups of butter and I definitely did not need this much, so it’s up to you, but I would go for 1 cup and not waste any).
On your counter top, roll out the phyllo dough carefully, mine comes in very large sheets, so they need to be cut in half in order to fit into my pan. Then I carefully transferred them to a baking sheet and covered with a cotton towel so they wouldn’t dry out.
Now you start layering, for this part I only buttered every other sheet, so lay 2 sheets of phyllo into the pan and butter the top sheet. Repeat with 2 more layers of phyllo and butter the top. Repeat again with 2 more sheets and then again with 2 more sheets. That’s a total of 8 sheets of phyllo on the bottom of the pan.
Next comes your nut/sugar/cinnamon mixture. I use a nice heaped cup full of nuts and maybe a little more. Spread these out evenly. (Make sure when you are grinding up your nuts that they aren’t too big, you want small pieces so the layers are compact).
Now layer on 2 more sheets of phyllo and butter the top layer. Add another heaped cup of nuts and a bit more if you like.
Repeat again with 2 more sheets of phyllo and nuts, 3 more times. So that is a total of 5 layers of nuts with 2 sheets of phyllo in between each layer.
Now comes the top, here we are going to butter each layer (this is mostly to make sure it is easier to cut – if you only butter every other layer the phyllo will move around on you and make it impossible to cut – I know I speak from experience). We want 8 layers of phyllo on top, so layer a piece of phyllo and butter it, lay on another piece of phyllo and butter that. Repeat until you have 8 layers.
**I did have some phyllo left over, so if you wish to have 10 layers at the bottom and top that is up to you, as well if you have a deeper pan you can have 6 layers of nuts if you wish – as I did have about 1 cup of nuts left over so I just had to find something else to do with these.
Now to cut the baklava. **Remember if you are using a disposable pan make sure you do not cut through the pan – I say this because I did and didn’t realize until I was pouring the syrup over it. There are about as many patters to cut baklava as there are recipes. I start off by cutting down the middle, then cutting each half in half – length wise so I have 4 long strips. Then I turn the pan and cut these into squares. At this point if you wish you can cut them diagonally into triangles or if you’re like me, simply cut them lengthwise again into rectangles.
Bake the baklava in the pre-heated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until it is golden brown on top. (As I look at my photos I realize my baklava doesn’t look golden brown in any of them, but I swear it was when I took it out of the oven, not sure why it looks so pale in the photos).
As soon as it comes out of the oven, slowly and evenly pour your syrup over top of the baklava (you should hear it sizzle when you start to pour it over). **again this is where you will find out if you have punctured your disposable pan and then have to spend the next 2 hours spooning the syrup over top of the baklava to make sure it gets soaked in properly – so try really hard not to puncture the pan.
All this to sit out over night, uncovered at room temperature. It definitely needs 24 hours to sit. Don’t try and eat it after a couple of hours, you will be disappointed.
If you want to serve it straight out of the pan that’s perfectly fine, we did that the first time, but this time I actually placed them on to serving trays, using little paper cups for each piece. I just cut the disposable pan at the corners so I could fold the sides down and gave the baklava a quick cut through again to make sure it was sliced all the way to the bottom.
Turned out perfectly again and everyone loved it. It’s definitely a lot of work, but I may end up making this again at some point. My grandfather loves baklava so perhaps I will make some for him this Christmas.
(makes approx. 64 pieces depending on the size you cut them)
- 1 package Phyllo dough (thawed according to directions on box)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1-2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
- pinch of salt
- 6 1/2 to 8 cups of ground/coursely ground walnuts or pecans or whichever nuts you prefer
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup butter (melted)
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In your food processor, grind nuts with sugar, cinnamon and salt until ground/coursely ground – make sure there are no large pieces of nuts.
- Prepare the syrup – place in a heavy bottomed pot the sugar, honey, water, butter, vanilla bean paste and salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling skim off the foam on top. Allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Remove phyllo from the fridge, unroll and cut to size to fit your pan. Cover with a towel to ensure it does not dry out.
- Melt 1 cup of butter in the microwave (or you can do this in a small pot on the stove).
- Prepare your pan, either spray with baking spray or brush with melted butter.
- Start layering, 2 sheets of phyllo, buttering the top sheet. Add 2 more sheets of phyllo, buttering the top sheet. Repeat with 2 more sheets and repeat again. That’s a total of 8 sheets of phyllo, buttering every other layer.
- Add a heaped cup of the nut mixture, spread evenly over the phyllo layers.
- Add 2 more sheets of phyllo on top of the nut mixture. Butter the top sheet only.
- Repeat with adding another heaped cup of the nut mixture, spread evenly over the phyllo layers.
- Repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo on top of the nut mixture.
- Repeat with the nut mixture and phyllo 3 more times, for a total of 5 layers of nut mixture.
- Top this off with 8 layers of phyllo dough, buttering in between each layer this time. **Make sure the top layers you butter in between each layer**
- With a very sharp knife, cut through all layers of the dough/nuts into long strips, then cross-wise into squares. Then if you wish you can cut them diagonally into triangles or lengthwise into rectangles. It’s up to you.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until golden brown on top.
- Immediately upon removing from the oven, slowly pour the cooled syrup over top of the baklava, making sure to get the syrup everywhere. Allow this to sit at room temperature for 24 hours before eating, to allow the syrup to be absorbed properly.