By Kath Dedon
I used filo pastry sheets for the first time in my life yesterday, and I made Baklava! And it’s the best Baklava that I’ve ever tried.
A testimonial from Bob: “I think that’s the best thing you’ve ever made! EVER!”
It is pretty darn tasty! I’m sure I’ll be making it again sometime. (Bob will insist!) The hardest thing about it, truly, was getting over my fear of using filo pastry. It really isn’t that difficult. Some of the ultra-thin sheets did rip, but they were still usable. It worked out fine.
I didn’t want to use sugar. (It’s weird, but sugar makes Bob’s knees hurt.) I searched and found a recipe on honey.com that uses only honey, so I decided to give it a try. (Update 8/25/2016: The recipe I found is no longer available on honey.com.)
Although Baklava is not hard to make, it does take some time. The Honey Syrup needs to cool down before using. I made it the day before and left the cinnamon stick and whole cloves in it until I was ready to use it yesterday. I think I will always make it ahead of time because that Honey Syrup was so remarkably infused with the flavors of cinnamon and cloves! I might make just the Honey Syrup sometime to use in tea!
I also made the clarified butter the day before. It did solidify a bit overnight. I just heated it up a bit in the microwave so it would be easier to brush on the filo.
You also need to allow time for the filo pastry to defrost. It is sold frozen; you’ll find it near the frozen pie crusts. The directions on my package said to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
So when I started yesterday, my filo was defrosted and I already had the Honey Syrup and clarified butter ready to go. It still took me almost an hour and a half to put it together and get it in the oven. It takes an hour and 5 minutes to bake, and then it’s supposed to cool before eating. So allow yourself plenty of time to make Baklava. Once you try it, though, you’ll realize it is definitely time well spent!
(Adapted from a recipe on honey.com)
Makes 24 – 30, depending on how you cut them
3 cups finely ground walnuts (360 grams)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups clarified butter, divided (made from 1 pound butter; instructions follow)
½ cup honey
1 package (16 oz) filo pastry sheets
Honey Syrup (recipe follows)
finely chopped walnuts (I used a food processor)
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚.
2. Combine walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium bowl. Stir well until the spices seem evenly distributed.
3. Set aside ½ cup of the clarified butter and stir the honey into the remaining 1 cup of clarified butter. (You can microwave it for a few seconds to make it easier to blend well.)
4. Brush the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with some of the clarified butter.
5. Open the filo pastry. Cover it with waxed paper and a damp kitchen towel to keep it from drying out. Every time you take out a sheet, cover it up again.
6. Place a piece of filo in the pan, and brush it with the clarified butter. Repeat with 9 more sheets, brushing each one with more butter, for a total of 10 sheets.
7. Spread 1/3 cup of the walnut mixture over the filo. Place a sheet of filo over the walnuts and brush it with the honey/clarified butter mixture. Add a second sheet of filo and brush it with the honey/butter mixture.
8. Repeat Step #7, adding 1/3 cup of walnuts and two sheets of filo, each brushed with the honey/butter mixture until you have used all of the nuts.
9. Top with 10 or 12 more filo sheets, brushing each one with clarified butter. (I ran out of butter, so I just microwaved a couple of tablespoons of butter to finish up.)
10. With a sharp knife, cut the baklava lengthwise into fourths, being careful to cut all the way through.
11. Cut diagonally across the first cuts to make diamond shapes.
12. Bake at 325˚ for 45 minutes.
13. Reduce heat to 275˚ and bake for another 20 minutes.
14. Remove from the oven and immediately spoon the cool Honey Syrup over the Baklava.
15. Cool completely on a rack before serving.
I have not tried this, but the recipe says leftover baklava can be wrapped well for the freezer (wrapped in aluminum foil, perhaps) and frozen. When ready to eat, place the unwrapped pieces on a baking sheet in a 325˚ for about 12 minutes, or until heated. Allow to cool before eating.
Cut 1 pound butter into small pieces and melt in a small saucepan over low heat. Do not stir! When it’s all melted, carefully skim off the foam on the top. Carefully pour the clear butter into a bowl or measuring cup, leaving the solids on the bottom in the pan. (I ended up pouring the last bit through cheesecloth in a strainer to get every last bit!)
(I bought fresh cinnamon sticks. They were very fragrant. It was time to throw out the old ones I had that had no smell.)
1 cup honey
¾ cup water
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches long
1½ teaspoons lemon juice
Combine everything in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Remove the cloves and cinnamon before using.