Friday, October 5

BAKLAVA: Mr.P's Favorite!

Baklava....crisp pastry, nuts, cinnamon, honey and melted butter.....what's not to LOVE?  So sweet, warm and spicy, just perfect for Fall. I know that to some Baklava may look intimidating and think it would just be better to buy it from the local bakery....but NOT so, it's much easier than it looks.
 
 Remove the package from the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge 24 hours before you want to make the Baklava. Then, about an hour beforehand, remove the package from the fridge and let it sit on the counter, unopened.
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When you’re ready to make the baklava, throw chopped pecans, walnuts or almond onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of cinnamon and toss them around to combine. Set these aside.
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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then butter a rectangular baking pan. Then melt plenty of butter ’cause you’re gonna need it.
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Unwrap the phyllo and lay the sheets flat. Size up how they compare to the size of the baking pan, and use a sharp knife to trim them if necessary in order for them to fit. Then set 2/3 of the package over to the side and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, then a slightly damp towel on top of the plastic wrap. The phyllo dries out very, very quickly, so work fast! Only retrieve a few sheets at a time as you need them.
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Brush the entire surface of the top sheet of phyllo with melted butter.
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Then grab that sheet and the sheet underneath it, taking 2 sheets, and place them in the bottom of the baking pan, butter side down, pressing lightly to fit into the pan.
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Repeat this with two more sheets, buttering the top and taking the one right beneath it as well. REPEAT this again with two MORE sheets. Okay, so now you have a total of six sheets of phyllo dough, every other one buttered, in the bottom of your pan. You didn't know this was going to turn into one big math word problem did ya?? Stay with me...it's worth using that part of your brain that may or may NOT be asleep. Mine is asleep by the way....just saying.
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Brush the 6th sheet with butter, then arrange the nuts in a single layer on top.
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Next, start all over again! Butter one sheet and lay it butter side down, topping with another sheet, and REPEAT. Top with a layer of nuts.

So the layers so far, starting at the bottom - going up:
Buttered sheet of phyllo face down
Another sheet on top of that
Buttered sheet of phyllo face down
Another sheet on top of that
Buttered sheet of phyllo face down
Another sheet on top of that
Butter.....Butter
Layer of nuts
Buttered sheet of phyllo face down
Another sheet on top of that.......so on and so on.
 
*Just a note for those of you that have decided it's time to get in the car and go down to the bakery..... if it’s easier for you to remember, you can just butter every single layer of phyllo before laying it on the next piece. I do every other sheet simply because I’m not sure buttering every sheet is absolutely necessary. The syrup at the end makes everything nice and moist. Most people making Baklava will butter every sheet. I can tell you that it does not affect the flavor one way or the other....so you decide which you prefer.
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After that, repeat with another four layers of phyllo, a layer of nuts. Keep going until you run out of phyllo, nuts or space in your pan....which ever comes first. Make sure that the top several layers are buttered phyllo.
Make sure to butter the top layer liberally. Then, with a very sharp knife, make a cut from one corner to the next.
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Then continue making a diagonal criss-cross pattern with the knife until you have a bunch of diamond-shaped pieces.
Place the pan in the oven for 45 minutes or so, until it’s golden brown, crisp and beautiful.
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While the baklava is baking, add butter to a saucepan with plenty of good local honey, if you can find it, and sugar.
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Add vanilla…and a little water. Bring this to boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer and thicken while the baklava continues to bake. Remove it from the heat and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

When you remove the baklava from the oven, immediately drizzle the honey mixture over the top. Starting with about half the mixture, let it soak in and drizzle more until you think the baklava has enough stickiness, moisture and wonderful sweetness.
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The most important thing, though, is to let the baklava sit, uncovered, on the counter for several hours before you dig in. At Porter Central it's like fighting off a pack of wolves.....I always find a piece missing! What's with that, I ask you?
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It needs to do that for the stickiness to really set in and for the flavors to meld and merge and for the whole thing to hold together. It is a thing of beauty don't you think. Cooking is definitely an art!
 
 

Ingredients

 
1 package Phyllo Dough
 
4 cups Chopped Walnuts, Pecans or Almonds
{I like using Black English Walnuts, Mr.P's grandmother had a lovely tree in her yard,
they were wonderful, my favorites!}
 
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
 
2 sticks Butter, Melted
 
2 cups Honey
 
1/2 cup Water
 
1/2 cup Sugar
    teaspoons Vanilla Extract
     
     

What To Do

 
  • Remove phyllo dough package from freezer and place in the fridge for 24 hours to thaw. Remove from fridge 1 hour before using.
  • When working with the phyllo dough, only remove the sheets you immediately need, keeping the other sheets covered in plastic wrap, then a damp cloth.
  • Toss together the chopped walnuts and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter a rectangular baking pan. Make sure the sheets of phyllo will generally fit the pan, if they're a little bigger, that's okay. If they're much bigger, just trim them with a sharp knife.
  • Butter the top sheet of phyllo with melted butter, then grab it and the unbuttered sheet below it. Set the two sheets in the pan, buttered sheet face down. Press lightly into the pan. Repeat this twice more, so that you have six sheets of phyllo in the pan, three of the sheets buttered.
  • Sprinkle on enough walnuts to make a single layer. Butter and layer 4 more sheets of phyllo and place them on top of the walnuts. Add more walnuts, then four more buttered phyllo sheets. Repeat this a couple more times, or until you're out of walnuts. Top with 4 more buttered phyllo sheets, ending with a buttered top. Cut a diagonal diamond pattern in the baklava using a very sharp knife.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until the baklava is very golden brown.
  • While the baklava is baking, combine 1 stick of the butter, honey, water, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
  • When you remove the baklava from the oven, drizzle half the saucepan evenly all over the top. Allow it to sit and absorb for a minute, then drizzle on a little more until you think it's thoroughly moistened.
  • Allow the baklava to cool, uncovered, for several hours. Once cool, sticky and divine, carefully remove them from the pan and serve!
 
 

Give a whole pan to someone you love or split it up into smaller portions and give them in little boxes or bags to your friends.....everyone will think you are a master chef and in reality it is sooo stinkin' easy to make!

Give it a try......you'll be glad ya did! PROMISE!

 

ENJOY!

the domestic curator ~ ronda

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