Butter, honey, nuts, spices and thin crispy phyllo come together to create a rich, decadent dessert. Baklava is relatively easy to make at home; it just takes time and patience when dealing with the phyllo, since it is paper-thin and oh so delicate.
I am a huge Cooks Illustrated fan. I have made countless recipes and have had very few disappointments. This is another one of their recipes that I think is just perfect.
Be sure to let the phyllo thaw out in the refrigerator overnight or leave it out 4 to 5 hours prior to assembling.
BaklavaAdapted from Cooks Illustrated, March 2004
Sugar Syrup1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 3/4 cup water 1/3 cup honey 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon 3 strips lemon zest , removed in large strips with vegetable peeler 3 strips orange zest, removed in large strips with vegetable peeler 1 cinnamon stick 5 whole cloves 1/8 teaspoon table salt
Nut Filling8 ounces blanched slivered almonds 4 ounces walnuts 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pastry and Butter1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), clarified and cooled slightly 1 pound frozen phyllo , thawed
For the sugar syrup:
In a small saucepan combine syrup ingredients and bring to full boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally dissolve sugar. Transfer to 2-cup measuring cup and set aside to cool. When cool, discard spices and zest. Do ahead: can be made 4 days in advance and refrigerated. Take out of the refrigerator when Baklava goes into the oven.
For the nut filling:
Pulse almonds in food processor until very finely chopped; transfer to medium bowl. Pulse walnuts in food processor until very finely chopped; transfer to bowl with almonds and mix together. Reserve 1 tablespoon of nuts for garnish. Add spices and salt; mix well.
To assemble and bake:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Brush 9×13” non-stick baking pan or 9×13” glass pan with butter. Unwrap on large cutting board; carefully smooth with hands to flatten. If your phyllo is one large roll (~14×18”) cut in half, and then stack. The brand of phyllo I used did not require cutting, and was already sized to my pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel.
Place one phyllo sheet in bottom of baking pan and brush until completely coated with butter. Repeat with 7 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter.
Sprinkle 1 cup of nuts over phyllo, and evenly distribute with hands. Cover nuts with phyllo sheet and dab with butter. Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets brushing each with butter. Repeat layering with another cup of nuts and 6 sheets phyllo sheets. Distribute remaining nuts and finish with 8 to 10 sheets, using the best sheets for the top. Gently use palms of hands to compress layers, from the center out, to eliminate any air pockets. Spoon 4 tablespoons of remaining butter on top layer and brush to cover all surface. Use bread knife or other serrated knife in gentle sawing motion to cut baklava into desired shape. I did diamonds.
Bake until golden, about 1 1/2 hours, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove baklava from oven, and pour cooled syrup over cut lines reserving about 2 tablespoons for the tops. Sprinkle each piece with a pinch of reserved ground nuts.
Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 3 hours, then cover with foil. For best flavor let stand for 8 hours. Can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped with foil, for up to 10 days.