feasting with friends

Mmm Mmm…Baklava

BaklavaIf you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a sweet tooth. I absolutely adore sugar laden treats. I have a love affair with baklava…no hate there! There’s just something about those honey soaked layers of baked phyllo and crunchy nuts. It’s finger lickin’ good! Indulgent?…yes.  A weekly treat…no. It’s one of those “once in awhile is good” treats. We have a wonderful Greektown region in downtown Detroit. It’s one city block of restaurants, bars and bakeries. It’s deliciously authentic, from moussaka to roasted lamb to baklava. It’s a favorite place to dine when in the city for theater, baseball or hockey. Our kids grew up on this food even though there’s not a bit of Greek in our DNA. We’re slightly divided on our favorite main course dishes, but we’re in agreement for dessert. Baklava 😛 It wasn’t until the last few months that I tried making baklava myself. I was so afraid of phyllo dough. I heard horror stories of how delicate it is, it tears easily, etc. But I confronted my fears, and you know what, it’s not scary at all. It really is quite simple to work with if you follow the rule of keeping the “not used yet” stack of sheets covered with a damp towel. Make sure you use raw local honey when making this treat, the benefits may surprise you! Scroll down below the recipe to see why 🙂Baklava

Ingredients for Baklava:
1 pound walnuts [16 ounces]
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces phyllo dough [my local store sells the Athens brand, 8 ounces is 1/2 box or 1 roll], thawed to package instructions
1 1/2 sticks butter [12 Tablespoons]
Ingredients for Baklava Syrup:
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup raw honey
To Prepare:
1. Gather the needed kitchen equipment, other than basic bowls, pots and measuring implements you’ll need: 9″x13″x2″ pan; food processor or sharp knife to chop nuts; clean kitchen [tea] towel that is damp [not wet]; pastry brush.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
3. Prepare the nut filling: Place the 16 ounces of walnuts in a food processor. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Pulse a few times to break up the nuts but careful not to chop them to fine. Transfer to a small bowl.
4. Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium low heat.
5. Set up an area to assemble the baklava. You’ll need enough room for the bowl of nut mixture, the baking dish, the unrolled phyllo and the saucepan of butter.
Baklava
6. Gently unroll the thawed phyllo, keeping the plastic it was rolled in under the stack. Place the damp towel on top of the stack.
7. Using your pastry brush, apply a thin layer of butter on the bottom of your baking dish. Fold back the towel, carefully remove 1 sheet of phyllo, place it on the bottom of the pan. Replace the towel. Apply butter to phyllo sheet just placed in the dish. Cover completely to the edges. Repeat five more times so you’ll have 6 buttered sheets of phyllo in the dish. The most important thing to remember is to replace the towel each time you remove a phyllo sheet.
Baklava
8. Sprinkle about a third of the nuts on top of your now buttered 6 layers of phyllo. Spread to the edges using your hands or a rubber spatula. The phyllo should be completely covered with nuts.
9. Place a sheet of phyllo on top of the nuts and gently brush with butter. This is the most difficult sheet to butter for me, as the phyllo wants to slide a bit over the nuts. Just slowly, gently apply the butter and you’ll be fine. Repeat with 5 more sheets of phyllo. Ending with butter and careful to keep covering the unused stack of sheets.
10. Apply the next layer of nuts, half of what is remaining in your bowl. [1/3 of the total nuts]. Spread to the edges in an even layer.
11. Repeat the whole process again. 6 more layers of phyllo, buttering each sheet. Top with the remaining nuts.
12. Top the last layer of nuts with remaining sheets of phyllo. For me, it is 6 more sheets. Butter each layer.
Baklava
13. The baklava is now complete. With a very sharp knife, cut the baklava. Cut on the diagonal in rows, turn the pan and cut on diagonal again to make squares. You’ll get approximately 28 pieces.
Baklava
14. Place the baking pan in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate pan, and bake for approximately 20 minutes more until golden brown.
15. At the 20 minute mark of baking prepare the syrup. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar and honey. Heat over medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes and remove from heat.
Baklava
16. When your baklava is nicely browned and flaky, remove from oven. Run your knife through the cut marks once more to make sure it is cut all the way through.
Baklava
17. Pour the syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, careful to cover each piece and the edges.
18. Let the baklava sit several hours or overnight before serving. Once it has cooled completely, cover with lid or foil. It will keep, if covered, for 5 days.
Baklava
Notes on Honey: Raw honey is different from the average honey bought at the grocery store.  In fact, using the pasteurized honey from the average store is as unhealthy as consuming refined sugar.   Raw honey is different because it has not been pasteurized, heated or processed in any way, and therefore contains many valuable benefits.
Raw honey is full of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and powerful antioxidants.  It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
Other uses:
  • Helps digestion
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Eliminates allergies
  • Stabilizes blood pressure
  • Balances blood sugar
  • Calms nerves
  • Relieves pain
  • Treats ulcers
  • Sore throats
  • Colds
  • Indigestion
So why local raw honey?
Raw honey is great, but local raw honey is even better!  Local raw honey contains pollen that is specific to your area and therefore can really help those local seasonal allergies.  Taking a spoonful of raw honey once or twice a day is a great help.  It is also advised to begin taking local honey a few months prior to the allergy season; this gets the pollen introduced into the body and gradually builds up the body’s tolerance to seasonal allergies.
So then, baklava is actually very healthy?!? 😉
Information on raw honey can be found at: http://www.modernalternativehealth.com/2013/05/10/the-amazing-benefits-of-local-raw-honey/#.UjDTC4WzLDk

8 comments

  1. Pingback: Spanakopita | feasting with friends

  2. Pingback: 321/365: National Baklava Day* | Eat My Words

    • Give it a try…it only takes about 30 minutes to assemble the baklava and the sauce is made while it is baking. As you feast on your rewards you’ll be glad you made it 😉

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