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RECIPE: The Best Baklava

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A winning baklava recipe. Photo courtesy
Food 52.

  We admit to an enthusiasm for baklava. Good baklava—made with quality honey—is one of the world’s great pastries. Here’s the history of baklava, an ancient pastry that dates to the 8th century B.C.E.

This recipe was the runner up in a contest held by Food52 for the California Walnut Board.

“This is my mom’s recipe,” says CookbookChick, who submitted the recipe. “I don’t know where she got the idea for her ‘secret ingredient,’ but it produces the best baklava ever. [Mom is Mrs. Z, credited below.]

“If you like baklava but can’t get past the cloying sweetness, this is the one to try: You will never go back or be satisfied with the stuff you get in Greek restaurants again.”

Honey and apples is a Rosh Hashanah tradition, a wish for a sweet new year. The Jewish New Year begins next Thursday; some sweet, honeyed baklava would not be out of place. Try this recipe, courtesy of Food52 for the California Walnut Board.

 
RECIPE: MRS. Z’S SECRET-INGREDIENT BAKLAVA

Ingredients For 24 Pieces

For The Baklava Syrup

  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  •  
    For The Baklava

  • 1 cup graham crackers, finely crushed (the secret ingredient!)
  • 1-1/2 pounds walnuts
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound butter, melted and clarified*
  • 1 pound filo dough
  • 24 whole cloves
  •  
    *To clarify, melt the butter, skim off the milk solids and pour off the clear yellow butter. Discard the white solids in the bottom of the pan.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, just until a thin syrup is formed. Allow to cool to room temperature while you build the baklava.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F.

    3. CRUSH the graham crackers into fine crumbs. You can do this (a) by putting them in a sealed plastic bag and pounding them with a meat tenderizer, (b) rolling with a rolling pin, or (c) pulverizing in a food processor.

    4. GRIND the nuts finely with a manual nut grinder (preferable) or in a food processor. With the latter, take care not to grind too far, or you will have nut butter.

    5. COMBINE the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl.

     

    walnut-halves-murrays-230
    California walnuts. Photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese.

     

    6. LAY out the filo dough on a clean kitchen towel. Lay another towel on top of the filo to help prevent it from drying out.

    7. BUILD the baklava in an 8 x 8-inch square pan. Layer 6 to 8 sheets of filo in the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet lightly with butter before adding the next (a silicone basting brush makes it easy). Many Greek cooks, including Mrs. Z, simply drizzle the butter from a teaspoon; or you can use a traditional boar bristle pastry brush.

    8. SPRINKLE the nut mixture in a thin layer over the filo dough. Cover with 3 to 4 more sheets, each brushed lightly with butter. Repeat until the nut mixture is completely used up. Cover with 6 to 8 filo sheet, brushing each layer lightly with butter.

    9. REFRIGERATE the uncooked baklava for an hour or two until the butter solidifies. Then, before baking, cut with a sharp knife into small squares or diamond shapes. If you want the traditional diamond shapes, start with a corner-to-corner diagonal cut. Stick a whole clove into the center of each piece.

    10. BAKE at 350°F for no longer than one hour, until it becomes a light golden brown. If the baklava dries out, it is ruined.

    11. REMOVE from the oven and immediately pour the room temperature syrup evenly over the hot pastry. The rule is hot pastry, cool syrup or you’ll get a soggy dessert! Start with about half of the syrup, letting the pastry absorb it (you may not use it all).

    Serving idea: Nestle each piece in a pretty paper cupcake cup or foil cupcake cup and present on a platter.
      




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