Mediterranean in May
Baklava is a traditional Turkish dessert made with crisp, phyllo sheets layered with cinnamon flavored nut filling and soaked in fragrant sweet syrup.
A few weeks ago, I saw Baklava as one of the sweet desserts in Whole Foods cookie section where you can buy cookies and more by weight. Baklava has always been one of my favorites, so I couldn’t resist a piece. Being health conscious, I had limited myself to one piece. It was delicious. Since then I have been craving baklava. Each time, I am in Whole Foods, I make it a point to check out the cookies and dessert section to see if Baklava is among the offerings. But sadly, the last few weeks it has not made it’s appearance again.
Last time I was in Whole Foods, I finally picked up some organic phyllo sheets and decided to make Baklava at home. I have made it once before, so I know, it is not too difficult. Coincidentally, I am exploring Mediterranean recipes in May, from the book Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean, which has a recipe for Baklava, of course!
Note: I only made 1/2 or less of the recipe. I cut my phyllo sheets into half and further cut the 1/2 sheet to another half to make the Baklava. I found the end product to be a little dry and added more syrup (an additional 1/2 cup).
For the Baklava:
1 1/2 cup, chopped, unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachio or hazelnuts)
1/12 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter
some cinnamon powder
1/2 phyllo dough sheets (cut in half)
For the sugar syrup
1/2 cup sugar (I used light brown cane sugar)
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon rose water or vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven the 375 degrees F. In a small bowl combine the nuts, sugar and cinnamon powder.
Prepare a baking pan by lightly brushing with some melted butter. Lay a sheet of phyllo dough and brush with butter. Repeat with three more sheets. Evenly spread a third of the nut mixture. Cover with three more sheets of phllo, brushing each sheet with melted butter. Add another third of the nut mixture and continue till all the nut mixture is gone. Add the remaining sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter.
Bake the pastry for 30 minutes. Increase the heat to 350 degrees F and bake until the pastry is golden for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the water for the syrup to a boil in a saucepan. Add sugar and cinnamon stick and let simmer on medium low for 10 minutes until the syrup thickens. Remove the saucepan from heat. Add rose water and lemon juice and set aside.
Pour the syrup over the hot, baked pastry and allow to cool. Cut the pastry, before serving.