Baklava is a work-intensive food, and though most people don’t want you to go to any trouble just to serve them dessert, I kinda like making a difficult dessert for a gathering – this weekend was no exception, and the dessert ended up divine!
I used this recipe as my base, but mostly just did what I wanted; Baklava is not so much mixed together as it is constructed like a house.
The materials for construction were: 1 pound or so of pistachios mixed with a half cup of brown sugar and ground down almost to a powder in my food processor. A pack of fillo dough, thawed and unrolled right before construction (it dries out very quickly and just flakes away into nothing!). A cup of melted butter, and a syrup made of vanilla, honey, water, and more sugar.
Construction proceeds thusly: butter the pan and then fillo dough in the bottom of the baking dish (9×13 worked well for me), more butter, more fillo, more butter, more fillo, a layer of nuts with a smattering of butter, fillo/butter/fillo/butter/fillo/nuts/butter/fillo… until you are out of fillo or the pan is full. If you are still left with a lot of butter, that’s okay. You need to cut the dish before you cook, if at all possible, because it will be much harder to cut after baking – once cut, you can pour the remaining butter on each cut area and it’ll soak in perfectly.
My recipe had me bake for 50 minutes at 350, and it turned out beautiful, as you can see. That gives you plenty of time to melt the ingredients of the syrup together. When the baklava comes out, the syrup is poured all over it while it’s still hot, creating a fun bubbling sound and the best wafting smell of vanilla ever… it soaks into the dessert and doesn’t end up soupy, just sticky and sweet.
It’s nice to be able to try this in a lot of variations – less sweet, more honey, try rosewater as a flavoring, try different nuts – but this classic was a hit with my guests. One woman ate 4 pieces! This is a wonderful compliment for a chef, even if we all know that the butter was the MVP. 🙂