Torrey's Heavenly Baklava
This is one of those recipes I only make once a year...around the holidays. It's so incredibly rich and buttery and gooey and just YUMMO. My recipe is TONS better than what they serve at our local Greek restaurants (but don't tell them that).
30-48 pieces depending on size of cut
ground nuts of choice (i use half walnuts half pecans)
box (1 lb.) frozen phyllo dough (thawed in package).
sticks butter, melted (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
peel of 1 orange, torn in pieces
Here are some tips for working with Phyllo dough:
1. Thaw completely in its packaging.
2. Remove from packaging and place on counter or cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap.
3. Keep dough covered with BOTH plastic wrap and damp towel.
4. Only take out what you need for one step of recipe. Leave rest covered. You may need to trim it to fit in your 9x13 pan...if so, do it now, all at once, with a sharp knife. Take off 6 sheets and wrap them in plastic wrap. Save these out (these are for the top).
Grind nuts so that you end up with 3 cups worth. I like to use a combo of pecans and walnuts. You can use most types of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts)...or a combo of them.
In bowl, mix ground nuts with 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Set aside. This is your filling.
Melt butter in separate bowl.
Now comes the fun part...assembly. Don't worry, it's not difficult...it's just time-consuming.
Preheat oven to 350 dF.
In 9x13 baking pan/dish, brush bottom generously with some melted butter. Lay down 3-4 sheets of Phyllo dough on now-buttered bottom of pan.
The rest is a "rinse and repeat" set of steps. Keep doing the following steps until pan is full.
A. Using CLEAN pastry/basting brush, brush Phyllo dough in pan GENEROUSLY with butter, to edges.
B. Sprinkle nut mixture thinly and evenly to cover buttered Phyllo layer to edges.
C. Place 2 layers of Phyllo dough over nut layer.
Repeat steps A-C over and over.
When pan is full, stop layering and leave the nut layer exposed (no Phyllo on top...yet). "Why do you do it this way, Torrey??" I've found that if you put the Phyllo on top then bake it for the hour or so...it tends to curl up and get all weird. This prevents that from happening.
Bake in oven for 45 min- 1 hour until browned.
While baklava is baking...make the syrup by combining all syrup ingredients in heavy saucepan and bringing to boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 min. then, remove from heat and strain into clean bowl and set aside to cool.
Remember those 6 sheets of Phyllo you reserved? We'll use them now.
Remove baklava pan from oven. Place 2 sheets of Phyllo dough over baklava. Brush GENEROUSLY with melted butter. Place 2 more sheets of dough on this layer. Brush GENEROUSLY with melted butter. Place last 2 sheets of dough on top and (you guessed it) brush GENEROUSLY with melted butter.
Using sharp knife, cut Baklava into 5 equal rows. Then cut through rows slightly on diagonal to form diamond shapes. CUT CLEAR TO BOTTOM OF PAN THROUGH ALL LAYERS.
Return baklava to oven and bake until Phyllo dough on top is golden brown.
Remove finished baklava from oven, and immediately pour cooled syrup over ENTIRE baklava.
Let cool and serve. I put individual pieces in muffin papers to serve. This stuff is best a day or so later. Store in airtight container at room temp for about a week...but it won't last.