Quite a few years ago, I was asked to help our son's elementary school class make baklava. (They must have been studying food from various countries around the world.) Though I've always been a fan of this pastry, I had never had the nerve to try making it myself. Believe me, if a group of schoolkids could make it, anyone can:). The only problem we had was discovering occasional brush bristles in the finished pastry--this I blame on poor quality pastry brushes and intense paint strokes...
1 pound package of phyllo dough, thawed overnight, then brought to room temperature
1 pound walnuts or mixture of pistachios and walnuts (I used 1/3 salted pistachios and 2/3 walnuts)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 sticks unsalted butter, melted
12 ounces honey
Chop the walnuts and pistachios finely in a food processor and then add the sugar and cinnamon and pulse to combine these. Set this aside.
Remove the phyllo dough from the package and unroll it on a clean counter. Butter a 13 x 9" baking dish and layer in 8 of the phyllo sheets, one at a time, buttering each sheet with a pastry brush dipped in the melted butter.
As you work, cover the remaining sheets of phyllo with a damp towel so they don't dry out. (Don't sweat any little tears--they won't show up in the end.)
Pour 1 cup of the nut mixture over the eight layers of phyllo and spread this evenly to the edges. Continue to layer eight more sheets of dough, painting each with melted butter.
Spread another cup of the nut mixture over the top. Repeat the layers and the nut mixture until all the nuts are used, ending with phyllo.
With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond shapes. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until golden.
Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle honey over the dough until it does not absorb any further. To the left is the honeyed pastry before it has soaked in. (I used a full one pound jar of local honey.) Then sprinkle with some ground up pistachios if you like that look. (I did.)
Let cool and sit for six hours or overnight, then serve at room temperature, well wrapped. Oh the agony of waiting! But it's worth it. My guests told me this was the best baklava they had ever eaten. My hub and I had to agree.
These little squares could make a splendid addition to a Christmas cookie platter!
Question: How is a good mystery like a piece of baklava?
Answer: Many layers!
DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is here in time for Christmas stockings!
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