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When I was younger, I had no idea what baklava was. I knew that come the holiday season, at some random time from some random vendor, we would receive this amazing, super sweet, nutty treat that had no name but was so good that I would sneak into the lunch room on break and gobble up as many pieces as I could while trying to make it look like I wasn’t the one that ravaged the dessert tin. Being slightly older (cough!) and wiser, I now know that honey flavored bite size pieces of heaven have a name .. and that name is BAKLAVA!!
If you have never had occasion to try it, let me say that you are in for a treat!! Imagine layer after layer after layer of tissue thin sheets of phyllo, drenched in butter and nuts and sugar and honey. Sold yet?… I thought so!
Now, when it was still a no name treat to me, I didn’t even know how to boil water back then. Today, slightly more experienced but trust me, I can still be outsmarted by the coffee maker on a good day (just ask Big Scary Mike, he loves to tell THAT story). If you are anything like me and are intimidated at the thought of even trying to make baklava, take that self doubt and put it in a bubble and blow it away. This is such an easy and uncomplicated dessert to make that you will be amazed at your own skill set when it comes out perfect. Now, don’t go telling your family and friends how easy it is make… let them (rightly) assume you are a Superstar.
You will need:
1 roll frozen Phyllo Dough, thawed
4 cups walnuts, pecans or pistachios, chopped
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 stick butter, Melted
1 3/4 cups honey
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp Vanilla Extract
If you have never used phyllo dough, it is extremely fragile and will dry out quickly so as you pull off the sheets you are working with, cover the remaining sheets with a damp cloth.
Thaw your phyllo dough in the refrigerator the day before you are planning on making your baklava. Remove your thawed phyllo dough from the fridge and let it sit out for about an hour before you are ready to use it.
In a medium bowl, toss together your cinnamon and your chopped nuts. You are not limited to walnuts or pecans, whatever nut you enjoy most can be used in this recipe but walnuts or pecans are the most commonly used.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter or non-stick spray a 13 x 9 pan.
Lay down two sheets of phyllo dough and brush the top sheet with melted butter. Add on another two sheets and again brush the top sheet with butter. Repeat two more times so that you have a total of 8 phyllo sheets stacked up with alternating buttered sheets.
Sprinkle on an even layer of your nut / cinnamon mixture and then add two sheets of phyllo, each sheet brushed with butter. Add another layer of nuts and then two more sheets of buttered phyllo. Repeat this cycle until you have used up all of your nut mixture. Top your baklava with four buttered sheets of phyllo. Your baklava is now constructed!! (Yay!!)
Starting in the corner, cut a diamond pattern all the way through the baklava with a sharp knife. You will need to hold down the little diamonds at times as you cut as they are fragile and will want to pop up.
When you are done, cook for 45 minutes or until the top is a dark golden brown.
When you remove your baklava from the oven, combine your stick of butter, honey, water, vanilla and sugar in a small pot. Bring this to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Drizzle this sauce slowly over your baklava, covering every centimeter, every nook and cranny. Let the liquid become absorbed and then drizzle more, using the entire saucepan of sauce.
Let this cool overnight or at least for several hours.
When it has cooled completely, pat yourself on the back and straighten your tiara… you truly are a Superstar 🙂