5 Making Pahklava (Baklava)

 I had never seen nor eaten this rich, flaky, nutty pastry dessert until a college roommate of mine showed me how to make it.

Julie is married to an tall, dark and handsome Armenian, whose mother taught her to make Pahklava the old fashioned way....without measuring spoons or cups.

She carefully measured the ingredients and shared her recipe with me.

I tell you, this dessert is to die for.  Seriously.

It is so easy to make.  People will think you slaved for hours to make this.

In reality, it took us under an hour ~

A simple syrup is made with sugar and water over high heat.

Whole cloves are added, which will be removed later.

Freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice are added to the syrup and brought to a rapid boil.

Heat is turned off, cloves are removed, and the syrup is set aside to cool.

Walnuts are chopped into small pieces.

You do not want walnut "dust," so don't chop them too fine.

Sort out the larger pieces and chop them to equal size.

Mix chopped walnuts in with sugar, cinnamon and cloves (or nutmeg, if you prefer).

Set aside.  Resist the temptation to nibble...

Use a large 17"x12" baking sheet (do not use Silpat or a non-stick pan, as you will be using a knife to cut on the sheet).

Melt a boatload of butter.

O.K., only 1 1/2 cups.  Make sure it's salted butter.

Using a pastry brush, brush melted butter all inside the baking sheet.

Take your thawed out fillo dough and carefully unfold it.

Cover the dough plastic wrap and a lightly damp towel to keep dough from drying out.

With both of us working quickly together, we didn't need the towel.

Don't throw away the box.

Cut the skinny side strip off the box and save it.  

You'll see what she does with it...it's so cool.

Place 2 sheets of fillo dough flat onto the pan.  You may need to fold over one edge to have it fit flat into the pan.

Place another 2 sheets of fillo dough side by side with the other 2 sheets.  Fold over one edge, if necessary.
Brush top of fillo dough with just enough butter to wet it.  You don't want your dough swimming in the stuff...
Lay 2 more sheets of fillo dough on top and fold the edge on the opposite side, so your baklava won't be lopsided.
Butter the top.
Repeat, alternating folded sides, until you have used half of your fillo dough.

Now's the time to add your walnuts.

Spread the walnuts evenly over the pan.

Top with 2 sheets of fillo dough and butter the top.

If you are folding the ends, remember to alternate folding the sides to create an even layer.
Fillo dough, fold end, butter top.  Repeat until all of your dough is used.
Top layer should be folded under, for an attractive appearance.  
Do not butter top layer yet!

Take the side strip that you cut from the fillo dough box and use it as your ruler.  Cool, huh?

Using a sharp knife and your ruler on the diagonal, cut slowly, moving the knife up and down as you go.

Be sure to cut through all the layers at once.

After your diagonal cuts are made, use your paper ruler to make your straight horizontal cuts.

On the last horizontal cut, shift the ruler a little bit to make an balanced cut. You don't want your last strip to be skinny...

When cutting is complete, each piece of baklava will have a beautiful diamond shape!

Drizzle remaining butter (remelt butter if necessary) over the top.

Using the back of a large spoon, slowly and carefully spread the melted butter over the tops of each piece.

Bake the baklava till lightly golden.

Pour the cooled syrup evenly all over the hot baklava.

Let sit for a couple of hours before eating.

I know, I know.  I hate waiting, but it's worth it!

Take the entire baking sheet to your next get-together.  A dessert this good is meant to be shared!  Once you take it to a gathering, people will expect you to bring it every time and will be disappointed if you don't...

My hubby took it to his office and they ate it all up ~

But not before I snatched a few pieces for myself...

Since trying this recipe, I have sampled baklava at a Greek restaurant in California and the Greek Festival in Salt Lake City.  While they were good, I still prefer Julie's recipe.  Some people use rose water (too perfume-y) or honey (too sweet and sticky), or use TONS of walnuts in their recipe.  Julie's recipe has the perfect combination and balance of citrus-savory-nutty without being overly sweet.

Thanks, Julie!  You rock!

 Julie's Baklava
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

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