I’m a happy girl. As much as I love Bend, one thing we don’t get is a ton of great concert opportunities like we did when we lived in Chicago. So, I’m super excited because I just got tickets to see Alison Krauss and Union Station with Willie Nelson this summer AND we get to see The English Beat in May. Kind of funny because in my English Beat/General Public days when I considered myself very cool and “mod” I wouldn’t be caught dead at a Willie Nelson concert but I’m happy to say I’ve evolved to appreciate genius in all genres. I also remember hating Alison Krauss when she covered “When You Say Nothing at All” in the mid-nineties but I’ve since realized the error of my ways. Now she’s one of my favorite artists and her band, Union Station is brilliant. So there you have it. And no, it has nothing to do with baklava but I’m bored and alone so I’m sharing.
See – aren’t I cool? This is me in 1986 or 87. I love that I still had my dresser with the baby bunny on it and that’s Bono peeking in on the other side. And of course the extremely baggy sweater and the cigarette in hand. Because I was so cool. So glad I’m not cool anymore… I get to breathe easier and enjoy any kind of music I want :).
I made this baklava for my cooking club a couple weeks ago and it was a hit! The theme was Mediterranean so I took the opportunity to make it for the first time. I hesitate to say it was easy because that’s sort of a relative term. I sometimes get eye rolls and the occasional “Well, it was easy for you maybe!” from those who are not quite as fond of cooking/baking as I am. What I will say then is that it is fairly simple and forgiving as it needn’t be followed as precisely as many baked goods recipes, but it is definitely time consuming and requires some patience with the very thin phyllo dough. It is worth it though if you or someone you love is a fan of baklava. I have to admit I’d never been a huge fan before but after looking at several different recipes I came up with this one using a bit less honey syrup than many I found (in one case half the amount!) and I added a bit of salt and some cardamom to make the flavor slightly less sweet and more complex in flavor. The result was such that my cooking club friends were very happy and Bob and I couldn’t stop eating what was leftover at home.
Just so you know… Be sure and follow the thawing instructions for the phyllo dough on the box and thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Having never worked with phyllo dough before I went ahead and thawed about twice the amount I thought I’d need (the whole 16oz package instead of half). I was very glad I did because when this happened (see the stuck together mess below), I was able to pull from the second package and have plenty for my recipe. I could have probably used the stuck together dough for something else but I didn’t, I just tossed it. I felt slightly guilty for a minute then got over it. It’s not expensive and it was worth the waste to be able to peacefully completely my task. I was a lot nicer to my family as a result. Also, the baklava needs to sit and soak up the honey syrup for at least 6 – 8 hours before serving so take that into account before you start.
(about 20 servings)
1/2 16oz package phyllo dough (aka fillo/filo), about 20 sheets, thawed
10 oz butter, melted
1 lb nuts (I used almonds, pecans and pistachios), finely chopped
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cp water
zest of lemon
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine your favorite combination of nuts in a food processor if you have one or chop them as fine as possible with a sharp knife.
Add salt, cinnamon and cardamom.
Pulse until spices are combined and nuts are finely chopped.
Melt butter in microwave or on the stove.
Unroll one roll of phyllo dough, trim to fit 9x13in pyrex pan then cover with wet towel or paper towel as the dough tends to dry out quickly (hopefully you won’t need that second roll like I did).
Thoroughly brush melted butter on bottom and sides of a 9x13in pyrex pan with a pastry brush.
Place one sheet of dough on the bottom of the pan, brush it with butter, then repeat until you have 5 sheets layered with butter.
Evenly sprinkle a layer of nut mixture over the dough.
Top with 2 more layers of dough brushed with butter. Repeat until you’ve used all the nut mixture and have about 4 or 5 layers of nuts with 2 buttered sheets of dough in between each layer.
After the last layer of nuts, layer 5 more sheets of dough brushing with butter over each layer.
Using a sharp knife, cut in diagonal pieces before baking.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45- 55 minutes, until golden brown.
While the baklava is baking, make the honey syrup.
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup honey and 1 1/2 cup water.
Over medium-high heat, stir until the sugar dissolves and add the zest of one lemon.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.
Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Spoon all of the syrup evenly over baked baklava.
Allow it to soak in the syrup for 6 – 8 hours before serving. I highly recommend it with your morning coffee.
From my favorite Alison Krauss song…
And the people who love me still ask me
“When are you coming back to town?”
And I answer quite frankly
“When they stop building roads
and all God needs is gravity to hold me down.