I always thought baklava was too complex to try at home. Then C found this amazing recipe in The Complete Middle East Cook Book and not only proved me wrong, but it was hands down the best baklava I’ve ever had.
20 sheets fillo pastry dough (look for it in the freezer section!)
3/4 cup melted, unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
thinly peeled lemon rind (in a pinch, we’ve left this out, but it does make a difference!)
small piece of cinnamon bark (we used a small cinnamon stick)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. If your walnuts and almonds are whole, or not ground pretty fine, throw them in the food processor. Mix the nuts, sugar and spices together in a bowl. Butter the sides and bottom of a large baking dish. Place one sheet of the fillo dough on the bottom of the baking dish and brush with melted butter. Repeat eight times.
Spread some of the nut mixture over the buttered fillo dough. Top with another sheet of fillo dough.
Butter that sheet. Top with a second sheet of fillo dough. Butter that sheet. Spread the remaining nut mixture over butter fillo dough. Top with the remaining nine sheets of fillo dough, making sure to butter each sheet. Brush the top with butter and using a sharp knife, cut a diamond shape and sprinkle with water to prevent the top layers from curling. Bake on the center shelf for 30 minutes. Then move up one shelf and cook for another 30 minutes. You’ll want to keep an eye on it, if the top browns too quickly, cover with foil.
While the baklava is cooking, make the syrup. Note: we’ve discovered the longer the syrup sits, the better it is. We’ve even canned it for later. Place the sugar, water and honey in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Be careful! This boils quickly and the last thing you want is for the mixture to boil over. Manage your heat and let boil for 15 minutes. We found stirring continuously helps prevent boil overs. Strain and let cool.
When the baklava is done baking, spoon the syrup over the pastry. Leave it alone for several hours (this step is the hardest, but I promise it is worth it).
My opinion: This recipe takes more than the hour of baking time and makes at least 30 pieces. You might want to cut them small, unlike some treats this is best in small, completely satisfying quantities.