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.
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.
Top with a second sheet of fillo dough.
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.
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.
As promised, now that Thanksgiving is over and we have had a chance to do a post-mortem on what worked and what didn’t, I’ll be sharing the recipes that made the cut. First, is this delicious take on sweet potato casserole.
C found this recipe on the Fabulousfoodshow.com and has perfected it in the last year. We kept it warm in a crock pot while other dishes took up precious oven and burner space.
Tyler Florence's Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Puree
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and put them on a roasting pan.
On another roasting pan prick bananas and lay out in a single layer.
Roast sweet potatoes for 45 minutes until very soft and roast bananas for 25 minutes. (If you are in a huge hurry, you can boil the sweet potatoes, but do not try boiling the bananas!)
Remove both pans from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
In a small sauce pot heat cream with bay leaf until reduced by half, then keep warm until ready to puree potatoes and bananas.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into the bowl of a food processor (A blender will work, but only if the potatoes are cool).
Add peeled bananas. Season with salt, add butter, cream (make sure you took the bay leaves out!), cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and puree until smooth (or if you like it a little chunky, a little chunky).
Pour into an oven-proof dish.
Make the topping by combining flour, cold butter and brown sugar in the food processor and pulse until you have the texture of coarse bread crumbs.
Sprinkle on top of the puree and place under the broiler until golden brown and crispy, about 4-5 minutes.
I really love this dish. This year we actually forgot the topping and it was still just as wonderful! You can make it a couple of days (no more than 2!) ahead of your holiday meal and keep it refrigerated. Then reheat in a crock pot like we did or in the oven. If you are keeping it in the crock pot, sprinkle each serving with the topping and use a brûlée torch to make it golden brown and crispy.