This week I wanted to try baking something with pastry. This was because prompted by two things: 1) I went to Pêche Patisserie on Picton Street with some co-workers the Tuesday before last and nearly died at the deliciousness. Then I went back last Friday and got lovely things like a cheesecake danish and pieces of noisette and opera, which I then forgot in the staff refrigerator on Friday afternoon. I never tried pastry - the closest I came was an easy flour crust for a cheesecake sometime last year when I was still trying to figure out the filling.
2) I check out food blogs to see what recipes are recommended and look for baking tips when I have to troubleshoot (because I always have to troubleshoot), and David Lebovitz visited Lebanon and shared pictures with some of the treats he tried there. One thing stood out - baklava. I looked at a few recipes, checked what I had, and bought a box of filo pastry at the supermarket.
On Sunday afternoon, I got started. I mixed the nuts and had everything ready to assemble before I realised that my pastry was brittle because it was cold. I let it thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours and started a bit later in the evening while waiting on Game of Thrones to start.
Let me just say that despite the fact that I over-reduced my syrup (I can't even remember what distracted me) and had to remove the baklava pieces from the pan by holding it over hot water, it tastes DIVINE. I apologize for my always dark photos - I take them in the evening in harsh light when I get home (or when the treats are done).
Baklava: 1 box filo pastry (10 sheets of 18"x14"), 2 oz. unsalted almonds, 2 oz. unsalted pistachios shelled, 4 oz. unsalted walnuts, 1/2 tsp. cardamom, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 6 - 7 oz. caster sugar, 5 oz. melted butter.
Syrup: 1 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup honey, 1/2 tsp. lime/lemon juice, lime/lemon zest, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 pinch of ground nutmeg, 1 tsp. vanilla essence.
BaklavaPut the box of filo in the refrigerator several hours before starting. Mix the nuts, sugar, juice and spices in a food processor until the nuts are chopped into small pieces but not ground. Butter a pie dish (I used an 8"x8"x2" pan). Measure the size on the base of the dish and cut the size out of all the layers of dough. Almost all of the dough will be used for two layers of filling and three layers of pastry. Place a warm cloth over the pastry while brushing.
Carefully place a layer of dough in the greased pan and brush the dough with melted butter. Add another layer and brush butter as before. Do this until 10 layers are obtained.
Spread half of the nut mixture onto the dough. Butter the top of another piece of dough and place it on the nut mixture, buttered side down. Butter the dough again and add buttered layers as before until 10 sheets have been placed. Add another layer of nuts and repeat the pastry layers.
Brush the top of the baklava with butter and cut diamond shapes all the way through the layers. The pastry becomes brittle after baking so it will be difficult to cut after without making a mess. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes until the top is golden. While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup.
SyrupStir all the ingredients in a small saucepan on low heat until the sugar melts. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes before pouring over hot baklava. Leave the baklava to cool and soak up the syrup uncovered overnight. I placed my dish in a large tray with some water and covered it with a mesh cake cover to avoid eating ants and other night creatures.
The baklava can be stored in the freezer long term. It is a very delicious and surprisingly easy dessert to make. Next time I try this, I'm going to use one layer of date filling and one of nuts.