With the release of my debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, I will be reposting recipes that are mentioned in the story. Food always plays an important role in the lives of the Greek people, and for this reason, I’ve included a few recipes within the novel. Below is an excerpt where baklava is mentioned in one of the chapters.
“For Valentine’s Day she baked a delicious batch of baklava, while daydreaming how Dean would lick the sticky phyllo and walnuts off her fingertips, and she would kiss the rest of the honey off his irresistible lips.”
EVANTHIA’S GIFT is available on Amazon in print or on kindle.
1 pound finely chopped walnuts
½ cup sugar
1 package phyllo dough
1-½ cups melted unsalted butter
1-½ cups honey
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Orange rind and 2 tablespoons juice from orange
2 cinnamon sticks
First, don’t be intimidated by the phyllo. It does dry fast so you need to work quickly. I’ve seen it suggested that covering the phyllo with a damp towel would keep it from drying or flaking. This doesn’t work for me—it makes the dough mushy. I keep Saran wrap on top of the sheets I am not working with. The regular long size phyllo is great when I double the recipe and make a large pan. (The size of a full size sterno pan). If you find the shorter phyllo sheets the smaller pan fits perfectly with the sheet size. I use a Pyrex baking dish and it works beautifully.
Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Brush the inside of the pan with some melted butter to coat. Lay two phyllo sheets in the pan. Brush the phyllo with butter using a pastry brush. Repeat three more times. The bottom layer will have eight sheets in all. Spread 1/3 of the filling onto the phyllo. Lay two sheets on top of the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat two more times. Spread another 1/3 of the filling on the phyllo. Lay two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat two times. Spread the last 1/3 of filling on the phyllo and cover with two sheets of phyllo. Repeat three more times. The top and bottom layers should have eight sheets. The layers in between the filling should have six sheets and there should be three layers of filling.
Carefully, cut the baklava into squares and then cut each square diagonally to form two triangles. This must be done before baking or the top layers will crumble if you try to cut them after baking. If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over the top before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Check the color after the first 30 minutes. If the top is golden, and the color is where it should be, lay foil on top to keep it from getting too dark. Do not wrap; just lay it on top.
While the Baklava is baking, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. When it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.
The syrup should be cooled if you are pouring over hot pastry, or the pastry should be cooled and the syrup can be hot. I prefer the have both slightly warm when I pour the syrup. I like to let the syrup absorb into the baklava for a day before I serve or wrap for gift platters.
This is actually one of the easiest pastries to make. Once you get a feel for handling the phyllo it’s a breeze.