Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baklawa (or Baklava)

This baklawa can be made either dairy or pareve.  If you do not have a dairy oven, simply substitute good-quality kosher margarine for the butter.  Any suggestions or comments on my posted recipes are genuinely appreciated!


Pastry layers:
1 pkg (325 gm or about 12 oz) Filo pastry.  You will find this in the freezer or cold section of your kosher market or in many good supermarkets.  (It is pareve)
2 cups ground walnuts or a mixture of 1-1/2 cups walnuts and 1/2 cup pistachios
250 gm (1/2 cup) butter (or margarine) melted in a small pan.  Have a brush handy.
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom.  Many use cinnamon but the Mizrahi recipe my Nana made had cardamom.

1-1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
5 cardamom pods (just break them a bit and toss them in)
1 cinnamon stick if you have one
1 Tbsp lemon juice (I use 1 tsp. lemon essence/extract)


Thaw out pastry while still in package.  This won't take too long.
Grind whole walnuts/pistachios with sugar and cardamom.  Set aside.
Slowly unroll pasty and place on a slightly damp tea towel and then cover the top with another slightly damp tea towel.  This is important as the pastry is as thin as parchment and will dry out and tear.  If a few sheets tear, don't worry.  Just glue them down with butter/margarine whilst layering.

Melt butter/margarine as directed above.

Pre-heat oven to 180C or 350F degrees.

Lightly grease a rectangular, high sided baking sheet or
use a 13x9x2" (rectangular) baking pan - I use a pyrex pan of this dimension as I like to see that the bottom of the pastry is browning nicely.

Place a layer of pastry in the pan.  Use the butter/margarine to sort of 'glue' it to the sides of the pan. Don't worry if it hangs over the sides a bit - you trim it at the end of this part.
Brush butter on this layer.  It is important to brush the butter/margarine on well, but use a light hand so you don't pack the pastry down.

Take two to three sheets of pastry and lay this on top of the first layer and brush with butter/margarine.  Repeat this process until about half of your pastry is used.  Brush this last layer of pastry with a bit of butter and sprinkle 2/3 of the nut/spice/sugar mixture on top.  Then begin again layering the pastry for a few more layers.  Sprinkle most of the nut/spice/sugar mixture on this layer (keep a tiny bit for sprinkling on top at the end) and then repeat with the pastry remaining pastry layers, buttering every few until you are out of pastry.

Use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife and cut through on the diagonal ALL THE WAY to the bottom of the pan making triangles (well, I got a B in geometry but mine still look pretty nice!)  Make sure that the pizza cutter gets all the way to the bottom or it is more difficult to divide up neatly when the baklawa is done.

If you have any butter/margarine left, brush it on as the pastry will absorb it quickly.  Sprinkle any remaining nut/spice/sugar mixture on top.

Now, to keep it looking neat, using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut off all pastry that is sticking way above the pan.  Then roll the pastry that is slightly above to make it look pretty.  Use a bit of butter/margarine as 'glue' if necessary.

Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour or if your oven has a force fan, until it looks brown and crispy.  It will appear just a bit puffed up.

Cool completely.  This is where most bakers get rushed and if you put the hot syrup on when the pastry is still hot it WILL get soggy.  If you have ever eaten Baklava from a coffee shop you will know if they have rushed through this point as the Baklava will taste a bit 'raw'


In a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine
1-1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
5 cardamom pods (just break them a bit and toss them in)
1 cinnamon stick if you have one

Save the lemon for last as it will lose its flavour when you boil the syrup.

Bring to a boil and then cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.  Stir from time to time, watching that it does not get too thick. 

Once the pastry is completely cooled, add the lemon juice or lemon essence/extract to the hot syrup, give it a quick stir and pour through a strainer into a glass measuring cup with pouring lip.  This gets the spices out.

Now pour the syrup over the cooled pastry as evenly as you can.

Let this set all day or overnight and the pastry will soak up the syrup.

Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.

Using a thin spatula, remove a corner piece of the baklawa.  This will give you access to the rest and then you can arrange them nicely on a plate or serving dish.  Eat the piece you took out first with your coffee or tea.  Pat yourself on the back as you have just made something that is especially delicious and not as difficult as it seems to be.

Any leftovers can be frozen - freeze them in separate pieces and then pack in a container or zip-lock bag so you can take out a few pieces as you need them.

K (D) or K (P) if margarine is used.

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