As a child I would circle the dining room table pretending to play while impatiently watching my mother baking in the kitchen, all the while waiting for her to call me over – her “little helper”. How I loved to watch my mother bake, amazed as her delicate hands created culinary works of art. All of this done without the traditional tools of the trade. Nope, you wouldn’t find a measuring cup or spoons in her kitchen, everything done the good ‘ole fashioned way – keen eyes and precise hands.
Often times I would interrupt her to offer my assistance, stirring the pot of gold laden honey with citrus essence and cinnamon sticks churning into that anointing glaze for her infamous baklava. The house would fill with its precious aroma as I peered over the large pot. I would imagine the children marching over from the playground across the street, seduced by the trance of this scrumptious fragrance as though the pied piper himself was leading them back into my mother’s kitchen.
Meanwhile, more deliciousness oozed from the oven smothering my senses with the intoxicating sweet-smelling phyllo dough mixed with a fusion of sugar and mélange of spices… here’s my little piece heaven while growing up and my inspiration to be baker.
This special family heirloom recipe of baklava comes from the Peloponnese part of Greece. It’s easier than it sounds and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Here’s what you’ll need… A baking pan: 9 x 11 Baking Dish, Oven Temp: 350 degrees, Bake time: 45 minutes. This recipe makes approximately 27 pieces.
1 16oz package of phyllo dough
1 pound of Walnuts chopped
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ pound of sweet unsalted butter melted
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon peel wedge “1/8 inch slice”
½ cup of honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl combine chopped walnuts and cinnamon mix well and set aside. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt all the butter.
Layer 10 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
Spread a layer of the walnut cinnamon mixture until phyllo dough is completely covered.
Repeat this process three times using only 5 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter and spreading another layer of walnut cinnamon mixture in between.
The final layer of phyllo dough should be 12 to 15 sheets each sheet brushed with butter.
It’s important to cut the baklava first in 4 diagonal columns, followed by 7 rows to give you the traditional rectangular dessert pieces, (see illustration in the photo below).
Place the pan in the oven and let bake for 45 minutes.
While the baklava is baking, begin preparing the baklava syrup. In a saucepan combine water, sugar, honey, cinnamon and lemon peel. Let simmer for 10 minutes until syrup has reached a boiling point and molasses like thickness, but not caramelized. Let the syrup cool until room temperature.
Once the baklava has baked and phyllo dough has reached a golden flaky color, remove from oven and let cool for an hour. Once cooled, pour syrup evenly over the baklava, let stand overnight to absorb well into the baklava.
Additional photos below for preparing Baklava.
Layering the pan with phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
Cut the baklava diagonally in 4 columns and 7 rows to give you the traditional rectangular dessert pieces.
While the baklava is baking prepare the baklava syrup.