Last year, for the first time since I started the Christmas-time tradition (at least 10 years ago, now!) I skipped baking my holiday baklava. BB couldn't eat it (since she wasn't yet allowed to eat nuts) BJ had announced he didn't like it, and a full batch for S and I seemed ridiculous, even if I gave away a bunch.
But this year, I'm hoping to start up the tradition again. This round of the Etsyblogger carnival asks us to write about favorite holiday recipe traditions, so naturally I thought of my baklava. I know that I made it for the first time in Arizona, maybe even before we were married. I don't really recall why I started making it -- I think it was just because I was intrigued by a recipe in my cookie cookbook. But it soon became an annual thing, even though it's a bit of a pain to work with the phyllo, but the results are worth it! And even though most directions for working with phyllo insist on keeping it covered with a moist towel, I've found that it was only really necessary to do that when we lived in arid Arizona.
Here's the recipe!
For walnut filling, combine and set aside the following:
4 cups (1 lb) finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Make the phyllo/nut base.
1 1/4 cups melted butter
1 16 oz package of phyllo dough, thawed. (Timing the thawing of the dough is critical to the success of this recipe! If it is still frozen, it will not unfold well. If it is too warm, it will be frustrating to work with. Follow package directions exactly for thawing it out!)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Brush melted butter over the bottom of a baking pan (15X10X1 inch). Carefully unfold phyllo dough. Layer about a quarter of the sheets in the pan, brushing each sheet thoroughly with melted butter. Allow phyllo to extend up the sides of the pan and overlap as needed to deal with any tears in the dough sheet if the phyllo isn't cooperating. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of the walnut filling over the phyllo layer. Repeat layering buttered phyllo/nut filling 2 more times.
Make a final layer of phyllo sheets, continuing to brush each sheet with butter as you layer them. This recipe doesn't pretend to be low-cal, so don't stint! Drizzle remaining butter over top layer. Trim edges of phyllo to fit pan. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut through *all* the layers to make pieces. They can be shaped in triangles, diamonds, or squares. I find diamonds to work best.
Bake in 325 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until lightly browned. Slightly cool in pan.
While the phyllo is baking, make the honey syrup.
Stir together in medium saucepan:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey (or a little more -- use the best honey you can find and/or afford! The year we brought back Greek honey from Navplio was the unbeatably best batch of baklava I ever made. Sigh.)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 inches stick cinnamon
Bring to boil, reduce heat, then simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon. Pour honey syrup evenly over warm baklava in the pan. (I find it easier to transfer the syrup to a large, spouted pyrex mixing cup for pouring.) Cool completely and enjoy!