The first thing you need to know about fillo dough is that it has the texture of tissue paper but much more delicate. When you touch fillo dough, it tends to fall apart and it makes your finger feel thick and clumsy.
Second, is that you have to work fast. It tends to dry out quickly so you have to put a damp cloth (I use paper towel) over it so that it doesn't dry up and get brittle. It also can't be too wet or it sticks to itself, causing it to tear.
Also, never try to unroll the package (I'll assume you've purchased your dough, not made it from scratch. That'd be crazy) before its fully defrosted otherwise it will break into a million little piece. Been there, done that. Had to go to publix and buy another package and then wait patiently for it to thaw all the way.
Other than that (and the time factor) baklava is a joy. Well, not to make, but to eat. And wow, this stuff is good.
I got this recipe from Alton Brown's Good Eats collection after seeing his episode about how to make baklava. It was a huge help when it came to making this recipe. If you've never worked with fillo dough before, make sure you either have someone experienced at your side or watch the episode first. I'm sure you can find it on youtube.
And on a personal note, I'm pretty sure this is the first time I ever worked with fillo dough and didn't end up in a fit of swears. I'm telling you, I was zen today!
Here is the recipe (my notes are in parenthesis):
Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch metal pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter (the first sheet of dough will never be good, just come to terms with it). Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly.
- For the filling:
- 1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
- 15 to 20 whole allspice berries (~1-2 tsp)
- 6 ounces blanched almonds
- 6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts
- 6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon rose water (found this at Whole Foods, in the cosmetics area... look for the one that says edible... please)
- 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
- 8 ounces clarified unsalted butter, melted (I needed another .25 of a stick)
For the syrup:
- 1 1/4 cups honey
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick (1 tsp. I also added a little sprinkle of cloves)
- 1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processorand pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.
Spritz thoroughly with the rose water. Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts and spritz with rose water. Repeat with another 6 sheets of phyllo, butter, remaining nuts, and rose water. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cut into 28 squares. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours before adding the syrup.
After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (careful, this will want to boil over). Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick.
This was right after I poured the syrup on
Look at all the yummy syrup (this is after it sat for ~4 hours)
Look at that sticky awesomeness!
Pay no attention to the underlining and the red text... I'm having difficulty formatting on this thing tonight.