The Spice Rack

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." Join me as I explore this love with reckless abandon. Each week try a new recipe from a different region. Read a little about each recipes' history and a lot about what it took to get it from the pages of the cookbook to the dinner table.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Baklava

Yum, this is one of my favorite deserts. I was first introduced to Greek cooking on a high school trip to the country and have loved it ever since. Baklava in its earliest forms was created in the Middle East, but it was the Greeks who first began using filo dough, and thus made baklava the flaky pastry we all know and love. These gooey ultra-rich triangles make my mouth water. I realize that two recipes using filo dough in a row might be a lot to ask. But you'll have practice from the last recipe and will have mastered the finicky stuff by now, so this one will be a piece of cake. Here's what you'll need:

1/2 pound shelled walnuts
1/2 pound almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 pound melted butter
1/2 pound filo dough (refrigerate it overnight to thaw)
plus one batch of the syrup:
1 cup honey
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

This recipe should be easy if you've mastered working with filo. If not, just handle the filo sheets as if they were delicate pieces of 100-year-old parchment and you should be fine. The layering can get a little tiresome but it's worth it in the end.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Finely chop walnuts and almonds. Mix together the cinnamon, allspice and sugar. Combine this mixture to the nuts and mix well.

Brush 9X13 pan with some of the melted butter. Line the bottom of the dish with about 10 sheets of filo, coating each with a layer of butter before adding the next. Spread a little of the nut mixture evenly over the filo sheets. Cover this with about two filo sheets, again brushing each with butter. Spread a little of the nut mixture over and repeat with the filo sheets. Continue the process until all the nut mixture is used. Cover with the remaining filo sheets, again brush each with butter as you layer.

Cut diagonally, making diamonds, through only the top layer of filo. Bake until browned and crisp. 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile make the syrup.
Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, stir constantly to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and let cool. When you remove the baklava from the oven let it cool slightly, then poor the sugar mixture evenly over the top. Allow it to cool fully before you cut all the way through.

Hope you enjoy!

This recipe was adapted from the book
"Greek Cooking for the Gods" by Eva Zane

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