Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Almond and Pistachio Baklava

When my parents first moved to Canada, my father worked for a man named Stavros, whose Greek mother entrusted us with her family baklava recipe. I grew up eating the pastry only on special occasions. My parents would throw huge dinner parties, which they would prepare for many days in advance. Baklava was a favorite, advance-prep dessert that they made in a deep baking sheet. Predictably, the guests would only eat half of the baklava, which left much syrup-dripping pastry for my indulgence.

Although many of us associate baklava with Greek cuisine, research shows it is most likely of Turkish or Assyrian origin, though both theories have been contested. The main ingredient is phyllo (named for the Greek word for “leaf”), a delicate dough that is thought to have originated in the Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman Empire. Whatever the origin, baklava is widely eaten in the Middle East and Central Asia.

This recipe draws from Stavros’ mother’s recipe, as well as the culinary skills of my friend Christina.
Makes 35 squares

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
peel of one orange (optional)
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons rose water
3 cups almonds and pistachios, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
whole cloves, for decoration

yogurt, for serving (optional)

1. Over medium heat dissolve 1 1/2 cups sugar and honey in water. Add cinnamon sticks and orange peel and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add rose water and cool to room temperature.
2. Mix nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter.
4. Remove phyllo dough from the fridge and place on cool surface. Cover with a wet cloth to keep moist. Work quickly as the phyllo dough dries out quickly.
5. Brush a 9 x 14 inch pan with butter. Make sure the butter reaches the corners of the pan.
6. Place one sheet of phyllo dough (fold in half if you have 14 x 18 pieces of phyllo) in the pan. Brush with butter. Repeat with five more sheets, brushing with butter after each sheet.
7. Sprinkle with half the nut mixture. Top with six more phyllo sheets, brushing with butter after each sheet.
8. Sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture. Top with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter.
9. Chill the pan until the butter has hardened. This will make it easier to cut. Preheat oven to 325 F.
10. Cut baklava into diamonds, triangles or squares. Press one clove into the center of each piece.
11. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown. While baking, strain the syrup to remove cinnamon sticks and orange peel.
12. Remove from the oven and pour syrup over hot baklava. Let stand for 4 hours or overnight. Serve with yogurt to balance the sweetness of the pastry.


Anonymous said...

Hi Aly,

I'm amazed that you have time to do this. I consider myself fortunate if I have time to prepare a good meal at the end of day, much less photograph it, write about it and post it to a website. One of these days I'll get around to cooking one of your recipes...


Shilpa said...

Hi Aly,

Sorry I haven't been dropping by more regularly!

Your pastries always look good enough to sell! How do you do it?!?! I'm only contented with feeding those around me, such attention to presentation is something i have yet to master!