1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
(I suggest that you buy it as making phyllo dough is incredibly difficult but doable. Since it usually comes frozen make sure until it's thawed enough to unroll it by starting to do so slowly, if not it will tear.)
1 pound chopped nuts
(The more modern version calls for walnuts which is always tasty but feel free to use a variety of nuts like almonds and macadamia nuts. Regardless of what you use try to make sure they are both roasted and unsalted to control the saltiness of the dish though it is up to you.)
1 cup butter
(I used ghee or clarified butter as it ensures a less mushy baklava considering all the butter added.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
(After trying out this recipe a few times feel free to mix and match spices. After all some of the best recipes were made by experimenting!)
1 1/2 cups water
(At this point the temperature of the water doesn't matter but starting with cold water speeds up the process as it boils much faster than room temperature water)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup honey
(A note about the sauce: the amount of sauce you make will directly affect the amount how sweet the baklava is (as the sauce is what makes it sweet) and it will also dictate just how dry it is. After making this recipe a few times feel free to adjust the amount of sauce to your own personal likes.)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( or 175 degrees C). Take this time to butter both the sides and of a 9 X 13 inch pan, this is what you will be using to make the baklava in.
2. Chop nuts and toss both cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl and set aside.
(An easy way to chop nuts is to put them into a gallon zip block bag and seal it then put that bag within another gallon zip block bag and again seal it while making all are has escaped it. Taking a hammer or a meat mallet (the flat side) pound the nuts in the bag until it has reached your desired size. This is easier and will ensure a quick clean up.)
3. Unroll phyllo dough and cut the entire stack to fit the pan that you're making the baklava in.
(Most recipes state that you have to wait until the phyllo dough is completely thawed to work with it but the easiest way in my opinion is to work with it while partially thawed as it is durable enough to manipulate without seeming to melt on your fingers. Make sure to cover your phyllo dough with a damp cloth when you aren't working with it to keep it from drying out as you work.)
4. Place two sheets of dough in the pan and butter thoroughly. Continue placing two sheets of dough and then butter until you have reached 8 sheets of dough on the bottom of the pan.
(One of the trickier things about this recipe is keeping track of the amount of layers you've already put down. To combat this I suggest that you keep a piece of paper near by and mark the number of layers you've put down as you go.)
5. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of your nuts and spices on top of the phyllo dough. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, and then nuts again, creating layers continue doing so until you have 8 sheets left.
(The sprinkled nut mixture might look a little sparse when layering and you may be a little tempted to add more than three tablespoons but before you do so remember that this recipe has A LOT of layers and therefore it builds up quite quickly.)
6. With the 8 sheets you have left repeat the process you did in Step 4 as this will create the top layer. Paint the top sheet with butter or ghee to create a pretty golden color on the top of it once it is baked.
7. Using a very sharp knife cut into the baklava into traditional diamond shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan.
(Make sure you reach all the way to the bottom of the pan when cutting as if it is not completely cut the baklava can become destroyed as you try to take out pieces when it is damp with sauce and delicate golden brown phyllo dough that cracks quite easily.)
8. Bake for about 50 minutes or until your baklava is golden brown and crisp.
(Begin sauce once baklava is baking.)
1. In a pan bring your water to a boil and add the sugar in slowly, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and melted.
(In all honestly you don't have to wait until the sugar is completely dissolved and melted before adding the other ingredients but it's up to you.)
2. Add the vanilla and honey to the mixture and stir. After stirring for a while bring it down to a simmer, allowing it to cook for about 5 - 6 minutes before you remove it from the heat and let sit.
(Some recipes call for longer cooking times for the sauce but I have made it both ways before and didn't see much of a difference in making the amount of time shorter.)
COMBINING SAUCE AND BAKLAVA:
1. Once the baklava comes out of the oven add the cooled sauce to the baklava.
(A cardinal rule when making baklava is that usually either the sauce or the baklava has to be either hot or cold, but never the same temperature as this ensure that the sauce is more thoroughly sucked up by the baklava. This is why we have let the sauce cool a bit while the baklava cooked.)
2. Once you have added the sauce let the whole thing sit for about 10 minutes to ensure that the baklava has completely absorbed the sauce.
3. SIT DOWN AND ENJOY!
please don't forget to post any completed baklavas!