I was in Greece the first time I had really good baklava. Prior to that I was fairly sure that I didn't like it, even though I liked all the components.
After the trip to Greece, I decided I'd learn how to make it. Baklava is easier than it looks, especially when using pre-made phyllo dough. Baklava is also customizable, there are no right or wrong nuts to use, and you can add additionally items to your filling such as chocolate, coconut, and more!
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Step 1: Syrup
1 1/2c sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
In a decent size pot, add water and sugar together. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is melted. Then add the honey and vanilla and let simmer for 20 or so minutes.
Make the syrup at least an hour before you make/bake your baklava. This gives the syrup time to cool so that when you add it to the baklava, you get a crispier product. You can put the syrup in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
Step 2: The Filling
This recipe is for an 8x8 glass dish.
2-3 cups of chopped nuts
1 tsp cinnamon
Today I used walnuts and pecans, because that's what I had in stock. Other nuts that can be used include almonds and pistachios, its really just a matter of preference.
Mix the nuts and cinnamon together and set aside.
Step 3: Putting It All Together
1 pack of phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 325.
If you're using an 8x8 dish as I did, cut the pack of phyllo dough in half and gently unroll.
Butter the bottom and sides of an oven-safe dish. Layer the the dish with 2 sheets of phyllo dough, lightly brushing the melted butter on top and then adding 2 more layers. Continue adding layers with butter in between until you have 8-10 sheets on the bottom.
Add some of the nut-cinnamon mixture and then layer with 2 more sheets of phyllo dough. Add more melted butter, 2 more sheets and then more nuts. You can do as many nut layers as you like. You want your top to have 6-8 layers.
When you're done, take a sharp knife and slice the layers diagonally, but do not cut to the bottom. Leave 1/2-1" at the bottom uncut so the syrup will not settle all the way at the bottom of the dish. When you've got your diagonal slices, turn the dish and cut straight across.
Bake for 55 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown.
Step 4: Ta Da!
When you remove the baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over it. When I did this, I could hear and see the cooled syrup bubbling up around and inside the baklava, it looked great.
Let cool before serving.