Baklava is a Greek pastry that is made all around the world. It may seem like an intimidating dessert to make but it is actually quite simple. To get started, you will need phyllo dough sheets, butter or oil, choice of nuts(preferably peanuts, almonds, or pistachios, or mix), coconut if desired, honey, sugar and water.
Step 1: Prepare the GOODIES
First, you will want to prepare all of your ingredients before dealing with the phyllo dough. Prepare 2 cups of finely chopped nuts, 3/4 sugar, and as much coconut as you like. Mix well in a separate. You may add 1 tsp cinnamon for more flavor. Next preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Phyllo dough must be defrosted but not room temperature in order to work well. It should not be refrigerated for more than a day because the thin sheets of flour and water dry out quickly. Always freeze it when not being used.
Step 2: Make Your Own SYRUP!
The hardest part of making baklava is TIMING. Once the pastry is baked, it must be covered in syrup IMMEDIATELY after it comes out of the oven. Don't even wait five seconds. It's important to have everything ready. Now, you will want to make your syrup before putting the pastry layers together. To make the syrup you will need 2 cups of water, 2 cups sugar, and 1/4 cup honey. Bring to boil for about 7 minutes, or until slightly thick. Allow it cool. After cooled, you may add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract OR rose water if you would like. It's important that the syrup is cooled to room temperature before pouring onto hot pastry or vice versa. One must be cool and the other hot. That way, they work together for absorption.
Step 3: Putting Everything Together
Here is the fun part, working with the phyllo dough sheets! One package makes about 24 good pieces of baklava. With the melted butter or oil (not olive oil), cover bottom of large pan that is the same size as the dough sheets. If you don't have one big enough, cut in half and use smaller pan. That way, you will end up with thicker pieces. Take two sheets of dough and lightly brush with butter. Cover unused dough, in between uses, with towel to prevent drying. Repeat until you reach the eighth sheet. Now it is time to add the nuts. Layer a thin amount of nuts all around, don't forget the edges! Next, place the next 2 sheets of dough, brush with butter, and add nuts. You should end up with about 4-5 layers of nuts. Now, use the rest of the phyllo dough without nuts and brush every two layers with butter.
Step 4: Pre-Cut
Before putting in the oven, you will want to precut it. Make sure the top layer is also brushed with butter before cutting (the less butter you use, the less puffy your pastry will be and soggier after adding the syrup). You can cut anyway you'd like. I usually do 4X6, to make the same size as seen in the picture. You can also cut the squares in half so it is easy to eat and feed more people, possibly.
Step 5: Time to Bake!
Stick that puppy in the oven!!! I mean the pan...
Allow it to bake for 15 minutes. If not lightly browned, leave it in the oven. Keep an eye on it every minute or so. It easy to burn the pastry dough. You do not want it to turn medium brown. It will look good, but taste burnt. Light brown color is key!
Step 6: Get Ready!
You want to have a helper on your side when it is time to pour the syrup. Before taking it out of the oven, get the syrup ready in a cup to pour. You can pour right out of the pan if you are able to pour evenly and everywhere.
Step 7: Pour It on Me, Baby!
One person grabs it out of the oven, the other pours. Be sure to pour it evenly and quickly. It is common to miss the edges and corners so be sure to remember those. You will hear it s i z z l e. Turn the oven off. Allow it to sit room temperature for at least one hour to let the dough absorb the honey syrup.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Enjoy your masterpiece! This is an easy and fun way to make a delicious treat. It is also much cheaper than buying from a grocery store or bakery. It can be refrigerated or left out on the counter. Just don't expect it to last long.