Monday, October 19, 2015

Cook's Illustrated's Baklava

     I LOVE baklava, yes that strongly ;).  Here's the truth though, I hate nuts, so how can I love a nut pastry so much?  Part of it is memories, and part of it is just how delicious baklava is.  When I was a kid living in Michigan, we would sometimes take the Detroit People Mover into Trapper's Alley (it doesn't exist anymore :( ), and visit Greek Town.  I loved these trips, and Greek Town is awesome (or was 20-30 years ago, I haven't been there in about 20 years).  We would eat at Pegasus Taverna, see the waiters lighting the cheese on fire and yelling opa, and shopping in the cool little stores around us.  My dad, another of the sweet tooths (teeth?) in our family, bought us baklava as we went around Trapper's Alley shopping center.  Man, that was some good pastry, and I don't know that I've ever had baklava that good, but this one I made was pretty darn great.
     Baklava isn't a dessert that comes together quickly, but it is so worth the effort.  Aaron really enjoyed this, he said it was his favorite baklava ever, but then he hasn't ever been to Greek Town :).  I found this recipe in my Cook's Illustrated International Best Recipe cookbook, and Aaron and I gave this a perfect 10, and the boys gave this a 9.  Although my cuts didn't make nice diamond shapes like I wanted, they still came out great, and we had about 28 slices in our 9x13 pan.  Each slice was 247 calories, but I had to change the recipe a little to make up for my lack of almonds, so here's what to do:

1 lb of phyllo pastry (about 30 sheets or so), thawed
24 T unsalted butter

Sugar Syrup
1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 c water
1/3 c honey
3 2-inch strips lemon zest plus 1 T lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1/8 t salt

Nut Filling
1 c chopped, blanched almonds
1/4 c pine nuts
1 1/2 c walnuts
2 T sugar
1 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/8 t salt

Bring all the sugar syrup ingredients to a boil together, stirring occasionally.  Allow to cool then remove the spices and lemon zest.
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped, add in the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt and pulse quickly, then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 300.  Melt the butter slowly, about 10 minutes, until the milk solids have separated from the butter fat, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, allow it to cool about 10 minutes, then skim off the top.  Separate the butter fat from the liquid, toss out the fats, and have about 1 c clarified butter to use.  Grease your baking pan, then layer 8 phyllo sheets in the pan, brushing each one well with butter, then repeating for each of the eight sheets.  Gently spread 1 c of the nut mixture over the sheets.  Layer and butter six more phyllo sheets, then sprinkle with 1 more cup of the nut filling.  Repeat with six more sheets, then 1 more cup nut filling.  Layer remaining 8-10 phyllo sheets, brushing each layer except the final layer with butter, then press carefully with your hands to compress the layers.  Spoon the remaining butter over the top layer and brush to cover the entire surface.  Using a serrated knife tip, cut the pastry into diamond shapes (or try :)).  Bake about 1 1/2 hours, rotating the pan halfway through baking.  Remove the pan from the oven, immediately pour all but 2 T of the syrup over the cut lines.  Drizzle the remaining syrup over the surface.  Garnish each piece with some of the nut filling.  Let baklava cool completely for about 3 hours, then cover with aluminum foil and let sit at room temperature for about 8 hours before serving, although it still tastes good after only three hours :).

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the memories are a big part of it. Some good times. Dad and I were talking last night about where we wanted to be buried and I said, MIchigan. It is more home than here. But none of our children are there, so that won't work either. Hope things are better. Love you much, mom