Baklava

Baklava

Baklava is one of my all time favorite finger desserts.  It’s not a cookie or a bar cookie necessarily, but rather a pastry.  It’s this scrumptious sweet cinnamon-y, nutty mixture layered between sheets of filo, or phyllo, dough.  Filo dough are super thin sheets of dough that you layer with brushed butter or oil in between the sheets.  In this case I brush melted butter between each one along with the sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans.  It then is baked and turns into this crisp, flaky, melt in your mouth pastry.  Oh, and I can’t forget the honey that is drizzled over it all after it’s still hot out of the oven.  Oh my goodness, it’s to die for!

Filo dough is a Greek pastry used to make such things as baklava and spanakopita, one of my other favorite Greek dishes.  Oh, I need to post that recipe too!  I’ll do that soon!  Oh, my mouth is watering.  Serve the spanakopita with some grilled Greek marinated chicken and I need nothing else.  Well, maybe some of this baklava for dessert!

Beware, this is not a figure friendly pastry.  Not that there is such thing as a figure friendly pastry out there.  All things in moderation, right?  Make this for a party and you’ll not only limit yourself to eating too many, you’ll be the talk around the dessert table.  I promise!

Here I will walk you through each step with pictures.  I remember the first time I made this and I had no pictures to go by, and I remember thinking, boy that would have been nice.  And while it may seem like a lot of steps as I go through it, it’s really not.  It’s quite simple.  Stay with me!

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Here’s how I make it.

Baklava

The key to making anything with filo dough is being super organized and moving quickly when you start layering the thin sheets.  There’s only six ingredients in this dessert.  It does require a little patience.  I’m not talking about being slow, just be focused and calm and without disruption.  In fact, I tell everyone in my house when I’m about to make these and ask they not interrupt me once I start the layering process.

Baklava

In the 16 ounce box I get, there are two rolls of individually packaged filo dough with about 20-22 sheets depending on the brand.  You will need one of those rolls thawed for the Baklava.  But don’t open it yet.

Filo dough is typically found in the frozen dessert section of your grocery store.  Look for the frozen fruit, whipped cream, etc… and you’ll find it nearby.

Baklava

Chop up the pecans and put them in a small bowl.

  Baklava   Baklava

Then add the sugar and ground cinnamon.  That’s four of the six ingredients already!  Toss around to get the cinnamon and sugar mixed in with the pecans.

Baklava

Another key tool you’ll need here is an ever so lightly damp paper towel(s).  The paper towel(s) will need to be the length of the unrolled filo dough.  These sheets are about 9″x14″.

Baklava

As I mentioned before, it is KEY to be organized when assembling Baklava.  This is what works for me.  I have the pecan, sugar and cinnamon mixture in the back along with my bowl of 2 sticks of melted butter with a pastry brush.  I have my 9×13 pan in the front along with the filo dough roll and damp paper towel(s).  Ok, now I’m ready to uncover and unroll the filo dough.  I wait this long because it will dry out quickly otherwise.

So, here’s the gist of what we will be doing in the following steps…  We will be layering 3 sheets of buttered filo dough, then pecan, sugar cinnamon mixture, then 3 more buttered sheets of filo dough, then pecan mixture, then 3 more sheets of buttered filo dough followed by more pecan mixture, repeating….  then ending with 3 sheets of buttered filo dough on top.

  Baklava

Ok, carefully unroll the filo dough, leaving it on the plastic wrap for protection from your counter top.

At this time, you will not want any interruptions.  Start buttering and layering as follows.

Baklava

Butter the bottom of your 9×13 pan.

Baklava

Peel the first sheet from the stack of filo dough and lay in the bottom of the pan.  It will be slightly larger than your pan, but that’s ok.  If it gets a little bit wrinkled, that ok too!

Baklava

With your pastry brush, lightly brush butter on the first sheet.

Baklava

Peel the second sheet of filo dough and lay on top of the first one.

Do keep one thing in mind.  Once you lay the sheet down, it’s difficult to move again.  So, carefully place it in the correct position and leave it.

Baklava

With your pastry brush, lightly brush butter on the second sheet.

Baklava

Peel the third sheet of filo dough and place on the second one.

Now, cover the stack of filo dough with the damp paper towel(s).

Baklava

Grab a hand full of the pecan, sugar and cinnamon mixture and spread on the third sheet of filo dough.  I really eyeball this, but roughly 1/3 cup, give or take.

Baklava

Remove the damp paper towel from the stack of filo dough, peel a sheet and place it over the pecan mixture.  This will be sheet one of the next layer.

Baklava

Drizzle some butter on it.  Notice I didn’t say brush it.  The reason is when the filo dough is laying on the pecan mixture, it moves around while you’re trying to brush it.  So, I just drizzle some on it by shaking the brush around. 

Peel sheet number two and lay on the first one.  Brush some butter on it.

Peel sheet number three and lay on the second one.  Cover filo stack with the paper towel.  Sprinkle a hand full of the pecan mixture over this one.

Then repeat this process until you get to the last three sheets.

As you’re layering the pecan mixture, just keep an eye on how much you’re using and how much you have left.  You’ll want to use all of it by the time you get to the last three sheets since that’s the top crust.

Baklava

One more thing, as you’re layering the filo dough, keep an eye on the number of sheets you have left.  Keep at least 3 sheets for the top and butter the top as well.  Don’t worry if you have some butter left over, it will not go to waste!  We will drizzle it a little later.

Start preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Baklava    Baklava

Now, let’s start cutting it.  Yes, you will cut the bars BEFORE baking.  Here is where patience is critical.  Do not get in a hurry.

In these pictures, I’m showing you how to cut them to create those diamond shapes.  You can also choose how big or small the pieces are.  Here, I made bite size pieces for a party, so there’s more cuts involved.  You choose.  The important thing is to cut them BEFORE baking.  This is where  a very very sharp knife is important.

  Baklava Baklava

Now for the cut that creates that diamond shape.  I start at the corner of the pan and cut in an angle.  Let’s call it 45 degrees, but again, it’s not critical in the taste, texture and deliciousness of these pieces.  No one even said you had to cut them into diamond shapes.  I do only because it’s traditional to baklava.  You choose how you want to cut them.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.   Meanwhile melt the 1/2 stick of butter with any leftover butter you had from layering the filo dough.

Baklava

They won’t be done yet.  Remove from the oven and spoon the melted butter over each piece.  Put back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.

Baklava

See the color change?  Now, drizzle honey over each piece.  I do eyeball this as well.  But I’d say about 1/2 – 3/4 cup.

Baklava

Let stand until it’s cool.  This allows the honey to settle into the crevices and magnify it’s deliciousness!  Honestly, I think they’re better the next day.  So this makes for a great make ahead dessert!

Baklava

Just take a knife and separate the baklava pieces and arrange on your serving plate.  And Devour!

Now, make a mad dash to the store and pick up that filo dough and make these scrumptious pastries!  They are just divine!

Just a couple of notes:

  1. My experience with filo dough brands…  Our local store carry different brands.  I have found that not all brands are easy to work with.  With the Athena brand, I have found the sheets to peel cleaner than the other brand(s).  The sheets are less likely to stick together and tear which just makes a big mess.  And No, they didn’t pay me to say that and in fact, they don’t know I even exist in the human race.  I mention Athena because I have used other brands and nearly cursed all the way through my recipe.  So, when I found them, I said a little thank you to the box and kept on buying them.
  2. Without protecting the unrolled Filo dough with a barely damp paper towel, it will dry out very quickly and crumble and break to pieces.  This is where the patience comes in.  I had a roll of filo dough to crack as I unrolled it.  And you know what?  It’s no biggie.  As you peel a sheet that’s broken, just put it in the pan in two pieces.  It’s really not going to matter after it’s baked.  I promise it’s going to taste just as good.  Just breathe and keep layering.

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Here’s the printer friendly recipe.

Baklava

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 48 bite size pieces

Baklava

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks butter, melted (1 cup)
  • 1 - 8 ounce package filo (or phyllo) dough (approx 20-22 sheets)
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted (4 Tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup honey

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the chopped pecans, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Melt 2 sticks (1 cup) butter in a microwave safe bowl. Set aside your pastry brush.
  3. Unroll enough paper towels to be slightly larger than the filo dough sheets after it's unrolled. Barely dampen the paper towel. You'll need this to cover the stack of filo dough periodically.
  4. Set up your assembly line with pecan mixture and melted butter in the back. Place the 9x13 baking pan in the front along with the unrolled filo dough to the side, laying the damp paper towel near the stack. Do not unroll filo dough before now or it will get dried out and crack to pieces.
  5. Brush butter on the bottom of the 9x13 baking dish. Preferably one that has a lid for easy storage.
  6. Place one sheet of filo dough in the pan over the butter. Brush the top of the filo with a little butter, don't drown it, just ever so lightly brush a little butter on it.
  7. Place sheet number two on top of that one. Brush with butter.
  8. Place sheet number three on top of that one. Sprinkle a hand full of the pecan, sugar and cinnamon mixture. About 1/3 cup, give or take.
  9. Layer a sheet of filo dough on top of the pecan mixture and drizzle some butter on it. Notice I didn't say brush it. The reason is when the filo dough is laying on the pecan mixture, it moves around while you're trying to brush it. So, I just drizzle some on it by shaking the brush around.
  10. Place sheet number two on top of that one, Brush with butter.
  11. Place sheet number three on top of that one and sprinkle a hand full of the pecan mixture over top.
  12. Repeat a few more times with three more buttered sheets of filo dough, then pecan mixture ending with the last three buttered sheets. Butter the top sheet too. (You will use all of the sheets in the 8 ounce package)
  13. Start preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
  14. Cut the baklava BEFORE baking. This is where patience and a very very sharp knife is important. Don't rush through this.
  15. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  16. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup).
  17. Remove the baklava from the oven and spoon a little melted butter over each piece.
  18. Return back to the oven and bake another 15-20 minutes until its golden brown.
  19. Remove from oven and drizzle honey over the hot baklava. Let cool to room temperature. Separate the pieces and serve.

Notes

I have found the packages of filo dough to vary in the number of sheets. This one had 20 sheets. If you do the math, you know that one of the layers will need to have two sheets instead of three. I do find it to be important that the top layer have at least three sheets or it doesn't cut cleanly. Two sheets on top is too thin and will tear as I cut.

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