Baklava, a Middle-Eastern pastry, is a flaky, buttery little triangle of heaven. Despite how complicated this delicacy looks, making baklava isn’t as involved as many baking projects can be—it’s doesn’t require beating egg whites or kneading dough; it’s more architecture than chemistry.
It does, however, take some time to produce, thanks to the step in the recipe that makes baklava so unique and rich: you must slather 40 layers of paper-thin dough with melted butter. So be it! You’ll forget the pain three hours later when you’re Dustbustering flakes of your third piece off the front of your shirt.
The process used to be even more time-consuming: Mrs. Lorraine Corey of Jacksonville, Fla. says her mother’s women’s club used to get together and make the treat, beginning by rolling out the dough into impossibly thin sheets by hand. Thankfully, phyllo dough now comes in a handy one-pound pack that can be found in the freezer section of grocery stores.
Mrs. Corey has perfected her mother’s recipe over the 30 or so years that she’s been making it for special occasions like weddings and holidays. Here is her recipe for some of the best baklava to be had, with light, crisp layers, a bit of sweetness, and a buttery decadence that makes it impossible to stop at one piece:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Squeeze of lemon juice
Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in saucepan set over medium high heat. Boil and stir constantly until the syrup sticks to your fingers. Remove from heat.
1 lb chopped pecans
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
A few drops of water
1 lb butter
1 lb phyllo dough, thawed
Mix together pecans, sugar, and water until there are no lumps. Melt the butter, then skim off the milk solids from the top.
With pastry brush, butter sides and bottom of a 9×13” pan. Place one layer of phyllo dough into the pan, then brush with butter. Continue to layer the dough and butter until a ½ lb. of phyllo dough is used. Spread the pecan mixture evenly. Layer the other ½ lb. of phyllo dough with butter, then generously spread the top with butter. With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into pieces of desired shape and size.
Bake at 300˚ for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let sit for ½ hour after baking, then pour simple syrup evenly over the top. Wait one hour before removing any pieces. Store baklava in the covered pan.
You can find phyllo dough in many grocery stores, and also at B.B. Supermarket and Hala Foods.