Friday, December 23, 2011

Baklava: 101

Good Baklava is hard to beat.  I've tweaked this recipe over the years to satisfy my "food snobbery" taste.  I say "food snob" because my family tells me that is what I am.  In my defense, I'll eat just about anything...and to my knowledge, I don't complain.  I do however, on occasion, and ONLY when at a restaurant...verbalize what the cook/chef could have done differently to make the food better.  To me, this is in no way snobbery, but a deep seated appreciation for flavors.  My family has spread this heinous "food snob" nickname ad nauseum.  That being said, I know I have some friends who probably cringe at what I'm thinking when I eat their food.  Let me tell you what I'm thinking:  "I'm so thankful that someone has taken the time to cook for me and this could not be more PERFECT!"  (I only apply my "rigid" standards to myself and when I'm paying.)  
Baklava is really not difficult to make, it just has steps.  Do it once and you'll think:  "Ok.  That wasn't so difficult!"  I will say that I don't see too many Baklava recipes that call for cloves.  Don't skip it!  In my opinion, if it's not there, something is missing. 
Enjoy the Baklava recipe, and by all means...if it's not perfect to you...tweak away!

The recipe will follow, but I'll guide you through the simple steps.  First you want to prepare the filling, which I do in a food processor.  If you don't have one, just crush the crackers and walnuts however you normally would, and throw them in a bowl, along with the sugar and spices.  Have the filling handy.  Melt the butter and have that handy, too.  I first grease the pan (forgive my very well used, ugly pan) and place ONE sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom.  Brush butter over that sheet. 

Repeat the phyllo/butter process until you've used 1/4 of the dough (about 8 sheets).

Sprinkle 1/3 of the filling over the phyllo.  Repeat the phyllo/filling process 2 more times, and finish with a layer of phyllo on the top.

Using a sharp knife, cut the Baklava into diamonds.  Pour any remaining butter over the top.

Pop that baby into a 325* oven for 45 to 50 minutes.   The top should be golden. (My oven looks like it doesn't cook very evenly, but the color on the left half is perfect.)   While it's baking, boil the syrup for the top.

As soon as it comes out of the oven, pour the syrup evenly over the top.

Leave it to soak it all in.  I usually don't eat the Baklava until the next day, but I don't see why you couldn't dig in as soon as it cooled.


Kris’ Baklava!

• 4 c finely chopped walnuts

• ¾ c sugar

• 1 T ground cinnamon

• ¼ tsp ground cloves

• ½ sleeve Ritz crackers, crumbled

• 2 sticks (1 cup) margarine or butter, melted

• 1 (16oz) pkg phyllo dough, thawed

• 1 ¾ c sugar

• 1 ½ c water

• 2 T lemon juice

Mix first 5 ingredients together in a bowl (or process in a food processor). Set aside. Brush bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with some of the melted butter/margarine. Layer ¼ of the phyllo sheets in pan, brushing each with melted butter/margarine.*  Sprinkle about 1 ½ cups of the filling (one third of filling) over the sheets, and repeat layering phyllo and filling 2 more times. Layer remaining phyllo on top, and drizzle any remaining butter/margarine over the top.

Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds and bake in a 325* oven for 45 to 50 minutes. While it is baking, combine the last 3 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Poor over warm baklava and cool completely.

*  I do tend to use margarine more when I'm cooking.  (See, I'm not that snobby.)  If only real butter floats your boat, by all means, use it!  I want nothing but real cream in my coffee.  I get it!  We like what we like, right?

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