I tried baklava for the first time last summer, on a trip to Kefalonia in Greece. I had already read about this dish in advance, (I always do some food research) it sounded so good, and it did not disappoint. I had it for dessert about every other day there. Baklava is a delicious phyllo pastry popular in Middle Eastern countries, but it’s also served in Greek and Lebanese restaurants. Baklava has layers of crisp phyllo dough and is filled with a sugary spiced nut mixture, and the whole thing is then soaked in fragrant sweet syrup made with honey, lemon and cinnamon. It a rich and decadent treat, which had a sweet tooth like me by the first bite.
So, when I got back I started thinking about making it at home. And it took some time, but a family dinner this easter seemed like a nice opportunity to try it out. I already had the recipe ready from a greek cookbook. So this is what I did.
115 g almonds
115 g walnuts
55 g pistachionuts
55 g muscovadosugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon crushed cloves
55 g melted butter
12 layers phyllodough
125 g sugar
100 g honey
1,5 dl water
1 ts lemonjuice
1 ts rosewater
First of all, make the syrup. Heat the sugar, water, honey, lemon and rosewater in a pan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and boil for another five minutes, or until the mixture reaches a sirupy-feel. Remove pan from heat, and cool completely.
Chop a third of the nuts finely in a grinder, or by hand, and coarsly chop the rest of the nuts. Pour all the nuts in a bowl, and add cinnamon, sugar and cloves. Stir it together. Lightly grease a pan with butter, and set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. I used a 30×40 cm which turned out to be far too big, I’m guessing half the size would be better. Unless you want embarresingly flat baklavas like mine, but you don’t, trust me.
Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat until it is 6 sheets thick, or more if you want an even thicker layer, each sheet covered in butter.
Pour in the nut mixture, and spread it evenly over the buttery phyllo-sheets. Repeat the same operation with the phyllo dough, one sheet at a time, each brushed with butter. The top layer should at least be 6 layers thick. Using a sharp knife, cut through the top layers of phyllo into equally sized squares. My pan gave 24 pieces, but I’d rather have 12 bigger ones… Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown with crispy edges. Once out of the oven, pour the cool syrup over the hot baklava, and allow to cool for a couple of hours. When it’s ready to serve, cut through the marked squares, and serve the baklava with a scoop of ice cream. I found out that the cool smooth feel of vanilla ice cream perfectly complements the spicy, crispy and nutty baklava. When I first ordered a baklava in Greece, they brought me the baklava as it was, plain. I thought some ice cream on the side would do, and asked the waiter if I could get a scoop of ice cream. I had a feeling he misunderstood, and quite right, there he was bringing me a vanilla sundae with whipped cream and a little pink umbrella. Suddenly I had two desserts. Well, this was definetely too much, but it was really good! From there on, I was sold.
And that leads us to today. The baklava didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I had hoped. First of all, the pan was too big which resulted in flat unappealing baklavas. Secondly, it was almost impossible to cut. The phyllo crumbled to pieces by the slightest touch, and the nuts and sugar had caramelized making it really hard to cut through. Maybe I just need a new knife. Or work out more. Or maybe I just have to make it again. But I have a feeling this was too sticky and hard. But it tasted good! I’m just not sure if it tasted good enough. Not when I know how tasty it can be. I guess some things are better enjoyed seaside in a greek taverna.