A very popular phyllo pastry that is served for dessert is known as Baklava, pronounced bahk-lah-VAH.
This delightful pastry dessert is made in all countries of the Near East, and so it seems that each one claims it for its own. In fact I would even say that each Greek family has their very own variation of the recipe, especially from village to village.
Although Baklava is a dessert, Greeks refer to it as "sweets" and generally they would not eat Baklava after a meal as perhaps other western countries would. I remember many times seeing my mother serve Greek coffee and Baklava as a mid- day snack, especially when a visitor arrived.
Now the history of Baklava is not well documented but it can be traced back to the 12th century.
This sweet dessert was popular in Syria and Lebanon. When my father was in Turkey, he learned that the Turks adopted the nuts and honey mixture by combining ground sesame seeds to make a type of halva because phyllo dough was not available then.
Perhaps you are one of many that recognizes this fabulous pastry by its layers of nuts and many sheets of filo, of which you will need twenty to forty of them to make this type of pastry. This unique dessert is usually bathed in syrup, flavored with rose and brandy.
Here's my dad's special recipe:
1 pound of phyllo pastry
3 cups chopped walnuts (or more). You can use pecans, almonds, pistachios or any combination but I prefer walnuts.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 pound melted sweet butter or salted butter
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup honey or 2 teaspoons rose or brandy flavoring. I just use honey.
Some add 1 large cinnamon stick. I don't because I prefer to put whole cloves in between the cut diamond squares that will be removed later.
Defrost frozen filo to room temperature.
Keep it covered with a damp-cloth as it dries out quickly.
Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter and keep it in the pan to reheat if it cools and doesn't flow easily while you are working with the filo. Use pastry brush to oil generously the bottom and sides of a large rectangular baking pan (approximately 13 in x 9 in).
Place 5-6 sheets of filo in the pan and sprinkle lightly with warm butter. Place another sheet of filo on top of the first sheet, and brush each layer lightly with melted butter. Fold in excess length of each sheet at alternative ends. Some use a scissors and cut away the excess filo dough but I don't because it isn't an exact science and you can't do anything wrong at this point.
Instead of a pastry brush, my father uses a squirt bottle to spray the layers with.
Continue until you have spread 6 or more sheets. Spread half of the filing, including the corners. Cover with 6 or more sheets of filo remaining sheets, oiling between each one. Roll edges and tuck with remaining butter. Before baking, cut through the top layers only, into the traditional diamond shapes. Use a small sharp knife with a ruler to guide you if you want. We do this in order to facilitate serving once it has been cooked.
To Make Diamond-Shaped Pieces
Make vertical cuts, 1 inch apart. Turn pan horizontally and make cuts at an angle, 1 inch apart. Stick a whole clove in the center of each diamond. Besides adding flavor, it keeps the layers together. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Check it during the last 20 minutes to see if it is browning evenly.
Begin boiling the syrup except for the honey for 10 minutes before taking the baklava immediately out of the oven. Add honey and simmer for another 5 minutes until slightly thickened. You never really want to boil honey because it changes the flavor immensely.
Pour hot syrup over hot baklava immediately after removing it from the oven. Use ladle or large spoon to distribute syrup evenly over all of it. Set aside to cool, at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. Keep in pan overnight or at least 4 hours before cutting and serving.
Hope you enjoy making Baklava or sampling this sweet dessert at health stores and church bazaars. Enjoy!
Greek Baklava: Sinfully Delicious
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Article Source: Nick the Greek's Baklava