Family Recipe: Baklava

There’s nothing like one of mom’s recipes, especially if that recipe has been handed down through generations. My mother’s baklava recipe, that she first learned while visiting relatives in former Yugoslavia, has become quite famous among family and friends and is always requested at dinner parties and celebrations. I have begun my own tradition with the recipe, making it for my fiancé every year for his birthday. He and his friends have claimed it is the best baklava they have ever tasted, and I have to agree. So once again, happy birthday to my amazing fiancé. Now if you excuse me, I have some baklava to go eat.

{Mom’s Baklava}
Ingredients:
1 pound frozen phyllo sheets
1 cup melted butter

for the filling:
2 cups finely chopped walnuts or pecans or a mix of the two
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8  teaspoon cloves

for the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:
1. Thaw phyllo pastry and separate the sheets according to package directions. Most packages will say to cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and a damp towel to keep the sheets from drying out.
2. Transfer half of pastry sheets one by one onto a greased cookie sheet or rimmed pan, brushing each sheet quickly and all over with melted butter (make sure to fully cover the edges with butter).
3. Combine nuts, 1/3 cup sugar, cloves, and cinnamon; sprinkle over buttered pastry (I made slightly more of the filling and did two layers).
4. Place remaining sheets on top, brushing each with melted butter.
5. Cut baklava pastry into squares or diamonds, but leave the bottom layers uncut. Bake at 350° until slightly  golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar, honey, 1 cup water, and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Boil baklava syrup for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until syrupy.
7. When both the syrup and baklava have cooled a bit, pour 1/2 of the syrup over the baklava. Let it soak in for about an hour. Then cut thru the uncut layers of dough, and pour the rest of the syrup over the baklava.
8. Let the baklava soak up the syrup about 5 hours or overnight before you serve them, either on plates or in cupcake holders.

{Phyllo dough work station}

{Brush butter over the edges and work lightly inward}

{Combine chopped nuts with sugar, cloves, and cinnamon}

{Once halfway through phyllo sheets, add filling mixture}

{Cut pastry halfway through before baking – it will make for easier and cleaner cuts later}

{Pour syrup over pastry after it’s finished baking}

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