Author Notes: This is my Mom's recipe. I don't know where she got the idea for her "secret ingredient," but it produces the best baklava EVER. If you like baklava, but can't get past the cloying sweetness, this is the one to try. You will never go back or be satisfied with the stuff you get in Greek restaurants. When my soon-to-be father-in-law (not Greek) tasted a piece that I'd baked for his daughter's wedding, he held it up and said, "This -- THIS -- is marrying into the family!" - cookbookchick
- 1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (The secret ingredient!)
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 1/2 pound walnuts or almonds (I use walnuts as did my Mom)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pound butter, melted and clarified (Skim off the milk solids and don't use the stuff in the bottom of the pan.)
- 1 pound filo dough
- whole cloves
- 1/2 cup mild-tasting honey
- 1 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 stick cinnamon
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- *Make syrup first! Combine all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, until a thin syrup is formed, no longer. Allow to cool to room temperature while you build the baklava.
- Crush graham crackers into fine crumbs by putting them in a locked plastic bag and pounding them with a meat tenderizer. or by rolling them with a rolling pin, or blitz them in a food processor, whichever works best for you.
- Grind the nuts finely with a manual nut grinder (best) or in a food processor (taking care not to go too far or you will have nut butter).
- In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, sugar and cinnamon.
- Lay out the filo dough on a clean kitchen towel. (Of course -- who would use a dirty one?) Lay another towel on top of the filo to help prevent it from drying out.
- In a roasting-type pan as close as possible to the size of the filo, begin building the baklava. Layer 6 to 8 fila (plural of filo) in the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet lightly with butter before adding the next. I use a silicone brush to do this. (Many Greek cooks I've watched, including my Mother, the aforementioned Mrs. Z, simply drizzle the butter from a teaspoon. So don't worry if you don't have a pastry brush.)
- Now sprinkle the nut mixture THINLY in a layer over the filo dough.
- Cover with 3 to 4 fila, each brushed lightly with butter. Repeat until nut mixture is completely used up, then cover with 6 to 8 fila, brushing each layer lightly with butter. (No one has claimed this is a diet dessert!)
- Refrigerate the uncooked baklava for an hour or two until the butter solidifies, then cut with a sharp knife (BEFORE baking!) into small squares or diamond shapes. If you want the traditional diamond shapes, start with s corner-to-corner diagonal cut. Stick a whole clove into the center of each piece.
- Bake at 350 F for NO LONGER than one hour. If the baklava dries out, it is ruined. It should get very lightly golden brown.
- Now, as soon as you take it out of the oven, pour the cooled-to-room-tempertaure syrup evenly over the hot pastry. The rule is HOT PASTRY, COOL SYRUP or you'll get a soggy dessert! I like to serve baklava on a platter, each piece nestled in a pretty paper or foil cupcake cup.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Family Recipe