Serves a Crowd

Persian Baklava

January 28, 2011
Author Notes

My friends Wendy and John host an incredible New Year's Eve party every year, and every year there is a theme. One New Year's Eve many years ago, the theme was Persian food, the spread was unbelievable: cinnamon duck, pomegranate soup, and shrimp tacheen to name a few. They asked me to bring baklava and It's been an annual tradition ever since. This recipe is totally worth the preparation time (about 2 hours before baking). —Sadassa_Ulna

  • Serves many (about 42 pieces)
Ingredients
  • Rose-Cardamom Syrup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 12 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • Nut Filling
  • 1 pound raw pistachio halves
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pound (40- 42 sheets) phyllo dough sheets*, read storing/thawing directions
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 clean kitchen towels for assembly
  • 11" x 17" jelly roll pan
  • 1 pastry brush
  • 1 pinch salt (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Check the phyllo dough directions as to proper thawing method before beginning. Toast the pistachio halves in a large skillet over medium low heat for 5-7 minutes while stirring; do this in two batches if necessary, depending on skillet size. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Begin the syrup: Mix all syrup ingredients except the rose water in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium and allow to cook 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool; begin the nut filling.
  3. Prepare the nut filling: in two batches, coarsely grind the pistachios in a food processor. Do not allow the nuts to turn to butter; the smallest pieces should look like sand. Hand mix the ground nuts with the sugar,spices and salt in a bowl with a large spoon and set aside.
  4. Add the rose water to the cooled syrup mixture. The filling and syrup can each be covered and stored (separately) for 24 hours before assembling, if desired.
  5. To assemble the baklava: butter the 11" x 17" jelly roll pan. Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan over low heat and set aside. Put some ice cubes in a small glass and fill with water for later. Wet the kitchen towels and wring out well. Unwrap/unroll the phyllo and cover with one damp towel. [The thin sheets of phyllo dry out very quickly which causes them to break into shards, so keep them covered throughout entire process].
  6. Set up the pan, the covered phyllo and the melted butter so they are all in reach. Place two sheets phyllo in the pan to cover bottom and overlap sheets slightly, about a half inch. Excess will hang over the side; trim this with a sharp knife so that the sheets are flat in the pan and save the scraps! Keep them covered as well with a second damp towel. Brush the sheets in the pan with some melted butter.
  7. Place two more sheets as above but without overlapping**; brush with butter and trim excess, reserving scraps. Continue to layer up, and plan to have seam lines in different places. By layer four you can piece together scraps to make a layer. Continue to make buttered layers until you have seven or eight layers of phyllo. Pour half of the nut filling over the top layer and spread about evenly. Put the butter saucepan over low heat if it is getting thick.
  8. Start another seven or eight layers first using two whole sheets slightly overlapped, then layering up using the reserved scrap pieces. Don't worry about gaps for these middle layers, just stagger the seamlines as you layer up. Pour the rest of the nut filling over the top layer and spread about evenly. Now is a good time to PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES.
  9. Create the final seven or eight layers and disguise any remaining scraps somewhere in those middle layers; save two whole sheets for the top layer and butter it well.
  10. With a sharp knife, cut through the top level of the assembled baklava lengthwise into six equal strips. Do not cut all the way through to the bottom of the pan. Make diagonal cuts at a 45 degree angle - each about 1-1/2" apart - to form diamond shapes.
  11. Sprinkle the baklava with the icy cold water to form many droplets: these weigh down the top phyllo and prevent them from curling and blowing off. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  12. Cut through the score lines while hot. Pour the cooled syrup evenly over the entire sheet. Allow to cool for four hours minimum, but preferably overnight. Cover and store in an airtight container for up to one week.
  13. * Overlap seams only on the bottommost layer of each eight-layer phyllo level, and for all other layers make seams align without overlap.
  14. ** Phyllo sheet size and quantity may vary; this recipe is based on one pound phyllo equaling approximately 41 sheets that are each 9" x 14". If your one-pound package contains less than 40 sheets you might need to make 6-7-layer levels, or purchase a second package of phyllo.

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Review
Sadassa_Ulna

Recipe by: Sadassa_Ulna

Growing up I was the world's pickiest eater, that is, until my children were born. Karma. Neither of my parents were much into cooking; it was the height of eating fat-free or anything with oat bran added. I taught myself some basics, mostly baking, following the guidelines of a well-worn copy of Joy of Cooking. I was a ballet dancer and a teacher suggested I lose weight. As I began reading about diet and nutrition I became interested in natural foods, which led to a job at a macrobiotic natural foods market in Center City Philadelphia; this was way before Whole Foods came to the area. I learned a lot about food in general. I ate strictly vegan for a while, although I don't now, but I still like it when a recipe can taste great without butter or bacon! In short, my approach to cooking is idiosyncratic, and I don't know very much about cooking meat or proper technique. I love to bake and I am still working on expanding my palate and my repertoire. The hardest part is getting the whole family to try new things! So aside from my food status, I am an architect who likes to garden and play music. I'm married with two kids, and I hope to get a dog someday.