Saturday, December 20, 2014
This was what my mom used to make every Christmas for us to take as gifts to teachers, and the reason I kept her Welcome Wagon cookbook, despite its horrendously dated recipes from the '70s. Baklava was a giant, two-person project and explains why I have so much wax paper in the house. She would buy a new roll every year when she went to pick up the ingredients, then never use the open roll from the previous year, or the one before that, or the one before that… When I moved in, there were eight barely-used rolls of wax paper in the cabinet. And more plastic wrap than you can imagine. Some of it was so vintage that it was a different thickness than what you can buy nowadays.
I was a bit nervous about making this alone, without someone on the side to tend the sheets, so I just got hyper-organized before starting. My mom had left notes in the cookbook's margins that I can pass along as helpful hints. Once I had all my ingredients prepped, assembly was far easier than I had expected. There were no disasters, unless you count having no idea how big to cut the pieces. They're a lot bigger than my mom used to make. I'm going to suggest in the recipe a more manageable, two-bite way of cutting.
1 C sugar
*1/2 C honey
1/2 C water
*2 Tb lemon juice
Combine ingredients in medium saucepan. Warm just barely to boiling and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature while you're making the rest of it.
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb walnuts
1 C sugar
*2 tsp cinnamon
*1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 lb Filo dough, room temperature (defrost per directions on box)
1. Prepare the mise en place: Melt the butter on low and keep liquid but not boiling. Pulse walnuts in food processor until chunky. Add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and pulse until finely ground.
2. Prepare the pan & work area: Get out a rimmed cookie sheet (roughly 12x18x1) and line with wax paper. Let "handles" hang off the edges in case things stick. Place another sheet of wax paper the same size on the counter and have a slightly damp kitchen towel ready to cover the filo while you're working. Preheat oven to 300º.
3. Before unrolling the filo, compare the width to the width of the baking sheet. If it is wider, cut off that extra inch or so before unrolling with a very sharp knife. Hang onto the knife, we're going to use it again in a few minutes.
4. Take a deep breath, then carefully unroll the filo over the wax paper on the counter. This is the most anxious part of the project. Once it unrolls intact, you're good to go.
5. Place 10 sheets of dough on bottom of pan, then cover remaining sheets with cloth until needed. Again, there will be a bit of overhang the long way, but those are the edge pieces you don't use and it's less than an inch total. Spoon a very thin layer of nut mixture over the dough, add a single sheet, and repeat until nut mix is gone. You will get between 4 and 6 layers. I wish I had photos of this step, but it's the part you have to do fast before the dough dries out. Once nuts are used up, cover with remaining dough.
7. Drizzle with all of the melted butter. If you get more coverage in some areas than others, use a pastry brush to spread it around. Let it soak into the dough for 2 to 3 minutes, then bake for 30 minutes, until lightly golden.
8. Turn up oven to 450º and place baking pan on the top rack. Bake until as dark as desired, about 4 to 5 minutes. Watch it, it can go from dark golden to burnt in under a minute. Remove from oven and pour glaze evenly over all. Run the knife through all the cuts again, to be sure, then let sit for at least 15 minutes so the glaze can soak in evenly. Remove from pan and store on wax paper or in baking cups. If you have trouble removing it from the pan, warm it in a low oven for a minute and try again. Can be served at any temperature and keeps in the fridge for weeks.
Makes about 3 dozen, depending on size
Difficulty rating :-0