Baklava

A good baklava recipe like this one surely came from the many German and Czech communities in Central Texas and the Hill Country. This delicious pastry is readily found at restaurants and highway stops in that area.
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup sugar or honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 orange slice (1/4-inch thick, with peel)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-pound package of phyllo dough
  • 1-3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, or combination)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

For the Syrup

  1. Combine the 3/4 cup sugar or honey, water, lemon half and orange slice in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer for 15 minutes. Mixture should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, take out the cinnamon stick, lemon and orange slice, and allow syrup to cool.
  3. Refrigerate.

For the Filling

  1. Combine nuts, 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar, ground cinnamon and cloves. Set aside.

Assembly

  1. Butter a large (at least 11x17-inch) baking sheet with a 1-inch lip. Depending upon the number of sheets in your package of phyllo dough (usually 20 to 24), use half of them for the bottom layer.
  2. Put down one sheet at a time, working quickly, and brush a thin layer of melted butter on each sheet. When half the phyllo sheets are buttered, evenly spread the filling over the dough, and top with the remaining sheets of phyllo dough, again brushing melted butter between each sheet.
  3. With a sharp knife (an electric knife works well if you have a steady hand), cut the filled phyllo dough into diamond shapes, making cuts about 1-1/2 inches apart. Cut down to but not all the way through the bottom layer of phyllo dough.
  4. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes; then raise oven temperature to 475°F and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until baklava is golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven, and pour cooled syrup evenly over the top of the phyllo. Recut baklava, this time cutting all the way through the bottom layer.
  6. Makes about 8 dozen pieces.

Note: If you've ever worked with phyllo dough, you know how quickly it dries out. While using it, keep the unused layers covered at all times with a sheet of plastic wrap and a clean damp dish towel. Some phyllo dough comes in sheets larger than 11x17 inches, so if your baking sheet is no larger than that, just trim off the excess.

Prep time: 20 minutes; Cooking time: 45 minutes; Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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