Roger's Baklava

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Baklava: makes one baking pan full of baklava - good for 25 big pieces or 50 small pieces. In P.D.'s "Austin Years", he learned to make this from Roger Nasr and modified the recipe over the years a little bit here and there.

   Ingredients of main thing
  • 1 lb. Filo Dough (about 20 large sheets)
  • 1 cup sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 2 Cups finely chopped (unsalted, shelled) pistachio nuts.
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
   Ingredients of syrup
  • 2.25 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 9x11x1.5 baking pan. Shape doesn't effect end product, but effects ease of laying filo in pan
  • Small heavy sauce pan, heavyness retains heat, keeping butter melted longer
  • Pastry brush, should be soft, so it doesn't tear filo
       Standard stuff:
  • small bowl
  • medium saucepan

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit, and make room for medium saucepan in fridge or freezer.

Make the syrup first, to give it time to chill. Dissolve all the syrup ingredients over medium heat in medium saucepan. Remove from the stove when the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon. Chill thoroughly.

Chop nuts and mix with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 4 Tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Butter baking pan well, and melt 1 cup butter in small heavy sauce pan.

To lay a single sheet of filo dough in pan, gently separate a single sheet of dough from roll. Lay in pan. Coat top surface with melted butter, using pastry brush. Folding or cutting may be used to get a large sheet to fit in pan. Folding is better if the pan is about the size of half a sheet of filo - lay half the sheet into the pan, butter that half, fold the other half onto the buttered half, and butter the top of that. This would count as 2 layers of filo.


  Put 8 layers of filo dough in baking pan, the top of each buttered.

Repeat as long as ingredients hold out:

  Spread some nut mixture over top sheet.
  Put 2 to 6 layers of filo dough in baking pan, the top of each buttered.

When only 8 (or so) sheets, and no nut mixture left:

  Put 8 layers of filo dough in baking pan, the top of each buttered.

The idea is to get a solid base and top, and to spread the nuts as much as possible inbetween the two. Without a solid top or bottom, the final product tends to fall apart when it is bitten. One can simply put all the nuts in one layer, but then the nuts tend to fall out of the sandwich more than with the above technique. Nuts could be placed between every sheet of filo, but that takes more time, and actually seems less structurally sound, but I don't know why that is the case.

Finally, you have a pan half full of filo and filling, but usually the edges are sort of turned up - they shift and stick to the sides as you butter them. The thing to do is not worry about it too much during assembly, but push the edges down the sides of the pan. The problem here is that the edges tend not to have enough nuts, and look different. I think thats better than cutting the edges off, or letting them burn in the oven, which is what i've seen others do.

Then, cut the entire pastry into small decorative shapes. (an easy method is to cut the pastry into squares (3 to 5 cm on a side), and then cut each square in half on the diagonal, but a more traditional shape is a 45 degree parallelogram.) Be sure to cut all the way through the entire pastry. (At least through the bottom layer of nuts).

Sprinkle the top with water lightly to prevent the top layers of pastry from curling, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit. Increase to 425 and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the pastry is puffy and the top is golden. If the top layers cook too quickly, cover the pan with foil for the last 10 minutes.

Take the baklava from the oven, and pour the very cold syrup over the hot pastry. Leave to cool. When room temperature, recut, and remove.

The one problem I keep having with this recipe is the amount of syrup. I like it so that when you take them out of the pan, they don't drip, or leave much syrup behind. However, the optimum amount of syrup seems to vary with the amount and size of of nuts (finer nuts -- more syrup), and some other random factor I cant figure out. If there is too little syrup, you'll survive, but the end result won't be as sweet. If there was too much syrup, set individual pieces on a cookie rack to drain overnight.

You can be flexible with most of the ingredients for variety - rose water instead of orange blossom water, lime juice for lemon, salted butter for unsalted, etc. However, the nuts are the key flavor, and effect the final taste a surprising amount. Walnuts are a potential substitute, as are pecans, but the result tastes very different. Also, the measures are relatively unimportant. Doubling the amount of nut, sugar, and cinnamon mixture leads to a more dramatic taste, but tends to be messier, and effects the structural integrity poorly. Link title