Both Greece and Turkey claim this heavenly nut-filled pastry, but it is a favorite sweet throughout the eastern and southern Mediterranean. Spiced ground pistachios and walnuts fill the crisp phyllo layers, which are baked and then saturated with a hot honey syrup. This spectacular dessert tastes best when freshly made.
- 1 1/2 cups shelled, unsalted, raw pistachio nuts, plus 3 Tbs. chopped
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 Tbs. plus 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed if frozen
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup honey
In a food processor, combine the 1 1/2 cups pistachios, the walnuts, the 3 Tbs. sugar, the cinnamon, cloves and salt and pulse until finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
To assemble the baklava, lay the phyllo dough flat on a cutting board with the long side of the rectangle facing you. Cut the stack of sheets in half vertically to make 2 rectangles, each roughly measuring 8 by 12 inches. Pile the sheets in a single stack and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, then a dampened dish towel.
Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with some of the melted butter. Place 1 sheet of phyllo in the dish and brush it lightly with melted butter, working from the edges to the center. Repeat to make 12 layers. Sprinkle about one-fourth of the nut mixture evenly over the top sheet, then top with 2 more buttered phyllo sheets. Sprinkle on another one-fourth of the nut mixture, followed by 2 more buttered phyllo sheets. Repeat once more, then finish with the remaining one-fourth of the nut mixture and all of the remaining phyllo (about 12 sheets), again brushing each with butter. Brush the top sheet generously with the remaining butter and refrigerate the dish for 15 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Using a thin, serrated knife, cut the baklava into 18 rectangles (3 across the short side and 6 across the long side), and then cut each rectangle into 2 triangles. Bake until golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the 3/4 cup sugar and the water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil, without stirring, until the mixture registers 220°F on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey.
Pour the syrup evenly over the warm baklava (be careful, as the mixture may splatter). Sprinkle the top with the 3 Tbs. chopped pistachios. Cover loosely with waxed paper and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.
To serve, run a knife along the cuts and then remove the pieces from the dish with a thin metal spatula. Layer the leftover pieces in an airtight container, separating the layers with waxed paper, and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes 36 pieces.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Mediterranean Cooking, by Charity Ferreira, Dana Jacobi & Carolyn Miller (Oxmoor House, 2008).