November 1, 2009
My grandmother always had a vast supply of baklava at hand: just as you thought a pan was about to be depleted, another plateful would emerge. And these were pans and platefuls of the largest baklava pieces ever! Since her mission in life was to fatten up her scrawny offspring, she had no use for those tiny diamond slices; instead, each baklava piece was the size of a grown man’s slipper. Then, if you moaned about not being able to have one more bite without bursting, she would remind you that you weren’t done because you hadn’t even finished a single piece!
My grandmother never did manage to fatten us up, but her baklava legacy lives on. Just the other day, my still-scrawny self recreated the nut-and-sugar wonder upon repeated requests of husband and friends. If you, too, wish to tackle this most meditative of buttery projects, this is what you will need:
- 1 package of fillo dough (unless you’re making it from scratch? so admirable! …but so unnecessary if you live near a market that caters to Southern Europeans and/or carries good old Athens)
- 1 lb ground nuts (a mixture of walnuts and pecans is highly recommended, but feel free to go nuts here)
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 lemon
- While the oven is preheating to 375F, brush the bottom of the baking dish with some melted butter. Put down 1 sheet of fillo dough; butter it; repeat.
- Call your spouse to roll up your sleeves and clean the butter off your glasses.
- When you have 4 layers of fillo dough, spread a generous fistful of nuts across the top one. Cover that layer with another sheet of fillo.
- Repeat until you’re out of nuts and dough. You should end up with ~4-5 layers on the very top. Leave the last one loose across the top; this will be your sacrificial layer that you’re going to let dry out so that everything else underneath it will become lusciously browned and crisp.
- As your baklava goes into the oven for ~35 minutes, dump the sugar and lemon into a small pot and cover it with water. Bring to a boil ; simmer for ~7 minutes.
- When the baklava is done, pour the syrup you just prepared over it.
- While you can most definitely just eat the baklava right then and there, because you made it and it’s nobody’s business what you eat standing over the stove while sticky juice drips off your elbows, do try letting it sit to soak up the syrup.
- Eventually, you will probably want to cut the baklava into pieces. Polite tiny diamonds or large offspring-fattening slices? Your call.