As the ides of March (aka March 15th) flew past this month, it took me back to my grade nine high school Latin class with the renowned Mr.Keys. Now there was a man with a true mastery of the pun. He could take the lowliest of puns/jokes and spin them out into epic tales that spanned a ridiculous amount of time weaving a story that drew you in only to end with (in my opinion) hilarity or (in others’ opinions) groans. Now some people would maybe consider this a waste of their time, but for me, it was a level of pundom that I could only dream of and if one day I could even achieve a modicum of this ability, I would die happy. For anyone I went to high school with that ever had Mr.Keys as a teacher, a quick Google search revealed that despite being retired, he’s still out there being crazy busy and was apparently awarded for volunteering at the Hillsdale Terraces Nursing Home in Oshawa (see this article).
Now thinking about high school also took me back to grade 10 English class where we read Julius Caesar of the “Et tu Brute?” fame. Now I realize that baklava is actually Greek and that Caesar was Roman and the two cultures weren’t always on the best of terms back then, however….well I’ve got nothing. I’ll just admit that it made me think of baklava and then I felt like making it 🙂
This is most definitely not the dessert for the faint of heart as it’s quite literally dripping with honey, drawing you in with it’s sweet sweet nectar of the gods (Roman or Greek, your choice 😉 ). Don’t let it’s name and seemingly complicated appearance fool you however, this was actually relatively easy and quick to whip up (aside from having to leave this in the fridge overnight to soak up all the syrup-y goodness. WHAT???!!! The cruelty. Having a pan of goodness just sitting in the fridge taunting me like that, it was almost more than I could take. I had to content myself with picking at phyllo pastry bits that had “flaked off” (aka “those phyllo bits are just sitting loosely on top of the pan. That’s kind of unsightly and I should do something about that. Maybe I’ll just remove all those extra pieces so it looks nicer. Hmmm…now what to do with all these removed extra bits…what? there’s extra syrup too? Phyllo-infused honey-citrus soup it is! 😉 )
As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m a vegan who doesn’t have a problem with honey (aka the sweet results of bee slavery), but if you do, totally feel free to replace the honey in this recipe with another sweetener of your choice (agave, maple syrup might be interesting, or you could just use straight up sugar). At the end of the day, you will still end up with a slice of tastiness that’s flaky, nutty and sweet and what more can you ask for really?
Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe
Yield: Approx. 25 servings
- 1 package thawed phyllo dough (remove from the freezer and put in the refrigerator to defrost overnight)
- 3/4 cup pistachios
- 3/4 cup pecans
- 3/4 cup almonds
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/3 cup vegan butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- 3/4 cup honey (or use another sweetener of your choice if you don’t eat honey)
- 2/3 cup agave
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 inch slice of lemon peel (you don’t have to, but I recommend cutting out the pith so your just left with the peel part)
- 4 cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1 cinnamon stick
1. About an hour before you want to start making these, remove the phyllo from the refrigerator.
2. Preheat oven to 325F.
3. In a food processor, pulse together the nuts and the brown sugar until combined, but you still want to have bigger chunks of nuts left (i.e. don’t let it become a paste). I did about twenty 2 second pulses.
4. Either in a small bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stovetop, melt together the coconut oil and butter.
5. In the bottom of an 8×8 inch pan, using a pastry brush, brush a layer of the coconut oil-butter mixture and cover with one sheet of phyllo dough. Repeat, brushing with coconut oil-butter mixture between each layer until you have 8 layers. Pour on about 1/3 of the sugar-nut mixture and spread evenly in the pan.
6. Mix the 1/4 cup water with the rosewater. Drizzle 1/3 of the rosewater mixture over the nuts.
7. Apply 6 more layers of phyllo pastry as above, brushing with oil-butter between each layer. Pour another 1/3 of the sugar-nut mixture and spread evenly in the pan. Drizzle with another 1/3 of the rosewater mixture. Repeat with another 6 layers, and pour on the final 1/3 of the sugar-nut mixture spreading evenly in the pan. Drizzle with the last of the rosewater mixture.
8. Layer another 8 layers of phyllo on top (again, brushing with oil-butter mixture between each layer).
9. With a sharp knife, cut your unbaked baklava very carefully into diamonds or squares (I cut mine into 25 portions, but feel free to alter to the size you like).
10. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is browned (but obviously not burnt)
11. Allow the baklava to cool completely. At this point, make the syrup by combining the honey, agave, 2/3 cups of water, orange juice, lemon peel, cloves, allspice and cinnamon stick in a saucepan on high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes (mixture should thicken just slightly).
12. Remove from heat and take out the cloves, cinnamon stick and lemon peel (which is candied, and if you’ve removed the pith, totally edible and delicious at this point 🙂 ). Once the baklava is cooled, recut, following your cut lines from before. Pour the syrup evenly over the entire thing, pouring around the edges of the pan as well as between all your newly recut spaces to allow the syrup to completely permeate every nook and cranny.
13. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the liquid to be soaked in.
14. Store in the refrigerator.
Tip: Apparently one of the secrets to baklava is to have opposing temperatures for the syrup vs the baklava. I.e. If you’re using hot syrup, make sure the baklava is cooled completely. Alternatively, you could make the syrup in advance and let it cool completely and then pour it over the still warm baklava.