There are so many formulas for making baklava. Some have only two layers of nuts. The number of phyllo pastry sheets at the bottom, between the nut layers and on top can be anywhere from four to ten.
In this recipe, twenty phyllo sheets were used. Six on the bottom, six on top and two layers each with four sheets in the middle. What’s the logic behind the number of phyllo sheets in each layer? Well, this recipe is based on Alton Brown’s. I trust the guy so I just followed his instructions.
Each phyllo sheet (not each stack) is dabbed with melted butter. The delicate sheets won’t break if you’re careful with the application of butter. Dab rather than brush to avoid tearing them.
You might be thinking that’s a lot of butter if every phyllo sheet has to be dabbed with it. You’re right. You’ll need 250 grams (two sticks) of butter. You need that much to prevent the phyllo sheets from sticking to one another during baking.
The nuts are added in three increments. A third goes on top of six phyllo sheets, the second portion on top of a second stack of four phyllo sheets and the last portion goes on top of another stack of four phyllo sheets.
The layers of phyllo sheet and nuts are cut into squares (well, I like diamonds) before the pan goes into the oven. During baking, the phyllo sheets will turn crisp.
What you need now is something to bind the layers together without ruining the delicate puffy texture of the baklava. So, you in pour syrup. Sugar, honey, water and a little lemon juice to cut through the sweetness so that the baklava does not become cloying.
You need to let the syrup spread through all the layers before cutting the baklava. If you serve it immediately after pouring in the syrup, the baklava will be too drippy but still quite dry between the layers. So let it rest for a few hours to allow the syrup to do it job. No, the syrup won’t make the phyllo sheets soggy. That’s the magic of baklava. Soaked in sticky syrup but still crisp.
- 20 sheets phyllo pastry - thawed
- 2 cups crushed roasted nuts - divided into three portions
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 250 grams butter - melted
For the syrup
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ¾ cup honey
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Spread the phyllo pastry on your work area and cover with a damp kitchen towel to avoid drying out. If the size of the sheets is not the same as the size of your baking pan, cut the sheets to make sure that they will fit snugly. You can refreeze any excess.
- Whisk together the crushed nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- Brush the bottom of the baking pan liberally with melted butter.
- Carefully lay a phyllo sheet on the bottom of the pan. Dab with melted butter. Repeat until you have a stack of six phyllo sheets all dabbed with melted butter.
- Spread one portion of the nuts on the stack of phyllo pastry.
- Make a stack of four phyllo sheets on top of the nuts, each dabbed with melted butter.
- Spread the second portion of the nuts on the second stack of phyllo pastry.
- Do another stack of four phyllo sheets, all dabbed with butter, then spread the remaining portion of the nuts on top.
- For the top layer, make a stack of six phyllo sheets–again, each sheet dabbed with melted butter.
- Take a sharp knife and cut the unbaked baklava into two to three-inch squares or diamonds.
- Bake the baklava at 350F for 30 minutes.
- While the baklava bakes, make the syrup by simmering together the sugar, water and honey until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice.
- Take the baking pan out of the oven and recut the baklava. Make sure that all pieces are cut all the way through.
- Pour the syrup over the hot baklava. Allow to soak for a few hours before serving.