Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Persian Baklava

This was the big surprise - the first time I've managed to make baklava that didn't turn into a big, gooey mess. I made a mess, but I finally mastered phyllo. I used some organic hippy phyllo from the co-op, and that might have helped ... I think it had a thicker texture than the stuff from the supermarket. I also used an agave nectar that I picked up in Mexico, though the original recipe called for honey. Chilling the bars before I cut them helped; all the butter kept them firm while I sliced. I used a lot more butter than the original recipe called for, and probably double or triple the amount of saffron. It was worth it - saffron and honey is a magical combination. I didn't want a hint of saffron. I wanted to taste it. Otherwise, what's the point?

Persian Baklava

  • 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon
  • 4 to 6 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon + orange blossom water after it has cooled.
  • 1 pound blanched almonds, pistachios, finely chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 pound (about 24 sheets) phyllo dough
  • About 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • 1 t crushed saffron, steeped in 3 T butter, for the top layer
To make the syrup:
Stir the sugar, water, honey, cinnamon sticks, and cloves over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes (it will register 225 degrees on a candy thermometer). Discard the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Let cool. Add orange-flower water.

To make the filling:
Combine all the filling ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place a sheet of phyllo in a non-stick pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with 8 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Use any torn sheets in the middle layer. Spread with the remaining nut mixture and end with a top layer of 8 sheets, continuing to brush each with butter. Trim any overhanging edges.

Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips (about 1 3/4 inches wide) through the top layer of pastry. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.

Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.

Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the cooled syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week. If the baklava dries out while being stored, drizzle with a little additional hot syrup.

No comments: