by Victoria Jenanyan Wise
from The Armenian Table
(St. Martin’s Press, 2004)
Makes sixteen to eighteen 1 1/2-inch piece
Baklava, or paklava, is one of those few dishes, like pizza or ice cream, that has become “owned” by the whole world. When I was young, my grandmother Victoria Jenanyan would begin cooking for family early in the morning, making the dough and rolling it out on the dining room table with a broomstick handle into transparent sheets of fillo for the baklava. It was an awesome sight to see her well-toned arms and deft hands, so in rhythm with the rolling, turning out the most tender fillo sheets imaginable. These days, I bow to her as I purchase ready-made fillo and carry on the tradition of making baklava at home.—Victoria Jenanyan Wise
For the syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the filling
2 cups walnuts, finely chopped but not pulverized
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound phyllo dough
Make the syrup
1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer briskly until thickened and reduced, about 12 minutes. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use. (The syrup should be at room temperature and still pourable when ready to use; if cooled too much, reheat slightly.)
Make the filling
1. In a bowl, mix together the walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar. Set aside.
Make the baklava
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-x-13-inch deep baking dish with some of the butter.
2. Place a layer of phyllo in the bottom of the dish, cover with another layer, and brush the top with butter. Add another layer (2 sheets), brushing the top with butter, and then another layer, brushing the top with butter, until you have a stack 6 sheets high. Spread one-third of the filling evenly over the fillo.
3. Layer and butter another 6 sheets in the same way. Spread another third of the filling over it. Layer and butter another 6 sheets in the same way and spread with the final third of the filling, so that you wind up with three nut layers.
4. Top the final nut layer with the remaining 6 fillo sheets, buttering every other one as above. Finally, brush the top layer of fillo with butter.
5. With a sharp knife, cut through all the layers down to the bottom of the dish, making 16 to 18 diamond or 1 1/2-inch square sections. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Pour the remaining butter across the top and continue baking until pale golden and crispy, about 25 minutes.
6. Remove and set aside for 5 minutes, until no longer sizzling. While still warm, tilt the pan and pour off the excess butter. Pour the syrup in between the cuts and around the edges of the sections, taking care to avoid the top or else it will get soggy. Set aside at room temperature until completely cool.
7. To serve, lift out the pieces as outlined. Serve right away or cover and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Recipe © 2004 Victoria Jenanyan Wise. All rights reserved.