Ever since last month when Dawn over at First Look, Then Cook posted her recipe for baklava, it’s been on my mind. I instantly thought of an ice wine we have that would match this dessert perfectly. Not to mention I’ve never worked with phyllo before and it sounded like a challenge I needed to tackle. So when we were looking for Egyptian desserts and came across the recipe for Baklawa, the Egyptian version of the dessert, I knew it was time to get to work.
The main differences between Greek baklava and Egyptian baklawa are that the Greek version uses honey in the syrup and almonds in the pastry. The Egyptian form of the dessert uses sugar and orange blossom in the syrup and omits the almonds. Either way, the dessert sounds intriguing to me and dad, and one that we thought even Mr. N and Miss A would enjoy.
Next we melted the ghee, which as we learned is clarified butter oil. We were planning to just use butter, which would work as well, but we were surprised and excited when we saw ghee at the store so figured we’d go authentic.
Next it was time to make the nut mixture. We combined the walnuts with a 1/4 cup of the ghee, sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Miss A mixed up all the ingredients and then we set it aside. (I had a vague recollection of seeing orange blossom water while in the Middle Eastern aisle at the grocery store which is what ultimately led to our ghee discovery.)
It was then time to work with the phyllo. I emptied the kitchen for this part of the process. I’ve never worked with phyllo and I read all sorts of warnings about how delicate it is and how quickly it dries out. So I knew that I needed to have every ounce of my patience available. I began by folding one sheet of the phyllo in half and placing it in a greased 9″x13″ baking dish. I then brushed it with melted ghee and repeated this process until half of the phyllo sheets were used.
This was a tricky process. The phyllo truly is very thin and delicate (think single ply bathroom tissue), and you have to make sure to keep a damp towel on the unused sheets so they don’t dry out. Once I was halfway through the phyllo, I covered the it with the nut mixture and spread it out evenly. Make sure to sample a little – it’s yummy!
It was then time to finish up with the phyllo. Again, I folded the sheets in half and brushed with the melted ghee until I used all the phyllo sheets. Finally I took a sharp knife and made diagonal slices from the left corner to the right and then flipped the dish to slice rows – making little diamond pieces.
The baklawa was then put in the oven at 400F for 5 minutes at which point the heat was turned down to 300F. The baklawa bakes for about 50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
But wait, there’s more. As soon as the baklawa goes in the oven it’s time to begin the sharbat (syrup). I combined the sugar and water in a sauce pan and stirred constantly for 10 minutes. Next I incorporated lemon juice and orange blossom water and set the sharbat aside to cool while the baklawa finished baking.
Once the baklawa was done, I removed it from the oven and spooned the sharbat over the dish evenly. It made some nice bubbles and pops which I wish Mr. N could have seen if he wasn’t at school. He would have loved that action!
After the baklawa cooled, I recut the original slices and it was ready to serve. Mr. N said he didn’t really like it, but then he asked for more. It either grew on him or he was hungry. Miss A enjoyed her first serving, but the true test will be if she comes back for more tomorrow. I definitely enjoyed it. The buttery cinnamon flavor is outstanding with the subtle hints of orange blossom. Dad was at work this evening, so his slice is waiting for him. The ice wine will have to wait for another night.
I was very pleased with the results of this recipe even though I don’t have anything with which to compare it. I have to say though, I’m darn proud I pulled it off. This was an intimidating recipe and one that had all the makings of a disaster given my typical lack of patience. I think I now have to revisit Greece and try a traditional Greek Baklava as well.
Print this recipe: Baklawa