Baklava. (Photo by Tressa Dale)

Accidental baklava

A while back, someone accidentally grabbed three boxes of phyllo dough instead of the puff pastry they were sent to the store for, so there have been three whole boxes of phyllo taking up space in the freezer for some time.

What a great excuse to make some baklava!

This dish isn’t as complicated as it seems, although it is time consuming, and requires some patience and a very sharp knife. Ingredients:

1 box phyllo

3 sticks unsalted butter

For the filling:

6 ounces shelled roasted pistachios (lightly salted or unsalted)

4 ounces toasted pine nuts

3 ounces toasted almonds

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the syrup:

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup honey

¾ cup water

The juice of 1 lemon

Splash of rosewater (optional but highly recommended)


Make the soaking syrup — Combine the sugar, honey, and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Allow the syrup to cook for 2-5 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally.

Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Add the lemon juice and rose water when the syrup has cooled. Cover and hold.

Make the clarified butter:

Melt the three sticks of butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat.

As the butter cooks, you will see it separate into three layers: the top layer will be foamy and white (this is the milk solids), the middle layer will be clear and golden (butter fat), and there will be more solids at the bottom. Skim off the top layer of foam as it cooks. Don’t let the butter boil — keep the temperature low.

When no more foam bubbles up, turn off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes to allow the rest of the solids settle to the bottom.

Pour off the butter fats into another container, careful to keep as much of the solids in the pan as possible.

Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Make the filling:

In the bowl of your food processor combine all your nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Pulse until the mixture is very fine, like sand.

Assemble the baklava:

Brush the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with butter.

Lay one layer of thawed phyllo down and carefully brush butter over the whole sheet. It’s helpful to use a finger to hold the sheet down while you brush (the first couple sheets are the hardest, so don’t despair, it gets easier).

Continue layering sheets of phyllo down, one at a time, brushing butter over the entirety of each sheet before adding another. When 1/4 of the box of phyllo has been used, its time to add the first layer of nut filling.

Take 1/3 of the filling and spread it in an even layer over the whole sheet. Gently press it down.

Continue layering buttered phyllo until you have used half of the box.

Take another 1/3 of the filling and spread it out on the sheet.

Continue layering buttered phyllo until only ¼ of the sheets are left.

Add the last 1/3 of the filling.

Finish the rest of the box of phyllo, one buttered sheet at a time, until every sheet has been used.

*Note: don’t worry if there are ripped sheets (there almost certainly will be), it won’t make a difference in the finished product. Just arrange the broken pieces to cover as much as you can and keep going.*

Make sure the top layer is buttered thoroughly.

Turn the dish so the long end is facing you, then take your sharpest knife and cut the dish in half seven times to make 8 even sections.

Make diagonal cuts starting at the top edge of each section to create a diamond pattern. Make sure the knife goes all the way to the bottom for each cut.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Immediately after removing from the oven, pour on the room temperature soaking syrup.Be sure to pour it over every piece.

Allow the whole dish to cool to room temperature before enjoying.

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