The Recipe - Baklava

As Maggie Saab, whose family was from Kilis, Armenia (now part of Turkey), taught Lindsay Sterling in Falmouth, MA, in August 2015.

Cooking time: 1 hr (plus the phyllo needs to thaw overnight)
Makes about 40 pieces

1 box phyllo dough
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp rose water*
1 package phyllo dough*
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
12 oz. walnuts
2 tsp cinnamon
crushed unsalted pistachio (optional)*

Unusual Equipment needed:
Pastry brush
parchment paper

*Note: you may have to order the asterisk-ed ingredients online or find them a a Middle Eastern market near you. Phyllo dough is in the freezer in a rectangular box.

(Click "See How to Do It" at right to see the photos of how to make this. Cooking is much easier when you see how it's done first.)

Thaw the phyllo dough. Put it in refrigerator a night or day before using. If possible, an hour before assembling the pastry, take the phyllo out of box and let it come to room temperature on the counter. Leave it in its plastic bag though so it doesn't dry out. This all makes the dough easiest to work with. Also, it's best to make the syrup ahead of time, too, but not necessary.

Make the syrup. In a small sauce pan, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring a little bit so that the sugar melts into the water. Let boil, add lemon juice, and turn heat down to medium-low for about ten minutes. Turn off heat. Once cooled, add rose water, and cool further in the fridge. 

Preheat the oven to 375. 

Make the filling. Pulse walnuts in a food processor so that you have a crumbly mixture of nuts, with most pieces about a quarter of an inch or less. Put into a medium sized bowl. Stir in cinnamon and just enough of the syrup so that the mixture kind of holds together but not all the way. You may choose to use honey if your syrup isn't ready yet.

Roll the filling into the phyllo. Melt your butter in the microwave or on the stove. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Open the phyllo dough and unroll it so that the stack of rectangular sheets lays flat. Clear a clean workspace in front of you. Have teh butter, phyllo and cookie sheet handy. Take two sheets of the phyllo dough off the stack and lay them in front of you on the counter, with the the longest edge facing you. (Cover the stack of phyllo dough with a clean towel when you're done so the phyllo doesn't dry out and break.) Brush a thin layer of butter on the top sheets that you just placed in front of you. Take another two pieces of phyllo dough from the stack and lay them right on top of the ones in front of you. Brush the top layer with butter. Then make an inch-thick row of the nut mixture on the phyllo along the edge closest to you.  Roll the phyllo layers over the filling as tightly as you can, squeezing the nuts once they're enclosed, to get them into the cylinder shape. Continue rolling away from you through the rest of the phyllo dough so that you end up with a long cylinder that's about an inch in diameter. 

Bake, sweeten, and serve. Put the roll of baklava on the cookie sheet lined with parchment. Brush the top of the roll with butter, and use a paring knife to cut across the roll at a diagonal making pieces that are about an inch wide. Make more rolls just like the first until you run out of filling. Bake the baklava until golden, 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately spoon the cool syrup slowly over each roll. Listen to it sizzle. The syrup will pool a little below each row by about a half of an inch, but don't worry. Over time the hot pastry will suck up all the syrup. Sprinkle the tops of the pastry with crushed unsalted pistachios if you like. Present the pieces in a pretty shape like a spiral or concentric circles on a platter. 

Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2015