A.B.’s Baklava

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Hello Friends.  It is Thursday so we are back again!  A little later in the day, but better than never! This week I give to you: a rendition of Alton Brown’s Baklava.  Don’t be scared away by this exotic treat–it’s really not hard, it’s just LONG. Thirty layers of phyllo go into this buttery hunk of nuts.

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This would have been an exact replica of A.B.’s version…alas, rosewater is not something I was going to search especially hard for–not when it would probably only be used for this recipe.  Never having made baklava before, I was not sure if the rosewater solution was key to something besides just the flavor, so I simply substituted triple sec for the rosewater, since orange was already part of the flavor profile.  I imagine that orange extract would be an excellent substitute as well.  The ratio of nuts is the way that it is simply because of how things came packaged at my grocery store… with that in mind, Note to Self and anyone else: pistachios lose about half of their weight once they’re out of their shells.

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One bright green pistachio amongst gooey layers of phyllo and other nuts.

Everyone enjoyed this baklava.  It was one of my first times eating it, too, and I daresay it tastes like a concentrated pecan roll.  I would make them again–but next time, not so late in the evening!  Like I said, these take a WHILE.  But they’re worth it.

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A.B.’s Baklava

Yield: One 13×9″ pan, about 30 pieces

Ingredients:

1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed

8 oz. clarified butter (I used Emeril’s recipe to some success)

For filling:

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

¾ tsp. ground allspice

8 oz. blanched almonds

4 oz. walnuts

2 oz. pecans

4 oz. pistachios

2/3 c. sugar

For essence water:

1/4 c. water

1 tsp. triple sec

For syrup:

1 1/4 c. honey

1 1/4 c. water

1 1/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse together until nuts resemble a coarse sand (not dust).  Prepare essence water by combining the ingredients in a sanitary spray bottle if you have one.  Otherwise mix them in a small bowl and find a pastry brush to sprinkle it with.  Lay the phyllo dough next to your work space, keeping a slightly damp cloth over it to keep it from drying out and cracking.

With another pastry brush, brush the clarified butter over the bottom and sides of a 13×9″ pan.  Grab one sheet of phyllo and layer it on the bottom of the pan (it should theoretically be sized just right out of the package–trim it down if not).  Brush butter on top, and add another sheet.  Brush butter on top, and continue buttering and adding sheets until you reach 10 sheets.

Add 1/3 of the filling mixture on top of the phyllo layers and spread it evenly.  Spray or sprinkle the essence water on top.  Add 6 more layers of butter and phyllo, followed by another 1/3 of the filling mixture, and more essence water.  After that, add 6 more layers of butter and phyllo and the last installment of filling, followed by the last installment of essence water (it is okay if you do not use all the essence water).  Finish with 8 layers of phyllo and butter, brushing the top “generously with butter”, as Mr. Brown says.

Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, take out of the oven and cut into 28-30 pieces.  Do not worry if the top few layers crack badly.  Place back in oven for anther 30 minutes.

Here is where the timing gets interesting on Mr. Brown’s recipe: after removing the pan from the oven, set it on a cooling rack to cool for 2 hours.  Within the last 30 minutes of cooling, begin to make the syrup.  There must be a reason for this specific timing, so I do not ask questions.

Therefore, within the last 30 minutes of cooling, assemble the syrup ingredients in a small pot.  Bring to a boil so that the sugar dissolves, and let boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the orange peel (and cool it and eat it!  Chef’s treat).  When it has reached 2 hours of cooling, re-cut the baklava on the same lines as before (it will have melded back together slightly in the oven), and gently pour the syrup over the whole pan, making sure it gets in all the cut lines and cracks.

Allow to completely cool and then cover and store at room temperature.

Enjoy–with a BIG glass o’ milk, because this thing is SWEET.

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