Nuts for BAKLAVA phyllo pastry

Snacking on nuts by the park highlighted my desire to try making Baklava my way.
Flaky pastry phyllo layered with a nut variation, while sweetened with a light citrus syrup

I'll never forget the first time a restaurateur had offered me to try their in-house Greek pastry. 
Other than getting aggravated with slipping, flaky pastry sheets, I remember falling in pastry love.  

How could I not have known of a dessert that held all the...
characteristics of what I appreciate most in pastry.  

Flakiness...mildly tart and sweet syrup, and of course nuts.

Afterwards, whenever I found myself in a new Middle Eastern restaurant...
I always looked forward to trying their versions of this fabulous bite.  

Sadly, over the years, I started finding myself greatly disappointed or maybe just overly exigent.  
This pastry became many more leveled phyllo dough sheets and very skimpy on nuts.

Not to say that some Montreal Middle Eastern pastry boutiques don't have excellent sweets.
However, they have also unfortunately swayed from their initial excellence.  
I can only assume that tougher economic times may have something to do with this phenomena. 

A few years ago I decided I was going to rectify this by trying my hand at making the fine pastry.

Armed with one of my favourite Mediterranean cookbooks, I truly was pleased with the results.  
My first attempt was surprisingly very good and I vowed to make it again with some twists of my own. 

Well that time came and I'm now ready to share my detours with you.  

Did I mention how amazingly delicious the results turned out ;o)  

Don't shy away from making this delight.  
Although the recipe may seem long and complex, it really is not that difficult.  
Make sure you have all the ingredients ready and that you've read the preparation at least once.  
Before you know it, you'll be completely impressed by this delectable bite.

phyllo and nut pastry...a Middle Eastern delicacy
recipe was modified from:  
Mediterranean (Over 300 sun-drenched recipes) cookbook

yields about 30 small pieces
9x12 inches
(23x30 cm) rectangle baking pan

(American / Metric measures)   

Butter (melted):
. 1 cup (240g) unsalted, clarified* Butter

Nut mix:
. 2-1/2 cups (400g) mix of choice nuts:
    . roasted Almonds or Hazelnut (filberts)
    . raw pecans, walnuts or pistachios
. 3/4 cup (95g) confectioners; sugar
. 1 tsp. (5ml) ground cinnamon spice
. 1 tsp. (5ml) ground cardamom spice
. 1 large orange, finely zested (optional)
. pinch of sea salt

Pastry Phyllo layers:
. 14 sheets of thawed Phyllo pastry dough 
(divided in half at the shortest side) This will yield [8+6+6+8] half sheets required

. 1 cup (250ml) water
. 1 cup (220g) granulated sugar
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) Turkish Orange Blossom water

Honey topping:
. 3/4 cup (175ml) mild honey
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice

* Clarified Butter:  if making clarified butter from scratch...bring the butter to a light boil in a small pot.  Skim off the foam.


melted Butter:  
1. Prepare the clarified butter.  Set aside.
Nut mix:  
2. With the aid of a food processor, pulse the nuts several times to coarse, pea-size pieces.   Add the sugar, spices, orange zest and salt.  Give the processor one last swirl. Transfer mix to a medium bowl.  Set aside.

. Pre-heat the oven to 325F/160C/Gas3 for the first baking part.  Position rack on the 2nd level from the bottom.
3. Take the 9x12 inch (23x30 cm) rectangle baking pan and very generously brush the melted butter all over the pan.
4. Unroll the Phyllo dough sheets.  On the shortest length, cut the sheets in half.   Place the first pastry sheet and lightly brush every sheet with the melted butter until 8 layers are placed.  Now, spread a third of the nut mix.  REPEAT with another 6 layers and spread another third of the nut mix.  REPEAT again for the next 6 layers plus nut mix.  Finish off with the last  8 layers of buttered pastry sheets. 
Note: make sure to brush the last layer generously with the butter. With a sharp knife, cut a few diagonal or straight rows.

5. BAKE for the first 25 minutes at 325F/160C/Gas3.
6. Meanwhile...make the syrup:  In a small saucepan, bring both the water and sugar to a boil without stirring it.  Once the boiling point is reached, turn down the heat to MEDIUM.  Simmer briskly for 10 minutes until syrupy.  Remove from the heat.  Add the orange blossom water. Set aside. 
7. Second BAKE time: raise the heat to 400F/200C/Gas6.    Take the pan out and carefully pour the sugar syrup between the cuts and around the edges.   BAKE for another 15 min.
8. In a small measuring cup, mix the honey and lemon. Then, once out of the oven, immediately pour the honey-lemon mix all over the Baklava.
9. Let the pan rest uncovered onto a cooling rack for at least 4 hours before serving.  This pastry gets better with time.  Serve at room temperature. 
. Store in a metal tin box lined with parchment paper.  Will keep up to 2 weeks at room temperature.

This exquisite middle Eastern pastry is absolutely delectable.  
Go ahead and grab a package of phyllo pastry and give those nuts a whirl.  
You'll succeed a well balanced and not too sweet pastry in no time at all.

Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

Comments ... ??? ... or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at:  foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com 

Go HERE for more SWEET creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)

. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later.