The best recipes are the ones written on little pieces of paper
Not all of the recipes I try are from the internet or foodie magazines. Some recipes are given to me, written on pieces of paper that have been handed down from a previous generation. You know that these kind of recipes are good because they have stood the test of time. Who would want to pass down a recipe that was awful? A couple of weeks ago, one of my work colleagues brought in home-made baklava to celebrate her birthday, and she was kind enough to share some with me. It tasted absolutely wonderful! I had to get my hands on the recipe. I was told that it was her Mother’s recipe, and that she would need to ask her for it. When I got the recipe, it was written on an A5 lined piece of paper and consisted of several easy steps. I had a bit of a chuckle reading the recipe for the first time because the ingredient list and instructions were written in an automated manner, like the recipe had been used on so many occasions that ingredient amounts and methods were no longer needed to be recalled. In other words, I had to ask my colleague a couple of questions about the ingredient list and kind of wing through the method.
This, to me, is a sign of a wonderful recipe, and the results were incredibly delicious! So delicious, in fact, that I just had to share it. This recipe makes 36 pieces.
1 pkt (375g) filo pastry
250g unsalted butter, melted
½ cup white sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups white sugar
3 cups (750ml) water
2 tbs honey
2 cinnamon quills
Process the walnuts and almonds to small pieces, being careful not to over-process because that will make the nuts oily. Mix the sugar and ground cinnamon with the nuts and put aside.
Grease a 22.5cm x 32.5cm (9”x13”) baking pan. Unroll the filo pastry. Place the baking pan on top of the filo and cut it to the dimensions of the baking pan. Put aside 16 sheets of filo, which will make up the bottom and top layer of the baklava, cover with a clean damp tea towel to keep it from drying out. Cover the rest of the filo (including the off-cuts) with another clean damp tea towel.
Place 1 of the 16 sheets of filo pastry you put aside into the baking pan. Brush the melted butter all over the filo, and place another sheet of filo over the top and brush the melted butter over that sheet. Repeat layering the filo and brushing the melted butter over the top until you have 8 layers. You should have 8 sheets of filo left over.
Sprinkle a thin layer of the nut mixture over the filo pastry. Place 2 sheets of filo from the 2nd lot over the top, brushing the melted butter between each layer. Repeat layering the nuts and buttered filo until all of the nut mixture is used. Make sure you gently press each layer of nuts and pastry so the layers are even. With the 8 sheets of filo left over from the 1st lot set aside, layer the pastry and brush melted butter between each layer. Chuck the baklava in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes. This will make it easier to cut later. Whilst the baklava is in the fridge, preheat oven to 170˚C (fan forced).
Pull the baklava out of the fridge and mark the pastry at 5cm intervals on the shorter end of the pastry, then cut straight in a straight line, all the way through the baklava. Then cut at a 45˚ angle to form diamond shapes, ensuring that you cut all the way through. Push a clove into the middle of each diamond. Whack the baklava into the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden.
Whilst the baklava is in the oven, start making the sugar syrup. Place the sugar, water, honey and cinnamon quills in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved, over medium high heat. Once the syrup is boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pull out the cinnamon quills and set aside to cool.
When the baklava is ready, pull out of the oven and set aside to cool slightly for 15 minutes. Pour the syrup evenly over the baklava, making sure that all of the baklava gets covered by the syrup. Leave the baklava to stand uncovered for at least 2 hours before serving, so the syrup is absorbed and penetrates through all the layers of the baklava.
Note: I haven’t made any amendments to the original recipe. For the nut filling, you could use other nuts like pistachios, macadamias, or a combination of all of them. I’ve seen other recipes that only use one type of nut and others that use a combination.