From Debbie Matenopolous' cookbook, "It's All Greek To Me" Here is my family’s secret recipe for the best Baklava ever. Rolling it this way, as opposed to baking it in a flat pan, ensures a light flakiness and just the right amount of the honey syrup running throughout. Around the holiday season, when I was growing up, my mom would make big batches of this so that my sister, my brother, and I could give platters of it to our teachers. Needless to say, every new school year, teachers were very excited to see one of the Matenopoulos kids on their class rosters!
- 1 ¼ pound walnuts (about 5 cups), finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 (1-pound) package phyllo dough sheets (13´18 inches), thawed (see tip for phyllo dough, above) (18 sheets)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
- 1 (2-inch-wide) piece fresh lemon peel
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon, and set aside.
- Working quickly, and keeping the unused phyllo sheets covered, lay out 1 sheet of phyllo on a clean flat surface. Lightly brush the phyllo sheet with the melted butter. Cover with a second phyllo sheet, and butter. Sprinkle about ½ cup of the nut mixture over the top sheet. Repeat this process with 2 more sheets of phyllo and another ½ cup of the nut mixture, then again with last 2 phyllo sheets and a final ½ cup of the nut mixture. You will have used 6 sheets of phyllo and 1½ cups of the nut mixture (3 layers). Starting at the long end (the 18-inch side), gently roll the layered phyllo sheets up into a tight, fat roll. Brush the seam with butter to seal. Repeat the entire process twice more. One package will make 3 rolls.
- Using a large, very sharp knife, cut the rolls into 1-inch pieces. Lay the pieces cut side down on 2 large ungreased rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven, and, using a large spatula or tongs, quickly flip the baklava over. Return to the oven, and bake 20 minutes more, or until cooked through, golden and flaky.
- While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Combine all of the syrup ingredients except the lemon juice in a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Set it over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 12 minutes, stir in the lemon juice, and cook 3 more minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully remove and discard the lemon peel. Let the syrup cool slightly.
- Remove the baklava from the oven, and slowly pour the warm syrup over pieces on the baking sheets. Let stand 1 hour to soak up the syrup.
- Transfer to individual cupcake wrappers, if desired, and serve. The baklava will keep, covered loosely, at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Debbie’s Tip: To make a vegan baklava, substitute a vegan butter (like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) for the dairy butter, use maple sugar or organic (vegan) sugar, and omit the honey, if desired.