Make sure you've thawed out your phyllo sheets. You will either need to leave it in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 2 hours. Keep the phyllo in the package while thawing else it will dry out.
The size of the baking dish you use depends on the size of your phyllo sheets. Ideally, you want the sheets to be able to lay flat, but you don't want a lot of extra space for the pastry to slide around in. The sheets i had claimed to be 14"x9". I had a 13"x9" pan and a 15"x10" pan (both Pyrex so i wouldn't have to worry about scratching the pan when i cut the baklava). For this first attempt, i used the larger baking dish because i didn't want the phyllo to fold up at the sides. I might try using the smaller dish next time because i had some trouble with nuts escaping from the sides with the larger one.
Once you've made the momentous decision of which baking dish to use, get out your food processor and start chopping up the nuts. In small batches, pulse the walnuts and pistachios separately in the food processor until they are finely chopped (think the size of the nut topping on ice cream). Be careful not to over process the nuts otherwise you will end up with nut flour. The small batches will help prevent this and will also hopefully result in more uniformly chopped nuts. Place the nuts into a medium-sized bowl.
Using the food processor again, process the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until well-combined. I find keeping brown sugar to be troublesome, so i just use regular sugar and add a small amount of molasses until it's the right color. Add the sugar mixture to the nuts and mix well. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350degF. Melt the butter.
Boxes of phyllo sheets usually come with two sleeves inside. Only open one and leave the other until needed because of the previously mentioned issue of drying out. Carefully unroll the sleeve. Phyllo sheets are fairly delicate and tend to tear at the slightest provocation. This isn't really the end of the world because honestly, once you start cutting into and eating a phyllo wrapped thing, bits of it start flaking off all over the place. Plus, there's usually several layers of phyllo, so who's going to notice if there's a tear here and there as long as all the inside bits are contained one way or another?
Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom of the dish. Carefully lay your first sheet of phyllo onto the bottom of the dish, trying your best to get it flat. Pretty much, once the phyllo touches the butter on the pan, it'll stick like a son of a bitch and trying to peel it off could result in a tear. Although, as i said before, this isn't the end of the world. It just feels frustrating.
Keep layering phyllo sheets, buttering every other sheet, until you've used 10 sheets. Every recipe using phyllo that i've ever seen tells you to butter every sheet. I only butter every other sheet because they're so thin and absorbent that i find doing every other sheet is more than plenty. You do what you want, but just know i'm finishing my layering in half the time which means i'm eating baklava that much sooner.
Regardless of which layers you choose to butter, the top of the 10th sheet should be buttered. Cover the phyllo with 1/3 of your nut and sugar mixture. Lay a sheet of phyllo over this and begin your buttering and layering until you've used 5 sheets. Make sure the top of this last sheet is buttered and cover with another 1/3 of the nut and sugar mixture. Make another 5 sheet layer of phyllo and butter. Cover with the remaining 1/3 of the nuts and sugar. Butter and layer 10 phyllo sheets.
Now comes the tricky part of scoring the baklava. You've got a bunch of slippery layers sitting on top of one another, and you need to cut through it with a sharp knife without cutting yourself plus make it look pretty.
I haven't quite figured out how to cut them into lovely rombuses yet, but triangles i can do. Cut the pastry into 24 rectangles (6 columns and 4 rows) and then cut each of these in half diagonally.
Why can't you just cut the pastry after you bake it like most other baked goods? Because you're going to pour this lovely syrup over it right after you take it out of the oven and you want it to seep into the layers of every piece and not just get the edges and bottom wet.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the phyllo is a golden brown.
While that's happening, pour the honey and water into a small saucepan. Stir to combine. Using a sharp paring knife, cut strips of lemon zest from the lemon. Do your best to get as little of the pith (the white, spongy layer) as possible as the pith will make your syrup bitter. Place the strips of zest right into the honey mixture. Save your naked lemon for tea or water or whatever it is you like to use lemons for.
Cook on medium high heat, stirring often, until it boils. Lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Throw away the zest and let the syrup cool a bit.
When the baklava is done baking, ladle the syrup over the entire thing making sure to get plenty of syrup into the crevices. Let it cool then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Run a knife through the baklava to make sure the pieces are cut all the way through before serving. They might be a bit stuck to the dish because of the cooled sugar, but it shouldn't be too hard to coax them out.
By min | February 21, 2015, 4:37 PM | Vegan Vittles