Last night wasn’t just a night for sausage rolls and single malt. It was a night for sugary nutty goodness as well. I can’t remember whether it was actually the housemate with the Turkish grandparents who introduced me to baklava, but I like to think it was. I certainly hadn’t encountered it prior to starting my undergraduate degree. Crisp filo pastry. Tooth-achingly sweet honey. Chewy nuts….
Ahem. Pardon me while I daydream.
Baklava is a gorgeous creation indeed, and I’m a firm believer that almost everything is better when it is home made (or, at the very least, bought from a posh bakery!) But filo pastry is fiddly and has a habit of crumbling or drying out or generally causing havoc. The idea of laboriously painting individual sheets with sugar syrup just seems like a bit too much effort, even if the end result is beautiful.
But wait. What’s this? One of my favourite food pron websites has a recipe for Fastest Baklava Ever? Out of my way! I must buy filo pastry!!
- 1/4 cup each of walnuts, almonds and pistachios. Or 3/4 cup of mixed nuts. Don’t do what I did: check whether there are peanuts in your mixed nuts!
- 2 tbsp brown sugar.
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Some cloves. The recipe is ambiguous. I put in too many and it still tasted awesome.
- 1 pack of filo pastry. The original recipe says 1 lb box. A Sainsbury’s box is half that weight so I bought two… and then made this pretty one plus one scrappy one for personal consumption from the leftovers!
- An entire jar of honey. (Shell out for good honey. You’re going to be eating a lot of it.)
- 100g butter.
- 1/2 cup sugar.
- 1 vanilla pod.
- Preheat oven to 200C (or Gas Mark 6 if you should be so fortunate)
- Blitz nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a food processor. Or if you’re a poor postgraduate, put them in a sandwich bag and bash them really hard with a rolling pin. This will do nothing to the indestructible cloves. Remove them, bash them individually and put them back in.
- Place your 9 inch tin on top of the stack of filo pastry sheets and cut around them. This will take a very sharp knife, some patience, and some brute force.
- Put six of your sheets in the bottom of your pan. If you are not fortunate enough to have a spring form tin, use baking paper or you will never ever get the baklava out.
- Spread half of the nutty sugary mixture on top of the pastry.
- Take a decent spoon of honey and drizzle it over the nutty stuff. Pro-tip: If you warm the honey up first (e.g. with a quick blast in the microwave) then you will be able to drizzle it fairly evenly, rather than just putting a big dollop at one end and a tiny drizzle at the other.
- Put three sheets of pastry on top of the nuts and repeat the process.
- Clarify some butter. This is not as scary as it sounds. Very gently melt the butter. Leave it to sit. The milk solids will sink and you can skim off the (now clear) fat.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut a criss-cross pattern into your phyllo. Prepare to swear, and lose bits of the top layer of pastry.
- Pour the clarified butter over the unbaked baklava.
- Bake the baklava for 15 minutes, and then drop the temperature to 160C for 40 minutes.
- 15 minutes before the baklava is ready, pour into a pan about half a cup of honey (i.e. 125mL), half a cup of water and half a cup of sugar. This is far far more than you actually need. Add the vanilla bin and bring the whole lot to a gentle simmer. Keep an eye on it. It will try to boil over.
- As soon as the baklava is out of the oven pour the (now slightly-thickened) syrupy goodness over the baklava.
- Now try to leave it until the morning without touching… Trust me. It improves with age.