Served in many cultures in celebration of special occasions and religious ceremonies, baklava is an exotic dessert that layers phyllo dough with a sugary, spiced nut mixture and soaks in a sweet, honey syrup after baking. If you’re not familiar with the technique used when baking this sweet creation, Chef Coumbaros offers several tips to ensure your finished product is just as authentic as you would find on Greek holiday tables. When you’re not working with the phyllo dough, make sure to cover it with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. To avoid over-chopping the nuts into a powder, and also to avoid creating pistachio butter, use a food processor to help you get the correct consistency. Finally, to get your flavors just right, the syrup must be hot when poured over the cooled pastry.
Baklava by Vassilis Coumbaros of Taverna Opa Orlando
4 c. walnuts, finely chopped or ground
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 lb. filo pastry sheets
1 c. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 11 x 17 x 1 1/2 inch pan. Mix ground walnuts with sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut filo sheets to fit pan. Keep filo sheets moist and flexible by covering with a damp cloth. Brush 12 filo sheets lightly with melted butter and place in bottom of pan. Spread 1 cup of walnut mixture over top sheet. Cover with 4 sheets of filo after brushing each with butter. Then repeat layers.
Make top layer with 8 sheets of filo after brushing each with remaining butter. With small, sharp knife, cut lengthwise through first layer to make strips 1 1/2 inches wide. Then make diagonal cuts 2 inches apart in top layer to form diamonds. Bake on rack above center of oven for 1 hour, until well browned. Remove from oven and cut through the first cuts, cutting to the bottom of the pan. Spread top with cold honey syrup. Let stand until completely cold before removing from pan.
Drizzle with chocolate.
1 c. honey
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
Combine honey, sugar, cinnamon stuck and water in small saucepan. Heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in lemon and orange juice. Cool thoroughly before using. Makes 1 1/2 cups.