Classic Baklava

This is my mom’s recipe for classic baklava.  It’s not drenched in syrup and it’s not overly nutty – it’s just crunchy, sweet and perfectly balanced. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. filo dough
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, melted
FILLING
  • 2 lb. chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
SYRUP
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

HOW TO MAKE IT

FILLING

  • Process the walnuts in a food processor until they’re finely ground but not too powdery (keep checking the consistency so you don’t over process) – you could also do this with a nut grinder if you have one
  • Mix the walnuts with the sugar, rose water and melted butter – start with 2 tbsp of butter and add in the 3rd if you think the mixture needs more moisture to stick together
SYRUP
  • Pour the water into small sauce pan over medium-high heat
  • Add in the sugar, keep stirring and bring to a boil
  • Reduce the heat, add in the lemon juice and keep stirring over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken and become syrup-like
  • Be careful not to burn the syrup, it should remain a light color like light corn syrup, not golden brown like caramel or maple syrup
  • Add the rose water in and blend well – take off the heat and allow to cool
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER…
  • Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and cover the stack with waxed paper and a damp towel – this will prevent it from drying out and becoming brittle (you don’t want the damp towel directly on the dough because it will ruin it)
  • Lay out a sheet of filo and brush it generously with butter
  • Lay another sheet on top of that one and brush it with butter (repeat this until you have a total of 4 sheets)
  • Place an inch wide strip of walnut mixture along the bottom edge of the filo dough rectangle (make sure you place the walnuts along the longer side of filo)
  • Roll the filo dough around the walnuts, pinching it to make sure it’s tight, and roll it up totally
  • Cut the roll on the diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long (you should get approximately 10 pieces per roll)
  • Repeat this process until you’re out of filo dough sheets (you should get 4 rolls)
  • Place the pieces onto a greased baking pan
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
    • Makes approximately 40 pieces
  • While the baklava is warm, drizzle it with the cooled syrup
Variation…
    • Brush a 9×13 inch baking pan with butter
    • Layer 6 sheets of filo dough, brushing butter in between each sheet
    • Spoon the walnuts over the filo
    • Cover with 6 more sheets of filo dough, brushing butter in between each sheet
    • Score the top 3 sheets with a knife
    • Bake at 350°F for approximately 40-45 minutes or until golden brown
    • Cut into pieces of desired size and drizzle with the syrup while still warm
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Spanakopita II

This is my recipe for the classic Greek appetizer, spanakopita.  I like to use fresh spinach and butter instead of olive oil — I think it makes it lighter and flakier.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups packed spinach leaves
  • 1 lb. fillo dough (16-20 sheets), defrosted
  • 1/2 lb. feta cheese
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg (if I’m doubling this recipe, I use 3 eggs), beaten
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 stick of butter (at least)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Rinse your spinach leaves and remove and large stems
  • Roughly chop the spinach before putting 2 cups of it in the food processor – process for about 10 seconds or until the leaves are finely chopped
  • Add in half the chopped garlic, scallions, feta and salt and pepper
  • Process the ingredients for about 5 seconds and then pulse the mixture 3 times for 1 second to make sure everything is well combined
  • Repeat this process for the other half of the ingredients
  • Combine the two batches of spinach (you can and should taste it before you add in the egg and adjust the salt and pepper to your taste) then stir in the beaten egg
    • Set the mixture aside
  • Take your defrosted fillo dough out and unfold it onto a working surface (keep the stack of dough covered with a damp – but not wet! – towel to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle)
  • Depending on the dimensions of your sheet, you may need to cut them in half so your sheet has a width of about 7.5 in.
  • Take a sheet with the 7.5 in. width and brush it with butter
  • Then, fold the sheet over into thirds so you’re left with a long strip that’s only 2.5 in. wide
  • Place about 1 tbsp of spinach mixture at the end of your fillo strip and roll it up into triangles, like a paper football – or American flag
  • If your dough seems dry and needs help sticking, brush it with additional butter
  • Place the triangle pieces onto a greased baking pan
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
    • Makes approximately 32 – 40 pieces
Variation…
    • Layer 10 sheets of fillo dough, brushing butter in between each sheet
    • Spoon about 1 cup of the spinach mixture along one edge of the fillo dough in the shape of a sausage
    • Roll up the fillo dough and brush the top with butter
    • Score the roll into 1 in. rounds
    • Repeat until all of the fillo and spinach is used
    • Place the roll on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400°F for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown

Spanakopita I


This is my mom’s recipe for the classic Greek appetizer, spanakopita.  I’ve got my own version of spanakopita using fresh spinach – I’ll be posting that recipe next week.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 – 8 oz. packages of frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/3 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 lb. filo dough
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Defrost the frozen spinach in the microwave and strain it very well by pressing the spinach against the side of the strainer (it’s very important to get all of the water out or else it will be mushy)
  • In a large saute pan over medium-low heat combine the 2 tbsp olive oil and scallions and saute
  • Add in the spinach, salt and pepper and at least 3 more tbsp olive oil (if it seems dry, add more)
  • Turn off the heat and cool the mixture.  Add in the parsley, feta cheese and beaten eggs and mix well
  • Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and cover the stack with waxed paper and a damp towel – this will prevent it from drying out and becoming brittle (you don’t want the damp towel directly on the dough because it will ruin it)
  • Lay out a sheet of filo and brush it generously with olive oil
  • Lay another sheet on top of that one and brush it with olive oil (repeat this until you have a total of 5 sheets)
  • Place an inch wide strip of spinach mixture along the bottom edge of the filo dough rectangle (make sure you place the spinach along the longer side of filo)
  • Roll the filo dough around the spinach, pinching it to make sure it’s tight, and roll it up totally
  • Cut the roll on the diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long (you should get approximately 10 pieces per roll)
  • Repeat this process until you’re out of filo dough sheets (you should get 4 rolls)
  • Place the pieces onto a greased baking pan
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
    • Makes approximately 40 pieces
Variation…
    • Brush a 9×13 inch baking pan with olive oil
    • Layer 6 sheets of filo dough, brushing olive oil in between each sheet
    • Spoon the spinach over the filo
    • Cover with 6 more sheets of filo dough, brushing olive oil in between each sheet
    • Score the top 3 sheets with a knife
    • Bake at 350°F for approximately 40-45 minutes or until golden brown