I never thought I would actually ever make baklava myself. It seems like such a hard thing to make, and having made it now, I will say that it's not exactly an easy thing to make. I was first intrigued about making some baklava myself when I saw Simon Bryant make it on The Cook and The Chef. He made it look very easy, so that got me slightly interested. It was only when I saw the exact same recipe in Belinda Jeffrey's Mix and Bake that I made up my mind to try it out.
The actual steps are very easy to do, it's the implementation that is difficult and tedious. Firstly, chopping all the nuts finely took me a good 45 minutes. I really need to invest in a food processor. Then, lining the filo pastry layer by layers and brushing each with butter was a bit of a nightmare. I had bought this filo ages ago and it had been in the fridge for quite a while. It had iced up so when it de-thawed, all the sheets stuck together. Very frustrating having tiny chunks of sheets rather than whole big sheets to work with. When Simon made it, all the nuts had been chopped for him already, the filo was nicely separated and he bascially only did the top layer. What took him two minutes took me 1.5 hours. The honey syrup part wasn't too bad. I made that while the baklava was baking.
So how does it taste. It's quite good. It's not sickly sweet like you find at some stores. However, the lemon flavour was a bit too strong for my liking. If I ever do make this again, I would up the sweetness a bit and drop the lemon part of the syrup. But to be honest, I think I would rather just buy baklava from my favourite store, El-Fayha on Sydney Road. The cost isn't too big a difference and their ones are just so amazingly good. I can munch through their 15 pieces for $10 deal in two days. My own baklava has been slowly eaten but it's just not as addictive.
200-250g unsalted butter
500g filo pastry
250g pistachio, 250g walnuts finely chopped (or all walnuts)
110g castor sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
40 whole cloves (optional)
1 1/2 cups (330g) castor sugar
1 cup (250ml) water
1/3 cup (120g) clear honey
1/2 cinnamon stick
5 drops rosewater (optional)
finely chopped lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
finely chopped pistachios (optional) for sprinkling
Gently melt butter in small pan over low heat, then let cool. Skim off any white scum from top, and then carefully pour clear liquid into a jug leaving any milky sediment behind.
Brush a 32x24x5cm baking tin with some of the butter. Cut filo so that it is a similar size to the tin. Cover filo sheets with a damp tea towel to stop it drying out.
Mix together nuts, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.
Line base of tin with a third of the filo sheets, brushing each sheet lightly with melted butter as you go. Sprinkle half nut mixture evenly over filo and shake tin gently to even out. Repeat the layering with another third of the filo and butter, and then top with the remaining nut mixture. Layer remaining filo over this, brushing it with the butter as you go, then brush the top with the butter too. Trim and discard any excess filo from around the sides of the tin with a sharp knife.
Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up the baklava so it's easier to score. When it is firm use a sharp knife to score the baklava, right through to the base, into diamonds of whatever size you want. Push a clove, if using, into centre of each one.
Bake at 180 for about one hour or until top of baklava is deep golden brown. Cover loosely with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly.
For the syrup, combine sugar, water, honey and cinnamon stick in saucepan over high heat. Stir mixture until sugar dissolves, then stop stirring and bring to boil.
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer syrup, uncovered, for 20 minutes, skimming of any white foam that floats on surface. Remove syrup from heat, discard cinnamon stick and stir in lemon zest, juice and rosewater. Keep syrup in a warm spot.
When baklava is ready, remove from oven. Cool the tray on wire rack for one minute, then slowly drizzle warm syrup evenly over the top. Leave it to cool completely, do not refrigerate, for at least 12 hours before serving.
To serve baklava, cut down through score marks to loosen diamonds. Remove cloves and sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.