Simple though it is to make, there are a few things you can do to ensure a successful, not-soggy baklava. First, it's unnecessary to saturate the layers of phyllo with butter. A thin layer of butter suffices (but don't skimp, either). Toast the walnuts, or whatever combination of nuts you choose to use, beforehand. I've never encountered nuts in a recipe that wasn't greatly improved by toasting them first. Be sure to make the sauce first, so that it can be cooled while you're assembling the the baklava -- while you can certainly pour the sauce hot over the baklava, a cool sauce will help ensure that the phyllo stays crisp. Chop the nuts as fine as you can without turning them into powder. Finally, when you're cutting the baklava into triangles/squares, don't cut all the way down to the bottom, so the sauce soaks into more top layers. And yes, it is best to pre-cut the baklava. Once it's baked the phyllo will shatter at the slightest resistance, which makes for a much less attractive finish.
Just out of the oven.
After sauce as been poured over the top.
Full disclosure: This recipe was a bit sweet for me. I tend to like my sweets very easy on the sugar. Next time I'd probably make half the amount of syrup, or cut the sugar at least by that amount. I'd leave the honey as it is -- baklava should taste richly of honey.
- 1 8oz package phyllo dough
- 1/2 lb chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp honey
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottoms and sides of an 8x8-inch square pan.
- Toast the walnuts for 10 minutes.
- Make the sauce by boiling the sugar and water until the sugar is melted. Add the vanilla and honey, bring it to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Place this mixture directly into the refrigerator and get it cooling.
- Toss the chopped walnuts with the cinnamon and set aside.
- Unroll the phyllo dough. Cut the stack of sheets to fit your pan, or keep them intact and use the "fold over" method when layering (leaving the overhanging dough where it is, then folding over when a new layer is required).
- Layer two sheets of dough into the pan, then brush with the melted butter. Make sure you get the edges. You may need to occasionally reheat the butter in the microwave to ensure a liquid consistency. Repeat this layering until 8-10 sheets are layered.
- As evenly as possible, sprinkle 3-4 tablespoons of the walnut mixture onto a buttered layer of phyllo. Top this with two sheets of dough, brush with butter, then repeat with the nuts and keep layering. The top layer should be 8-10 sheets.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into triangles or squares, nearly to the bottom of the pan.
- Bake for about 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
- Remove the baklava from the oven and pour the cooled sauce over it, getting it into every nook and cranny.
- Serve when completely cool.