Recipes by Nancy Johnson | Wine Commentary by Gary Twining
This is not a difficult dessert to make, but it does take time. You can change it up by substituting pistachios or pecans for the walnuts. To clarify butter, remove and discard the frothy top layer from the melted butter.
1 package phyllo dough, defrosted
1 (16-oz) package shelled, unsalted walnuts
2 TBS sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups butter, melted and clarified
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch pan.
In a food processor, mince walnuts. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in sugar and cinnamon.
Unroll phyllo dough. Cover loosely with wrap from packaging to keep phyllo from drying out.
Place 1 sheet of phyllo in prepared pan. Brush entire sheet with butter. (Use a spatula to gently spread the butter. Phyllo rips easily. If it does, don’t worry, just use the ripped pieces, laying them side by side to make a whole sheet). Repeat, covering each sheet with butter until you have 8 layered sheets. Gently spread 2/3 cup of the nut mixture over the top phyllo sheet, spreading all the way to edges. (Go ahead and use your clean hands to gently pat the nut mixture into place if necessary). Repeat three more times, using 6 sheets of phyllo, melted butter on each sheet and 2/3 cup nut mixture on top sheet. Use 10 phyllo sheets for the final layer, brushing each with butter, except the top sheet. Using a spatula, press down on the layers to compress slightly. Spread remaining butter on top sheet.
Using a sharp knife, cut all the way through the layers in a diamond or square pattern. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until golden.
Meanwhile, make honey sauce: in a large saucepan, over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Cook until sugar melts. Add honey, cinnamon stick or cinnamon and vanilla. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick if using.
As soon as baklava comes out of the oven, pour hot honey sauce over the top, making sure sauce soaks down through cut lines. Let cool before serving. Serves about 12.
Gary: Baklava is extremely sweet and rich due to the honey-saturated phyllo. Look for botrytised wines that offer a honeyed overtone to their wines. Late-harvest Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat and Malaga (the most intensely sweet examples), Sauternes/Barsac and Ice wines, particularly those from Ohio or the Niagara Peninsula, would be good choices.