Baklava is a traditional Greek dessert, made of layers of pastry sheets (phyllo), butter, and chopped nuts.
I really wanted to make baklava using chopped pistachios, but alas, I couldn't find any shelled pistachios in bulk at the grocery store. Bah! So I made it with walnuts, instead. Equally tasty.
First off, I made a sugar syrup using white sugar, water, some lemon juice, and a bit of cinnamon. I let it come to a boil, and then set it aside to cool.
Then, I needed some clarified butter. I melted down some unsalted butter in a pan, over low heat -- just until it was foamy. I poured the melted butter into a glass bowl (so I could see through it), and let it sit for a few minutes. Eventually, the butter settles into 3 layers, like so:
The bottom layer is the milk solids, the middle is the clarified butter, and the top is the foam. I scooped off the foamy top layer with a spoon, and poured out the clarified butter into another bowl, leaving the milk solids behind.
I had some thawed phyllo dough (just the normal stuff you get in the freezer section of the grocery store). I unrolled the sheets and covered them with a towel to keep them from drying out as I worked. Then, layered down one phyllo sheet in the baking pan, brushed it all over with a thin layer of clarified butter, and repeated until I had three sheets stacked. Like so:
Then, I scooped about half a cup of chopped nuts on top. (This bowl looks kinda empty, but I had a LOT more before -- I just forgot to take the picture until I was towards the end.) There's a little bit of white sugar and lemon zest mixed into the chopped nuts, too, by the way.
I kept going -- sheet, butter, sheet, butter, sheet, butter, nuts -- until I ended with a top layer of sheets. I buttered down the top layer, and cut through JUST the top sheets with a sharp knife -- cutting them like you would if you were really cutting up pieces. It is my theory that this makes the top layer nice and crispy as it bakes.
The baklava went into the oven. Then, when it was done, I immediately poured the sugar syrup I first made (now cool) all over the hot baklava.
The syrup has a sort of... deglazing effect? The cool sugar syrup shocked the hot baklava, sizzling all over the bottom of the baking dish, and absorbed into the pastry.
Then, cut through the initial cuts, all the way down, and set the pieces out to cool completely before eating.
Yum. Gosh, I love these things.