Baklava is a decadent dessert. A classic middle eastern pastry traditionally served in Greek and Turkish cuisine. The delicious sticky pastry is made of crunchy layers of flavorful ground nuts, and delicate phyllo dough drizzled in a candied syrup. The sweet syrup and nut mixtures can be altered to suit your tastes. The citrus flavor of orange peel or floral notes of rose water are favorites when it comes to syrup add-ins. If you're looking to spice up that crunchy nut layer, adding some ground cloves, nutmeg or cardamom may be just the ticket!
Typically this delightful treat is sliced into triangles, diamonds, or squares, and adorned with ground nuts such as pistachios. Baklava is a rich pastry, with a lovely presentation - an impressive ending to any special event.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with butter. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, continually stirring, and then reduce to a light simmer. Add the honey and vanilla. Continue to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Allow the syrup to come to room temperature. Set aside.
Pour the cinnamon in a medium bowl, then carefully finely chop or ground your choice of nuts. Toss the chopped nuts in the cinnamon until they are evenly coated. Set aside.
Chop the butter into several pieces and place in a small bowl. Melt in the microwave, about 1 minute.
Dampen a kitchen towel. Place the damp towel over the dough to keep it moist while you assemble the baklava. Unroll your phyllo dough onto a clean, dry surface.
Using a sharp knife, slice the entire stack of phyllo dough in half to fit the baking dish.
Place two sheets of phyllo dough in the bottom of the baking dish. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter. Continue this step four more times, so you have five layers of phyllo dough on the bottom of the baking dish (each layer lightly spread with butter) Spread about one-quarter of the cinnamon nut mixture onto the dough.
Place another five layers of sheets of phyllo dough on top of the nut mixture, and repeat the same steps as stated in step 6 until the baking dish is about 3/4 of the way full.
Using a sharp knife, cut the unbaked baklava into diamonds or squares. But, when slicing make sure to cut within a half inch from the bottom of the baking dish - doing so prevents the sauce from sinking to the bottom. A sauce that sits at the bottom of the pan will result in soggy baklava.
Place the baklava in the oven on the middle rack — Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Remove the baklava from the oven. Pour the room temperature syrup evenly over the hot baklava. Allow the baklava to sit for 4 hours, so the sweet syrup has a chance to seep into the nook and crannies of the phyllo dough.
Once the baklava has cooled, cut through to the bottom. Serve on a platter. Enjoy!