1 cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves, whole
2 tbsp brandy (optional)
2 cups walnuts or almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
1/2 cup unsalted butter
10 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
Step 1: In a small saucepan bring the syrup ingredients (excluding the brandy) to a boil over high heat. Stir occasionally. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Using a spoon, remove any foam that forms at the surface.
Step 2: Add the brandy if desired. Set aside and let it cool completely.
Step 3: For the baklava, mix the walnuts with the breadcrumbs, sugar, ground cinnamon and ground cloves in a bowl and set aside.
Step 4: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and skim any foam. Use only the clarified butter and avoid the white milk solids that have settled at the bottom of the pan.
Step 5: Lay one phyllo sheet in front of you horizontally and cover the remaining sheets with a damp cloth to avoid drying out. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the phyllo with some melted butter.
Step 6: Grab the right end of the phyllo sheet and fold the phyllo in half like a book. Lightly brush with some more butter.
Step 7: Spoon 3 tbsp of the nut mixture along the narrow end of the phyllo leaving a 1/2″ border. Fold the sides over to enclose the filling and roll up. Lay the baklava cigar in a 9″ x 13″ metal cake pan, seam-side down and brush the top with some butter.
Step 8: Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of phyllo.
Step 9: Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score (cut most of the way through) each roll in half without cutting all the way through the filling.
Step 10: Sprinkle some water on top of the baklava and place the pan in the middle of a preheated 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until golden-brown and crisp.
Step 11: Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup on top of the hot baklava. The syrup should sizzle as it touches the phyllo pastry.
Step 12: Let the baklava sit covered in plastic wrap at room temperature for several hours or overnight before serving so that the phyllo pastry has had time to absorb the syrup.
Step 13: Cut along the scored lines again all the way through to the bottom of the pan and serve.
Make Ahead: Baklava can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days. Baklava also freezes well before and after baking.
Makes 20 rolls
Reprinted with permission from Betty, Eleni and Samantha Bakopoulos’ Three Sisters Around the Greek Table (2009 Adelfes).