Perhaps the most famous of all Greek desserts, baklava is synonymous with all things Mediterranean and the quintessential after-dinner syrupy sweet, made from pure honey.
According to Chef Maria Loi, baklava’s origins trace back to gastrin — a popular sweet delicacy prepared by the Ancient Greeks that was the precursor to baklava — incorporating sesame seeds, pepper, poppy seeds and “petimezi,” a sweetener from grapes.
Chef Loi, who serves her famous Kyklos Baklava at her eponymous Greek restaurant in the heart of New York City, shared her recipe with The Pappas Post in honor of National Baklava Day.
Chef Maria Loi’s Kyklos Baklava
** MAKES 40 **
- 1 cup blanched almonds
- 2 cups walnuts ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Greek olive oil (Buy your Greek extra virgin olive oil here)
- Sesame oil (light or dark) One 1-pound package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
For the syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup Greek honey (Buy your Greek honey here)
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- In a food processor, roughly chop the almonds and transfer to a large bowl. Lightly chop the walnuts or crush them with the side of a knife and add them to the almonds. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon.
- In a small bowl, mix together equal parts of Greek olive oil and sesame oil. Have a pastry brush ready.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- On a work surface, lay out 2 sheets of phyllo dough. Place 1 on top of the other. Using the pastry brush, lightly brush the top of the sheets with the oil mixture. Sprinkle with some of the nut mixture. Arrange 2 sheets of phyllo on top and lightly brush with the oil. Continue to layer the oil-brushed phyllo sheets with the filling 4 or 5 more times.
- Top this layered phyllo pastry with 2 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with some of the oil.
- Separately, brush 3 sheets of phyllo with oil and stack them on top of one another. Roll the layered nuts and phyllo pastry up in the 3 sheets of phyllo, enclosing the pastry completely, to help make it firm enough to slice Using a sharp knife, slice the roll crosswise on an angle into small rounds.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the pieces of baklava on the baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between them. If necessary, use a second baking sheet so that the baklava will all fit in a single layer.
- Brush the tops of each piece of baklava with some of the oil mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the baklava from the oven and allow it to cool on the baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, prepare the syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together 2 cups water, the sugar, honey, cloves, and cinnamon stick over low heat. When the mixture simmers, continue to cook until the sugar dissolves and the syrup tastes spicy, about 5 minutes.
- Pour the syrup over the cooled baklava and let the baklava rest for about 1 hour to soak up the syrup.
Cook’s note: Be sure to keep the phyllo dough covered with a clean damp kitchen towel as you work so that it will not dry out. And keep in mind that the amounts for the nuts, cinnamon, and sugar listed in the recipe are guidelines. Tailor the baklava to your taste.
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