Cyprus – Baklava

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Week two of Cyprus. I was pretty intimidated by the idea of making this. Baklava was Cyprus’ choice of national dish in Cafe Europe, and it seemed only fair to try it for myself, especially as it was Europe Day last week.

Baklava is pretty ancient, the oldest recipe that resembles it originated from the Roman ‘placenta cake’ (not what you’re thinking), from around 2nd century BC. There are many variations of it from around the Levant and surrounding areas. Apparently in Greece, baklava is supposed to be made with 33 layers of filo, which relate to Jesus’ life. I didn’t take that route…

In classic Lizzie fashion, I only bothered to check how many sheets of filo I needed when I was about to start baking. The average pack here comes with 15 sheets of filo, which are marginally larger (10x14in) than the 9x13in tin I was using. I’ve left the recipe as it was, because I think my slight lack of filo meant that I had a serious excess of syrup. But if you, like me, find yourself short of pastry, do better than me, and adjust your syrup quantities down slightly. As with last week’s kalo prama, never pour hot syrup on hot baklava, make sure the baklava is cold before adding syrup.

This post is part of a series called ‘Brexit Baking’, where I bake my way around all 28 EU Member States. You can read more about it here.
IMG_5822tBaklava (recipe from here)

3 cups of roughly ground roasted nuts (2 1/4 cups almonds, 1/4 cup pistachios, 1/2 cup walnuts)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1 pack of filo pastry
1 1/2 cups melted unsalted butter (I ended up using about 3/4 cup, but best to do extra just in case!)
3 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stick cinnamon
3/4 cup good quality honey
6-7 whole cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 150C. Place the nuts, ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar  into a bowl and stir together. Get the filo pastry out of the fridge and leave for 30 mins to let it get to room temperature.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Skim off any foam produced. Remember you may not need all of the butter but it’s better to have more.

3. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan. Using a sharp knife, cut all filo sheets together to form a pile of 9 x 13 inch sheets. If they are slightly larger, that’s okay, they will shrink when they’re cooked (mine were way bigger, maybe don’t follow my example).

4. Butter six sheets of filo. Place each sheet (buttered side up) in the pan, one of top on the other. On top of the six buttered sheets of filo spoon just under half of the nut mixture, spreading it evenly using the back of a spoon.

5. Butter two sheets of filo. Place the sheets in the pan on top of the nut mixture. Then spoon some more of the nut mixture evenly across the filo. Repeat this step until the nut mixture runs out.

6. Once you have spooned the last layer of nut mixture: butter six individual sheets of phyllo. Place each sheet (buttered side up) in the pan, one on top of the other.

7. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo into diamond pieces. Before placing into the oven, wet your hands and sprinkle some of the water on your hands on top of the baklava.

8. Place in the oven for 1.5 hours. Watch the baklava to ensure it does not burn. If it begins to brown too early then cover it with tin foil and turn the heat down 10C and continue to cook. After 1.5 hours, turn the heat down to 90C, remove any tin foil and cook for a further 30 minutes.

9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely – about 2-3 hours. Once the baklava is cooled prepare your syrup. Gently bring to a boil the water, honey, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and lemon juice. Simmer for 10 minutes.

10. Pour the syrup over top the baklava so that it is sitting in about a 1/2 cm of syrup. Let sit for 1 hour. If the syrup has been absorbed, add more syrup so that the baklava is sitting in about 1/2 cm of syrup again. Let it sit for 1 hour. Remove 2 pieces from a corner and set to the side. Gently rest the pan on a tilt for 2 hours to drain the excess syrup. This will ensure that your baklava is crispy on top, and not soggy on the bottom.

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