I have a thing for baklava. But I’m particular about it–though I’ve seen (and tasted) many, many versions of it, this recipe has always been my absolute favorite: made with walnuts instead of pistachios and with rose-scented sugar syrup (known as atr) instead of honey. Baklava is a bit labor-intensive, but in the past I had eager young assistants to help cover and uncover the filo dough, and to watch this sweet, crispy, buttery, nutty confection unfold–and then, to help eat it in no time at all. This time, I lacked the assistants but had guests willing to do the honors, so the baklava disappeared just as quickly. Unfortunately, I realized far too late that I had not taken any photos of just one piece of baklava on a plate. I hope the other photos can do it some justice in conveying its deliciousness. The recipe is adapted from Lebanese Cuisine by Madelain Farah.
2 c. sugar
1 c. water
squeeze fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. rose water
1 pkg. filo dough, thawed
2 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. rose water
3 sticks butter, melted
1. Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in sauce pan. Boil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until slightly viscous. Add rose water, remove from heat, and let cool completely. When cool, put in the refrigerator. The syrup must be cold when used later.
1. Combine nuts, sugar, and rose water; set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spray a 9×13 (or 10x 14) baking pan with cooking spray. Unwrap the filo sheets (seen below split into in two packages), keeping unwrapped filo covered with a piece of plastic wrap and a slightly damp kitchen towel. Have melted butter ready. (Note: some recipes call for clarified butter, but this one does not–and the results are equally delicious.)
3. Remove two filo sheets from the stack, place in baking pan, and brush with melted butter. Repeat with more filo sheets, until you have used half of them. Do not brush the top two sheets with butter. Spread walnut filling on top of the unbuttered filo sheets, in an even layer.
4. Continue topping with remaining filo sheets, brushing every two sheets with butter, except the last two. Using a very sharp knife, trim any bits of filo that hang over the edges of the pan, then carefully cut the top of the baklava into a diamond pattern, going only as deep as the walnut layer, not all the way down. Brush butter into the cuts, and across the baklava pieces. This will require a steady hand.
5. Bake the baklava until golden brown–about one hour. Immediately upon removing from oven, spoon cold sugar syrup all over baklava. It’s important to use cold syrup, or the baklava will get soggy. Let cool completely before serving, then cut pieces all the way through and serve.