Wild Pecans: Baklava

Three Greek dishes, Baklava on the Right!

Baklava w/ Carolina Pecans & Local Honey
1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped Carolina Pecans or walnuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honeyed Autumn Olive Berries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.

Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.

Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

Helpful HINTS off of Allrecipes.com
I do let the phyllo dough thaw, but do not cut the dough and do not cover it while layering. I just drape the bottom half over the pan and then fold the top half over it, “painting” a thin layer of butter quickly. I use a new and clean basting paint brush, to spread a very thin layer of butter between each phyllo sheet. It is only necessary to lightly brush on the butter, not saturate. The more wrinkles the sheet has in it, the better. You just keep putting and folding the edges and that ends up making the baklava more layered and crispy. If it turns out soggy, it’s from too much butter, not the sauce. Also, when you cut the Baklava before you bake it, use a sharp knife and cut to within a half inch FROM the bottom of the pan, so then when you pour the sauce into the cooled Baklava, the sauce seeps into every layer of the Baklava, but doesn’t sit at the bottom. Then, cut all the way thru after the whole thing has completely cooled.

I have made it dozens of times, and without fail it always impresses. You should follow these tips that are suggested by other reviewers: 1) Lightly roast nuts prior to chopping (I always use walnuts). 2) Make 1 1/2 times sauce recipe calls far. 3) Make sauce AHEAD of recipe, and put in the fridge to cool. By pouring the cool syrup on the warm baklava it will turn out crispy. 4) Cook at 325F until browned on top (I have found 350F a little too high)