I can't believe my countdown is already over. I had so much fun doing it and I hope you guys enjoyed it too. I am going to start another one the beginning of December. But you guys tell me.....would you rather have a countdown of my Top 10 Appetizers or my Top 10 Meals? Let me know, and we'll go from there.
Okay, this is my all-time favorite dessert. Paklava as I know it or Baklava as you may know it. We don't make it that often, usually around Christmas time. And we can't wait every time it is made. It is time consuming but worth it. I hope this holiday season you will give it a try!
2 pkgs. (16 oz./each) Fillo(Phyllo) Dough
6 cups finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup sugar
5 sticks unsalted butter
2-3 cups honey
Crush nuts in food processor as finely as possible. Empty into a bowl and add sugar (the sugar is added to eliminate the bitter taste of the nuts - add more if you need to). Mix well and set aside. Next, melt 5 sticks of the butter in a saucepan. Meanwhile, unwrap the Fillo dough and unroll flat - cover with a slightly damp dish towel to keep sheets of dough from drying out. Generously brush the melted butter on the bottom of a 10x15 inch jelly roll pan. Begin by placing two sheets of fillo dough on one side of the jelly roll pan (width wise). Fold up the edge that overlaps at the bottom of the pan, then carefully set two more sheets on the other side and fold up that edge also so that the fillo dough sheets are flat on the bottom of the pan - the sheets will overlap in the center - that's OK. Now generously butter these two sheets of dough as you will for each layer. Then add two more sheets of dough. When you add your next row of fillo dough, fold up the overlapping dough at the top of the pan and rotate each row after that (the next row would be folded over at the bottom again - this keeps the layers even. Continue this process until you have 14 sheets of fillo dough on each side (total of 28 sheets). Make sure to generously butter those last sheets of fillo dough before adding the nut filling. Next, pour the nuts on top of the fillo dough and spread evenly (you may use less nuts if you prefer - you can make the nut filling as thick or thin as you like). Now take 2 more sheets of dough and butter the bottom side that you will put down on the nuts. These sheets that overlap will be rolled under instead of over - rotate the overlapping from bottom to top also. Then continue to brush each double layer with a good amount of butter until you have 12 sheets of fillo dough on each side (total of 24 sheets). Brush the last layer of dough very generously with butter. Now preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Now it's time to cut the Paklava. Now you are going to cut lines to form the diamond shapes. Cut one line down the center - make sure the cut goes to the bottom of the pan - remember you are cutting through 26 layers of fillo dough along with the thickness of the nut filling. (This is much easier than it sounds). Next, evenly cut down the center of both sides from the center cut and then again evenly cut down the center of those sides until you have eight even columns or rows. Now, you are going to cut diagonally, starting with first row (on the left side of your pan) cut a diagonal line at the bottom of the first row. Then go up a bit in the first row and cut another diagonal line that will extend to the second row (you will always be moving to the right as you make diagonal lines). Then, go up a bit more in the first row and cut a diagonal line that will extend to the third line. Continue this pattern until all the diagonal have been cut. You should have 8-9 diamonds in each row. After all the diamonds are cut, warm up remaining butter and carefully drizzle the outer edges of the pan and then down each row of cut lines. Bake on third rack from bottom of oven for 15-20 minutes (until dough is puffy and slightly showing a pinkish/light brown color). Now move the oven rack up a couple of slots and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown (watch baking carefully). Remove from oven and completely cool. Next, slightly warm up honey on stove top. Spoon warm honey all around perimeter of jelly roll pan and down each row and diagonal cuts - the honey will soak in after a few minutes. After 10-15 minutes, check to see if it looks like there is enough honey, add more to your taste. Lastly, sprinkle vanilla sugar generously all over the top of the Paklava (the more the better). The vanilla sugar can be purchased from the market or make your own - take a vanilla bean root (stem) and stick it inside a container filled with white sugar and let sit for many days. The vanilla flavor will saturate the sugar and give you homemade vanilla sugar that can be used in many other recipes or in your favorite coffee or tea. ENJOY!!!