Nomtastic! Orange Mulled Spice Baklava

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4 Comments
Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Searching for a last minute baked good for your holiday gathering that is sure to impress? Try baklava! That almost magical concoction of layered phyllo dough, butter, walnuts, and sweet honey syrup that you find in bakeries or at international fairs as a representation of Greek cuisine is actually something you can make at home, and your family will marvel at your mad pastry skills, guaranteed. 

This version is extra festive because there is orange zest in the filling and the honey syrup the finished dessert is soaked in is infused with mulling spices and fresh squeezed orange juice. It's also not very technically difficult to make, but it does involve some assembly time. It's great though because it's a repetitive, relaxing assembly, during which your mind can wander and you don't have to be stressing out and super focused on doing each step perfectly.

I'm not a huge walnut fan; baklava is one of the foods I'll tolerate and even enjoy them in. So in this version I don't use a lot, and I process them pretty fine, since I don't care for huge chunks of walnut. But that's just my personal preference. Plus, nuts are pricey, and using a smaller amount worked great for me. A lot of recipes I've seen also call for a full 16 ounce box of phyllo dough, but I used the Athens brand which came with two 8 ounce rolls, and I used just one, which made for a slightly shorter baklava but sure cut down on assembly time and gave me an extra roll to make another one later. And these are plenty rich without the extra layers. I recommend the Athens brand because the sheets are the perfect size to fit inside a 9 X 13 pan with no trimming needed. I also had a minimal amount of tearing, which made things easier too.


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Here are some of the ingredients you'll be needing:


While you preheat your oven to 350 degrees, use a food processor to process 8 ounces shelled walnuts, the zest of two oranges (save them as you'll need the juice for the honey syrup), 1 tablespoon baking cocoa, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2/3 cup sugar until the walnuts are finely chopped.



Prepare your work space. You'll need a 9 X 13 pan lined with foil, your walnut mixture, 1 cup melted butter and a pastry brush,  8 ounces of thawed phyllo dough and a slightly damp paper towel to set over it while you're working to keep it from drying out.
                                                                                                                                     


Brush the bottom of the pan with butter, and layer three sheets of phyllo dough in the pan, buttering each layer.


After you butter the third sheet, sprinkle 1/4 cup walnut mixture over the top. Keep repeating this process: single phyllo sheet, butter, walnut mixture. You will probably run out of the mixture with a few sheets left, just continue layering with butter until you're finished.


Butter the top sheet and score the baklava carefully into triangles. I got 30 pieces from the pan. Pop into the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.



While that bad boy is baking, make the honey syrup. Wrap up a tablespoon or two of mulling spices in some cheesecloth if you have it. You can add them loose, but you'll just have to strain the syrup before you add it to the baklava. Combine 1 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 3/4 cup squeezed orange juice from your oranges,  1/3 cup water, and two cinnamon sticks in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer to reduce for about ten minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and spice sachet.



Pour syrup over warm baklava after you remove it from the oven. Let cool, cover, and set for several hours or overnight. These taste best after they've had time to soak up all that spiced honey goodness!



And there you have it! Flaky, sticky, buttery- sweet baklava...guaranteed to make you a holiday hero!



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4 comments :

  1. I love baklava and this sounds amazing. I'll be sharing this on my FB. Thanks!
    Happy holidays!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Iris! This was literally my second time making baklava, but I think it turned out really well. Even G's not-too-adventurous-when-it-comes-to-food family thought it was yummy!

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  2. Wow! This sounds delightful! I've only had baklava once. It was for my cultural appreciation class when I went back to college to get a different degree. We all had to bring in a dish from a specific culture (mine was Russia), and someone brought in baklava. It was lovely! This recipe sounds like a nice twist to the original dish. Thanks for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! Yes, baklava always makes me think of international fairs and bakeries and always seemed way too hard and exotic to make at home, but it's really not.

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Please leave me comments if anything strikes your fancy or if you have any helpful suggestions. Remember, I'm no expert and am just sharing my truth. Hopefully you will find something useful to take with you!

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