It’s paklava time! As promised, I’m going to share the recipe for this Armenian favorite. Everyone likes paklava; this is a universal truth. For this reason, paklava makes the ultimate Christmas and/or going away present. Non-Armenians think it’s a special treat, because they don’t know how to make it, and I suppose that they don’t know that you can buy it at the Middle Eastern store whenever you want. You will look like a superstar when you share this dessert with a group of non-Armenians.
Those of you who know me know that I just FINALLY finished my last year of fellowship. As a going away treat for my clinic and research group, I brought paklava. Since the last time I made it (residency Christmas gift for clinic) was a huge success, I figured it would be this time, too. I think I was right.
Paklava is actually pretty easy to make, but it does take a little practice to get it right. Paklava uses fillo (or phyllo) dough, which can be a little temperamental. The dough comes frozen in a box of about 18-20 sheets. Each sheet is extremely delicate. The box has to first be defrosted; then, the sheets have to be carefully unfolded. If they’re still frozen in any way, they’ll crack. While separating the sheets of dough, some may stick together. It just requires a little patience and a tiny bit of skill to separate the sheets from one another. Once you get the hang of it, it’s really not bad.
You’ll notice that this recipe is different from the greek baklava (with a B). Most notably, we put all the walnuts in one middle layer, and our syrup doesn’t use honey. Both taste great, but I like this one better (obviously). You can try out different recipes to see what you like.
|Note the crumpled up piece of dough at the top of the image. Even I can’t escape the occasional ripped piece of dough.|
In a bowl, mix together cinnamon and walnuts.
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 3 sticks (1½ cups) butter, melted, most of the white foam and solids skimmed off
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 lb (1 box) 13" x 18" (or 14" x 18") phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator
- Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar has dissolved completely, remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice. Cool completely and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of a 9" by 13" sheet tray with a thin layer of butter.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the walnuts and cinnamon. Reserve.
- Carefully unroll the phyllo dough. If it is AT ALL frozen, stop, and wait until it defrosts.
- Once unrolled, carefully remove 1-2 sheets of dough, and place them down on the sheet tray. They should lie completely flat, and fill (or overfill) the tray. You can cut off the excess or just let it come up the side, it doesn't matter. Cover the remaining sheets of dough with a damp towel so they don't dry out.
- Using the pastry brush, brush melted butter all over the phyllo dough in the pan. Then place 1-2 more sheets of dough on top of the buttered dough, and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have placed about 9-10 sheets (or half the dough) in the sheet pan.
- Sprinkle the walnut mixture evenly all over the dough.
- Top the walnut layer with more phyllo dough, and repeat the process of brushing butter over every 1-2 sheets (making sure to cover the remaining dough with the damp towel). When you have run out of dough, brush the top layer of dough with butter. If there is any leftover butter, set aside or toss out.
- To cut the paklava into diamonds, cut every 2 inches (or so) vertically. Next, cut at a 45 degree angle at approximately every 2 inches (refer to the above pictures if this doesn't make sense). Cut carefully with a sharp knife, as layers can be slippery due to all of the butter. Alternatively, you can cut the dough into squares, and cut each square once diagonally to make triangles.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is just turning golden brown.
- Once removed from the oven, pour the cooled syrup all over the paklava, making sure to cover each piece. Allow paklava to cool in the pan.
- Serve either in the pan, or plate each piece on a cupcake liner.