Recipe of the Day
In the lands of the Fertile Crescent during the bygone ages, when the affluent held their banquets, Arab sweets reached their height of magnificence. At any of these feasts, pastries similar to baklawa, the king of Arab pastry, were prepared in their lavish forms. The paper-thin dough used to prepare these sweets the shredded version known as kunafa, is the base of the many varieties of syrup-soaked-sweets found on the dessert tables of these ancient lands and later in Eastern Europe to where they were introduced by the Ottoman Turks. Today baklawa and similar sweets are found in many large urban centers throughout the world.
Makes 24 to 35 pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange blossom water – found in all Middle Eastern stores
2 cups walnuts, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 cups clarified butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 package phyllo (filo) sheets
To make the syrup, place sugar and water in a saucepan then place over medium heat and stir constantly until sugar is thoroughly dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 12 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to simmer for further 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the orange blossom water. Allow to cool somewhat but keep warm. Set aside until pastry is ready.
Combine walnuts, sugar, 1/4 cup of the butter, cinnamon and orange blossom water; then set aside.
Butter well a 9 X 13-inch baking pan.
Remove phyllo (filo) sheets from the package, unroll and spread out on a towel. Be careful to cover the unused sheets with a very lightly damped towel or cling-wrap to prevent it from drying out as you work. Take one sheet and place in the baking pan, folding back any overlap, then brush with butter. Keep repeating the procedure until one-half of package is used. Place walnut mixture over buttered layers then spread evenly.
Take one sheet of phyllo (filo) and spread over walnut mixture and gently brush with butter then continue this procedure until remainder of the dough is used.
Heat remaining butter then pour evenly over dough.
Preheat oven to 400° F.
With a sharp knife, carefully cut into approximately 2-inch square or diamond shapes. Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 300° F and bake for 45 minutes or until the sides turn light brown.
After the sides of the baklawa turn light brown, place under broiler, then turn pan around until top of baklawa turns evenly golden. Remove from oven, then immediately spoon syrup over each square or diamond. Allow to cool before serving.