This past Sunday, The Spring Cottage verandah played host to the surprise 60th birthday celebrations of a very popular family friend. To help feed her flood of admirers, I promised weeks ago that I'd make a big baklava. After checking out several recipes online, I used this one as my guide for assembling the layers. This was my first attempt at a baklava as I'd always assumed it was difficult to make.  Luckily the whole process was much simpler and less time consuming than I'd anticipated, and the result was well, well, worth the effort it does entail! I had so many compliments from the party guests, including a Greek caterer {I was thrilled at that}! Mr. Spring even declared this to be the best dessert I've ever made. High praise indeed.

Ingredients: 1 package phyllo pastry • 1 cup melted butter. The stack of phyllo sheets must be kept covered with a damp tea towel so it doesn't dry out as the dish is being assembled.

Filling: 1 lb crushed nuts {I used a combination of walnuts, pistachios, and peacans} • 1 tbs cinnamon

So the base layers wouldn't get soggy and fall apart, I placed 8 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the baking dish, then brushed the top with melted butter and began layering the nut mixture with butter-brushed pastry sheets.

When I ran out of nuts, I stacked the remaining pasty sheets on top of each other, brushing butter in between each layer. Before going into the pre-heated 180 oven, I scored the top layers of pastry in a diamond pattern so the syrup would be able to sink in after baking. I baked the dish for 35 minutes uncovered, and then for another 45 minutes under foil. With the dish in the oven, I then prepared the syrup.

Syrup: 1 cup honey • 3/4 cup brown sugar • 1 cup water • juice of 1 lemon. Bring to a boil and sustain at a medium heat for 10 minutes so the syrup will slightly thicken. Next time I'll use a larger pot for this, as the mixture bubbles up so high I had to keep taking it off the heat and stirring to avoid it spilling out all over the stove. 

Let the honey mixture cool so it absorbs better into the baklava. When the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over top and let it soak in before serving. Cut into pieces and wait for the chorus of praise!

Catherine Roberts