I needed a few letters of recommendations for a scholarship, and I've also always wanted to try making baklava. And so it's come to this - bribery.
Actually, I think it's good to do nice things for your letter-writers, since you inevitably go back to them over and over, and it seems wrong to give actual thank-you gifts, however small they may be. Baked goods fit the bill very well as a nice thing to do that (theoretically) you haven't spent real money on. This recipe costs about $10 to make (there's about $6 worth of nuts), and depending on how you cut the pieces, it makes at least 24 servings.
This recipe is delicious, and it made for perfect little casual packages.
Baklava is a bit of trouble, but there's nothing complicated about it. Here's the recipe.
- 1 1/3 cup water
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or a good liquor
- 2/3 cups honey
- 1 pound chopped nuts (I used walnuts and some pistachios, until I got tired of shelling them)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 16-ounce package phyllo dough
- 1 cup butter, melted
Make the syrup first: Bring sugar and water to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Add honey and vanilla, and let simmer 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9x13" pan.
Toss the chopped nuts in cinnamon.
Unroll the phyllo dough, and place two sheets into the bottom of the pan. If the sheets are too big, fold them back in at the edges. Brush thoroughly with melted butter (sheets don't need to be saturated with butter). Repeat until you've layered eight sheets. Sprinkle three tablespoons of nuts on top. Repeat - two sheets of phyllo, brush with butter, sprinkle with nuts - until you've used your nuts and you have about six to eight sheets left. Leave these layers free of nuts.
Use a sharp knife to cut into diamonds - cut six rows lengthwise, then make diagonal cuts parallel to each other, beginning at the top of each row.
Bake for 50 minutes, until baklava is golden.
Remove baklava from the oven, and immediately pour cool syrup on top. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers.
Cover only loosely; otherwise baklava will get soggy.