Sunday, February 13, 2011

a healthier baklava. made with sonoran honey.

it's pretty much an undisputed fact that there's no better mid-afternoon fix than a rich, gooey (and decadent without being pretentious!) piece of baklava.

i wouldn't consider myself a sweet tooth. i'd almost always turn to a mildly sweet cracker or cookie before chowing down on a decadent piece of cheesecake or brownie. but baklava is a whole other thing.

if i may: baklava is perfect. the flakiness of the dough, the intermingling of spices, the crunchiness of the nut mixture, and as i learned during this culinary undertaking, the teamwork that goes into making it (four hands are better than two when you're layering the dough, fyi).

this particular recipe gets its health benefits from substituting honey in for butter. the original calls for wildflower honey, but any runny honey will do. you can also feel free to mix and match whichever nuts you're craving/have on hand.

for the syrup:

1 1/2 cups sonoran honey
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 whole cloves
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

for the filling:

2/3 cup unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup blanched unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt

other stuffs:

cooking spray
24 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed (don't forget to thaw!!)
1 tablespoon water

get crackin':

start by preparing the syrup. combine the honey, 1/2 cup water, juice, cloves, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over low heat. stir until honey is completely dissolved. this should take between 2 and 3 minutes. turn up the heat to medium and then cook, without stirring for 10 minutes. remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm. remove solids and discard. using a slotted spoon if you have one works well for this.preheat oven to 350°.

make the filling by combining pistachios and next 6 ingredients (up until salt). set aside.

now it's time to assemble. lightly coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing end of sheet to extend over edges of dish (see picture above). lightly coat with cooking spray.

repeat this procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and cooking spray for a total of 6 layers. sprinkle phyllo evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 2/3 cup). repeat procedure with phyllo, cooking spray, and nut mixture 2 more times.

top your last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each one lightly coated with cooking spray. lightly coat top phyllo sheet with cooking spray; press baklava gently into pan. sprinkle baklava surface with 1 tablespoon water.

make 3 even lengthwise cuts and 7 even crosswise cuts to form 32 portions using a sharp knife. bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the phyllo is golden brown. remove from oven. and now the clincher! drizzle honey mixture evenly over baklava. cool in pan on a wire rack. eat! and then store covered at room temperature.