Happy Endings

The other day, I was talking with a friend on the phone and told her that I was putting together some baklava. "Bak-who?" was her answer. After a brief description of this yummy Middle Eastern dessert that combines crispy filo dough, a sweetened nut filling and a spiced honey coating, she said, "Wow, that sounds good." It's not an unexpected response.

Baklava is a great treat, but one that is rarely put together by the home chef. Why? I have one answer: filo dough is often a challenge to work with. So this month, I'm trying to make the process easier with a few tips and a couple changes to the original methods.

The first and most important rule of working with filo dough is make certain that the dough is completely thawed before you begin working with it. That means a few hours on the counter or a full 24 hours in the refrigerator. Then, once you're ready to begin, take out a little insurance by wrapping the sheets of filo in waxed paper and laying a damp towel over the top. This will help keep them from drying out as you're working with them, which can be one of the most difficult aspects of working with filo dough.

A couple of things about this recipe make it a little easier than other baklava recipes. First, instead of brushing butter by hand over each layer as you put it in place, I recommend using butter-flavored cooking spray. While I might opt for real butter in other filo dough applications, baklava ends up coated in a sweet honey syrup that makes telling the difference difficult. If you want a more traditional recipe, by all means use real melted butter. But be careful not to rip the tender sheets of filo dough! The second thing that makes this recipe a bit easier is a tip I gathered from a magazine called Cuisine at Home. They recently featured a recipe for baklava that involved spreading the filling over whole sheets of filo dough and carefully wrapping it up in a jelly-roll fashion. So, instead of fussing with cutting sheets of filo to make individual triangles of baklava, you make a jelly roll, score it into serving-size pieces and dip the final product into a spiced honey mixture. It's faster, easier and every bit as wonderful as the original in my opinion. Many thanks to the folks at Cuisine at Home for helping me to simplify my own version of this tasty treat. With a recipe this simple, baklava might find its way onto the menu in more homes after all!

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!

Easy Baklava

  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 2/3 c. toasted walnuts
  • 2/3 c. shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. sliced almonds
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
  • 12 sheets frozen filo dough -- thawed
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray

In a medium saucepan, combine the 3/4 cup sugar, honey, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a tall measuring glass to cool.

Meanwhile, chop the walnuts and pistachio nuts and combine them with the 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, sliced almonds and sesame seeds.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, carefully lay one sheet of filo dough flat. Lightly spray it with the butter-flavored cooking spray. Continue this process until you have 4 layers of sprayed filo on the baking sheet. Spread about one-third of the nut mixture evenly over the top sheet and then carefully roll the sheet up, jelly-roll style. Spray the top of the roll with the butter-flavored cooking spray and set the roll near the top of the baking sheet. Repeat this procedure twice more, for a total of three rolls. Using a sharp knife, carefully score the rolls to make five pieces per roll. Do not cut all the way through the rolls!

Bake the rolls in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until the rolls are golden and crispy. Using the same knife, cut the rolls completely through. Using a pair of tongs, dip each piece briefly in the syrup mixture and set on a wire rack to cool and dry, moving to a serving tray after about an hour.

  • Yields: 15 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes