In my quest to combine Pacific Northwest foods with Persian foods, I decided to jump into making one of the foods that has always intimidated me – baklava. Not just any baklava, but I wanted to experiment with using hazelnuts and walnuts. Not only that, but I decided to bring my love for orange juice-based doughs into making the syrup. Lots of uncertainty, of fiddling with ratios… it shouldn’t have worked…but it did!
The orange juice and the cardamom paired really well, as did the hazelnuts and walnuts. We brought it to a dinner party and it was devoured.
And the best part is that it really wasn’t hard to make, just a little patience. It was more like an arts and crafts project than a cooking project. Whatever it was, it was very rewarding.
Inspired by the Delicious Crescent
8 oz phyllo dough thawed (1/2 package of 9×14” sheets)
6 oz butter unsalted, to make brown butter
4 oz walnuts, finely chopped, about 1 cup chopped
4 oz hazelnuts, finely chopped, about 1 cup chopped
1/8 cup sugar
½ tsp cardamom
1 cup orange juice
½ cup honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice
honey for drizzling during assembly
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
Thaw and Prepare the Phyllo Dough
Thaw the phyllo dough following the package instructions, then let it come to room temp by placing on kitchen counter for 2 hours.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently. The butter will foam then subside and the milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the mild solids are an amber color and the butter has a nutty aroma. Be careful not to burn the butter.
Using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, strain the butter into a small saucepan (you may need to reheat the butter before using, if it solidifies)
In a medium saucepan, heat the orange juice and lemon juice to boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes and add the honey. Continue to simmer 5 minutes more, until the syrup thickens a little.
Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once it is cooled, the consistency should be in between maple syrup and honey, you don’t want it too thick.
Pulse walnuts and hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar and cardamom and pulse to combine.
Gently warm the brown butter to melt it if it has solidified, but don’t make it hot, just melted.
Unroll the phyllo dough and cover with waxed paper and a damp (wringed out) towel.
Note: If there are 20 sheets in the package, you will be layering them in stacks of 8 in bottom, 4 in middle, and 8 on top, as below in baklava assembly.
Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan with butter. Place one phyllo sheet in the pan and brush with butter, starting with the edges and working in to the center of the sheet (this will help keep the edges from drying out and cracking). Place another sheet on top and brush it with butter. Repeat until you have 8 buttered phyllo sheets in the bottom of pan.
Spread half of the nut filling evenly over the buttered phyllo sheets. Drizzle lightly with honey.
Place a phyllo sheet over the nut filling. Brush butter on the top of that sheet once again. Repeat with 3 more phyllo sheets, pressing down on each sheet before buttering it.
Spread the remaining nut mixture evenly on the phyllo dough, press down and drizzle with a little honey.
Place a phyllo sheet over the nut filling. Brush butter on the top of that sheet once again. Repeat with 7 more phyllo sheets, pressing down on each sheet before buttering it. After buttering the last sheet, drizzle it with the left over brown butter.
Heat the oven to 350F. While it is heating, if you can, place the pan in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes, or the fridge for an hour or so. Remove and, with a sharp knife, trim any excess phyllo sheets. Cut the baklava lengthwise into 2-inch strips. Then cut diagonal lines to create diamond shaped pieces.
Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes. Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool for about 2 hours. Warm up the syrup and pour it over the cooled baklava. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
Let it soak 6 hours or overnight for the syrup to be absorbed. Cut through the layers again before serving.
The baklava can be stored at room temperature for two weeks, lightly covered with a tea towel.