Sunday, January 26, 2014

Recipe: Pistachio Baklava with Orange Blossom Syrup

For my mother's birthday celebration, she and my sister and I decided to make a Middle Eastern feast.  My contribution was Pistachio Baklava with Orange Blossom Syrup, a specific request from my mother.

I have been wanting to make baklava for a long time, but never had an excuse to do so.

It was a blast to make, and it was just amazing, if I do say so myself.

The rest of the spread was nothing to shake a stick at...

This baklava has just one layer of nuts in the middle of all the layers of phyllo.  I have seen multi-layered baklava in the past, with walnuts and honey.  This has no honey, but instead a beautiful orange blossom simple syrup.  I think it sang when I poured it over the piping hot baklava.

I hope to have an excuse to make baklava again, in this or other variations.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and oh... oh how delicious.

As a note, I used butter flavored cooking spray between the layers, with just a light brushing of melted butter for flavor.  This is always how I make things with phyllo dough, and though it is not traditional, it is a time saver.  If you prefer, you can use all butter.  The recipe is written with butter.

Pistachio Baklava with Orange Blossom Syrup
(Modified from Food & Cooking of the Middle East)

1/2 c melted butter
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 lb phyllo dough (one box), thawed
2 1/2 c pistachios, chopped
zest of one orange

Orange Blossom Syrup
1 lb granulated sugar
1 c water
2-3 Tbsp orange blossom water
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Mix together the butter and the oil.  Brush a little on the bottom of a 13" x 9" pan.  Lay down a sheet of phyllo, then brush with a little butter and oil.  Lay another sheet on top, and brush with butter and oil mixture.  Continue layering phyllo with butter and oil until half the phyllo is used.

Top with the chopped pistachios mixed with orange zest.

Layer the remaining phyllo on top of the pistachios, brushing each piece with butter and oil, until all of the phyllo is used.  Trim the edges to get rid of any excess phyllo.  Brush the top layer with butter and oil mixture, and then, using a sharp knife, cut diagonal parallel lines through all the layers to form diamond-shaped portions.

Bake, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, make the syrup.  In a heavy saucepan, mix together the sugar and the water.  Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat, stir in the orange blossom water and cardamom, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Leave to cool slightly while the baklava finishes baking.

Can you see it singing with joy at the syrup?
When the baklava is finished baking, pour the syrup over the piping hot pastry.  Put the baklava back into the oven for 3-5 minutes to help the syrup to soak in.

Serve once it is completely cooled.

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