Baklava is a rich dessert, made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with sugar syrup or honey. Many ethnic groups such as the Greek, Turkish and Egyptians claim Baklava as their own. We ate loads of Baklava, growing up in the Middle East. And we will continue eating it, come rain or sunshine. Often scalding our tongues, but never learning a lesson. It’s that good! While the Baklava Conflict continues, we go on making it at home.
Make the Baklava filling: Crush 2 cups pistachios, 1 cup hazel nuts, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, a pinch of powdered cloves and 2 tbs sugar, in a grinder.
Make the syrup: Boil 2 cups of water with 1 cup of pure honey, 1/2 cup of sugar, a stick of cinnamon, 1 tbs orange blossom water (you may use vanilla extract, but it does not taste the same; try to get hold of orange blossom extract from a Middle Eastern store) and 1 tbs lemon juice. Boil until the sugar dissolves well and the syrup thickens. Cool.
Thaw the filo pastry sheets. Pre-heat oven. Grease a baking tray with butter. Line it with a filo sheet and brush with butter using a pastry brush (not too much or the sheets will get soggy) Trim the edges to fit the pan. Keep lining with pastry sheet over pastry sheet, greasing them with butter for about 7 layers. Put half of the nut mix on the the top layer. Layer with 7 more filo sheets and top with mixture. Keep layering until the sheets are over. Make diagonal cuts over the dish with a sharp knife (but not until the bottom layer, because the syrup will seep through and line the bottom of the pan) Bake for 40 minutes, checking in between to make sure it’s cooked through and not burned, as oven temperatures may vary.
Pour the cooled syrup evenly over the hot Baklava.
Baklava tastes best when allowed to sit for 3-4 hours, after the syrup has seeped through. Garnish with crushed pistachios and serve, watching it disappearing quickly.