To be fair, that ship sailed a really long time ago. To quote one of my favorite Gilmore Girls' episodes, "It's probably in Fiji by now." Not that I mind - I can't think of anyone I'd rather be than my mother when I grow up (if I ever do).
However, today I took a really, really FUN step in becoming my mother: making her famous baklava. Before we go any further, I'd like to point out that we're not actually Greek. Not even a little bit. Mom just really likes baklava, so she learned to make it - and tonight, so did I.
B has been in Pittsburgh for work since Monday, and his work travel isn't always the smoothest, so I decided to make him a treat for his return. I tossed around the ideas of some kind of berry pie, or cake, or crumble, because it's berry season and I know he loves blueberries. But nothing really seemed to jump out at me. And then, lo and behold, I received inspiration from the shopping gods. I was in TJ Maxx and saw a basting brush, which I have been meaning to get for some time. And then it hit me: baklava.
B loves my mommy's baklava. Every time we see my parents she makes him a pan because she knows he loves it. But that's just it: he loves her baklava. So it's a little intimidating for me to take this recipe that my mother has perfected and attempt it myself. The only way this could possibly be any worse is if I was trying to make a recipe from his mother.
I was a little nervous, but B actually wound up being able to come home five hours earlier than expected, and the baklava wasn't a surprise; he was watching TV while I made it. But he was really excited I made it nonetheless, and that makes me grateful. His encouragement, in anything, means the world to me.
So how do you make this stuff? First, you find a really cute cooking buddy.
Seriously, I could not get rid of furry girl tonight. She's been a little needy lately - I think it's because her daddy has been traveling.
Just kidding. You don't really need a dog for the recipe. You DO need, however, 1 cup finely chopped pecans, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon ground allspice. Combine all that in a bowl and mix it well, then set it aside. It should look something like this:
Melt 1 1/4 cup butter. This is not a recipe for the health-focused. I do have some healthy recipes, so if that's what you're here for, stick with me. Maybe skip this post and go back and read the one about collard greens.
Seriously, it's a lot of butter.
Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. Coat the bottom of the pan with butter. Don't be shy now, y'all. Lather that thing up. Then begin layering the Phyllo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
My very first layer of Phyllo dough.
Layer 10 sheets of Phyllo in the pan. After 10 sheets, sprinkle one-third (1/3) of the pecan and brown sugar mixture over the dough.
My first layer of nut mixture.
Continue this until you run out of nut mixture and Phyllo dough. Once you finish, cut into diamond shapes using a sharp knife. Do not cut through the bottom layer; it helps keep the glaze in. And don't feel bad if you're like me and can't cut in a straight line:
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned. It should look something like this:
Let the baklava cool completely. While it's cooling, combine 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then drizzle syrup over the baklava. Let cool, then cover and let stand at room temp for 24 hours - if you can keep your hands out of it for that long!
The finished product and B's hand.
The layering and buttering of the Phyllo dough takes a little time (and patience), but overall the recipe was MUCH easier than I expected. However, the success of this recipe isn't how easy it is - it's whether my travel-weary boyfriend liked it or not. So what's the verdict?
B's first comment was, "Good." When I explained that I was gonna need a little more detail than that, he said the bottom was too "done," but that may have been because I used a Pyrex dish. When I inquired as to the flavor, he said, "Good. Thing." I took that as a cue to quit asking questions. A good girlfriend knows when she's gotten all she's going to get, and shuts up accordingly. Ha.
So I tried it myself. And I have to admit, he's kind of got a point. It's a little crispier than my mother's, but the flavor was great. It's buttery, gooey, nutty goodness...what's not to love? Also, my mom's baklava has generally "set" for a day before it reaches us, so that may account for its being a little softer than mine.
The best part? In tiny bits and pieces, I'm becoming more of my mother every day, which is always a win in my book. You wanna be like Mama P, too? Check out her recipe below.
Mama P's Famous Nutty Baklava
(or is it Nutty Mama P's Famous Baklava? I never know...)
1 (16-oz) package frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1 1/4 C butter, melted
1 C finely chopped pecans
1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 C sugar
1/2 C water
1/4 C honey
Combine nuts, brown sugar and allspice and stir well; set aside.
Melt butter. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. Coat the bottom of the pan really well with butter.
Layer 10 sheets of Phyllo in the pan, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
After 10 sheets, sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture over the Phyllo.
Repeat the procedure twice more with remaining nut mixture and Phyllo dough. You will end with the buttered Phyllo.
Cut the dough into diamond shapes using a sharp knife. Do not cut through the bottom layer of dough.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until top is browned.
Let cool completely.
For the glaze, combine sugar, water and honey in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and drizzle syrup over baklava.
Cover, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.