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Baklava is traditionally layered, alternating nuts and phyllo, creating a delicate and often challenging pastry to cut and serve! Over 25 years ago my yiayia (grandma) visited family in Corinth and brought back a new method of rolling the baklava- the result is wonderful! Dozens of layers all neatly packaged in a piece of baklava that retains it's signature diamond shape! Today it is the only way that I make it and even my church makes their baklava for bake sales using this method. The flavors are very traditional- a touch of cinnamon in the nuts and honey and lemon in the syrup. If you can find FRESH phyllo (try Greek or Italian import stores)- I highly recommend using it. Fresh phyllo is far easier to work with than the frozen boxes found at the supermarket!
- You will need a disposable aluminum baking pan that is 19" long x 12" wide x 2" high.
- Mix the ground nuts, zwibeck/bread crumbs and cinnamon together in a large bowl. You will need a 1/2 cup measuring cup for portioning the mixture. Keep mixture close to your workstation.
- Melt the butter and Crisco over medium-low heat and keep close to your workstation. You will need a pastry brush- 2"- 3" wide works best.
- Open the plastic covering of the phyllo and remove. Lay out on a flat surface and unroll so that the entire sheet is visible. It may be wise to cover with a VERY lightly damp towel so that it does not dry out.
- Take your pastry brush and butter the pan- keep near your workstation.
- On a clean surface, start by taking an entire sheet of phyllo and laying it out in front of you with the long side facing you. Butter the sheet lightly and then place another sheet of phyllo on top of it. Butter this sheet.
- With the two sheets in front of you, take the next sheet and place on top with the top of the sheet covering only half of the full sheets. You will have the other half hanging below -this will stay unbuttered for now. Butter the top half and then fold over the hanging unbuttered half and let it rest on top. Butter this layer. REPEAT WITH ONE MORE SHEET OF PHYLLO.
- Using 1/2 cup measure, scoop out a portion of nuts and distribute evenly along the bottom half of the phyllo ( the area where there is now 6 layers).
- Starting at the edge where the nuts begin, roll the baklava tightly so that you have a "tube" that is 19" long and about 1 1/2" wide. Place this tube into the buttered pan, placing it against the side so that there is room for the 7 additional rolls that will join it. Butter the top and side of the tube and move on to your next roll.
- Repeat all steps until you have 8 rolls that fill the pan. Brush the entire top with more melted butter. Run your hand under cold water and sprinkle the water on top of the baklava. You want some water droplets on top but be careful not saturate it with too much!
- Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F while the baklava is in the fridge.
- Take the baklava and with a sharp knife cut the top into pieces- start by "trimming" the end 1/4" then start your cuts from there.
- Each roll can be cut into either 8 or 10 pieces and each roll will need to be cut individually.The cuts should be made at a 45° angle so that the pieces are diamond shaped. DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH- you are simply scoring the pieces 3/4 of the way through.
- Place in hot oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes- the baklava needs to be a deep golden brown before it leaves the oven.
- Allow to cool completely, uncovered.
- At this point the baklava can be tightly wrapped in heavy duty foil and kept in a cool, dry place for up to 3 weeks.
- Two days before you are ready to serve, the syrup will need to be prepared and poured on top of the baklava.
- Take the sugar and water and bring to a medium boil. Time the syrup for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes add the lemon juice and return to a boil- time for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes add the honey and boil for an additional 4 minutes. Take off the heat.
- Using a ladle, put the hot syrup onto the baklava in an even manner, making sure that the entire pan is covered.
- Allow to sit uncovered until bottom of pan is cool, about 2 hours. Re-cover with foil and allow to sit for a minimum of 24 hours but preferably 48 hours. This allows the syrup to absorb into all of the phyllo layers.
- Using a serated butter knife, cut into pieces and enjoy. Be careful if you choose to use a sharp knife when cutting the pieces all the way through- puncturing the bottom of the pan will leave a goody mess behind!
- Variation- use 3 cups lightly toasted ground pecans and 1 cup mini chocolate chips in place of the walnuts. Omit the cinnamon but still use the 1/3 cup of zwibeck or bread crumbs. Finish pieces with a drizzle of melted dark chocolate. YUMMY!