The holidays are such a special time. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have my friends and family so close by. So, when I was trying to narrow the list down to just 3 dessert recipes, naturally good friends who also happen to be good cooks with great stories from around the globe seemed like a great fit.
Let’s begin with my friend, Rose. We have been friends for over 6 years and used to work together. She always brought in the best food that either she and her husband made or that she picked up from delicious local bakeries for our meetings. Rose taught a class a few years ago about how to make baklava. I don’t know what my excuse was, but I missed the class. And baklava is one of my absolute favorite desserts! Rose was gracious enough to share her mother’s recipe with me. Rose’s father immigrated to the United States from Damascus in 1938 and followed through with an arranged marriage to her mother. When Rose was 4 years old, her father passed away, leaving behind her mother and their 7 children. Rose credits her mother’s never-ending love and deep faith in holding their family together. Here is a picture of Rose’s mother with Rose’s children. Can’t you just feel her love of family in this photo? Rose shared that making Baklava is more of an experience and tradition for her than just baking a dessert. She and her family have made it for as long as she can remember. Every year, she and her siblings make their own baklava and share it with each other to see whose turned out the best. Rose, I’m available if you all ever need an impartial judge! Keep reading for her recipe below.
Ingredients: 2-3 pounds phyllo dough, 2 pounds unsalted butter (rendered), 3 pounds ground walnuts, 5-6 cups of sugar, 4 cups water, 2 tsp orange flower water or to taste, 1 lemon (juiced)
Mix: walnuts with 1-2 cups of sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Add 1 tsp of the orange flower water. Set aside.
Layer: Start with 2 tablespoons of melted butter on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Add 1 sheet of phyllo, paint with a thin layer of butter and then add another sheet of phyllo. Continue with 1-1.5 pounds of phyllo. Add the nut mixture and pat lightly but firmly in the pan. Begin the layering process again with the remaining 1-1.5 pounds of phyllo dough. Pat gently after each layer. DO NOT press hard. With a very sharp knife, cut into diamond shapes. Rows should be about 1 inch apart.
Bake: @250 degrees for 2-3 hours. Lift corner piece to see if bottom is browning. If golden brown, then it is finished. You may want to turn on the broiler to crisp and lightly brown the top at the end. DO NOT take your eyes off of it. It browns quickly!
Boil: 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar. Add the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp of orange flower water. This is the syrup.
Either pour the HOT SYRUP on COLD BAKLAVA or COLD SYRUP on HOT BAKLAVA. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IF YOU DO NOT WANT SOGGY BAKLAVA.
Next up: Nerin’s Tres Leches Cake