Baklava

  • 1 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 box phyllo pastry
  • 4 cups shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Follow the directions on the box to thaw the phyllo pastry. Generally, it can be refrigerated overnight, or left unchilled for around five hours. Do not begin to work until the phyllo is completely thawed!

Make walnut mixture: In a food processor, combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and cloves. Mix until walnuts are pulverized. Set aside.

Clarify the butter: In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter slowly over the lowest heat without letting it brown, skimming off the foam as it rises to the surface. Remove the pan from the heat and refrigerate a few minutes; then pour off the clear butter and discard the milky solids at the bottom of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir the vegetable oil into the clarified butter. Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of a 17″x12″x2″ baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of the mixture.
NOTE: Any sized pan may be used; just cut the phyllo to fit and use the strips that have been cut off as middle layers.

Prepare the phyllo pastry: Unroll the thawed phyllo and lay it flat on a clean, flat surface. Cover phyllo with plastic wrap, then a damp towel. This will prevent the pastry from drying out.

Fold a sheet of phyllo in half, lift it up gently and unfold it into the prepared pan. Press the pastry flat and brush the entire surface with the butter and oil mixture. Lay another sheet of phyllo on top, folding it down and buttering it in a similar fashion. Sprinkle the pastry evenly with about 3 tablespoons of the walnut mixture.

Repeat the same procedure, layering two sheets of buttered phyllo and 3 tablespoons of walnut mixture, until there is no more walnut mixture. End with two buttered layers of phyllo on top.

With a small, sharp knife, score the top of the pastry with parallel diagonal lines about 1/2″ deep and 2″ apart, then cross them diagonally to form diamond shapes.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300°F and bake for 45 minutes longer, until the top is crisp and golden brown.

Make syrup: While baklava is in the oven, combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and, timing it from the moment the syrup boils, cook briskly, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, or until the syrup reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey. Pour the syrup into a bowl or pitcher and set aside.

When the baklava is done, remove it from the oven and pour the syrup into the knife cuts, being careful to avoid the top (it makes the top sticky and difficult to hold). Cool to room temperature, and, just before serving, cut the baklava into diamond-shaped pieces. Store in an air-tight container.

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