THE BEST BAKLAVA
HISTORICAL NOTE: Although baklava is made throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, It has it's roots in ancient Armenia (now Turkey). The recipe calls for 40 sheets of fillo dough, which represents the 40 days of lent. The Armenians were the first nation to accept the teachings of Christ after a visit by the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew which established the first Christian church which was the Armenian Apostolic Church. This occured in the year 0049 A.D. The texture of the baklava is such that it will melt in your mouth instead of having to vigorously chew so soon after lent. The valleys of Armenia were noted for their citrus crops and thus the orange flower water or the orange blossom honey. The rose flower water came from the abundance of roses on the higher plains. Just thought you would like to know.
Baklava Ingredients: 4 cups finely grated walnuts 1 tablespoon cinnamon 1/4 cup sugar 40 fillo pastry sheets 9 x 13 1 1/2 cups clarified butter "ghee" Medium viscosity syrup Ingredients: 3 cups sugar or 2 cups sugar and one cup orange blossom honey 1 1/2 cups water 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon orange flower water or 1 tablespoon rose flower water Preparing the Baklava: 1. Prepare your syrup and set aside to cool a bit. Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. 2. In a bowl, combine the grated walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar. 3. Trim your fillo sheets to fit the pan, and cover with a towel to prevent the leaves from drying out. 4. Layer the sheets of fillo dough in your pan, buttering each layer with a brush of clarified butter. add another sheet and do the same until you have 8 sheets. 5. Divide your walnuts into 4 portions. After layering 8 sheets of fillo dough, spread a layer of walnuts. The end result will be 4 layers of fillo and 4 layers of walnuts and a final layer of fillo to top off the baklava. 6. Brush the top sheet with the remaining butter and with a very sharp pointed knife, cut the baklava into 1 inch diamond shapes. Cut all the sway to the bottom of the pan without removing from the pan. Difficult at first, but gets easier with practice. 7. Bake 30 minutes and reduce heat to 250F and bake 30 minutes longer. remove from oven and let cool, but not cold. 8. Pour cooled syrup over warm baklava while still in the pan. Let stand at room temperature for several hours before serving. Preparing the syrup: Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat. Once mixture boils and sugar is dissolved, do not stir or syrup may cloud or crystallize. Cook uncovered, over medium-low heat until a candy thermometer registers 212 to 218. The syrup dropped from a cold metal spoon will fall in a sheet. Remove from heat and cool. Use immediately or refrigerate in a plastic container with a lid. Can be refrigerated up to 1 a month or more.
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