Before I was school aged I used to spend the days with my grandparents. My days where full of PBS watching, garden tending, cooking with my grandma and story telling. Those were wonderful days. My grandmother, ever the social butterfly, knew all her neighbors well and relished in the fact that her community was so ethnically diverse. Their closest neighbors had the last name Papadopoulos, hailed from Greece and introduced to us (or at the very least me) the world of greek food and festivals. My grubby hands stuffed gyros, moussaka and spanakopita down my throat as fast as they could, but my favorite of all was baklava. Oh sweet honey and nuts this surely is the food of gods. Since I had almost an entire packet of filo dough leftover from a certain fall quiche I decided that I would make baklava. The only thing I would suggest is that you wait until the baklava is fully cooled before you pop one in your mouth (Good luck with that!) as it lets the flavors marry.
1 pound chopped mixed nuts*
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Toss together cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts. Unroll phyllo and cut whole stack in half to fit the dish. Cover phyllo with a damp cloth while assembling the baklava, to keep it from drying out.
Place two sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the prepared dish. Brush generously with butter. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the nut mixture on top. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ending with about 6 sheets of phyllo. Using a sharp knife, cut baklava (all the way through to the bottom of the dish) into four long rows, then (nine times) diagonally to make 36 diamond shapes.
Bake in preheated oven 50 minutes, until golden and crisp.
While baklava is baking, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in honey, vanilla and lemon zest, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Remove the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon the syrup over it. Let cool completely before serving. Store uncovered.
*Pistachios and walnuts are a favorite!