Saturday, August 11, 2012

100% Honey Baklava

We've been keeping bees since 2004 and it's high time that I've made a pan of baklava, don't you think? It's not working with filo that has put me off (read on for comments about that); it's  that most of the recipes I've found for baklava do not call for much honey. The sweetness tends to come mostly from making a syrup with sugar and water syrup. A bit of honey seems to be added just for flavor.  Alton Brown, whose recipes I appreciate for their precision, has a baklava recipe that relies on a sugar/water/honey syrup mixture. The Authentic Greek Recipes blog has a baclava (baklava) recipe that doesn't call for any honey at all. Even the National Honey Board's website includes a baklava recipe that uses a sugar/water syrup.

The recipe I used here relies only on honey for sweetness and comes from the National Honey Board's 1994 Sweetened With Honey The Natural Way cookbook.  The recipe is also available on their website.  It may not be authentic Greek baclava, but it's delicious and surprisingly not so sweet that it makes your teeth ache. It is, though, quite rich (using at least 1/2 pound of clarified butter) and it'd be impossible to classify this as diet food!

Though filo dough frightens some, it's surprisingly easy to work with as long as you don't let it dry out.  While making the layers, cover the unused sheets with some waxed paper and put a slightly dampened tea towel on top.  If a few of the sheets tear, don't worry--they'll be covered up by the next layer.

I've made a few changes to the recipe based on this test batch and include the original directions below along with my changes.

100% Honey Baklava
3 cups finely chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash of ground cloves
about 3/4 cup clarified butter (see note below for how to make clarified butter. The recipe calls for 1 pound of butter, which I think is way too much!)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 package filo pastry sheets, thawed (the recipe called for 1 pound of filo, also way too much)
Honey syrup (recipe follows)

Combine walnuts and spices in a bowl and set aside.  Reserve about 1/4 cup clarified butter for brushing the bottom and top filo layers.  Stir the 1/2 cup of honey into the remaining 1/2 cup of clarified butter.  Brush the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with just the clarified butter (not honey/butter mixture).  Lay one sheet of filo in the pan (cutting to fit if needed) and brush it with just clarified butter.  Do this six times--brushing the sheets with just clarified each time.

Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the walnut mixture.  Place 2 filo sheets on top of the walnuts, liberally brushing each with the butter/honey mixture. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of walnuts, followed by 2 filo sheets, each brushed with the butter/honey mixture.  Do this four more times until all of the nut mixture is used up.  Finish with the remaining filo sheets, this time brushing each one with just the clarified butter.  You should have about 5 or 6 filo sheets on top.

With a sharp knife, cut the the baklava into diamond shaped pieces, being sure to cut all the way through.  Place pan in a preheated 325 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes.  REDUCE THE OVEN HEAT TO 275 AND BAKE 20 MINUTES MORE.  Remove from oven and while still very hot, spoon the cooled honey syrup over the entire surface.  Makes about 2 dozen pieces.

1 cup honey
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches long
1 1 /2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all but the lemon juice in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add lemon juice and simmer about 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick before spooning on to the baklava.

To make clarified butter:  Cut 3/4ths pound (three sticks) of unsalted butter into 1 inch pieces and melt in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Skim off foam; strain clear yellow liquid into a bowl, leaving the cloudy residue at the bottom. The clear yellow liquid is the clarified butter.

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