When I married Miro and began to learn the essential Bulgarian recipes, I was very afraid of filo. Then Miro pointed out that even if the baklava (or banitsa) is a shredded mess, it will still taste delicious.
If you were lucky enough to grow up in a Bulgarian home and learned filo-based recipes from your mom or grandma, I’d love to read your comments about your experience.
Filling & pastry
3 C chopped toasted walnuts or pistachios (unsalted)
½ C white sugar
1 lemon, zest only
1 t ground cinnamon
16 T salted butter, melted
1 package (1 lb.) phyllo dough
1¼ C white sugar
1 C water
½ C Muscat Ottonel
½ C honey
1 lemon, juice only
1 orange, zest only
Makes 24 two-inch squares
- Preheat the oven to 325° F.
- Stir together the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9-inch baking pan.
- Trim and cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and place a clean, barely damp kitchen towel over the plastic.
- Place 2 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the baking pan and brush evenly with melted butter. Add 2 more sheets, brush with butter, then repeat for a total of 6 sheets.
- Sprinkle roughly a third of the sugar mixture and a third of the nuts over the layered phyllo and butter.
- Cover the filling with 2 sheets of phyllo and brushed butter. If the phyllo tears, just piece it together. At this point, you may even use some of the scraps. Repeat for a total of 6 sheets of phyllo, brushing melted butter over every second sheet.
- Sprinkle the next third of filling, then more phyllo/butter layers, then the last third of the sugar mixture and the chopped nuts.
- At last: finish the top with all of the remaining phyllo, buttering every second sheet. As long as the top two are whole sheets, accidental tears and pieces are fine. Brush and drizzle the top with the rest of the melted butter. Have a sip of Muscat Ottonel and breathe.
- Using a very sharp paring knife, cut the baklava into squares or diamonds. Go slowly and gently, cutting through all of the layers.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 325° F.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300° and bake for another 60 minutes, until the baklava is golden and aromatic.
- During the last 30 minutes of baking, prepare the honey syrup by simmering all of the syrup ingredients together, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the hot syrup.
- Remove the golden brown baklava from the oven and pour the Muscat honey syrup evenly over the whole pastry.
- Allow the baklava to cool for at least 4 hours before serving with small glasses of chilled Muscat Ottonel.