Each of my four grandparents came to America from different parts of Greece. Food is such an important part of any culture, and ours is no exception.
Although my grandparents and parents are gone, I have wonderful memories of watching my mother as she baked. Baklava was very special and was made only at Christmas and Easter. I remember my mother as she carefully handled the filo and buttered all its layers. I also remember her using a rolling pin to crush the 2 1/2 pounds of nuts. (This was before the luxury of food processors.)
Mostly I remember my mother and the pains she took to be sure the baklava came out perfectly for us, and knowing that’s how she showed her love for us.
This is my mother's baklava recipe. Unlike many recipes that are handed down generation to generation, I am thankful this one has exact measurements. I'm sure we're biased, but my family and I all believe it's the best baklava.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- Dash cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 16 ounces honey
- 2 pounds walnuts
- ½ pound cashews
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 to 3/4 pound butter
- 1 pound package filo dough, thawed according to package instructions
To make the syrup, in a medium saucepan combine sugar, water, cinnamon and lemon juice and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add honey and simmer 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate while you bake the baklava. Don’t leave syrup in refrigerator for an extended period or it will become too thick to pour.
To make the baklava, preheat oven to 350 F.
In the work bowl of a food processor, place walnuts and cashews and process until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
In a small pan, melt butter over low heat. Coat a 12-by-15-inch pan with a little of the butter.
Place 4 to 6 layers filo dough on the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet with a little butter. Place one layer (about 4 handfuls) of the nut mixture over the filo dough. Add 2 more layers of filo, brushing each layer with butter. Continue to layer the nut mixture and filo dough until you have used all the nut mixture. Top with 6 to 8 more layers of filo, brushing each layer with butter. Roll edges of stacked filo toward center of pan or trim with knife.
Cut lengthwise, then diagonally to make diamond shaped pieces. Bake baklava 30 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and immediately pour cool syrup over the hot baklava.
Baklava can be kept in an airtight tin in a cool place for weeks.