My Big Fat Greek Baklava

 

a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!

Jerky Recipe

1 bottle soy sauce

1 capful liquid smoke

Homemade lemon pepper

meat of your choice

So, OK, I know that’s kind of vague.  Here is what I did for mine.  I happened to have been blessed with about 50 pounds of venison a few months ago, so I used some venison backstrap.  But this recipe works equally well with beef or any other meat as far as I know.

  • I sliced the meat as thinly as I could.  The thinner the better.  I have found that it’s easier to slice meat very thin when it’s partially frozen.
  • I mixed up a 15 fl. oz. bottle of soy sauce and 1 capful of liquid smoke in a plastic container that had a lid that sealed.  A large ziplock baggie would work just as well.
  • Put the sliced meat in the mixture.  Make sure that all the meat is in the liquid.  It just so happened that one bottle of soy sauce was enough for the amount of meat that I had.  (See why it’s a little vague?)

My meat looked like this when I got it all in the container.

  • Put your container in the refrigerator to soak for at least over night.  You will need to turn it over periodically to make sure that it’s all saturated evenly.  Mine actually soaked overnight, and most of the next day.

This is what mine looked like after soaking.  Not a good picture, sorry.  The meat soaks up the liquid and the soy sauce turns it dark.

 

  •  Take the strips and spread them out on your dehydrator trays.  You might want to oil or spray the trays first.  I didn’t and some of it stuck. L  Make sure that the strips are as flat as possible and not overlapping.  I also try to put pieces that are about the same thickness on the same tray.
  • Sprinkle with lemon pepper to your liking.  (I make my own lemon pepper.  I’ll post that recipe too.)

My meat pieces after adding the lemon pepper.  (Just nod your head and pretend that you can see it.)

  •  Put the trays in the dehydrator and turn it on.

My dehydrator working merrily away.

My jerky when it was done.  Ta Da!

How long it takes to dehydrate depends on how thick the meat is, how humid it is, and what kind of dehydrator you have.  The heating elements on mine are in the bottom, so I have to swap the trays every four hours or so to make sure that it’s drying evenly.  I also consolidate the meat in fewer trays as it shrinks.  I ended up with half the amount of trays that I started with.  Of course, the kids were snacking on it before it was completely dried, so that might have had something to do with it.  After it’s dried, let it cool and then put it in an airtight container.  Ziplocks work just fine.  It can also be stored in the freezer.

It’s really not that hard, but it’s definitely not a quick thing to make!  And I have no illusions that it’s health food!  But at least when I make it myself I know that it’s fresh, and the kids really like it.

Enjoy!