If your guess was, making homemade baklava and hosting a huge house party, you guessed correctly! I know, most people probably wouldn't have guessed that. But here's the thing: I had to have a party because my Irish family needed to learn the Armenian wedding dancing that we would all be doing at the wedding! We had tried to have this Armenian dance party for months, and people were busy and life was too insane. Then we kind of ran out of time, so Mark's mother and I decided that the party simply had to be that Tuesday. My house is bigger and could fit more people, so we decided to have it here. And I simply couldn't host a party without making something, even though everyone volunteered to bring snacks, desserts and other awesome things (no one makes homemade salsa like Andrea, let me tell you). I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to try making my own baklava; Mark's Armenian family would be experts and could tell me how I did, and my family could get into the Armenian spirit with a dessert!
Now, this was not the most labor-intensive dessert I ever made, but it was also probably not one to make the busiest week of my life. Perhaps some simple brownies would have sufficed. To be honest, though, this was a pretty fun recipe to make, and not unlike spanakopita. You melt butter.... lots of butter... and brush it onto a few sheets of phyllo dough. In between buttered dough layers, you add chopped nuts and cinnamon. Then more dough, more nuts, etcetera, and bake it all. Then the magic really happens: honey, water, sugar and vanilla are boiled together into a thick syrup that gets poured over the whole baked dish. This part was a little scary, because I was afraid I was adding too much and that it would be too squishy. In the end, I actually didn't pour on enough, and it didn't have that super sticky baklava texture; the phyllo was a bit too dry, and thus flaky.
|My work station!|
And as for the Armenian dancing? Mark's family were great teachers. We got the easy dance down pretty quickly. The more complicated ones? Well, we'll leave those to the real Armenians. I may not be able to emulate their dances, but I can make a mean baklava.
from the Pioneer Woman
makes 16 servings
1 package phyllo dough
4 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1) Remove phyllo dough package from freezer and place in fridge for 24 hours to thaw. Remove from fridge 1 hour before using. When working with phyllo, remember to only remove the sheets you immediately need, keeping the other sheets covered in plastic wrap, then a damp cloth.
2) Toss together the chopped nuts and cinnamon. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter a rectangular baking pan. Make sure the sheets of phyllo will generally fit the pan. If they're a little bigger, that's okay; if they are much bigger, just trim them with a sharp knife.
3) Butter the top sheet of phyllo with melted butter, then grab it and the unbuttered sheet below it. Set the two sheets in the pan, buttered sheet face down. Press lightly into the pan. Repeat this twice more, so that you have six sheets of phyllo into the pan, three of the sheets buttered.
4) Sprinkle on enough nuts to make a single layer. Butter two sheets of phyllo and place them on top of the walnuts. Add more nuts, then two more buttered phyllo sheets. Repeat this a couple more times, or until you're out of nuts. Top with 4 more buttered phyllo sheets, ending with a buttered top. Cut a diagonal diamond patter in the baklava using a very sharp knife.
5) Bake for 45 minutes or until the baklava is very golden brown. While baklava is baking, combine 1 stick of the butter, honey, water, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
6) When you remove the baklava from the oven, drizzle half the saucepan evenly all over the top. Allow it to sit and absorb for a minute, then drizzle on a little more until you think it is thoroughly moistened. You'll likely have some of the honey mixture left over.
7) Allow the baklava to cool, uncovered, for several hours. Once cool and sticky, carefully remove them from the pan and serve.