Slicing baklava all the way through before baking allows the pastry to soak up more of the flavorful sugar syrup.
MAKES 32 to 40 pieces
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS We wanted our classic baklava recipe to produce a crisp, flaky pastry that was light yet rich, filled with fragrant nuts and spices, and sweetened just assertively enough to pair with a Turkish coffee. To achieve this goal, we sprinkled store-bought phyllo dough with three separate layers of nuts (tasters liked a combination of almonds and walnuts) flavored with cinnamon and cloves. We brushed the phyllo layers with just enough olive oil to make them crisp and flaky, but not so much that the result was greasy. We found that cutting the baklava through rather than just scoring it before baking helped it absorb the sugar syrup. Finally, allowing the baklava to sit overnight before serving dramatically improved its flavor. A straight-sided traditional (not nonstick) metal baking pan works best for making baklava. If you don’t have this type of pan, a glass baking dish will work. Phyllo dough is also available in larger 18 by 14-inch sheets; if using, cut them in half to make 14 by 9-inch sheets. Do not thaw the phyllo in the microwave; let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 4 to 5 hours. While working with the phyllo, cover the sheets with plastic wrap, then a damp dish towel to prevent drying. Use the nicest, most intact phyllo sheets for the bottom and top layers; use sheets with tears or ones that are smaller than the size of the pan in the middle layers, where their imperfections will go unnoticed.
1¼ cups (8¾ ounces) sugar
¾ cup water
⅓ cup honey
3 (2-inch) strips lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
⅛ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups slivered almonds
1 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound (14 by 9-inch) phyllo, thawed
1. FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP Bring all ingredients to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Transfer syrup to 2-cup liquid measuring cup and let cool to room temperature. Discard spices and zest; set aside.
2. FOR THE NUT FILLING Pulse almonds in food processor until very finely chopped, about 20 pulses; transfer to medium bowl. Pulse walnuts in food processor until very finely chopped, about 15 pulses; transfer to bowl with almonds and toss to combine. Measure out 1 tablespoon nuts and set aside for garnish. Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt to nut mixture and toss well to combine.
3. FOR THE PASTRY Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Lay 1 phyllo sheet in bottom of greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan and brush thoroughly with oil. Repeat with 7 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with oil (you should have total of 8 layers of phyllo).
4. Sprinkle 1 cup nut filling evenly over phyllo. Cover nut filling with 6 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with oil, then sprinkle with 1 cup nut filling. Repeat with 6 phyllo sheets, oil, and remaining 1 cup nut filling.
5. Cover nut filling with 8 more phyllo sheets, brushing each layer, except final layer, with oil. Working from center outward, use palms of your hands to compress layers and press out any air pockets. Spoon remaining oil (about 2 tablespoons) on top layer and brush to cover surface.
6. Using serrated knife with pointed tip, cut baklava into diamonds. Bake baklava until golden and crisp, about 1½ hours, rotating pan halfway through baking.
7. Immediately pour all but 2 tablespoons cooled syrup over cut lines (syrup will sizzle when it hits hot pan). Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons syrup over surface. Garnish center of each piece with pinch reserved ground nuts. Let baklava cool completely in pan, about 3 hours, then cover with aluminum foil and let sit at room temperature for about 8 hours before serving.
1.MAKE BASE Place 8 phyllo sheets in greased baking pan, brushing each sheet with oil.
2.START LAYERING Spread 1 cup nut filling over bottom stack of phyllo. Place 6 phyllo sheets over nut layer, brushing each sheet with oil. Repeat with another 1 cup nut filling and 6 more sheets of phyllo.
4.FINISH ASSEMBLING Spread remaining 1 cup nut filling over phyllo. Finish with 8 more sheets of oiled phyllo. Using your hands, compress layers to remove air pockets, working from center outward.
5.BAKE AND DRIZZLE WITH SYRUP Cut baklava into diamonds using serrated knife, then bake. Pour syrup over cut lines of baked baklava. Garnish each piece with chopped nuts.
NOTES FROM THE TEST KITCHEN
Since nuts are high in oil, they can become rancid fairly quickly if not properly stored. In the test kitchen, we store all nuts in the freezer in sealed freezer-safe zipper-lock bags. Frozen nuts will keep for months, and there’s no need to defrost them before chopping or toasting. If you use toasted nuts often, you can toast them in large batches and, when the nuts are cool, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag, then freeze them. Do not use pretoasted frozen nuts for recipes in which a crisp texture is desired, such as salads.