Frustrations of an Irishwoman

I’m Irish, but I’m not real big on traditional Irish cuisine. I have no love for corned beef and cabbage, beer, or boiled potatoes.  Instead, my heart begins to flutter and my mouth begins to water as I envision Grecian delectables: gyros, souvlaki, and baklava, not to mention Achilles, Odysseus, and King Leonidas.

I can calm down my gyro and souvlaki craving by frequenting Michigan’s Pita Café, the city fair, and local Greek festivals, but my need for baklava is a relentless force to be reckoned with that CAN NOT and WILL NOT patiently wait for annual reoccurrence.

Baklava (pronounced as bah-klah-VA) is a delicious pastry, traditionally comprised of chopped walnuts and cinnamon-sugar, layered between buttered phyllo dough, baked to a golden brown, and moistened with a lemon-infused honey syrup. Not sure what phyllo dough is? Phyllo dough are paper-thin sheets of dough used in a variety of pastries. You can find them in most supermarkets. Trader Joe's is one grocer where they can be easily found in the frozen isle, next to the Mini Ice Cream Mouthfuls and the Mango Sorbet.


The Luck of the Irish

So how did I come to conquer my insistent craving for baklava on a multi-year occurrence?

At the time I was teaching 11th grade English.  As we completed another unit within the class syllabus it was time for celebration. This often entailed feeding our faces while viewing the movie version of the Shakespearean play we took weeks to read and act out. Utilizing the last few minutes of the period to coordinate who was bringing in what, two class discoveries were made.  Seconds before the bell rang, a student queried my favorite dessert. I answered with “baklava.” The next thing I saw were the wide glistening eyes of another student, appearing to be in slight shock. I soon discovered she was Greek and was pleased with pride to have the chance to share a sweet treat from her heritage with her classmates and teacher.


What do you think the wide-eyed student was now planning to bring to our celebration?

Who do you think asked for the family recipe in exchange for extra credit?


Folklore Ends in Good Fortune

Call it the luck of the Irish or a favor of Zeus, but the time had finally come, and in my hand I held the recipe of Greek pastry perfection.

As I eventually enjoyed my piece of baklava from the celebration, during my scheduled cheat meal, I knew it needed a bit of tweaking to get it from great to spectacular. It was through preciseness, meticulousness, trial-and-error, bow-and-arrow, sword-and-shield, I bring to you the now-perfected baklava recipe.  This recipe is overflowing with walnuts, almonds, AND pecans, complete with the proper amount of lemon-infused honey syrup, fully intended to drench each and every mouthful.



Formula Revealed

Ingredients for Baklava:

3 stick Butter, melted

2 Pound of ground Nuts

  • 12 oz Pecan
  • 12 oz Walnut
  • 8 oz Almond

1 Pound Phyllo Pastry Dough

1 tsp. + 1 pinch Cinnamon

¼ Cup Sugar

Baklava Step-by-step

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Follow thawing directions for phyllo pastry dough found on side of box. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in microwavable bowl, till melted. Set aside.
  4. Using a food processor grind nut mixture until course (no big chunks, but not fine as dust)
  5. Mix nuts, sugar, and cinnamon together in large bowl. Set aside.
  6. Brush bottom of 11x9x13 baking pan with melted butter (not all of it, just enough to coat bottom of pan with a thin layer)
  7. Place one sheet of phyllo dough in pan. Note: Separating each phyllo dough sheet will be the most labor some of this entire process. Remain patient!
  8. Butter sheet using hand or butter brush.
  9. Continue until seven sheets line the pan, buttering each sheet.
  10. Sprinkle ½ nut mixture evenly over phyllo.
  11. Place two sheets of phyllo over nuts, buttering each sheet.
  12.  Place remaining nut mixture over phyllo sheets.
  13. Repeat with placing phyllo sheets on top, buttering each sheet. Note: Use remaining phyllo.
  14. Tuck edges in and cover with butter.
  15. Use sharp knife to cut into diamond shapes. Note: Be sure to knife through all layers, clear to the bottom of the pan. Again, this step will be labor-some, but your effort will be worth it.
  16. Bake uncovered at 350° for 15 minutes.
  17. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes. Note: Leave uncovered until golden brown. Once color is achieved cover with foil.

Ingredients for Syrup:

3 Cup Sugar

2 Cup Water

1 Tbsp. Honey

½ Fresh Lemon (juice only)

¼ tsp. Cinnamon


Syrup Step-by-step:

  1. When baklava goes into the oven, mix all syrup ingredients together in large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil on stove top.
  3. Turn heat down, and let simmer until Baklava comes out of the oven.
  4. Ladle syrup over Baklava immediately after it is removed from the oven. Note: It will sizzle.
  5. Let sit before removing from pan so that the Baklava can soak up the syrup. Note: I recommend covering the pan with foil and placing in freezer overnight.  Due to the syrup content it thaws out quickly (within minutes, allowing you to comfortably cut and eat when the time is right).
  6. Store in freezer.

Note: Batch will remain fresh for at least three months.

Savor and Share!

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