Adapted from a FineCooking.com recipe
I am allergic to walnuts, so I cannot eat regular baklava. Jan decided that she would make pistachio baklava as the desert to go with the Middle Eastern feast I am making for Mother’s day.
Jan thinks that much of the commercial baklava available is too sweet and too sticky. She had the idea that baklava should be dryer and much less sweet. She took great liberties with the original recipe based on her idea, what we had on hand, and to please herself.
In addition to less sweeteners Jan used less phyllo. The phyllo Jan was using was twice the size of her pan 9×13 inch pan. She cut the sheets in half and, in the end, only used ¾ of them. She also put a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan to protect the non-stick coating when she cut through the layers.
Jan had glanced at some recipes before we went to the Middles Eastern market. While she was looking for the pistachios, she went up and down the store isles, looking for things she might add to the baklava. She found some Turkish apricot jam she thought would be just right.
After Baking Note: Jan and I decided that we should test the results of her experiment. We started by “tasting” the little triangular pieces around the edges of the pan. We had trouble stopping. There will be enough left for the kids on Sunday, but it took real force of will to stop “tasting.”
After Dinner Note: These were truly phenomenal pastries. It had none of the cloying, sticky, sweetness of the store bought baklava that we have had in the past. It was light and nutty/fruity and Oh So Good! It was the perfect finish to a truly great Mother’s Day meal.
Jan’s Apricot Pistachio Baklave
1 package phyllo dough (about twenty sheets)
½ cup honey
½ cup agave syrup
½ cup white grape juice
½ teaspoon orange essence
1 Tbs. Casa Giulia Apricot Albicocche (apricot jam made with agave syrup)
10 cardamom pods, coarsely ground
2½ cups unsalted, shelled raw pistachios
2 cups dried Turkish apricots
¼ cup Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, melted
1. Put the box of phyllo on the counter to come to room temperature, about two hours.
2. Put the honey, agave, grape juice, orange essence, and apricot jam into a small pot.
3. Coarsely grind the cardamom pods and stir them into the pot.
4. Let the pot rest for one hour.
5. Bring the pot to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.
7. Use a fine-meshed strainer to filter out the cardamom bits and set aside the pot.
8. Finely chop, by food processor, mixer or hand, the pistachios, apricots,
Tip: We use a Moulinex power grater, but a food processer or standing blender is probably more commonly available. The point here is to chop the nuts and fruit fairly finely, but to leave some texture. Do not to turn them into a paste!
9. Mix the nuts and fruit with the orange sugar and set aside.
10. Unfold the phyllo sheets and cut them in half. Stack the sheets so that they lie flat on your work surface and cover with moist kitchen towel.
11. Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
12. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a 9×13 inch baking pan and brush it with butter.
13. Lay a sheet of phyllo in the pan and lightly brush it with butter. Repeat this with seven more sheets.
14. Sprinkle about one-third of the filling evenly over the phyllo and pat it down firmly.
15. Drizzle about two tablespoons of butter over the nut/fruit mixture.
16. Repeat steps 8 and 9 two more times.
Note: You will end up with three layers of nut/fruit sandwiched between four layers of phyllo.
17. Cover the pan with foil and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Tip: The chilling makes the bakalava firmer and makes it much easier to cut.
18. Use a thin, sharp knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut the baklava into one inch squares or 1½ inch diamonds.
Tip: These cuts allow the syrup to work its way into the pastries. Be careful not to press down on the baklava while you are cutting it.
19. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
20. Bake the baklava until golden, 40 to 45 minutes.
21. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Tip: Do not remove the baklava from the pan at this time. Run a knife along the cut lines to reopen any that have closed up during baking.
22. Warm the syrup and spoon it along the cut lines of the baklava.
23. Pout any remaining syrup over the top and let the baklava cool to room temperature.
24. You may serve the baklava now, but it is best to let it sit 25 hours, lightly covered, to give the syrup time to soak into the layers.
25. Use a flat edged spatula to separate and remove the individual squares (diamonds) and arrange them on a serving dish.
Note: The original recipe says that the baklava will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days. This will not happen (see: After Baking Note above).