Ever since I saw Alton Brown make baklava in his now-defunct TV show, Good Eats, I’ve been promising myself I’d try and make my version. But phyllo pastry is not available in my part of the hinterlands so I had to wait until there was an opportunity to drive down to the city and buy a pack. But why cashew nut baklava? Because walnut and pistachio cost an arm and leg in this country.
But why call it “cashew nut baklava”? Everyone knows that cashew is a nut so isn’t the title superfluous? Cashew is both a fruit and a nut. A fleshy fruit, sometimes called cashew apple, grows beneath the nut. So, just so it’s clear, it is cashew nuts that went into my tray of baklava.
There are so many formulas for making baklava. Some have only two layers of nuts. The number of phyllo pastry sheets at the bottom, between the nut layers and on top, can be anywhere from four to ten. In my version, I used a total of 20 phyllo pastry sheets. Six sheets at the bottom, four sheets between the layers of crushed nuts and another six sheets on top.
Below is an illustration of the various steps in making baklava.
First, brush the bottom of a baking pan with melted butter.
Lay a phyllo pastry sheet on the bottom of the pan and dab with melted butter. Repeat until you have six layers of phyllo, each dabbed with melted butter.
Take a third of the crushed nuts and spread on top of the phyllo.
Place a phyllo sheet on top of the nuts and dab with melted butter. Repeat until you have four sheets on top of the nuts.
Spread another third of the nuts, top with another four phyllo sheets then spread the rest of the nuts. The last six phyllo sheets go on top of the third layer of nuts.
Using a sharp knife, cut through the layers of phyllo sheets and nuts. You can cut the baklava into squares or diamonds. The ideal size would be between two to three inches.
Bake the baklava at 350F for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the syrup.
When the baklava comes out of the oven, recut to make sure that the pieces are completely separated from one another.
Pour the syrup over the baklava.
Let the baklava soak for a couple of hours before serving.
Cashew Nut Baklava
For the syrup:
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Spread the phyllo pastry on your work area and cover with a damp kitchen towel to avoid drying out. If the size of the sheets is not the same as the size of your baking pan, cut the sheets to make sure that they will fit snugly. You can refreeze any excess.
- Whisk together the crushed nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- Brush the bottom of the baking pan liberally with melted butter.
- Carefully lay a phyllo sheet on the bottom of the pan. Dab with melted butter. Repeat until you have a stack of six phyllo sheets all dabbed with melted butter.
- Spread on portion of the nuts on the stack of phyllo pastry.
- Make a stack of four phyllo sheets on top of the nuts, each dabbed with melted butter.
- Spread the second portion of the nuts on the second stack of phyllo pastry.
- Do another stack of four phyllo sheets, all dabbed with butter, then spread the remaining portion of the nuts on top.
- For the top layer, make a stack of six phyllo sheets--again, each sheet dabbed with melted butter.
- Take a sharp knife and cut the unbaked baklava into two to three-inch squares or diamonds.
- Bake the baklava at 350F for 30 minutes.
- While the baklava bakes, make the syrup by simmering together the sugar, water and honey until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice.
- Take the baking pan out of the oven and recut the baklava. Make sure that all pieces are cut all the way through.
- Pour the syrup over the hot baklava. Allow to soak for a few hours before serving.