A staple in most Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries. There is no mention of it until after 1299, which is the beginning of the Ottoman Empire. Filo/a dough originated in what is now Turkey, but it is the Greeks that refined it into the paper thin dough we know today. In Greece, baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life. Any recipe we have ever found used no more than 24 (which is what is found in the pre-made 1 pound/450g packages. This recipe is a combination of two of our favourites. The one from Greece adds in cinnamon which the one from Turkey did not have. You choose.
1/2 pound/225g about 12 sheets thawed filo dough, covered with a damp towel
1 1/2 cups/174g chopped walnuts, pistachios or almonds
2 1/2 tablespoons/30g granulated sugar (you don’t need much the syrup is sweet)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 stick/1/4 pound/8 tablespoons/113g melted butter
For the syrup:
2/3 cup/120g granulated sugar
2/3 cup/158ml water
1/2 tablespoon/7ml fresh lemon juice
Pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon rose or orange blossom water
Preheated oven 350F/175C/Gas 4
Mix chopped nuts with sugar and cinnamon if using (it's easy in a food processor with a couple of pulses). Brush a baking pan with melted butter. Lay one sheet of filo on the pan, and brush with butter. Do this with five (with the next 5) more pieces. Add half of the nut mixture and spread evenly on the filo pastry. Place one piece of pastry over the nuts and brush with butter. Add the remaining five pieces brushing each piece with butter. With a very sharp knife, cut into serving pieces (triangles are traditional). Place in a preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Increase the temperature to 450F/230C/Gas 8 and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the top is light golden brown. When done, remove from oven and pour the cold syrup evenly over it. When completely cooled, run a knife along cuts and place separated pieces on a plate.
While the pastry is baking make the syrup. Place sugar, water and lemon juice in a small pan. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook until it coats the back of a spoon. Add rose or orange water and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Place in the fridge.