Baklava is another one of those Mediterranean foods that every country touching the sea claims to have invented in some form or another. While the sweet nut and filo pastry in its exact form is a more modern creation, the basic ingredients go back much further, to the ancient days of those same lands.
I thought it would be fun to make a more “primitive”baklava, forgoing all the fussing around with store-bought filo, using nuts indigenous to the ancient near east, and just honey for sweetening. Sugar doesn’t amount to more than a rare luxury good for many thousands of years.
For the Dough:
500g All Purpose Flour
1 tablsepoon coarse salt
1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup vegetable oil mixed together
For the filling:
2 cups mixed nuts (pictured walnuts and pistachios)
3 tbsp. honey
1 tablspoon freshly ground cinnamon.
For the syrup:
1 cup honey
1/2 cup water
2-4 cinnamon sticks
It starts with just flour and water (and salt of course). Combine and mix with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated into a rough dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. No shortcuts! If you underknead, the dough will not stretch correctly later.
Divide the dough into four pieces, shape them into balls then flatten them into discs, roughly the size and thickness of your hand or a little bigger.
Combine butter and vegetable oil in a large bowl and layer the discs of dough so as much of their surfaces as possible are submerged in the mixture. It’s okay if they are sticking out a bit though.
Let rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Shell the nuts as necessary and grind them in a mortar and pestle or a food processor. You want a decent mixture of whole crushed pieces of nut with more powdery bits that got the most pulverized. But err on the side of not over crushing it.
Drizzle in and thoroughly mix three tablespoons of honey. Don’t worry about it not being too sweet. That’s where the syrup comes in later. This is just a touch of that, plus a good binder.