Baklava (Afghan)

2 cups finely chopped walnuts

2 1/3 cups sugar, divided

1 tsp. ground cardamom

¾ cup butter, melted

1 lb. filo dough (20 sheets)

1 cup water

The zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1  pinch saffron threads (optional)

1 tbsp. rosewater (optional)

½ cup finely chopped pistachios

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the walnuts, 1/3 cup of the sugar and the cardamom.


2. Use a pastry brush to coat the bottom and sides of a 16 x 12” jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) with melted butter. Lay one sheet of filo on the pan and brush lightly with butter.  Continue layering the filo and brushing with butter until you’ve laid down 5 sheets of filo. Sprinkle 1/3 of the walnut mixture over the filo.  Repeat the 5 sheets of filo/butter process followed by walnuts two more times, finishing up the baklava with the last 5 sheets of filo/butter. Coat the top of the baklava with butter. In total you will have 4 filo layers sandwiching 3 walnut layers.

 3. Cut baklava diagonally across the filo to create diamond-shaped pieces.   Use a sharp knife and cut with care so the baklava layers stay together.

 

4. Set the baklava in the oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. 


5. Combine the remaining 2 cups of sugar, the water, lemon zest, lemon juice, saffron and rosewater in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let it boil gently for about 10 minutes until the syrup reduces a bit and thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Keep warm.

 

6. When the baklava is done, remove from the oven.  Drizzle the syrup evenly over the top.  Sprinkle  with the chopped pistachios.  Allow it to cool a bit before serving.