Michele’s “Memory Painter” Baklava ~ a Book Club Recipe

This month my book club, The Page Turners, met to discuss The Memory Painter. Once a month we meet for lunch and someone officially hosts. This month Michele hosted and wowed us all with delectable baked chicken salad and homemade cheddar dill scones. To top it off, she made baklava, the best I’ve ever had. She made it in honor of Bryan and Linz because it’s a Greek desert and she said “the layers of the pastry are reminiscent of the layers of Bryan and Linz’ lives.”  I was so touched by the gesture and just had to share the recipe with everyone. So here is the official recipe from Michele along with her photo.

Thank you, Michele!

Michele’s “Memory Painter” Baklava

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Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9″ baking pan; preheat oven to 325.
In a small bowl, put
2 c coarsely chopped walnuts.
In another small bowl, stir together:
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t (heaping) cinnamon
In another bowl, melt 1 c (or 2 sticks) butter (do not use margarine).
Dampen a dish towel with water. Set it aside. Open a 1 lb box of phyllo dough (you’ll find it in the refrigerated or frozen dessert section of the grocery store, probably near the refrigerated or frozen prepared pie doughs). Your box of phyllo dough probably has two sealed packages/rolls of “paper-like” large sheets of phyllo that can tear somewhat easily, so take your time handling them. Open the packages and unroll the sheets; you’ll use about 1 1/2 of the packages. It will probably be necessary to trim the edges of the unrolled/flattened phyllo sheets so they fit the bottom of the 13×9″ baking pan (you don’t have to be precise, but know that fitting the phyllo dough helps with the uniformity). I use a pizza cutter and trim a bunch of sheets at a time. Keep the phyllo dough sheets wrapped in plastic, then cover the plastic with the dampened dish towel (the dough dries out pretty quickly unless it’s covered; it then becomes unusable).
Step A: Once trimmed to size and covered, carefully take out 2 phyllo sheets and place them in the bottom of the baking pan (if they tear a little bit, it’s okay). Quickly brush the entire top sheet with the melted butter (being sure to get all the way to the edges). Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets. Then repeat a third time (you’ll have 6 phyllo sheets in the pan and have buttered every other layer).
Step B: Next, sprinkle 1/3 of the walnuts evenly all over the top layer of the buttered phyllo sheets. Then sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon/sugar on top of the walnuts.
Repeat Step A, then Step B a second time.
Repeat Step A, then Step B a third time. You should’ve used all of the walnuts and cinnamon/sugar mixture. There will be butter left.
Repeat Step A. Use all of the remaining butter on this last top sheet. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut through all of the layers to the bottom of the pan to make 2″ squares. (It’s important that you cut through to the bottom because once the baklava is finished cooking, you won’t be able to cut it without smushing the pastry. The space you create between the pieces also helps let the glaze soak in.)
Put the baklava baking pan in the preheated oven and bake*. If the top of the baklava becomes golden brown before 25 minutes, place a sheet of foil loosely on top of the pan (this keeps the top of the pastry from burning, while allowing the middle to keep cooking).
Keeping the baklava in the oven, after 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees.
*About 15 minutes after you put the baklava in the oven, start making the glaze. In a medium sized saucepan over medium-low heat, combine:
1 1/3 c sugar
1 1/3 c water
1/3 c honey
1 T fresh lemon juice
Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes; stir periodically.
Once the baklava has baked for 30 minutes, take it out of the oven. Pour the sugar/honey/water glaze mixture all over the tops of the baklava and into the cuts. It may boil up a bit, but that’s fine. Put it back into the oven and bake at 300 degrees for another 15 minutes. You will have baked the baklava for a total of 40-45 minutes.
Take the baklava out of the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. Cover with foil and let rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours before serving.
Όλες οι εργασίες σας γίνεται και ήρθε η ώρα για να απολαύσετε .
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