This is a delicious, flaky, sweet pastry, full of honey, nuts and sweet goodness. There are many claims about the origin, and many countries make various versions of it today, including Greece, Turkey, and variations in the Middle East as well.
This is a version of a recipe I found in a cookbook years ago, tweaked a bit here and there. I’m sure that some purists will have opinions on whether this take is “correct” or not. All I know is that when I make this recipe, there is rarely any left over. This is really not hard to make. The biggest thing is the time it takes. From start to finish, including the time in the oven, plan on a couple of hours. It’s a bit tedious, but delicious, and worth it.
2 cups walnuts
2 cups raw pistachios, shelled
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 large pinch cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup honey + more
dash lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup unsalted butter
1 pkg Phyllo Pastry
Put walnuts and pistachios in the food processor separately, pulsing until coarsely ground. Put into a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Mix to combine. Set aside.
Next, make the syrup. In a medium sized saucepan and heat until dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pour the honey in and stir to mix. Boil without stirring until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage, 239 degrees on a candy thermometer, or about 25 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. At this point I usually add another healthy dose of honey and the vanilla and lemon juice.
Next, melt the butter in the microwave and get your workspace ready for assembly. Lay down a clean dishtowel, and spray it liberally with water. Lay the sheets of Phyllo down on top and then add another damp dishtowel on top. Keep the Phyllo covered when you’re not working with it, in between layers so that it doesn’t dry out and rip or crack.
Butter the bottom of a large Pyrex or French White dish. Place a sheet of Phyllo on top of the butter lining it up so that two sides are flush with the sides of the pan. Butter this layer with a brush. Fold over any extra neatly and brush the top of that. Add another layer of dough, continuing to brush with butter in between, alternating sides on which you are folding so that it’s not lopsided.
When you have used about 1/3 of the stack of Phyllo, add half of the nut mixture evenly over the buttered dough.
Continue to layer sheets of Phyllo, buttering as you go, until you’ve used up another 1/3 of the dough. Spread the remaining half of the nuts. Finish with the last third of the dough, continuing to brush with butter each layer. When I get to the last piece of Phyllo, I like to trim the extra off, to make it nice and neat looking.
When you’re done layering and buttering, cut lenghwise in even strips about 1/3 of the way down through the pastry. Try not to press down as you cut. Next, meeting up with the ends of the vertical cuts, cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern. Pour any remaining butter on the top.
Bake on a low rack in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. It will start to really puff up, especially in the centre. Keep a close eye on it through oven door and remove when it is golden brown and flaky all over. The centre will have puffed up, just pierce it through one of the cuts with a sharp knife.
Immediately after removing from oven, pour the syrup evenly over the pastries. It will bubble as it starts to soak in. Take a knife and cut almost right to the bottom and let pastries cool before eating. Cut all the way to the bottom and lift out of the pan. You could do this in a large metal pan as well, but you would have to keep an extra close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and perhaps drop the oven temp slightly.
If you like, you can reserve some of the nuts after chopping them up and sprinkle a few on the plate for garnish. This is a very sweet dessert, and is wonderful served with a strong coffee or tea.
It keeps well out of the fridge overnight or for a day or so, though after that, I like to store in the fridge. If it lasts that long that is. 😉 Best served at room temperature.
This is truly a wonderful dessert. Don’t let the ingredients (if you’ve never worked with Phyllo) discourage you from trying to make it. It takes a little while, but as with most things in life, a little extra effort reaps great rewards.