Cyprus! The glittering jewel of the mediterranean, birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess the love. From the crystal clear waters of the ocean to the shady mountain villages, I love everything about this island and try my best to return each year. This is where I first fell for baklava and its sticky and indulgent sweetness.
This rich dessert is found in almost every seaside or mountain taverna and each has its own special recipe. As a regular visitor to the island and to one taverna in particular, I am now considered almost part of the family. On my last vacation I was privileged enough for the old yiayia (Grandma in Cypriot) to let me into their secret family recipe. I am infinitely lucky that she spent a pleasant afternoon under the olive trees showing me how to perfect this honey dessert.
Honey is sold in abundance on the island from local shops or roadside stalls on the winding tracks to the mountains, usually surrounded by a few stray cats, lazy sleeping dogs and wizened old men drinking the super strong Cypriot coffee and playing Tavley (backgammon).
The honey comes in a variety of subtle flavors, from Lavender to Orange Blossom and even Eucalyptus. Much of the honey is in its raw form and therefore retains its super-nutritious and healing properties. My personal favorite in baklava is Orange Blossom, but this recipe is divine with any variety!
I’m excited to share my special recipe for baklava with you. Yiayia informed me that this recipe has been passed down for many generations and is made year-round, using the honey that is in season.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It is a little time consuming, but it is made with love and the gooey stickiness is so worth the wait.
Καλή όρεξη (Enjoy!)
Sticky-Sweet Baklava with Orange Blossom Honey
1 lb Ready-Made Filo Pastry
3 c Almonds, Pistachio or Walnuts, finely chopped
½ c Sugar
1 ½ c Butter
1 tsp Cinnamon
Ground Clove, a pinch
2 c Water
1 c Sugar
¾ c Orange Blossom Honey
½ Lemon, juice
1 Cinnamon Stick
Preheat the oven to 300° F and butter a 9x13 baking pan.
Cut the filo sheets to size. Place one sheet into the tray, brush with melted butter, and then repeat for an additional 5 sheets (6 total).
Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture evenly in the pan and top with 2 more sheets of buttered filo. Repeat until all nuts and filo are in the pan.
Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into diamond shapes and drizzle with melted butter. Place the baklava in the oven with a tray of water (which will prevent the top from browning too much).
Bake for 90 minutes. If the top cooks too quickly, cover the pan with aluminum foil. After 90 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and let it cool completely.
Meanwhile, combine all syrup ingredients in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour the syrup over the baklava so that it sits in about 1/4 inch of syrup, and let it sit for about an hour. If after that time all the syrup has been absorbed, add a bit more and rest again.