Baklava…12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

You know what I miss most since going gluten-free?  Phyllo, specifically, anything made with phyllo, more specifically – baklava.  Back in my gluten days, baklava was probably my favorite dessert.  Seriously.  I cannot imagine a better flavor combination that nuts, honey, cinnamon and butter.  Oh, and the orange…love the orange! 

Baklava is one of those desserts that deserves the spotlight on your holiday dessert table.  Everyone oohs and aahs when they see a platter of these gorgeous diamonds, glistening with the orange-honey scented syrup and bursting with nuts.  And, yes, it is a time-consuming dessert, but it is the holidays and what better time to make such a crowd-pleaser?

4 cups whole almonds, toasted and chopped
4 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 pound phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups honey
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
Orange peel from 1/2 orange
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Toast nuts for 10-15 minutes, allow to cool. 
In a food processor, combine 2 cups of almonds and 2 cups of pecans, along with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon – pulse until finely chopped, but not a paste.  Pour into a large bowl, along with 2/3 cup of sugar.
Next, combine the remaining nuts and cinnamon in the food processor, and pulse until just coarsely chopped.  Add to finely ground nuts, and mix well.
Using a 13×9 pan, place one sheet of phyllo in pan, brush with melted butter.  Repeat until you have a total of 6 sheets of phyllo.
Spoon in 3 cups of the nut mixture.
Place a sheet of phyllo on top of the nuts, brush with melted butter, and repeat until you have 4 sheets of phyllo.
Spoon in 3 cups of the nut mixture.
Place a sheet of phyllo on top of the nuts, brush with melted butter, and repeat until you 4 sheets of phyllo.
Spoon in remaining nuts, and repeat process with phyllo, using the remaining sheets.

Using a sharp knife, slice into diamonds and allow to rest while you make the syrup.
Combine honey, sugar, orange juice, water, cinnamon stick and orange peel in large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Keep a close watch on the syrup, as it will boil over. 
Stirring occasionally, continue to boil for 10-15 minutes. 
Remove from heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick; set syrup aside.
Once syrup is cooling, place baklava in the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove baklava from oven, and immediately pour cooled syrup over hot baklava. 
Leave baklava on cooling rack until completely cooled. 
Cover well and store at room temperature. 
A resting period of 24 hours is best, but if you can’t wait that long, the minimum time would be 8 hours. 
Store at room temperature.

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