By Susan Barocas
One of my favorite sweets for as long as I can remember is baklava – flakey layers of buttery filo and crunchy nuts, all soaked through with a special honey-sugar syrup until each piece is heavy with gooey goodness. I think there must be some genetic imprinting from my Sephardic ancestors who spent centuries in the Ottoman Empire for me to love it as much as I do.
I’ve tried baklava in bakeries and restaurants all over the world. For my sister’s bat mitzvah many years ago, I came home from college and in one very long night made enough for 200 people. Years later, while waiting for my now 23-year-old son to be born, I filled the freezer with the sweet diamonds, each in an individual paper cup ready to celebrate his birth and brit.
Before, since and in between, I have made pans and pans of baklava, many of them for break-fasts because clearly syrup-soaked baklava is a perfect choice this meal. But, I have to admit that a few years ago I got tired of the baklava production. From working with the rapid-dry filo and the slow baking process to cutting the full pans of pastry without destroying the delicate layers and then the messiness of actually eating a piece, I was looking for a better way.
I found my answer in baklava bites, filling pre-made mini-cups of filo with chopped nuts followed by a quick bake and then a syrup bath before serving the two-bite treat to…well, I’ve made bites for 200 in under an hour! It’s so easy that I now make baklava just because, no special occasion needed. And no butter or oil brushed on every filo layer either, which lowers the fat content considerably.
This week I’ll be bringing plenty of baklava bites to my friend’s break-fast so we can all enjoy the sweetness of the new year together.
by Susan Barocas
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup pistachios or pecans, chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 30 mini filo shells*
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, add nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Pulse until chopped into mostly small, but still pieces. The nuts won’t be even in size and that’s fine. Nuts can also be hand-chopped, then mixed in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and cloves until well blended.
Place shells on a baking sheet. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of nut mixture into each shell, mounding the mixture slightly. Bake 10-12 minutes just until the shells start to turn golden brown.
Make the syrup before making the bites or while they are baking. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, sugar and honey and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the lemon juice and remove the sauce from the heat. Either cool the syrup to room temperature and pour it over the hot bites, or let the bites cool while you make the syrup and pour the hot syrup over the cooled bites. Either way, pour at least a teaspoon of the syrup over the surface of each pastry, letting it soak down into the nuts. Serve immediately or within a couple hours.
Without the syrup, the unbaked bites can also be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for future use. Put the unbaked bites flat in a container and refrigerate or freeze. If frozen, thaw the shells for about 30 minutes. From the freezer or refrigerator, bake the shells 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven and proceed as directed above. The syrup can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. Warm to room temperature before pouring over the hot pastries.
*Available at Middle Eastern markets, some gourmet shops and online.