Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup

I have always had a fear of phyllo. It is thin, breakable and who REALLY knows how to use it?! No good could come of it, and it would only set me up for failure.

Although I realized this weekend, good CAN come of phyllo – baklava! My motto for cooking and baking is that the worst thing that can happen is take out, so I thought this Sunday I would attempt to make my first batch of baklava.

I will warn you, it isn’t a quick batch of cookies, hands on time was well over an hour, plus an hour of baking and an hour of cooling. But, it was one of those accomplishments I will remember – when I cut the diamonds, cooked it until it was golden and poured the syrup over top…it smelled of spicy goodness and I realized “my goodness, I just made baklava.”

So don’t be afraid, it can be done. Just a few tips: keep your phyllo moist with a wet paper towel while you work. Also, don’t worry if it breaks – just put it together best you can because when it bakes and is cut it really doesn’t matter. Last tip – be patient! The phyllo consists of 30 layers in this recipe and takes some time to assemble.

But, the result is probably the most amazing baklava I have ever had. The orange and cardamom with pistachio and cinnamon warms you inside and out, and the sugary syrup makes you feel like a kid. I will definitely be making this again.

Thanks to Bon Appetit for this recipe and the corresponding article that chronicles how Molly Wizenberg got over her “fear of phyllo.” It inspired me, so I hope it inspires you too!

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA WITH ORANGE-CARDAMOM SYRUP
Makes about 30

1 3/4 cups plus 8 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
12 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
30 14×9-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (from one 16-ounce package)
Powdered sugar (optional)

Simmer 1 3/4 cups sugar and orange juice in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Add cardamom. Cool syrup.

Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet over nuts; brush lightly with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts; brush with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Recut baklava along lines all the way through layers. DO AHEAD Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Sift powdered sugar over, if desired.

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