It wouldn’t make sense for me to start this post without first talking about my Yia Yia. My 88-year-old Yia Yia has always been one of the wittiest and sharp-tongued women I know.
When I was 6-years-old, she moved from South Bend to Florida. After she moved, I was only able to see her once a year when my family visited for spring break. But I will say she was always good for an hour-long phone call! She could talk your ear off!
In March of this year, we received horrible news – Yia Yia suffered a stroke. And more than anything, it affects her ability to find her words while trying to speak. This is devastating because her words were always such a big part of her personality.
Additionally, because of the stroke, Yia Yia was no longer able to live without full-time assistance. So in July she moved back home to South Bend. And for the first time since I was 6, I have been able to see Yia Yia on a monthly basis.
This year, Yia Yia was able to take part in my little family’s yearly tradition – making baklava for the holidays. My mom and dad and I have always used Yia Yia’s recipe, but she was never around to make it with us.
While we were making the baklava I could tell that for the first time since her stroke, she seemed back to her normal self. It was a very special experience, and I will always remember it.
Yia Yia's Famous Baklava
For the baklava
· 1 pound filo
· 3/4 pound unsalted butter, melted
· 1 and 1/4 pound walnuts finely chopped
For the syrup
· 2/3 cup light Karo syrup
· 1 and 1/3 cup honey
· 2/3 cup water
· 1 cinnamon stick
You also need a 9x13 baking pan and a pastry brush
Directions for the baklava
1. Lightly butter a 9x13 baking pan.
2. Unroll filo dough and cover with a cool cloth to keep from drying out as you work. You need to work quickly because the filo sheets will dry out!
3. Carefully place one sheet of filo at the bottom of the baking pan.
4. Dip pastry brush in melted butter and butter layer of filo thoroughly.
5. Do the same thing with four more sheets of filo – placing a sheet in the baking pan and then buttering.
6. Lay a sixth sheet of filo in the pan, but DO NOT butter this sheet.
7. Evenly distribute 1 cup of the chopped walnuts on this layer of filo.
8. Now repeat the process again, but this time you’ll only layer three sheets. So it will look like this: filo, butter, filo, butter, filo, nuts. Continue this process until you have five layers of nuts.
9. The last layer will consist of 6 sheets of filo – just like the bottom layer.
10. Once you’ve layered 6 sheets pour the extra butter in the saucepan on top. But DO NOT dump all of the butter. In your saucepan of melted butter you will see a white creamy bottom layer. This is the milk of the butter. Do not put the milk of the butter on the baklava – just the top layer. Discard the milk of the butter when finished.
11. Refrigerate the baklava until the butter hardens (approximately 1 hour).
12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
13. Score the baklava in 4 straight lines.
14. Put baklava in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the baklava is lightly browned.
Directions for the syrup
1. While baklava is baking, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium heat.
2. Let the syrup come to a boil and then cool.
3. Once the baklava has been pulled from the oven, let it rest five minutes and then pour the entire saucepan of syrup on top. *Rule of thumb: Pour cool syrup over hot baklava so the syrup soaks into the baklava.*
4. Refrigerate baklava for 24 hours so that the syrup can fully soak into the baklava.
5. Cut into isosceles triangles when ready to serve.
6. Serve baklava in cupcake wrappers.
7. The baklava will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month – if you don’t eat it all before then!
ADDITIONAL NOTE: There are 2 rolls of filo in the package. Keep one roll in the refrigerator while you are making the baklava. Sometimes the sheets are not all usable (there torn or crumbly) and you may have to discard some sheets. If that is the case, you will need to use the second roll. Any unused filo may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.