Recipe for Lebanese baklawa
The first thing a new visitor to the Near East will notice about the locals is their keen and well-developed knack for hospitality.
Since I arrived in the Near East, I have been served tea by a woman with little more than a gas can for a stove, dined with the staff at a museum I visited, offered Arabic coffee by a plumber, and had Sunday lunch with a family whose home I just happened to be walking past around dinner time.
Friendship comes easily in this hospitable culture because people are not viewed as interruptions, but always as valued guests. For those who would like to implement some Near Eastern hospitality in their own homes, food is a great place to start!
A good guest never arrives without a gift for the host, so whether you are visiting a friend or entertaining in your own home, this recipe* for traditional (and delicious) Lebanese Baklawa pastry will be a great asset to show hospitality.
*Adapted from The Lebanese Cookbook by Dawn, Elaine, & Selwa Anthony
What you will need:
FOR ATTER SYRUP:
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup water
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon rosewater or orange blossom water
½ lb (250 g) melted butter, unsalted
1 lb (500 g) filo pastry, thawed
2 cups walnuts, pistachios, almonds (any mixture of the three), finely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
In a saucepan, stir sugar, water, and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Skim the foam from the surface and continue to boil, stirring occasionally until the syrup slightly thickens—about 10 minutes. Add the rosewater or orange blossom water towards the end of the cooking time. Stand syrup to cool. Allow syrup to reach room temperature before pouring over pastry.
Using a pastry brush, paint the sides and bottom of baking dish, approximately 12x18 inches (30x45 cm), with butter.
Lay the first layer of filo pastry into the buttered dish, then butter the pastry. Lay the second layer on top of the first and butter it, continuing in this way until you have used about half the sheets (six or more layers). Overlap or fold in the sides of the sheets if necessary.
Mix the chopped nuts with sugar and spread the mixture evenly over the top sheet of pastry in the tray, reserving a small amount to sprinkle on top. Cover with the remaining pastry sheets, buttering them in the same way as the lower layers. Brush the final sheet with butter and sprinkle remaining nut and sugar mixture evenly on top.
Cut deep diagonal lines down and across the surface of the pastry to form diamond-shaped slices.
Pre-heat oven to 325-350˚ F (160-180˚ C) and bake on center shelf for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature up to 450-475˚ F (230-240˚ C) and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until the pastry puffs and is a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and while the pastry is still hot, pour the cooled Atter syrup over it. Makes 28 pieces.
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Megan is a photojournalism student who is passionate about telling the stories of how God is moving in our world. She completed a three-month communications internship in the Middle East.