Baklava

Makes 1 full sheet
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

Syrup
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup rose water

Dough
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon syrup (prepared)
1/4 cup rose water
1 egg
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Filling
2 pounds of blanched almonds, ground
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons ground cardamom
1 tablespoon rose water

Baking
1/2 cup corn oil or melted butter
for baking
2 tablespoons rosepetals and
pistachios (chopped or ground) for garnish

Directions

1. Prepare the syrup by combining the sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the rose water, and set aside.

2. For the filling, finely grind the almonds, sugar, and cardamom in a food processor. Set aside.

3. For the dough, combine the milk, melted butter, syrup, rose water, and egg in a mixing bowl or dough maker. Add the flour and mix well for 5 to 10 minutes to form a dough that does not stick to your hands. Divide the dough into 2 balls of equal size and place in a bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 1/2 hour at room temperature.

4. When the dough has risen, brush a 17-by-11-by-1-inch sheet with 1/4 cup oil and preheat the oven to 350°F.

5. Prepare a large, wide area for rolling out the dough. Cover the surface with a dusting of flour. Remove 1 ball of dough from bowl and roll out into a very thin rectangular layer with a thin wooden rolling pin (the rolled dough should be thinner than a pie crust). Roll dough from the center to the outside edge in all directions, giving it a quarter turn occasionally for an even thickness. The finished dough should be larger than the cookie sheet.

6. Roll the thin layer of dough around the wooden rolling pin. Place it on the greased cookie sheet and unroll the dough until it covers the whole cookie sheet. Do not cut off the excess dough; let the dough hang over the edge of the cookie sheet, 1 inch on all sides.

7. Evenly sprinkle all the almond-filling mixture on top of the dough. Spread and smooth the mixture on the dough with your hand.

8. Roll the second ball of dough out into a very thin rectangular layer as in step 5. Roll the layer around the rolling pin, place on top of the filling mixture in the cookie sheet, and unroll the dough to cover the mixture, allowing it to hang over all sides like the bottom layer. Press down on the dough evenly with your hands all over the surface of the dough.

9. Trace an outline of 1-inch diamond shapes on top of the baklava with a sharp knife. Guide the knife in a straight line, assuring that each piece will be of equal size.

10. Fold and roll the overhanging dough from the top layer under the dough from the bottom layer. Press together and pinch the top and bottom edges together to seal like a pie, forming a rim around the edge of the cookie sheet.

11. Hold down the dough with one hand, pressing down with your palm while cutting the dough into diamond shapes with a sharp knife. With a brush, paint the dough with 1/4 cup oil and place the baking pan in the middle of the preheated oven.

12. Bake for 20 to 35 minutes (depending on your oven). When the baklava is pink, remove it from the oven and pour half of the syrup all over the top.

13. Decorate the baklava with chopped or ground pistachio nuts. Cover the baklava tightly with aluminum foil and let stand for 24 hours until it settles.

14. Using a sharp knife, lift the diamond pieces out of the baking pan and carefully arrange on a serving dish.

15. Keep this pastry covered, in the refrigerator or freezer. Nush-e Jan!

Recipe excerpted from New Food of Life: Ancient Persian & Modern Iranian Cooking & Ceremonies or Silk Road Cooking: a Vegetarian Journey, by Najmieh Batmangli.