For the simple syrup
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
For the baklava
2½ cups Biolea Nerantzio organic olive oil
2 pounds frozen phyllo (4 rolls), thawed overnight in the refrigerator
2 cups organic walnuts, ground
2 cups organic pistachio kernels, ground
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Makes about 48 pieces
Preparation time: 2 hours / Bake time: 40 minutes
Please don’t be intimidated by baklava! Recipes using phyllo are all over this book, and Theo’s version of baklava, using olive oil instead of butter, makes this truly a healthy dessert recipe that keeps perfectly for a few days. She calls her version Not Your Mother’s Baklava because her mom used browned butter instead of olive oil, only used walnuts, and one pound of phyllo. Theo stole her sister Kathy’s idea of using two pounds of phyllo instead of one, creating a thick gooey middle texture complementary to the crunchiness of the outer phyllo and the nuts inside.
To make the simple syrup
1. Up to 1 day ahead, but at least 3 hours before baking, making certain it has time chill, in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, sugar, and lemon juice, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
2. Bring the syrup to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Test for doneness by placing a ¼-inch dot of hot syrup on your thumbnail. If it doesn’t roll off, remove from the heat and let cool. Keep boiling until the nail test is solid.
3. Cover the pan with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
To make the baklava
1. Spread a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
2. One sheet at a time, layer 1 roll of phyllo into the pan, brushing each sheet with a thin layer of olive oil before adding the next (see Baking tip).
3. In a large bowl, mix together the walnuts, pistachios, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Spread 2 cups of the nut mixture over the phyllo.
4. One sheet at a time, layer 2 rolls phyllo on top, brushing each sheet with a thin layer of olive oil before adding the next.
5. Spread the remaining nut mixture over the phyllo.
6. Top with the remaining 1 roll of phyllo, layering one sheet at a time and brushing each sheet with a thin coat of olive oil before adding the next.
7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
8. With a very sharp, long nonserrated knife, cut 6 equal rows, about 1½ inches each on the 9-inch side of the pan, making sure to slice through to the bottom of the pan. Use your thumb and forefinger placed on either side of your knife to hold the phyllo down as you cut. Cut equal diagonal rows, 1½ inches wide on the 13-inch side of pan. The finished baklava pieces will be diamond-shaped.
9. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for 30 minutes more until golden brown.
10. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot baklava. It will sizzle and absorb the syrup perfectly this way.
Baking tip: Use a wide 3- or 4-inch paintbrush from your hardware store as a pastry brush—your baklava assembly will go much faster! Don’t forget to cut any phyllo dish you make BEFORE baking! Make sure to evenly pour the syrup over the baklava, covering the edges and middle of the pastry equally. You might use a pitcher or vessel with a pour spout—even a squeeze bottle with a large tip—to control even syrup distribution.
From Theodora Stephan’s cookbook “OPA! HEALTHY GREEK COOKBOOK: Modern Recipes for Living the Good Life”