Unlike Greek Baklava, the Lebanese version of this delightful pastry is far less sweet due to the substitution of sugar for the honey. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe; she really is the expert baklewa baker at our house, making trays and trays of it as gifts for good friends and business associates (it’s good to do business with our family!) Everyone gives it the highest praise, stating it is by the far the best they have ever tasted and we are asked repeatedly for the recipe. So friends the day has come, we are sharing both the recipe and the tricks that make our version so very special.
3 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tsp. Orange Water
In a medium-sized sauce pan, combine sugar and water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Over medium heat bring the sugar syrup to a boil for 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and orange water and boil 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat to cool. Once cool, refrigerate until cold. The syrup can be held in the refrigerator for several days prior to preparing the pastry.
4 cups walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 package. Filo dough, thawed
1 lb. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 300-degrees. Unroll filo dough, covering it with a towel to keep it from drying out and allow it to come to room temperature.
Place the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are a uniform, fine chop (do not over process.) Reserve one cup of this nut mixture, and return it to the food processor for a few more pulses, these nuts are to be a finer grind for the top of the baklewa, the courser chopped nuts used in the middle between layers of filo.
Brush a 9x13 pan with melted butter and begin to layer the filo dough, brushing each sheet with melted butter until half the filo package has been used to fill the bottom of the pan. Spread the nut filling evenly over the filo and continue to layer the remaining filo in the same manner by brushing each sheet with butter.
Cut the top layer of filo into rows approximately 1 ½-inch wide, cutting in the opposite direction on the diagonal to create a diamond shape. Do not cut through to the nut and bottom layers.
Bake in 300-degree oven for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot baklewa. The filo dough will soak up all the syrup as it cools; do not be alarmed if it looks like too much syrup. Cool completely and use a sharp knife to complete the cut started prior to baking by cutting through the nut and bottom layers. Serve at room temperature. Store any uneaten baklewa in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Individual pieces can be placed in decorative paper cupcake liners for a more festive display on holiday platters or for packaging and gift giving.