Although baklava is often made with walnuts or almonds, here we use pistachio nuts and orange zest for a flavorful and colorful variation. When working with filo dough, always keep the tissue-thin sheets covered with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out. Make the syrup first so that it will be cold when it is poured over the hot pastry, ensuring that it will be quickly absorbed. This pastry freezes well, either before or after baking.
For the syrup:
3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) sugar
1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) water
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, strained
1 cinnamon stick
2 orange zest strips
2 lemon zest strips
3/4 cup (9 oz./280 g) honey
For the filling:
1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) sugar
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
4 cups (1 lb./500 g) pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1 lb. (500 g) filo dough, thawed in the refrigerator if frozen
3/4 cup (6 oz./185 g) clarified unsalted butter, melted and cooled (see note below)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Butter a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish.
To make the syrup, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, orange and lemon zest strips and honey. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and citrus strips.
To make the filling in a bowl, mash the sugar with the orange and lemon zest. Add the nuts and mix well. Set aside.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large, dry work surface. Unroll the filo sheets, lay them on the parchment and cover them with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out. Line the prepared dish with 1 filo sheet. If the sheet hangs over the sides of the dish, fold the overhanging layer to fit. Brush the sheet with a thin coating of clarified butter. Repeat with 2 more sheets for a total of 3 sheets. Sprinkle lightly with about 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) of the nut mixture.
Cover the nuts with 2 more filo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter. Sprinkle the filo lightly with about 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) of the nut mixture. Repeat to use up the remaining filo and nuts, layering and buttering 2 filo sheets and topping with more of the nut mixture. For the final layer, top the baklava with 3 or 4 buttered filo sheets.
Using a sharp knife, and cutting only through the top layers of filo, cut on the diagonal across the dish, first from one corner and then the from the opposite corner into diamond-shaped pieces and about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) on each side.
Bake the baklava until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Cut the baklava into diamonds, and then pour the syrup over the baklava. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Note: To make clarified butter, slowly melt at least 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) (8 oz./250 g) unsalted butter in a small frying pan over low heat until it is foamy on the surface. Pour the melted butter into a small glass bowl or measuring pitcher and let stand for a minute or two. You should see three distinct layers: milk solids on the bottom; clear, yellow liquid in the middle; and foam on top. Using a tablespoon, carefully remove the foam from the surface. Pour the clear liquid into a clean container, being careful to leave the milk solids behind in the bowl or pitcher. Discard the milk solids. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking