Maple Baklava

Here in Vermont the first sap is starting to flow, and we’re about to kick off the upside to our infamous mud season: sugaring.  Between winter and spring, when the snow melts and our dirt roads turn to hummocky mud the sap starts to move through our state tree, the sugar maple.  All around town, hard working men and women have been inspecting sap lines, hauling and stacking wood to fire their evaporators.  While mud season offers perhaps Vermont’s least appealing month in terms of weather, scenery and cleanliness, from these cold and muddy weeks, we produce roughly 900,000 gallons of pure Vermont gold.

In expectation of convivial nights gathered with friendly neighbors around their red-hot wood-fired sap boilers, I decided to try out a new maple-centric dessert.  With it’s honey-like texture, I figured maple syrup would make for a fine baklava, unheard of as it might have been to the Ottoman Empire, and a few searches of the internet suggested I was on to something.  I mostly followed this helpful recipe, tweaking a few areas.  (I just couldn’t bring myself to use a pound of butter.  I am a serious butter lover, but I couldn’t do it.)  The result is everything I hoped it would be: tender, nutty, buttery, and very very mapley.  For more great shots of our local syrup production, check out Jon’s blog.  The syrup I used in this recipe was produced by these expert, veteran sugarers about half a mile from my house.

Maple Baklava Recipe:

1lb phyllo dough
1lb nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and almonds)
2-1/2 sticks of butter

Syrup:

1-1/4c maple syrup
2c sugar
3/4c water
cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1 inch piece of lemon peel

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Coarsely grind your nuts in a food processor, about 15 one second pulses, and set aside.  Melt butter in a saucepan and have it at the ready on your work surface.  Grease a 9×13 cake pan, and lay down your first piece of phyllo dough.  (The Athens brand is perfectly sized, but if you have larger pieces, trim them to fit your pan.)  Brush melted butter on the phyllo dough, and add another sheet, until you have 5 sheets of dough, with butter between each.  Butter the fifth sheet and them sprinkle with an even, thin layer of chopped nuts.  Continue layering your phyllo, butter and nuts, five sheets of dough between each layer of nuts, always butter every layer.  When you get towards the end be sure you use up all your nuts and have 3-5 phyllo sheets for the top layer.  Generously butter the top of the baklava.  Using a very sharp knife, cut it into diamonds, cutting down almost to the bottom of your dough layers.

Bake the baklava at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then raise oven temperature to 350 and bake 15 more minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare your syrup during the last 15 minutes of baking time.

In a saucepan, combine all the syrup ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Stirring constantly, simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.  Pour through a wire mesh strainer into a measuring cup or other easy-to-pour vessel.  After you remove the baklava from the oven, pour the syrup evenly over the top getting into all the cut crevices.

Store, covered, at room temperature and wait overnight for all the ingredients to meld before re-cutting the baklava and eating it until you have a toothache.

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