Baklava is such a wonderful thing! Flaky, crisp, tender and soft....all at the same time. I love the hint of orange the syrup adds. We enjoy making baklava each Christmas to give as gifts - it's become one of our favorite traditions every year. Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 92.
Put pistachios, apricots, and sugar into a food processor bowl; process until the mixture is finely chopped, pulsing as needed to achieve the texture of small, dried lentils.
Meanwhile, while you make the filling in the food processor, remove the box of phyllo sheets from refrigeration, letting them sit on the counter to remove some of the chill. (This will make them easier much easier to work with.)
Unfold one pack of the fillo sheets, lying them flat on a rimmed baking sheet; cover the stack with 2-3 sheets of plastic wrap, making sure there is excess plastic wrap extending past all edges of the stack of fillo.
Dampen a kitchen towel, wringing it out very well; lay the dampened towel on top of the stack of fillo sheets that is covered with plastic wrap, letting this sit for 10 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. (This dampened towel part is a very key to working with the fillo sheets, so don't skip this step, whatever you do!) **Please Note: Make certain that the dampened towel doesn't touch any part of the fillo dough; it should always rest on top of the plastic wrap sheets only.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat; using a pastry brush, liberally brush the bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with some of the melted butter.
Remove a sheet of fillo dough from the stack, making sure to immediately cover the stack of fillo once again. (Do this everytime you remove a sheet of fillo.) Place the fillo sheet into the bottom of the butter baking pan, then gently brush or dab the fillo sheet with melted butter. (Take care not to soak each sheet with too much butter since you'll eventually wind up with 40 sheets of buttered phyllo when you're all finished.)
Repeat with another sheet of fillo, continuing to layer them on top of each other until you have layered and buttered 10 sheets. Sprinkle the fillo sheets with 1/3 of the prepared apricot/pistachio filling, spreading it out evenly.
Repeat layering and buttering with 10 more fillo sheets, then sprinkle on another 1/3 of the prepared apricot/pistachio filling. Again, repeat the fillo layering and buttering with 10 more fillo sheets, sprinkling on the final 1/3 of the prepared apricot/pistachio filling.
Top the final layer of the apricot/pistachio filling with the remaining 10 sheets of the buttered and layered fillo. Now, cover the baking pan loosely with plastic wrap and place the prepared pan of baklava into the freezer for 20 minutes to make scoring the baklava much easier.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven.
Before baking the baklava, use an electric knife to cut the baklava on the diagonal at 1 1/2-inch intervals in a diamond pattern; be sure to cut through all the layers of the baklava. Take care not to compress the pastry by pressing down on it too much; the incisions you cut across the pastry mark the serving portions as well as providing pathways for the flavored syrup to penetrate the pastry after it's baked.
Bake the baklava, uncovered, until it is golden brown on the top and the bottom, 35-40 minutes.
Transfer the pan of baklava to a cooling rack and let it cool completely. Gently run a knife along the lines cut into the baklava and around the edges.
Place the sugar, orange juice, orange zest, cardamom, and salt into a medium sauce pan over medium heat, bringing it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear, about 5-7 minutes.
Pour the warm syrup evenly over the entire surface of the baklava, allowing it to run down into the lines cut into the baklava and along the sides of the pan. Let the baklava cool to room temperature before serving.
1. When making baklava, you need about 10 hands.....or at least FOUR. Make baklava when you have a partner available!
2. Baklava is best about 8-24 hours after it's baked. Don't make the syrup ahead of time - if it simmers too long, it will be the wrong consistency when poured over the baklava and will crystallize, keeping the syrup from running down into the incisions cut into the pastry and around the edge of the pan.
3. Baklava will keep at room temperature for up to 5 days, though the texture changes over that time. Store the baklava in an air-tight container.