Almond Baklava

Charles Perry, the food critic for the LA Times, and an expert on Arabic food, tells me that most baklava in Turkey is now made exclusively with sugar syrup in place of honey. Another illusion shattered. But baklava is good with honey added, and, even if not authentic, this recipe satisfies Western dreams of an aromatic East.

200 g granulated sugar
170 ml water
75 ml liquid honey
2 cinnamon sticks
the peel of a whole orange, removed with a potato peeler
1 tsp rose water
100 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
300 g coarsely chopped almonds
½tsp ground cinnamon
400 g filo pastry, thawed if frozen

Put 150 g sugar into a saucepan with the water, honey, cinnamon sticks and orange peel and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring it to the boil, then remove from the heat. Mix in the rose water and cool, then chill. This syrup can be prepared several days ahead. When you are ready to make the baklava, preheat the oven to 150 °C (gas mark 2). Brush a large baking tray with melted butter. Mix together the almonds, cinnamon and 50 g sugar. Fold one sheet of filo in half to make a rectangle. Place on the baking tray and brush with butter. Repeat until you have used up half the filo. Sprinkle the nut mixture over the top. Top with the rest of the sheets, folding each one and brushing with butter. Try to make the top layer nice and neat, and use a sharp knife to make diamond shapes on it. Bake until golden - about 40 minutes. Now strain the rose syrup to remove the peel and cinnamon. Spoon 200 ml of syrup over the baklava while it is still hot. Cut the baklava along the diamond lines. Let it stand for 4 hours before eating in very small pieces, with the rest of the syrup on the side, and a cup of strong black coffee.

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