Serves: Makes 1 (9- by 13-inch) pan
- 1 pound prepared phyllo dough (two 8-ounce twin packs, 20 sheets each), thawed for 24 hours in the refrigerator, then warmed to room temperature on counter for 1½to 2 hours
- 1 pound raw shelled pistachios
- ½ cup (3½ ounces) sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup (5¼ ounces) water
- 1½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar
- 1½ teaspoons orange flower water
- Make the filling: Place the pistachios, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom in the bowl of the food processor and process for 15 to 20 seconds, until the nuts are finely chopped (the largest should be the size of mini chocolate chips). Transfer to the medium bowl and set aside. Melt the butter in the small saucepan and set aside.
- Prepare the phyllo: Remove the phyllo from the packaging, unfold the sheets, and stack them so that they lie flat on your work surface. Cover the stack with plastic wrap, letting wrap fall over all four edges. Dampen and wring out a kitchen towel and place it on top of the plastic wrap to hold it in place and prevent the phyllo from drying out.
- Assemble the baklava: Brush the bottom of the baking pan with a thin layer of melted butter. Take out a sheet of phyllo and re-cover the rest (be sure to cover the remaining sheets each time you remove a new one). Place the sheet of phyllo on the bottom of the pan and brush the top with a thin coating of the butter. It's okay if you don't completely cover every spot with butter. You don't want to soak it-you'll have 40 layers of buttered phyllo by the time you're done and too much butter will make the pastry greasy and heavy. Lay a second sheet of phyllo over the first and butter it the same way. Repeat until you have buttered and layered 10 sheets of phyllo in the pan. Use a spatula to spread about one-third of the pistachio filling evenly over the phyllo. Layer another 10 sheets of phyllo as described above, and top with another one-third of the nut filling. Repeat the layering again, topping with the remaining filling. Layer another 10 sheets of phyllo on top to finish the pastry. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center.
- Cut and bake the baklava: You'll need to cut the baklava before it goes in the oven for two reasons. First, you need to create pathways for the syrup at the end of the recipe to reach every part of the baklava. Second, the pastry will be so crisp after baking that it would simply shatter if you tried to cut it at that point. Using a thin sharp serrated knife or an electric carving knife, cut the baklava on the diagonal at 2-inch intervals, creating a diamond pattern. Use a gentle sawing motion and try not to compress the pastry by pressing down on it too hard with while cutting. Be sure to cut the pastry all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake the baklava for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden in color. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely.
- Make and add the syrup: Pour the water and sugar into the cleaned small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain a steady simmer; cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange flower water. Immediately pour the syrup evenly over the entire surface of the baklava, allowing it to run down into the cut marks and along the sides of the pan.
- Let the baklava cool to room temperature before serving. It is at its best about 24 hours after the syrup is added. Serve with tea or coffee.
Storing: Baklava will keep, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 7 days, though the texture changes from flaky and crisp to more solid and crystallized as time goes by-both textures have their fans and are delicious.