Turkish Baklava, Antep-Style
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is a delicate one. The following is a recipe for Antep baklava adapted from Aylin Oney Tan’s book, “A Taste of Sun and Fire: Gaziantep Cookery.”
The dough must be kneaded well so that it is pliable but not sticky. You will be dividing it into 40 layers and rolling each as thin as you can make it; flour with a higher gluten content helps with this. Tan’s recipe calls for layering circular sheets in a circular tray 50 to 60 centimeters (about 20 to 24 inches) in diameter. If you use a standard 18 x 13-inch half sheet pan and roll out rectangular layers, the recipe will leave you with just a bit of extra dough—if you manage to roll it so thin. Alternatively, halve the recipe and use a 9- x 13-inch pan.
You can also buy pre-made phyllo dough sheets, but be sure they are the thinnest available. You can expect about two dozen sheets in a one-pound package. If needed, trim them to the size of your pan before assembling.
For the filling, as the availability of kaymak is perhaps unlikely, Tan includes a substitute even the Turks use—a mock cream of milk cooked with semolina until thick and almost pudding-like.
The baking time is an estimate, so watch carefully to avoid drying out the baklava. The syrup should be ready and warm right when the baklava comes out.
For the Filling
- 3 cups (750 milliliters) milk
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) semolina
- 1 pound (500 grams) shelled, ground pistachios (as green as you can find them)
For the Dough
- 8 cups (1 kilogram) wheat flour with high gluten content
- 1 3/4 teaspoon (10 grams) salt
- 3 eggs
- Water, as needed
- Wheat starch (or a mixture of 1/2 cup cornstarch and 2 tablespoons flour), for rolling out the pastry sheets
- 2 pounds melted clarified butter, for brushing between the pastry layers
For the Syrup
- 5 cups (1 kilogram) sugar
- Scant 2 cups (450 milliliters) water
Prepare the filling by heating the milk in a pot, adding the semolina and stirring continuously until the milk boils and thickens to a cream-like consistency. Then let the mixture cool. It should be almost pudding-like.
Grease a 20- to 24-inch diameter circular tray with a 2-inch lip.
Mix the flour, salt, and eggs and add water until the dough is pliable but not sticky. Knead well, then divide into 40 equal pieces, roughly egg-sized. With a long slender rolling pin, roll each into a circular layer as wide as the pan. (Use the starch to keep the dough from sticking to the pin and your work surface.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place each pastry layer in the greased tray, sprinkling melted butter over each layer. After you lay in 20 sheets, spread the cooled milk and semolina mixture over the 20th layer, and sprinkle that with the crushed pistachios. Continue stacking the next 20 layers, sprinkling melted butter on each.
When finished, take a sharp knife and cut the entire thing into bite-sized squares. Drizzle the last of the warm butter over the top and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile, boil the sugar and water together for 10 minutes. As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the hot syrup over it and leave the baklava to cool. Eat each piece with your fingers, holding it upside down. All five senses, right?