The technique for this recipe is less like baking, and more like a therapeutic session of arts and crafts. The thawed sheets of phyllo dough take the form of tissue paper, and the assembly is really a matter of laying a few sheets down in a rectangular pan, sprinkling over a walnut and raisin mixture, and then repeating. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. “If the sheets stick up a bit from the sides of the pan, you can just fold them over the top,” Tolka says.
Throughout the process, I mistakenly separated a sheet or two too early from the pile, and they dried out and cracked when I picked them up. To avoid this, you can wrap the pile in a damp kitchen towel to keep them pliable.
Once the layers were done, I poured a cup of melted butter over the finished product (this might seem like a lot of butter, but it’ll permeate through the layers). Tolka’s favorite butter to use is a European style butter called Plugra. “It has a higher butter fat content, so it gets crispy but not as burnt,” she says.
Once the baklava was in the oven, I worked on the syrup, which calls for the boiling of sugar, lemon slices, water, and honey. As someone who prefers not-too-sweet desserts, I skimped a bit on the amount of sugar, but that was a mistake, because the liquid failed to achieve a perfect syrupy consistency. If you’re having this issue, I recommend adding cornstarch to thicken things up.