In Greek: μπακλαβάς σουσαμένιος, pronounced bahk-lah-VAHS soo-sah-MEN-yohs
Serving this delightful and easy version of baklava - a layered sweet made with thin phyllo sheets - is an old custom on Christmas Eve in Thrace, and other areas of Greece. Made with olive oil, the pastry meets Greek Orthodox Lenten-type fasting guidelines, and it's a delicious alternative to other versions of baklava, especially for those who avoid nuts. (See note below about allergies.)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
- 12 sheets of phyllo dough
- 1 2/3 to 2 1/2 cups of toasted sesame seeds
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- ground cinnamon (optional)
- FOR THE SYRUP
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of sugar
- 3 slices of lemon peel (about 1 inch X 1/4 inch)
Note: This recipe works best in a non-stick or oiled deep baking or roasting pan measuring approximately 14.5 X 10.5 inches (about the size of a medium lasagna pan).
Preheat oven to 350°F (about 178°C).
Place 3 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the pan. Trim or fold in to fit. Brush the top sheet with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, paying attention to edges.
Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 - 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds. Sprinkle with a very little cinnamon (small pinch) if desired.
Place 2 sheets of phyllo on top, brush the top sheet with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/3 - 1/2 cup of sesame seeds (and optional cinnamon). Repeat until 3 sheets of phyllo remain for the top.
Place 3 remaining phyllo sheets on top, brush with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/3 - 1/2 cup of sesame seeds. Score the top without cutting all the way through to the bottom into 8 pieces (down the middle and into 4 parts down the length of the pan).
Bake on the rack just below the middle of the oven at 350°F (about 178°C) for about 40 minutes, until top is nicely golden.
When the pastry is almost finished, make the syrup. Combine water, sugar, and lemon peel in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Boil for 6-7 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside.
As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, remove lemon peel from syrup and pour evenly over the pastry, making sure to get the edges. Caution: The pan will be hot and the syrup may spatter and boil. Take necessary care.
- Note: When pouring the syrup over the baklava, the sesame seeds on top may get displaced. As soon as the syrup is in the pan, gently redistribute them evenly, taking care not to disturb the phyllo. When the syrup has been absorbed and cools, the seeds will remain in place.
With a sharp knife, cut the pastry all the way through to the bottom of pan, and set aside to give the syrup time to absorb and for the baklava to come to room temperature - 3-4 hours. When cooled, cut each of the 8 large pieces into 4 small pieces, either in strips or squares, to make 32 pieces.
Yield: 32 small pieces
Note about serving size: This version of baklava works best in nice small pieces.
Note about allergies: If you or someone you cook for is allergic to nuts and you are considering this recipe because it has no nuts, it is possible that those with allergies to nuts could have problems with sesame seeds as well. For more information, refer to what our About.com Guide to Allergies, Dr. Daniel More, has to say about Nut Allergies.