Sure, spending time with family and friends is great, but we all know that one of the best parts of the holidays is eating sweet, butter-laden treats. My mom, Sami, always made flaky, nutty, syrupy baklava for special occasions and it remains one of my all-time favorite indulgences.
For the syrup:
Heat all the ingredients together in a saucepan until the sugar melts. Then put it in the refrigerator to cool.
For the filling:
Mix the walnuts and the sugar, then add the butter and 2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed (filling should be just moist).
Preheat oven to 325 F.2.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the 4 sticks of unsalted butter.3.
Unfold packages of phyllo dough sheets.4.
Brush a 9- by 13-inch pan with melted butter; take 3 to 4 sheets of phyllo dough at a time, put in the pan and brush with butter (keep the remaining dough covered to prevent from drying out).5.
After you've brushed approximately 12 sheets with butter, evenly spread on half of the walnut filling and continue adding more phyllo dough sheets. Spread on the remaining walnut filling (make sure to leave enough sheets to cover the last walnut filling and brush every 3 to 4 sheets with butter). Drizzle any remaining butter on the top.6.
Cut entire pan into diamond shapes, taking care not to cut all the way through.7.
Bake for 1 hour or until golden-brown. After baking, you may decide to put the pan under the broiler with the oven door open for a few minutes for a more golden color on top (but watch out — it burns easily!).8.
Evenly drizzle the cooled syrup over the baklava. Complete the diamond shape by cutting all the way through. Remove from pan immediately. Serve and enjoy!