Greek festivals are usually held in late summer or early fall, and the most popular dessert sold is always Baklava. In my area, the newspaper has reported that thousands of pieces of this delicious pastry would be sold at the annual festival, and with good reason, Baklava has a reputation for not only being delicious, but difficult to make, so when the homemade variety is available, it is snatched up as soon as it appears. The truth is that baklava is really quite easy to make, and the only trick is learning to work with phyllo pastry. A good way to learn is to make this gorgeous Baklava Cheesecake where working with phyllo is easy and very forgiving, since all but the top level is hidden under a delicious creamy cheesecake and any mistakes are covered up. You’ll find that this cheesecake actually takes baklava to an ethereal level – to the point that people actually dream about it.
Phyllo dough can be purchased in most larger grocery stores in the freezer section next to the puff pastry. It should be thawed out in the refrigerator for a couple of days, although it can be set out on the counter to thaw in a couple of hours for those in a hurry. Have a slightly damp non-terry towel ready to cover the dough so it doesn’t dry out between layers. Also, have plenty of butter melted and ready to brush over the phyllo as well as a good pastry brush (one of the newer silicone ones will work well). Baklava and this cheesecake are not a medium for cutting calories, and even though there are recipes out there that use non-stick spray in between the layers, they are an abomination to anyone possessing taste buds, and there is no reason to ruin a perfectly good dessert; if counting calories is in the forecast, don’t make this cheesecake or at least eat a smaller piece. Never refreeze thawed phyllo – it keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks, but if refrozen, it sticks together and tears into messy pieces.
One of my hobbies is devising new cheesecake recipes; when I see a new flavor, a pastry, or dessert, I try to turn it into a cheesecake. That is how this cheesecake came about, and it is very popular with my catering clients. I serve it at the fanciest of dinner parties. Although it needs no extra adornment, a dollop of whipped cream, a sprinkling of nuts, and a sprig of mint will make it even more glamorous.
8 ounces phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup finely ground walnuts
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 8 oz. packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 medium lemon
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Unroll the phyllo and cut into 10" rounds (the remaining pieces will be used to fill in.
- Layer 5 sheets in a 10" springform pan, buttering each sheet and using the trimmings around the edges to fill in.
- Mix the walnuts, almonds, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Spread 1/2 of the nut mixture over the phyllo in pan.
- Top the nut mixture with 5 more layers, buttering each.
- Blend remaining ingredients (except syrup ingredients) in food processor until smooth; pour over the phyllo.
- Repeat 5 layers of phyllo, nut filling, and 5 remaining layers of phyllo.
- Score with a sharp knife or razor through the top five layers into 16 (quarters, then each quarter into 4) wedges.
- Bake at for 45 to 60 minutes or until the phyllo is golden and flaky.
- While the cheesecake is baking (or up to a day ahead), make the syrup: mix the sugar and water in a saucepan.
- With a vegetable peeler, peel off the outer peel (none of the white) from the lemon in large pieces and add to the sugar and water.
- Squeeze in the juice from the lemon.
- Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. li>
- Uncover the pan, turn the heat down to medium high, and cook until slightly thickened, abut 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let sit until cool; remove the lemon peel.
- When the cheesecake is done, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then carefully cut through the scored wedges almost to the bottom of the phyllo.
- Pour the syrup over all and refrigerate (or speed up the cooling in the freezer) until thoroughly cool.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 499 Calories from Fat 312
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 62% Protein 6% Carb. 32%
Nutrient Amount per Serving
Total Fat 35 g
Saturated Fat 18 g
Cholesterol 131 mg
Sodium 311 mg
Total Carbohydrate 40 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sugars 25 g
Protein 7 g
Vitamin A 23% Vitamin C 4% Calcium 0% Iron 7%