It’s Norooz (Iranian New Year) season, so there’s lots of sweets everywhere I go these days. Norooz begins on the spring equinox and lasts for two weeks, and during this time, it’s customary to visit loved ones. Naturally, these visits are filled with sugary treats. Kind of like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Iranian style.
I usually make these cashew baklava to celebrate the arrival of Norooz. Much like our household, I make them a little bit Iranian and a little bit Sri Lankan. These aren’t traditional baklava. Cashews take the place of walnuts, and I add some coconut sugar to the mix. Lastly, I add both orange blossom water and Meyer lemon zest to the syrup.
The best part? These are easier to make than they look. Norooz mobarak!
1/2 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cashews
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1⁄2 Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
10 (16-by-13-inch) sheets phyllo
1. Heat the oven to 350F degrees. In a food processor, combine 5 tablespoons butter with the cashews, brown sugar, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt and pulse until the filling is finely chopped.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar with 1⁄3 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice juice, and orange blossom water and set aside.
3. Grease a foil-lined rimmed metal baking sheet with some of the remaining melted butter. On a work surface, lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough so the short sides are parallel to you. Brush the sheet with some butter and place the second sheet over the first. Brush the phyllo with butter and cover with the third sheet. Repeat until you have 5 sheets but do not brush the last sheet with butter. Arrange 3 tablespoons of the cashew filling in a line along the long edge of the stacked phyllo sheets. Roll the phyllo around the filling into a long, narrow log. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 2-inch pieces and and place the pieces in the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining filling and phyllo sheets, arranging each filled piece of baklava against the others so they fit snuggly in a single layer in the baking sheet.
3. Brush the remaining melted butter over the top of the baklava and bake until light brown and crisp, about 35 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven, pour the cooled syrup over the baklava, and let cool to room temperature before serving.