Nutty Banana Baklava

Makes about 5 dozen pieces.

Note: Baklava is traditionally made with walnuts, but any nuts work well, so use your favorites. Macadamias are very tasty, but very expensive, so you might mix them with hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts -- or whatever you like. You'll need a pastry brush (or a small brand-new paint brush) and a jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with raised edges). The frozen phyllo sheets require a 12-hour thaw. And clear off lots of counter space before you start, because you will be working with the large pan and a separate stack of phyllo sheets.

• 1 (1-lb.) pkg. frozen phyllo dough

• 3 ripe bananas, sliced

• 1/2 c. plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided

• 1 c. (2 sticks) plus 3 tbsp. butter, divided

• About 1 lb. (about 4 c.) nuts (see note), coarsely chopped

• 2 tsp. cinnamon


• 2 c. honey

• 1 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

• 1 c. water

• 1 tsp. vanilla

Thaw the phyllo sheets according to package directions (typically 12 hours or more in the refrigerator and a few minutes at room temperature).

Prepare the caramelized bananas: Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a frying pan. Add the sliced bananas and 3 tablespoons of the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture has browned a little. Set aside.

Toast the nuts in a large, heavy frying pan over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to color and become fragrant, about 7 minutes. Pour out of the pan into a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon with the nuts.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush an 11-by 17-inch or 10-by 15-inch raised-edge baking pan with melted butter.

Just barely dampen a large, clean dishtowel, which will be used to cover the phyllo sheets. Remove the phyllo from the refrigerator, unroll it and trim the stack of sheets to the size of the prepared pan. Immediately cover the stack of phyllo with the damp cloth, and whenever you uncover it to remove a sheet, always cover the stack again immediately. (Phyllo dries out remarkably quickly.)

Lay one sheet of phyllo into the pan (don't worry about any tears or imperfections in any of the sheets as you put them in place), and brush it with melted butter. Top with another phyllo sheet (don't try to move the phyllo once it's down), and brush with more butter. Continue until you have built up six sheets. As you build experience, probably you will figure out ways of doing it that result in the fewest rips and the best alignment of the new sheet to the rest of the stack.

After the sixth sheet is brushed with butter, spread it fairly evenly with the banana mixture. (If the mixture is too thick to spread easily, thin it with a little melted butter.) Top with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter, then sprinkle the top sheet evenly with a generous 1/2 cup of the nut mixture. Continue until almost all the sheets of phyllo are used, brushing each sheet with butter and topping every second sheet with the nut mixture. The last two or three sheets (depending on how it works out) should not have nut mixture (just butter) between them. Brush the top sheet with butter.

With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond shapes -- yes, before it's baked: Make a series of cuts about an inch apart all along the length of the pan, then make a series of diagonal cuts (across the pan) about 2 inches apart.

Smooth out the pieces of the top layer that lifted while you were cutting. Pour any extra butter over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake one hour more.

About 30 minutes before the baklava is to be done, prepare the syrup:

In a large saucepan, stir together the honey, orange juice and water. Cook over high heat, without further stirring, until the mixture boils, lower the heat and boil it 15 minutes.

Stir in the vanilla and allow the syrup to cool briefly if it is done before the baklava is. Spoon about two-thirds of the syrup over the hot baklava, allowing it to soak in. An hour later, spoon on the rest of it. Allow the baklava to rest several hours before serving.

Store covered in the refrigerator, but allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 154

Carbohydrates 20 g

Protein 2 g

Fat 8 g

including sat. fat 3 g

Cholesterol 10 mg

Sodium 52 mg

Calcium 12 mg

Dietary fiber 1 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 1/2 other carb. exch. and 1 1/2 fat exch.