(It seems to be a source of great pride that Egyptian mothers never use measurements in the kitchen, so adjust the following to taste.)
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. roasted, unsalted nuts (I use pistachios and almonds)
Optional: shredded coconut, raisins, cinnamon
1 lb. package filo pastry
2/3 c. non-dairy butter, at room temperature (such as Nuttelex) *
optional: olive oil for brushing tray
In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 c. water with the sugar, and bring to a boil.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and leave on the stove to slightly thicken.
Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Finely crush nuts in a food processor, with mortar and pestle, or by placing in a kitchen towel and hitting them with a rolling pin.
Place crushed nuts in a bowl and add optional shredded coconut, sultanas, or cinnamon, sprinkling with a little additional sugar.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Brush some of the non-dairy butter or olive oil all over a deep tray.
Place one sheet of filo pastry on the bottom of the tray, brush with the butter, place another sheet on top, brush with butter, add another sheet, brush. You should have 3 to 4 layers of pastry with a thin layer of softened butter in between.
Sprinkle a third of the nut mixture evenly over the pastry.
Repeat this process twice more.
Cut into square or diamonds.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
While the pastry is still hot, pour the cooled syrup evenly over the tray.
Baklava can remain stored for up to a week wrapped and in a cool shaded area.
*Baklava is often made with ghee, the clarified butter used in many Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, but I have found that substituting vegan butter and olive oil doesn’t change the results at all.