This whimsical version of baklava is shaped to resemble a bird’s nest. Boston pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick has a genius trick for making the delicate nests by wrapping phyllo around a wooden dowel (available at hardware stores). Bake until golden, fill with pistachios, then drench in lemon syrup for a sweet, crunchy, sticky holiday treat.
Lemon syrup: Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and zest in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to medium and keep at a low boil until thickened, 15 minutes.
Clarify butter: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and bring to a simmer, 5–7 minutes. Once the white foam begins to form on the top, skim it off with a small ladle or spoon and discard. Continue to skim off the milk solids until the butter is clear. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Nests: Before assembling the nests, set up your work area. Lay the phyllo sheets on the work surface and cover with a dry towel or a sheet of parchment (to prevent drying). Place a sheet of parchment paper in front of you to work on, and have a baking sheet nearby. Place one sheet of phyllo on the parchment paper with the shorter side facing you. Lightly brush clarified butter across the top, in the center, and across the bottom. Fold the edge of the phyllo closest to you up to within 1 inch of the top edge. Place the wooden dowel on the bottom folded edge, with the end of the dowel meeting the left edge of the phyllo, and begin to loosely roll the phyllo around the dowel, stopping when you reach the inch of extra dough. Lift the dowel and gently push the phyllo to the left end, scrunching the dough together. Slide it off the dowel, and gently shape it into a circle, with the reserved inch of phyllo serving as the center of the nest. Place nest on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo. Bake until lightly golden, 15 minutes.
Assembly: Remove from the oven and fill the centers of each nest with about 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios. Use a small measuring cup or ladle to soak each nest with 3 tablespoons of lemon syrup. Set aside to cool on the baking sheet. Once cool, use a spatula to remove the nests from the pan. Serve at room temperature with some of the extra syrup from the baking sheet.