This baklava was created to honor the delicious combination of apples and honey. The syrup is honey-forward and the filling has less nuts than a classic baklava to allow the apples to shine. Breadcrumbs between the bottom layers of phyllo help absorb any excess moisture from the apples and keep the phyllo crisp, even after being soaked in syrup.
Make the honey syrup: Combine the sugar, honey, orange zest, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and slowly simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let cool slightly. Remove the orange zest and reserve for the filling. Refrigerate the syrup until cold, at least 1 hour.
Make the baklava: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the honey, cinnamon, salt and cloves; cook until the skillet is dry and the apples are sticky, 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped; transfer to a large bowl. Finely chop the reserved orange zest and add to the nuts. Add the apples and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and stir to combine.
Melt the remaining 1 3/4 sticks butter in a saucepan over low heat. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with some of the melted butter. Unroll the phyllo dough onto a flat surface and cover with a damp towel. Lay 1 sheet of dough in the baking dish and lightly brush with some of the butter. (If there is a little excess phyllo just fold it over and brush lightly with more butter. If the sheet hangs out of the dish, trim to fit.) Sprinkle with some of the remaining 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs. Repeat the layering 5 more times (phyllo, butter, breadcrumbs). Scatter one-quarter of the apple-nut mixture on top.
Layer 4 more sheets of phyllo on top, brushing with butter in between each; top with another one-quarter of the apple-nut mixture. Repeat this layering 2 more times (4 sheets of buttered phyllo, then one-quarter of the apple-nut mixture). Layer the remaining 6 sheets of phyllo on top, lightly brushing with butter in between each.
Cut the baklava in half crosswise and lengthwise in the pan with a paring knife to make 4 quarters, cutting all the way through. Halve each quarter crosswise to make 8 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 4 triangles. (You will end up with a total of 32 pieces.)
Bake the baklava until golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven; immediately pour the honey syrup over the top. Let the syrup soak in completely while the baklava cools, at least 3 hours.
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Photograph by Mike Garten
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