Living in Watertown, home of all the Armenian and Greek supermarkets EVER, it's not hard to find good baklava. What is hard, though, is finding nut-free baklava; and a friend's recent laments about this (nuts are deadly to her), inspired some research. This recipe is a mashup of a few different things: the basic recipe (semolina custard, filo and syrup) was given to me by Sophia at Sophia's Greek Pantry in Belmont, where I also got many of the ingredients; the rest of the filling was inspired by a couple of recipes that I found online and my own thoughts on what would create the texture I was looking for.
You can modify this any way you like, actually; another thought for the "nut" filling is pumpkin seeds and dried Calmyrna figs pulsed with a bit of candied ginger and orange zest for zing.
1-2 sticks butter, melted (start with 1 and melt more if needed)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp sweet butter
1 cup semolina flour
Vanilla to taste
Melt sugar and milk together with vanilla in a medium saucepan. When it just comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and add semolina, whisking briskly until there are no lumps. Beat eggs briefly and add to semolina mixture, whisking again until incorporated. Add butter and whisk again until incorporated.
about 1-1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup candied citrus
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or honey)
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
Pulse pumpkin seeds in a mini-chopper until just broken up a bit. Mix seeds and the rest of ingredients in a large bowl until everything's coated with the molasses.
3 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups filtered water
zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp brandy or cognac (optional)
Bring all ingredients to just boiling, whisking the whole while.
Putting it together:
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Lay out the filo dough, and work quickly to avoid it drying out. Lay down 1/3 of the filo, brushing each with melted butter. After the first layer is down, spread the semolina mixture across the whole sheet, taking care not to break the filo.
Lay down another 1/3 of the filo, brushing each with melted butter. Lay out seed mixture in a single layer and top with the last 1/3 of filo, brushing each layer with butter. Bake at 375°F in a preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
When done, remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes. When cooled a bit, brush the top layer with syrup, cut the baklava into squares, and then pour the syrup over the whole mess and let it soak in.
For the most part, I'm pretty sure that this keeps for a while, which is good because it makes a ton of dessert. Keep in a Tupperware container with sheets of parchment between layers.