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25 homemade holiday gift recipes: Baklava

Rich and buttery baklava, one of 25 homemade holiday gift ideas from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

Our favorite baklava recipe is rich with butter, and the sweet dessert has a gentle tang from fresh lemon juice.

Rich yet delicate baklava is just one way to get crafty this holiday season with homemade gifts from the kitchen. We've compiled 25 great ideas, ranging from quick and simple gifts (perfect if you're working with kids) to more intricate projects that call for a little extra time and patience.

Some gifts will last for weeks, perhaps more. Others are best eaten within a day or two.

Not only are homemade gifts a great way to save money during the holiday season, they're a thoughtful and creative way to show how much you care.

BAKLAVA

Total time: 2.5 hours | Makes about three dozen pieces

Note: You can substitute prepared puff-pastry sheets for homemade dough if desired (one sheet of puff pastry for each 20-layer sheet of homemade dough); bake at 375 degrees and omit brushing the puff pastry with melted butter before baking. We tested using four (9 1/2-inch square) prepared sheets and made two baklava using the amount of walnuts and prepared syrup given below.

    2 cups sugar
    1 3/4 cups water
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    4 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (17.64 ounces) flour
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup oil
    1/2 cup plain yogurt
    Cornstarch, for flouring
    Scant 4 cups (1 pound, 2 ounces) walnuts, coarsely ground
    1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the baking powder with the flour. In a separate medium bowl, beat together the eggs, cooking oil and yogurt. Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry. Knead to a fairly soft but not sticky dough, adding a little water if necessary.

3. Divide the dough into 40 equal pieces (each will weigh about 3/4 of an ounce and will be about the size of a walnut in its shell). Roll out each one to the size of a small breakfast plate (about 5 inches in diameter), sprinkling with cornstarch to stop the dough from sticking to the counter or pastry board. Stack 20 of the pastry sheets, sprinkling cornstarch in between each layer. Roll out the stacked sheets at once until the dough is about 15 1/2 inches in diameter. (You will need to place it on a large rimmed baking sheet; if you do not have one that's big enough, divide the dough into 80 equal pieces and prepare two smaller trays of baklava.)

4. Lay the combined rolled sheets of dough on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the ground walnuts evenly over. Roll out the next 20 sheets of dough in the same way as the first batch and place on top of the walnuts. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into parallel slices about 2 inches apart, then rotate the baking sheet by 45 degrees and cut again into parallel slices.

5. Spoon the melted butter over the baklava. Bake until the top of the baklava is golden and crisp, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and pour over the cooled syrup. Serve hot or cold.

Each of 36 pieces: 265 calories; 4 grams protein; 24 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 18 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 26 mg cholesterol; 12 grams sugar; 21 mg sodium.

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