This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated. It's very forgiving. You can chop the nuts in a food processor or by hand, and you don't have to be real precise in the amount of nuts (a scale will definitely help here, but as long as you're close it's OK).
1 pkg phyllo pastry, thawed
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, or 12 oz) melted unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1 tblsp lemon juice
3 strips lemon zest (more or less)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1/8 tsp salt
Combine syrup ingredients in small saucepan and bring to full boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure sugar dissolves. Strain into 2 cup glass measure and allow to cool while you make and bake the baklava. (Can be refrigerated up to 4 days)
8 oz (apprx 1 cup) finely chopped almonds
4 oz (apprx 1/2 cup) finely chopped walnuts
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tblsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Chop almonds and walnuts (you can use a food processor). Mix in cinnamon, sugar, cloves and salt, mix well, set aside. If you want, save a couple tblsps of nut mixture for garnish.
Melt butter, skim off solids. Basically you want clarified butter, but don’t go too crazy about that. Just try not to pick up the solids on your pastry brush, just use the clear melted butter. Use a wide pastry brush, it makes things go much faster. Don’t use a silicone brush, it tends to rip the phyllo.
Heat oven to 300F. Brush 13 x 9 pan with melted butter. Unwrap and unfold phyllo. If it starts to dry out, cover with damp towel (if you don’t take a break, it should be OK). Put one phyllo sheet in pan, brush with melted butter, making sure to cover completely. It doesn’t have to be sodden, just make sure it’s all moistened well with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets, making sure to completely brush each with butter.
Distribute about 1/3 of nut mixture over phyllo. Cover with another phyllo sheet, and dab with melted butter (if you try to brush it, you’ll rip it). Use 5 – 7 more phyllo sheets/butter, then another 1/3 of nut mixture, then another 7 phyllo sheets/butter, and finish with nut mixture and 10 phyllo sheets/butter, making sure the one on top is smooth and not torn.
Brush top sheet liberally with melted butter. (You should be about out of butter by now, but you may have some sheets of phyllo left). Cut into diamonds with serrated knife – don’t drag the knife, saw with it. You don’t want to mess up the sheets of pastry.
Bake in 300F oven on center top rack for about 90 minutes or until golden brown.
Immediately after taking it out of the oven, pour syrup over baklava. Start with the cuts, and when you’ve poured some into each cut, just evenly pour the rest over the entire baklava. Let it rest until cool (at least 3 hrs) then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hrs before serving. Can be kept wrapped in foil, at room temperature, for up to 10 days (yeah, right, like it ever lasts that long). Covered and refrigerated it will keep longer.
You can also use pistachios instead of the walnuts/almonds, and substitute 1 tsp ground cardamom for cinnamon. I don't ever use cardamom, or pistachios, so if you want it like mine, don't use them.
This is a really easy thing to make if you're trying to impress somebody. The hardest thing you do is measure things, squeeze a lemon, and chop some nuts. As long as you don't cook the syrup too long it will be fine. It just takes some time to put together and bake.