Gather your supplies. The lemon extract and cupcake papers are optional.
Put the nuts in a bag and crush gently with a hammer. That is my husband's gross, rusty hammer. Don't use this method unless your tetanus shots are up-to-date.
The nuts should look like this. It's okay if you have a few big chunks.
Add cinnamon to the nuts plus a little cloves or nutmeg, if you like.
Stir in the spices.
Melt butter in the microwave.
Use the butter wrapper to butter your casserole dish.
Open the thawed phyllo package. You will only need one 8 ounce roll for this recipe.
Unroll the phyllo gently and place a clean, damp towel over it while you're working. This will keep it from drying out and cracking.
Arrange your assembly line: phyllo under a damp cloth, casserole dish, then nuts and melted butter.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Carefully place 2 sheets of phyllo into the bottom of the dish. Re-cover the phyllo stack with the damp towel.
Brush gently with melted butter.
Gently sprinkle a layer of nuts.
Repeat this process about six more times: 2 sheets of phyllo, baste with butter, sprinkle with nuts. Stop when you have 6 phyllo sheets left.
Add the last 6 sheets of phyllo.
This is the tough part. Use a knife that is finely serrated and very sharp! Cut 3 vertical lines that reach to the bottom of the dish.
Cut diagonally about 8 times to make diamond shapes.
Put the dish in the oven at 350F and set timer for 50 minutes.
While baklava is baking, add sugar and water to a pan on the stove set on medium.
Zest a lemon until you have a teaspoon of zest.
Add lemon zest to pan.
When pan is boiling, add honey and vanilla. Add lemon extract, if you like.
Simmer lemon syrup on low until baklava is done.
Optional step: When baklava has 5 minutes left to bake, brush the top layer with more melted butter.
Remove from the oven and immediately spoon the lemon syrup over each piece. You should hear a sizzle! Let cool. Put each piece into a cupcake paper. Enjoy!