A classic recipe of Baklava, the traditional Greek and Turkish pastry made from peanuts and layers of phyllo dough, sprinkled with spicy honey syrup. A wonderful addition to holiday dessert spreads or something extra-special for any other time of the year!
Long, long ago, when my husband and I were dating and still living in a Washington suburb, we performed at the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest, a massive festival with tons of beers and food tents. After buying our tasting glasses and tasting beers such as watermelon beer, we hit the food tents. On our way out, we passed a small Greek cooking tent run by an older couple. They were lovely and the pastries were amazing; we stocked up on baklava and went home.
Later that night, we dug and I suddenly remembered how phenomenal the baklava was. Layers of phyllo butter and puff pastry are stacked high between the spicy and ground walnut sections. Once cooked and golden, the whole pan is drowned in a spicy honey syrup, which is left to soak for hours. It’s sweet, a little sticky, a little spicy and fabulously nutty.
I immediately emailed a friend who had deep Greek roots and asked if she had a recipe. She offered me her grandmother’s recipe and I made it a few months later for Thanksgiving. It was a resounding success, and it’s the only recipe I’ve used since.
The Origin of Baklava
Many people wonder if baklava is indeed a Greek dessert or if it is of Middle Eastern origin, so I did some research…
The first mention of a baklava-like dessert dates back a long time to British Columbia, which is incredible. The Greeks and Turks are still arguing over the origin of the recipe, but the oldest version of this recipe (a baked dessert with layers of dough and covered with honey) appears in the Roman Empire, and the Greek and Turkish cuisine, both built on the basis of cooking traditions of the Byzantine and, later, Roman empires.
When I research recipes, it rarely, if ever, goes back to that point. Unbelievable!
How Do You Make Baklava?
The process of making baklava is quite simple, but takes time. Here’s what you’re going to do:
- You will first make the syrup by mixing the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and orange zest in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. You will set aside to cool completely while you assemble and cook the dish.
- Then, turn the nuts, cinnamon and cloves in the food processor to bring them to a medium-fine consistency. Too thin and you will end up with a roll of nuts, but too coarse and the layers will adhere properly.
- Then comes the assembly! It’s the laborious part of making baklava, but it’s super simple, so put on some music and work. Each sheet of phyllo dough must be brushed with butter before adding another, and the butter must remain completely melted and hot all the time. It is also recommended to cover the sheets of phyllo dough with a damp cloth while you work so that they do not dry out (they are very delicate to work!).
- After having superimposed your garnish of phyllo paste and peanut, you will cut the baklava into diamonds and cook it until it is golden.
- As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, sear the honey syrup and pour it on top, making sure to also introduce it into all these crevices. You will hear a lot of crackling, which is a wonderful sound! So … you wait. At least four hours, but ideally overnight.
While the process is fairly straightforward, let’s address some of the questions or problems you may have while doing so:
- Can you use nuts other than nuts? Yes! By all means. Pistachios and almonds are used quite often in baklava.
- Can baklava be prepared in advance? Yes, as mentioned above, it is an excellent dish to prepare in advance, as it is actually better the longer it remains before eating it. Covering it with a loose paper towel will ensure that it retains its sharpness.
- Can baklava be refrigerated or frozen? Yes to both! Keeping it at room temperature keeps this clean texture, but you can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, it will be a little soft and harder than at room temperature. You can also wrap individual pieces of baklava in plastic wrap and keep them in ziploc freezer bags in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Why is my baklava soggy? This is most likely due to the use of too much butter when brushing the leaves of phyllo dough. A thin layer of butter is enough.
- Why is my baklava dry? Make sure that when you brush your layers of phyllo dough, and especially the top layer, you brush all around the ends and in the corners. You don’t want to leave any areas of phyllo exposed, or they’ll dry out.
- Can you make baklava without nuts? I have seen recipes online that replace baklava nuts like sesame seeds, coconut, dried apricots and raisins, etc. I have never tried any of them, so I cannot attest to their proximity to reality, but they do exist!
- Can you make baklava without honey? Well, honey gives a lot of the characteristic flavor of baklava, but you can do without it. A simple sugar syrup can be poured, or you can flavor it with things like rose water. You can also use agave nectar.
Baklava makes a fantastic addition to any collection of holiday candies, wedding cookie tables or special celebrations.
Use this recipe as is or as a starting point to experiment with different combinations of nuts and syrup flavors (you can even use lemon zest instead of orange zest!). It’s a classic recipe that every kitchen must have hidden in its recipe box!
Classic Baklava Recipe
A classic recipe for Baklava, the traditional Greek pastry made from peanuts and layers of phyllo dough, sprinkled with spicy honey syrup.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 strip orange peel
For the Pastry
- 1 pound walnuts (toasted)
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 16 oz package phyllo dough, thawed
- 1 ½cups unsalted butter
US Customary – Metric
- Make the syrup: mix the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and orange zest in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Make the Baklava: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the walnuts, cinnamon and cloves in a food processor and mix until the nuts are finely ground.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over very low heat, keeping it warm throughout the process so that it does not start to solidify.
- Brush a 9 × 13 inch pan with melted butter and place a layer of phyllo dough on the bottom. Brush the phyllo dough with the melted butter, then add another layer of phyllo dough and brush with more butter. Continue this process until you have superimposed 7 sheets of phyllo dough.
- Gently distribute a quarter of the walnut mixture over the top of the phyllo dough. Repeat the process of layering the phyllo sheets and brushing with melted butter, but this time use only 5 sheets of phyllo dough. Gently spread another quarter of the nut mixture on top of the phyllo dough. Repeat this two more times, stacking and buttering 5 sheets of phyllo dough and garnishing with a quarter of the nut mixture. Finish with 7 layers of buttered phyllo dough. Also brush the top sheet with melted butter.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the pieces of phyllo dough into shreds that have slipped over the sides of the pan. Cut the baklava into 12 even squares, then cut them into triangles (you should have 24 triangles). Place the pan in the oven and cook until golden, about 50 minutes.
- As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, remove the cinnamon stick and orange zest from the syrup and pour it slowly over the hot baklava, making sure to introduce it into all cracks and crevices, as well as on the surface higher. . Let the baklava sit for at least 4 hours before serving so that the syrup has the opportunity to soak up. (Baklava is actually best when left to sit overnight before serving.) A paper towel or aluminum foil until ready to serve. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Other nuts, such as almonds or pistachios, can be substituted for the walnuts.
- Baklava can be frozen in individual pieces for up to 3 months.
Nutritional values are based on one serving, source from this blog