Don’t you just love baklava? The making of this rich, popular Mediterranean dessert might seem daunting, but it really is a simple process.
Since I never enjoyed baking as much as cooking I made my first baklava when I was well into my 40’s. I don’t know why I was so intimidated by it, it’s not at all as difficult as I thought it would be. So don’t make the same mistake and wait. Make it now! If I can do it, you can do it too.
What is Baklava?
This is a sweet dessert with layers of filo a.k.a. phyllo pastry sheets filled with chopped or ground walnuts and held together with lemony syrup. There’s nothing better than homemade baklava.
The easiest way to prepare it is in a large pan (9×13″) assembled much like a lasagna and cut into squares or diamonds, although you can form it into pocket shapes, triangles, and even roll them into tight ropes.
Even though there are different kinds of baklava – baklava filled with pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, coconut, chocolate, with fruit, with beer (yes), and poppy or sesame seeds, it all comes down to filled pastry sheets drenched in syrup. And sometimes placed on top of a cheesecake, ha. I had to 😉
Obviously, the syrup can differ too. To the base, you can add flavors like lemon, orange juice, honey, rose water, or spices like cinnamon or cloves.
Some very skilled people make the filo dough from scratch, much like the dough I used in the making of the burek-meat pie but stretched even thinner. I never got that ambitious with baklava so I stick to the store bought filo dough. The most popular brands are The Fillo Factory and Athens Fillo Dough. You can find it at any local store and even at Whole Foods or online.
Origin of Baklava
The history of baklava is not well documented but the masses seem to agree baklava was first developed in Ottoman Empire, now Turkey. Since they ruled for centuries over parts of Europe, Asia, the Caucasus, and Africa, baklava consequently stayed and is to date a popular and favorite dessert of the Mediterranean, The Balkans, and the Middle East.
Each country has added something unique to their baklava recipe, hence the many variations. Some place the filling right in the middle of the pastry sheets, rather than layering them intermittently and others, like the Greek version, yield the syrup and their baklava is crisp and flaky. All things considered, I have never tasted a bad baklava.
How to Cut Baklava
As mentioned above, there are different shapes you can cut it in, but we will stick with the basics for now. Once you feel comfortable with making this dessert you can invent your own unique cut. Always cut baklava before baking!
- Square Cut: First, cut vertically into strips then horizontally, or vice versa
- Triangle Cut: First, cut vertically into strips, then horizontally, and finally diagonally
- Diamond Cut: First, cut vertically into strips, then diagonally
- Star Cut (round pan): First, slice it in half. Second, cut each half in half, then each quarter in half until you have an octagon. Next, cut each octagon section parallel with a left line. Finally, cut each octagon section parallel with a right line (basically making diamond cuts).
How to Make BaklavaLearn how to make #homemade #baklava with this easy #recipe Click To Tweet
- 1 lb walnuts
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
- 16 oz. (1 package) Phyllo dough – pastry sheets, thawed
- 3 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 1 lemon, sliced
~ Free Tip ~
Variations: Substitute half of the walnuts with pistachios. Use ghee instead of butter. Add 2 tablespoons of honey to the syrup. Add 1 tablespoon rose water to the cooked syrup.
- First, make the syrup. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, lemon slices, and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar dissolves and the mixture is syrupy about 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Next, in a food processor pulse walnuts until finely chopped or ground. You can also use a rotary grater if you have one. In a large bowl, combine walnuts with cinnamon, cardamom if using, and sugar.
- Unroll phyllo dough. Trim the whole stack, if necessary, to fit the 13×9-inch pan. The easiest way to do this is with a pair of scissors. Cover phyllo sheets with a clean cloth to keep from drying out as you work. If you work fast enough, you don’t need to cover it.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a pan.
- Place 1 sheet of dough in prepared baking pan; using a pastry brush, butter thoroughly. Repeat with 4 more sheets of phyllo, laying each on top of the other. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of walnut filling. Add two sheets of phyllo dough, buttering each sheet, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup of nuts. Repeat until filling is used up, finishing with 5 sheets of phyllo dough on top. So it goes like this: 5 buttered sheets + filling, 2 buttered sheets + filling, repeat…, finish with 5 buttered sheets.
- Using a sharp knife cut the unbaked baklava into squares or diamonds all the way to the bottom of the pan. Pour remaining butter over the whole baklava and lightly sprinkle the top of pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling.
- Finally, bake baklava for 50-60 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and immediately spoon syrup over it.
- Let cool for at least 4 hours.
Welcome to #EatLikeAnEgyptian!
Today we are having fun exploring our favorite Egyptian cuisine recipes to commemorate the holiday of Eid-el-Fitr, which begins at sundown.
- Aish Baladi from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Baklava from All That’s Jas
- Egyptian Feta Spread from Cooking with Carlee
- Egyptian Mint Lemonade from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Ful Medames from Caroline’s Cooking
- Lahma Bil Basal from A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Macaroni Bechamel from Palatable Pastime
Pin It: The Best Baklava Recipe
See this recipe featured on A Pinch of Joy.
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