Baklava

Depending on where you hang your hat, baklava might mean different things to you–a Greek baklava is not a Turkish baklava is not an Arab baklava, and so on and so forth. The core idea is the same across all variants though: an absolutely delicious treat composed of layers of paper-thin, flaky phyllo dough, sweet, spiced, crunchy nuts, and a sticky, sweet syrup to bring it all together.

As exotic as baklava might be to some (to think, some have never had it before! If you haven’t, this goes on your dessert to-do list. Really!), making baklava is easy, albeit a bit tedious. Of course, if I didn’t use store-bought premade phyllo dough, it might not have been quite so easy ;-). At a high level, it really amounts to layering several sheets of the delicate, paper thin phyllo dough with a light brushing of butter between each with a thicker mid-section composed of sweetened nuts. Once this is baked, the phyllo in combination with the butter becomes a delicate, flaky, elegant looking pastry, at which point, you add a sweet syrup that will be absorbed into the cooked baklava for something really special.

I wanted to employ a lot of exciting aromatics in this rendition of baklava. The nut filling (a mix of walnuts and pistachio) has a touch of cinnamon and cardamom for that curious, sweet spice while the syrup also carries the same flavors as well as the sharper notes of clove and the sweet, round floral tones of honey and roses. The final touch? The topmost layers of the phyllo dough were brushed with a saffron-infused butter, both for its delicate and sweet taste as well as that seductive, blushing color it adds to the baklava. Given all of these flavors, I’m not really sure where you could say this baklava is rooted (e.g. Greek, Jewish, etc), but whatever the case, it was incredible and I wish I had more right now (it disappeared very quickly)…

  • ~1 lb phyllo dough (I used premade)
  • 1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • good pinch of saffron
  • 4 cups nuts (I used 2 cups walnuts, 2 cups pistachios)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • Syrup
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cups honey
    • 1.25 cup water
    • 1/4 cup rosewater
    • 2 cardamom pods
    • 4 cloves
    • 1 cinnamon stick

Begin by coarsely chopping/crushing the nuts. Toss them with sugar, ground cinnamon, and ground cardamom in a bowl. Set this aside.

Now, work on the syrup so that it will have ample time to cool. Slit the cardamom pods open, and in a saucepan, add the whole spices, water, sugar, and honey. Warm this up over low heat until the sugar melts down and everything mixes together. Keep a close eye on this and don’t use medium or high heat or you run the risk of very sudden spatter or overflow of shockingly hot syrup, which will be followed by either fun burns and/or a candied stovetop. I only enjoyed the latter, but you shouldn’t have to enjoy either. So again: low/medium-low heat.

You should warm this up for about 10 minutes or so (potentially longer depending on how low the heat is) until thickened to a nice syrup consistency. Once you’re happy with the consistency, turn off the heat but let the saucepan remain where it is to slowly cool down. Fish out the whole spices, and after several minutes, mix in the rosewater.

Finally, on to the dough. In a saucepan, melt down the butter and skim off the solids (so clarify the butter). Set aside 3 tablespoons of this clarified butter in a separate bowl and stir in the crushed saffron. Set the saffron butter aside for later, giving it time to take on the characteristics of the saffron.

With the butter melted, grease your baking pan and carefully lay down a sheet of phyllo, immediately covering your unused sheets with a slightly damp towel (or else they’ll dry out and become hard and impossible to work with). Lightly brush this sheet all over with butter and then lay another phyllo sheet on top of this, repeating until 8 layers deep.

Now, evenly spread roughly half of the nut mixture on your phyllo stack. Start layering phyllo again on top of this, brushing with butter as before. Make this stack anywhere between 4 and 8 layers deep, after which, you should spread out the remainder of the nut mixture. Finish this off with another 8 sheets of phyllo, but since this is the topmost layer, now use the saffron-infused butter for brushing so that the top layer can have a sexy color. Somewhere during all of this, preheat your oven to 350°F.

Now that its all put together, with a sharp knife, cut into long columns roughly 1-2 inches apart, and then cut at an angle across so that you have diamond-shaped pieces. Transfer this to the oven for 20 minutes, after which, you should drop the temperature to 300°F and let cook for an additional 15 or so minutes.

Once removed from the oven, recut the areas you previously cut as well as the borders as things might have started sticking together during cooking. Evenly pour on the syrup you prepared earlier and let this cool off for a few hours before you dig in so that the baklava and the syrup have some time to get to know one another.

When you can’t wait any longer, grab a plate and a napkin and dig in! Also, don’t go storing the leftovers in the fridge–there’s no need to and you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Enjoy!

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33 Responses to “Baklava”

  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    That is one gorgeous baklava! Did you have lots of people around to help eat it? One thing for me is that baklava is so sweet, I can only have a tiny bit at a time. So it’s a great dessert for a party or potluck.

  2. grace Says:

    mike, that is STELLAR. baklava is one of my favorite treats, although i’ve always been too intimidated to make it. it looks just fabulous, i’m completely impressed…and hungry. :)

  3. Janice Bennett Says:

    Oooh yum – that looks good. I really must have a go at making that myself. Thanks for your clear recipe instructions – Mine might actually turn out ok!

  4. kittie Says:

    I’m so impressed! Baklava isn’t my favourite thing – but these pics look ten times better than the ones I’ve seen in the shops.

  5. Raquel Says:

    Absolutely fabulous!!!!! I have made baklava a couple of times before, but you have inspired me to try again! Thanks for a fab recipe. Love the rosewater touch, that will be nice.

  6. Peter Says:

    Bravo Mike…Greek approved and I do like the “stamp” you put on this dessert.

    It looks well made, sounds delicious and worthy of $7 a slab!

  7. Bellini Valli Says:

    I love the colour the saffron imparts to the baklava Mike:D

  8. Sandie (Inn Cuisine) Says:

    Impressive!

    Short story – bear with me – as some of my favorite memories involve food:

    When I was in college, I worked in a Greek restaurant to put myself through school and would indulge in a decadent piece of baklava at least once a week (yes, I paid for it–with my employee discount anyway.)

    But what made that baklava so special was that each morning, the owners’ (who were Greek brothers) grandmother would bring in 2 large pans of fresh-baked baklava for the restaurant to serve. To say it was the to-die-for kind of heavenly is an understatement.

    Years later, the restaurant finally went out of business (family disagreement,) but I have never forgotten their grandmother’s delicious baklava. The closest I’ve had since came from a Greek restaurant/bakery in Tarpon Springs, FL.

    For years I have longed to make baklava like the grandmother’s I so longingly remember, but I don’t have her recipe. Perhaps I’ll try your recipe instead, and this baklava will be included in the next story I tell.

  9. Kevin Says:

    Your baklava looks great! Baklava is one of my favorite treats.

  10. Lisa Says:

    I must pick up some phyllo soon! I do prefer more savory treats, but this sounds not only good, but fun to make. I do enjoy fussing in the kitchen when I have the time.

  11. Meeta Says:

    Dig in? You are too funny – how can I without a fork and plate Mike? These look great. I have not ventured to the baklava region yet but I am getting there!

  12. cakewardrobe Says:

    It’s such a scary thing to make! I love baklava but am guilty of buying it to satisfy my cravings :P

  13. kate Says:

    This is a tedious task , but so totally worth it. I adore bakhlava , but always run to my nearest lebanese store everytime i crave some. Cant find ready made phyllo here, so i guess rolling it out is out of question for me. Another option would be , you just send me a nice care pagcakage. i see you’ve made quite a lot ! hehe :D

  14. michelle @ TNS Says:

    holy crap, that’s the best looking piece of baklava i’ve ever seen. i’ve never tried to make it myself, but this recipe has my new favorite ingredient, cardamom, so i think i have to give it a go.

  15. Pixie Says:

    Ah baklava, the sweetness of life. And tg for ready made phyllo.

  16. Helen Says:

    I absolutely love making baklava – I find the layering quite therapeutic! Your version looks really stunning. I also used ready made phyllo pastry although one day maybe I will make my own. I love the cardamom in there.

  17. Aparna Says:

    This is beautiful and reminds of some Indian sweets, too. Its a pity we don’t get phyllo pastry here so this is one thing I shall enjoy from far off.:)

  18. the caked crusader Says:

    Wow – that looks great. I love the ooze of syrup you get when you bite into a piece of baklava. There’s a great stall that sells Lebanese baklava on Borough Mkt (a famous food market in London)…let’s just say that I have over indulged once or twice!

  19. Shari Says:

    I love baklava, but I’ve never been brave enough to make it. Yours sounds delicious with the cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, and other spices! Thanks for the recipe!
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  20. noble pig Says:

    Seeing the oozing in the pan makes my mouth water. It’s so lovely and one of my favorite treats.

  21. rose Says:

    This recipe looks like I could do it myself. I love baklava but because of the price I rarly have it. I hope mine lookes half as good as yours. I’m sure it will taste great! I may even be able to serve this at my next party!
    Thank for the time you took for the step by step help.

  22. Toni Says:

    I took one look at that photo of baklava and my mouth started watering. Literally! I can taste it as I’m typing this…. Ahhhhhh…….

  23. swirlingnotions Says:

    You’re getting gooood, Mike. This looks like it’s from a Greek bakery!

  24. Leigh Says:

    vry nice, very nice…we live on Baklava when in Greece and seeing it always brings back memories. Visiting Bulgaria in three weeks’ time – eager to try thier version! Love it, love it..we like a dollop of cold vanilla ice cream on the side.

  25. giz Says:

    I love all the things in your baklava that I never put in mine – pistachios, rose water, cardamom (would be to die for, cloves, saffron – I can’t even imagine the party that would go on in one’s mouth with all that goodness. Your pictorial is excellent. It’s dummy proof – trust me – I understand from dummy proofing.

  26. sunita Says:

    Mike, you’ve done such a wonderful job with the baklava…looks perfect :-)

  27. Nina Says:

    Send me your CV and I will employ to anyday to cook for us…..you are a GOOD cook, Mike!

  28. TBC Says:

    I love baklava. Making it is a bit labor-intensive though. I’ve a version on my space too if you are interested.

  29. Cardamom Honey Baklava Ice Cream in Phyllo Cups from Mike's Table Says:

    [...] Baklava [...]

  30. IVY Says:

    Mike, I love the addition of cardamom and saffron in it. As for the fyllo, everybody buys ready made, bought from the store, especially for baklava. You need to be a top expert to make your own baklava fyllo, unless you have an expert mum to do it for you…

  31. Y Says:

    I made baklava recently too! I like your choice of spices.

  32. cindy Says:

    we get to have baklava at get togethers we do at belly dance events…IF you get there in time before it is all gone! this looks lovely, i will have to try someday!

  33. Gary King Says:

    My phyllo dough always comes out tough on the bottom. Is there any way to prevent this?

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