Have I ever mentioned that I'm a baklava addict?
It's true, I have a problem and should be taken to the Betty Crocker Clinic so I can get help.
Last year I bought a 30 serving pan of the stuff, intent on bringing it to work to share. Four hours later the entire pan was gone and I was a sticky mess. As such, it was only a matter of time before I learned to make my own.
The Origin of Baklava
Baklava is a delicious phyllo pastry popular in Middle Eastern countries. Its supposed origins are Turkish, dating to the Byzantine Empire (or even further), though many cultures claim it for their own.
Many Greek and Lebanese restaurants serve it, and it is now a featured dessert of several former Ottoman countries.
What is Baklava?
In baklava, layers of crisp phyllo dough alternate with a sugary spiced nut mixture, and the whole thing is then soaked in fragrant sweet syrup made with honey, lemon and cinnamon.
The recipe can be a bit time consuming, and isn't really a first-time baker's recipe, but if you can put together a cake well enough on your own then this is a good next step in your baking education.
Working With Phyllo Dough
The tissue paper-thin phyllo dough is fragile and breaks easily if not handled properly, but the end product is forgiving so don't fret if it all falls apart. My first time I just made a mess of dried out phyllo and butter and the baklava tasted wonderful regardless.
All families have their own recipe, and this is just one. If you have an interesting take on baklava, please tell us in the comments section!
Baklava in Greece and Beyond
Greek immigrants who came to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought their recipes for baklava with them, and it's through Greek Americans that other Americans learned about the dish.
However, many cultures have some form of baklava in their culinary history, dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. What's likely is that various cultures in Southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East all had their own tradition of thin layers of bread/pastry filled with various sweets in between.
Scholars seem divided on exactly where the treat originated, but many point to Turkey or Armenia because the earliest records of the dish exist in those cultures. The version we're familiar with today—thin layers of phyllo filled with nuts, spices, and sugar topped with a honey-sweet syrup—is most likely an amalgamation of what's been passed down from various cultures.
Flaky Fun With Phyllo and Puff Pastry
- Cheesy Artichoke Pie
- Air Fryer Brie Canapés
- Broccoli Cheddar Hand Pies
- Peach Frangipane Puff Pastry Tarts
Depending on how thick you make your layers of nuts, you ay not use all the phyllo dough. If you have leftover, use it to make a Tomato Ricotta Tart.
For the baklava:
1 pound chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pistachios are best, or use a combination of them)
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
For the syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
Finely ground pistachios for garnish, optional
Thaw the dough:
Thaw the phyllo dough according to manufacturer's directions (this may take overnight).
Preheat the oven and prep the pan:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.
Make the filling, melt the butter, and prep the dough:
In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they are finely chopped. Combine with the sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.
In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
Roll out the phyllo sheets and cut in half so the sheets will fit in the pan.
Cover the phyllo with a damp towel to keep from drying out.
Assemble the first layer:
Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 7 more times until it is 8 sheets thick, each sheet being "painted" with the butter.
Add the filling and continue layering:
Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture. Cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Continue to repeat the nut mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be 8 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered. Do not worry if the sheets crinkle up a bit, it will just add more texture.
Score, then bake:
Score into 24 equal sized squares using a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly golden brown, and edges appear slightly crisp.
Make the syrup:
While baking, make the syrup. Combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice, honey, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 7 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool.
Spoon the syrup over the hot bakalava:
Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool, uncovered, for at least 4 hours.
Garnish with some finely crushed pistachios of desired.
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Store baklava at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. It will become chewier before it starts to dry out. Once it starts to dry out, it is near the end of its freshness. You can store the baklava in the refrigerator to extend its life, but the texture will be harder once refrigerated.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21g||27%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||31%|
|Total Carbohydrate 30g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 17g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|