Making Baklava

My style of baklava is nut-heavy, as you can see. I like it that way, though it does produce a baklava that isn’t easy to eat according to formal Turkish baklava etiquette. If you’re a stickler for formality, cut down the nuts. The result will be pieces of baklava that are easier to spear with a fork and pop into your mouth.

Start with the nuts. I use an equal mix of walnuts, almonds, pistachios and pine nuts. Here I’ve got about 1 3/4 pounds, but you can use less if you wish. You’ll want an absolute minimum of a pound.

Pulse them in your food processor until they’re finely chopped by not ground down to a paste.

Add your brown sugar and spices…

…and stir. Now tend to the filo. Gently unroll the sheets…

..and trim them down to size using a ruler. For a 9″ x 13″ pan you’ll want sheets that are about 8 1/4″ x 11 1/2″ since the bottom of the pan is smaller then the top. I generally cut two piles, making the second heap a bit larger, since the pan gets wider toward toward the top.

Since filo will get brittle with only a few minutes’ exposure to the air, you’ll want to cover it with a kitchen towel…

…spritzed lightly with water.

Now for the fun part. First, melt your butter and clarify it by skimming off the white foam that rises to the top. Why is this step important? Because that white foam is made of protein, and proteins brown with heat. Paint those little clumps onto the top few layers of your baklava, and the result will be uneven brown streaks and splotches. I doesn’t look good, no sir.

Apply butter to the bottom of your pan.

Drop in a filo layer and butter it liberally. Do this a total of eight times.

Spread on half your nut mixture…

…and pat it down gently.

Now start layering on more buttered sheets of filo. Four of them this time. Here I should insert that frozen filo can be fussy stuff. Often it will want to tear as you peel off individual sheets. The reason for this is frequently because it’s not quite thawed. If you experience several sheets tearing in a row, let the filo sit for ten minutes or so and try again. If the tearing won’t stop, just do your best to patch them together. Truth be told, you only need a couple of nice, unbroken sheets for the very top. If I’m having a bad day with filo, I’ll save one or two perfect sheets under a towel to use for the final layers. No one knows the difference. But where was I? Oh yes, four layers…

…then the remaining half of your nuts…

…then eight more buttered layers. The pattern is 8-nuts-4-nuts-8. Got it? Good. Butter the top amply.

Now then. Put the pan in the refrigerator and chill it for a minimum of half an hour, this will make it easier to cut. The baklava will store nicely this way for a day or more, covered if you wish. When you’re ready to bake, cut the baklava. Cut it five times horizontally…

…and then cut it diagonally. Doesn’t slicing a baklava this way give you lots of odd-shaped, un-servable pieces? you might ask. Indeed so. You think I intend to let my wife’s department eat all of this?

Put the baklava in the oven to bake, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine your syrup ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer for 15 minutes or so until slightly thickened.

When the baklava is lightly browned, remove it from the oven…

…then carefully pour on the syrup, being careful to coat the top of every piece. Don’t make the baklava swim, just moisten everything. You may only want to use about two-thirds of the syrup. That’s fine.

Let the finished baklava sit for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 48 hours if you wish at room temperature. Chilling it before serving will help firm the individual pieces. Before serving, re-cut the entire baklava to shore up the filling. Consumer according to proper Turkish etiquette — or not!

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6 Responses to Making Baklava

  1. Dani says:

    Just thought I would post a tip. When pouring the syrup is it helpful to do so over the back of a large spoon- it distributes the flow nicely over a larger area and doesn’t disturb the top pieces of phylo. Also, as far as I know, allspice is used only as a savory spice in middle eatern cuisine,but that’s just a side note.

  2. Geoff says:

    I spent an hour or so this afternoon making your Baklava and it came out excellent in appearance, not to mention it made my entire house smell delicious; a smell not even the finest Yankee Candle could replicate. I used an even amount of pistachio and walnut, with a small (120g) portion of pine nuts, totaling 1.75lbs of nuts. I can’t speak on the taste until it’s had time to settle. Do you think this would freeze ok?

  3. Andrea says:

    Hi!
    Great recipe there, just the way I like it…
    one thing only: baklava is made to be eaten in layers, not to spear with fork… just bring up one layer of baklava with fork and eat it – it should have at least syrup on it if not nuts, that’s the way my folks taught me to eat it
    By the way, I like your site, you have many interesting recipes here
    Greetings from Croatia

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