Category Archives: Baklava

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!

Filed under:  Baklava, Pastry | 6 Comments

Chock Full O’ Nuts

…is how I like my baklava. Commercially-made filo dough doesn’t taste like much, so why not go where the flavor is? Like any simple recipe, the better your base ingredients, the better the end product will be, so get good butter, grind your spices fresh, you know the drill. This recipe fits a 9″ x 13″ casserole pan.

For the baklava:

1 lb. filo dough, thawed overnight
1 1/2 lbs. nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts or blend thereof)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
8 ounces good quality butter, melted and white solids skimmed off (i.e. “clarified”)

Preheat your oven to 350. Put the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they’re finely chopped (but not to they point they’re a powder or paste). Combine the chopped nuts, sugar and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

Remove the thawed filo from the packaging and unroll it. Since the bottom of your 9″ x 13″ casserole pan is more like 8 1/2″ x 12″, you’ll want to cut the dough to match the size. I generally divide the total quantity of dough into two stacks, cut one stack to that size, and the other to a slightly larger size since the pan broadens at the top. Once your filo is cut, cover it with a kitchen towel spritzed lightly with water.

Using a pastry brush, butter the pan and lay in your first sheet of dough. Butter that, add another sheet and so on until you’ve got a 8 sheets stacked. Spoon on half your nut mixture and pat it down evenly. Lay on four more sheets of buttered dough, the other half of the nuts, and finally 8 more sheets of filo. Put the pan in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to firm the butter so it’s easier to cut. When ready, cut the pastry, five times from end-to-end and as many times diagonally as you need to cut all the pieces to shape.

Put the baklava in the oven on a low rack and bake for 40-50 minutes until the filo is flaky and lightly browned.

For the syrup:

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey (tupelo, orange blossom or other NON-clover, single-pollen variety)
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large strips orange or lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves

While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer 10-15 minutes until the syrup thickens somewhat. Take the syrup off the heat, strain it and pour over the baklava, making sure to coat every piece. You want the baklava moistened, remember, not swimming. If you use two-thirds or less of the syrup, that’s OK.

Let the finished baklava sit overnight (at least) before serving.

Filed under:  Baklava, Pastry | 7 Comments