Baklava (Baghlava), this popular dessert is made in different parts of the world with some slight variations. It has layers and layers of flaky pastry surrounding nuts and spices and sweetened with an fragrant syrup. I make mine with almond and walnut filling. Baklava, or Baghlava as we call it in Farsi, looks a lot more complicated than it really is. I have another dessert called Baklava Cake that has a walnut filling with spices and is baked between two layers of a homemade dough. This Baklava recipe that I’m sharing today is made using phyllo sheets and the only preparation it needs is grounding the nuts and brushing the sheets with sweet butter.
Baking Baklava is really a process of assembling the ingredients and the oven does the rest. Maybe the hardest part is separating the very thin phyllo sheets that tend to stick together with dear life! But seriously, as long as the phyllo sheets are completely defrosted and are kept moist under a damp pastry cloth, making this fancy and tasty dessert is fairly simple.
The other important points to keep in mind are, to brush every sheet lightly with butter, and to make sure the hot syrup is poured over the lukewarm Baklava at the end.
I like to trim the phyllo sheets a little so they fit better in the baking pan. They don’t have to be exactly the same size as the pan, just not so big that they start bunching up on the sides of the pan; this makes the edge pieces thicker than the rest and not as light as the middle ones! To do this, I put one sheet in the pan before brushing it with butter, then I place it on the stack of sheets as a guide and cut through the stack with a sharp knife.
Blanch your own almonds or use good quality store-bought ones
Process the almonds and walnuts in the food processor only until they look like this, longer processing will turn them to paste and we don’t want that.
Layer the pastry, score and cut it into squares, then bake. Next let the baked Baklava cool a bit and run a knife along the edges and between the squares before pouring syrup all over it.
Sprinkle the Baklava with chopped pistachios and wait a few hours for the syrup to do its magic.
Enjoy Baklava with a glass of fresh brewed Persian Tea.
Bake time: 35 minutes
Yield: 24 Baklavas
9x13x2 oven proof glass baking pan
- 20 Phyllo pastry sheets (defrost in the refrigerator for one day, then leave out at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- ¾ pound sweet butter, melted
- FOR FILLING
- 12 ounces blanched almonds (no brown skin), ground in a food processor (3 cups ground almonds).
- 6 ounces walnuts, ground in a food processor (1 ½ cups ground walnuts)
- 3 TBSP granulated sugar
- 5 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- FOR SYRUP
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup water
- ¾ cup honey
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 TBSP plus ¼ tsp rose water
- ¼ cup pistachio nuts finely chopped, to sprinkle on top of the pastry
- Preheat the oven to 350 F, center rack.
- To blanch the almonds at home: Place 12 ounces of almonds in a medium bowl. Add enough boiling hot water over them to cover the almonds. Put a plate over the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes, or until the skins slide off easily. When just cool enough to handle, press the almond between two fingers and the skin will slide right off. Process in the food processor just until fine,
- Set the almonds aside and process the walnuts in the food processor, same size as the almonds.
- In a small bowl mix sugar, cardamom and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Trim the phyllo sheets a bit so they fit the baking dish and you don't have to double fold it on the sides.
- Cover the sheets with a large damp pastry cloth to prevent drying.
- Brush the bottom and sides of the 9 x 13 x 2 Pyrex pan with the melted butter.
- Layer the pan with one phyllo sheet. Brush the entire surface with melted butter. Repeat this with 5 more sheets and brush each with melted butter.
- Add half of the ground almonds (1 ½ cups) to the stacked phyllo sheets and use a fork to spread it evenly. Reserve the other half of the ground almonds. Set aside.
- Sprinkle 5 teaspoons of the sugar/spice mix evenly over the ground almonds.
- Top the ground almonds with one sheet of phyllo pastry and brush it with melted butter. Top with 3 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with melted butter.
- Next add the ground walnuts evenly on the phyllo sheet.
- If the butter starts to solidify, microwave for 20 seconds.
- Sprinkle 5 teaspoons of the sugar/spice mix evenly over the ground walnuts.
- Top the ground walnuts with 4 sheets of phyllo, brushing each with melted butter.
- Add the reserved ground almonds evenly on the top phyllo sheet.
- Sprinkle the remaining sugar/spice mix evenly on top of the ground almonds.
- Top the almond layer with the remaining 6 sheets of phyllo pastry, brushing each sheet with the melted butter as above.
- Brush the top sheet with butter. Use a sharp knife to score the top sheet into 24 squares, about 2 x 2 inch each. gently cut the pastry into 24 pieces. Make sure to cut through all the layers.
- Bake the pastry in preheated 350 F oven for 35-40 min or until golden brown. Remove the baking dish from the oven.
- Let the Baklava cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour until lukewarm. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and between the squares before pouring the syrup over the cooled pastry.
- MAKE THE SYRUP
- Add all the syrup ingredients, except the rose water, to a 1-Qt saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 5 min, until the mixtures thickens slightly. Watch the syrup closely, it tends to boil over. Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.
- Pour the hot syrup over the lukewarm Baklava.
- Sprinkle the top with finely chopped pistachio nuts and wait 2-3 hours to allow the syrup soak through the pastry before serving. Cover and store the extra pastry in the original baking dish for up to 2 days at room temperature.
- Baklava freezes well. Once completely cooled, cover the top, without touching the pastries, with parchment paper and heavy duty aluminum foil before storing it in the freezer. To serve, bring to room temperature for about an hour.
** You may substitute 10 cardamom pods, or 1 cinnamon stick for the rose water. In this case you will need to add them to the syrup at the same time that you add the rest of the syrup ingredients. Then once the syrup is ready use a slotted spoon to take the cardamom pods, or cinnamon stick, out before pouring the syrup over the baked Baklava.