First published Sep 2011. Updated June 2017.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
I suppose the most well known Middle Eastern pastry. I adore baklava and find them terribly addictive, never being able to stop at a sensible number!
Unfortunately for me, when it comes to dessert, my kids are truly English, like my husband – they’re not that much into “exotic” ones! That of course means that it only makes an appearance at parties, Not so true anymore! My 2 older kids love baklava. In fact, the last time we were in Morocco, I had to pop in to the local shops at the very last minute to buy a big tub of baklava to bring home!
This is also the perfect party fare, because while you ought to make it a minimum of 12 hours before, it is so much better 5 days later! Every cook’s dream!
Is making Baklava difficult?
Not at all. It takes me about 20 – 30 minutes to grease and layer 3 times, plus adding the the nuts in between. My 13 year old, who makes this all own her own when she fancies them, takes 45 minutes for the above process. To me, the trickiest part about making baklava is the cutting of the assembled product before baking, as you have to be careful not to let the top layers slide. You’ll see what I mean. That’s why it’s imperative that you use a very, very sharp knife.
The first step to making baklava is to get the syrup done and chilled, so we’re talking at least 4 hours before or day before. If you forget, you can always make it and fast chill in the freezer, I’ve done that too many times to count now! The cold syrup will then be poured over the baklava straight out of the oven. A word to the wise, if using a glass dish, I suggest waiting 5 minutes before doing that, to avoid your glass dish protesting and cracking.
What Nuts to Use for Baklava
This is purely a matter of taste. You can go with any or a combination of the following: pistachios, walnuts or almonds. I am a fan of all pistachio baklava, and that’s what I’m using here.
Size of the Dish for Baklava
I use a rectangular dish that is around 29cm (11.5″) x 23cm (9″). This works very well for me, because the pastry I buy comes in large rectangles measuring just slightly more than double the above measurements. So, all I do, is cut the pastry sheets in half and they fit my dish almost perfectly. I cut off the extra after layering.
Sound easy? Are you ready for it?
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- 30 large sheets filo pastry at least 33cm x 23cm/13″ x 9″
- 100 g salted butter melted
- 300 g pistachios (or walnut/almonds or a mix, I prefer pistachios)
- 100 g white sugar
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 250 ml water
- 400 g sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp rose water
- 3 cardamom pods
- 5 cm long cinnamon stick
- 125 ml honey (runny)
Let’s make the syrup.
- Place the water, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon in a small saucepan and bring to boil.
- Simmer for 15 minutes until slightly thickened. Take off heat and add honey and lemon juice. Stir, cool, then place in fridge.
Making the Baklava
- Pulse the nuts in a food processor until you get a semi coarse grind, see pic. It’s ok to have the odd large piece. If it bothers you, pulse some more but don’t let the nuts get to the oily powder stage.
- In a roomy bowl, mix the nuts and the caster sugar thoroughly.
- Grease your baking dish, then layer 10 sheets, one at a time, brushing each with the melted butter as you go along.
- Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter (which is easier), cut off the extra bit of pastry at the edge.
- Spread half the nuts evenly over the sheets.
- Cover with 10 more sheets the same way, that is, buttering each layer. Same again, cut off the pastry.
- Heat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F/160˚ Fan).
- Top with the rest of the nuts and finish with the final 10 sheets, all greased individually. And cut off excess with a pizza cutter or knife.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut the baklava into the traditional diamond shapes or squares or even triangles.
- Bake for about 35-45 minutes until light golden. This depends on how hot your oven runs. My geriatric oven runs cool on lower temperatures. In my oven before we moved, it used to take me 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and pour half of the COLD syrup evenly over the cut lines.
- Spoon 4 Tbsp of remaining syrup all over the top of the baklava. Reserve the rest of the syrup for when serving. It should be sweet enough but some folks do like it super sweet! You could always turn the extra syrup into rose syrup by diluting it with some water to taste.
- When cooled to room temp, cover with foil and keep for a few days before serving.