Region: Near East, Middle East, North Africa.
Baklava is Turkish Cuisine’s most emblematic and widely known dessert. Other nations in the area make it too, with certain twists. E.g. the Greeks prefer less spice in their Baklava, the Lebanese tend to want their Baklava drier (with less syrup) and cut in mouthfuls, etc.
Traditionally, classic Baklava consists of a layer of walnuts sandwiched between two batches of filo pastry sheets, generously drenched in syrup. As you can freely imagine there are many variations to the concept: some prefer to make baklava with forty (40) layers of less-than-paper-thin filo sheets (yes, it’s possible, even handmade); others use a lesser number of thicker yufka filo sheets; some make it with a hazel-nut filling; others use no nuts at all, opting for fillings made of orange pulp or dates. In this (most traditional) Baklava recipe we use pistachio nuts, walnuts and honey syrup instead of sugar syrup.
Makes: 60 mouthful size pieces
Cooking time: approx. 35 min
You need: a large oven pan, a large bowl, a saucepan and a small pot.
For the Baklava
- 500g (1 Lb 2 oz) yufka pastry sheets or filo pastry sheets
- 250g (9 oz) butter, melted
- 250g (9 oz) unsalted pistachio nut kernels or walnuts, crushed or ground
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the Syrup
- 1+ 1/4 cups honeyr
- 1+1/4 cups (minus 5 Tbsp) of lukewarm water.
- 1 Tsp baking soda.
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice.
- 3-5 drops of rose water or orange blossom water (optional).
- A handful of ground green pistachios, about 1/4 cup (or less, or more – it’s up to you).
First, Make the Syrup
- Put the honey and the lukewarm water in a saucepan.
- Stir until honey has dissolved.
- Turn on the fire to low-medium heat.
- Place the saucepan over the fire.
- Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring it.
- Add the baking soda; wait for a few beats and then add the lemon juice; wait for another few beats and add the rose water or orange blossom water – if you’re using them.
- Continue to simmer and stir in low-medium fire for another 3 to 5 minutes.
- Turn off the fire.
- Set it aside to cool off.
Then, Make the Baklava
- Place the oven rack either below the middle of the oven or at the middle. (Lower in the oven makes the Baklava base crispier.)
- Turn on the oven (to preheat) at 190C/374F.
- Take a large bowl.
- Mix the nuts with the cinnamon in the bowl. Put it aside.
- Take a large baking pan (large enough to take the filo sheet in) and butter its bottom. You don’t need to overdo it, but you don’t have to be stingy about it either.
- Divide the filo sheets into two equal stacks.
- With a brush, butter the top side of a filo sheet.
- Set the filo sheet on the pan. DO NOT press it down.
- Butter the top side of another filo sheet and set it on top of the previous one.
- Repeat the exercise until you finish the first stack.
- Then, layer the nuts, evenly.
- After that, butter another filo sheet and set it on top of the nuts.
- Repeat the exercise until there’s no filo sheet left.
- Take a sharp knife and half-cut the Baklava into squares. (Half-cut means cutting the Baklava deep enough, but not all the way to the bottom.) Ideally you want your Baklava squares to be about 3×5 cm or 1+1/4 x 2 inches.
- Put the pan in the oven and let it bake for approx. 30 min or until golden to golden-brown.
- Turn off the oven.
- Take the golden or golden-brown pan of Baklava out of the oven and put it onto the stove.
- Pour the room temperature honey syrup over the Baklava. Pour it evenly.
- With a sharp knife, finish cutting the Baklava into squares.
- Sprinkle the ground green pistachios on top of the Baklava.
- Serve hot (not piping hot… just hot) or at room temperature.
Notes on Classic Turkish Baklava Recipe
- Be careful with the walnuts; they main contain shards of walnut shells so… do pay attention and pick them carefully.
- You could add some nutmeg in the “nuts and cinnamon” mix, if you wish. If you do, don’t overdo it: you want nutmeg to complement and enhance cinnamon, not take over.
- If your filo sheets are bigger than your pan, no worries; use a sharp knife to cut off the edges before you set the next filo sheet in.
- If your local store doesn’t carry filo or yufka pastry you can find it in Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern grocery shops and bakeries.
- Cooking time is approximate. There are many types of ovens out there – some work with gas, some are electric, some are convection ovens, etc. Check the Baklava after 25 minutes and decide if it needs more baking.
- If you have to open the oven door, just remember to do so very quickly because losing a lot of heat stops the baking process – and you don’t want this.
- For the differences between Honey and Sugar, click here.