Baklava is a crispy, rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and drenched with honey syrup. This ethnic Middle Eastern confection has been in my mind for several months, and this weekend made its grand entry into my kitchen.
Few months back a traditional Turkish restaurant opened in our area and they had the best Baklava’s I have tasted. Ever since I ate in that restaurant, I wanted to make this pastry, but just the labor made me postponing it. Once I actually started making, it was not too bad. More than difficult, I would call this a labor intensive desert. Once we get in the flow, it just gets easier. The phyllo dough used in this pastry is readily available in most of the supermarkets.
Traditionally, this is made of walnuts and Pistachios. Since I did not have Pistachios in my pantry, I ended up using Almonds. I found no difference in the taste and definitely the desert was worth the effort. I used the recipe from one of my baking book called ‘Anne Willan’s Look & Cook Delicious Desserts’.
Ever since I have started making this homemade baklava recipe, this is a dessert that I love to take for parties. There is a wrong conception that baklava is very hard to make. I want to insist again that it is a very time consuming recipe, but definitely not hard. I had made baklava before we left New York and my parents were visiting us then. My dad absolutely loved it and he was all praise about how well I had made.
Preparation time – 1 hr
Cooking time – 1hr 15 mins
Difficulty level – Difficult
Ingredients to make Homemade Baklava Recipe – Makes around 2-3 dozens depending on the size
- Phyllo dough – 1lb package
- Unsalted butter – 1 cup
- Walnuts – 2 cups
- Pistachios (Unsalted) – 2 cups (I used 2 cups of Almonds)
- Sugar – 1 cup + 1/3 cup
- Ground cinnamon – 2 tsp
- Ground cloves – 1/4th tsp
- Honey – 1 cup
- Juice of lemon – 1
- Water – 1 cup
- Orange flower water – 3 tbsp (Or use 1tsp of Vanilla extract)
Procedure to make Homemade Baklava Recipe
The procedure is split into 4 parts.
1) PREPARE THE NUT FILLING
- Coarsely chop the nuts with the chef’s knife or in a food processor.
- Set aside 4 tbsp of nut for decoration. Put the remainder in a bowl with 1/3 cup of sugar, cinnamon and cloves and mix well.
2) ASSEMBLE AND BAKE THE PASTRIES
- Heat the oven to 350 F. Lay a dish towel on a work surface and sprinkle it lightly with water. Thaw the phyllo dough package according the manufacturer’s instructions. Unroll the sheets on the towel and then cover it with a second damp dish towel. When unrolling them I encountered several cracks and cuts in the sheets. Do not panic. They are easily repairable and do not make any difference in the desert.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Brush a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with melted butter. Take a sheet of phyllo dough and carefully spread it in the pan, folding the sheet in such a way that it fits the pan.
- Brush the layered sheet with butter and gently press it into the sides and corners of the pan.
- Lay another sheet on top and brush with butter. Do the same with the third of the sheets. Once 1/3rd of the sheets have been used, scatter half the nut filling over the layers.
- Layer another third of the sheets in the pan, buttering each one and pressing into the corners and sides. Then sprinkle the remaining half of the nut mixture evenly.
- Layer the last third of the sheets, buttering them and pressing them the same way as we did with the previous layers. Brush the top most layer thoroughly with butter and pour any remainder of butter on the top (I ignored the last step. I did not pour the remaining butter. I just liberally brushed the top layer and left it at that).
- With a small knife, cut diagonal lines around ½ inch deep to mark out the shape. Do not press down too much when cutting.
- Bake on low shelf for around 1 hr 15 mins (It took me exactly 1 hr) until golden.
3) MAKE THE HONEY SYRUP
- Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pour in the honey and stir to combine. Boil without stirring until the syrup reaches a soft ball consistency (239F on a candy thermometer). This takes anywhere from 30 mins-45 mins. To test the consistency without the thermometer, take the pan off the heat and dip a teaspoon in the syrup. Let it cool down for few seconds and then drop it in a small cup with water. Once dropped into the water, it should form a mushy ball.
- Remove the syrup from the heat and let it cool down to lukewarm temperature. Now add the juice from a lemon and the orange flower water or the vanilla extract.
4) FINISH THE PASTRIES
- Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the cool syrup evenly over the hot pastries. Pouring the syrup over the hot pastries enables better absorption. With the chef’s knife cut along the marked lines almost to the bottom of the pan. Let the pastries cool.
- Cut through the marked lines completely and carefully lift the pastries with a spatula and arrange them on a plate. Sprinkle the top with the reserved nuts and serve.
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