When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade… when a friend gives you three jars of honey, and bullies you into making baklava, you make her baklava. What can I say? I’m easily swayed cooking wise!
Baklava is the perfect one bite dessert. One square of this nutty, sugary treat goes along way. You want that initial crunch of the flaky phyllo dough and then those sweet syrupy layers with hints of crushed nuts. It melts in your mouth and leaves your fingers sticky with sweetness. It doesn’t get better than this!
It was first spread through the middle east and north africa via the Turks of the Ottoman empire with many variations throughout the region. And while my Algerian friend would like to claim this dessert as his people’s own… those Turks are to thank… And as such, it is considered Turkey’s national dessert.
I was lucky enough last summer to sample some really good baklava, straight from Istanbul, Turkey. It pretty much put any other baklava to shame… so having been repeatedly asked to make it from scratch I was a little hesitant.
Making really good baklava can be hard! Phyllo dough is paper thin, easy to tear and a tricky ingredient to handle. But, I’m not one to run from a challenge and I can confidently say, backed up by quite a few oohs and ahhs, that I did quite well for myself. And as I’ve learned the secret to filo dough (like most things in life) is butter! (The Kitchn has some great tips for working with it too!)
For baklava, you’ll need: crushed nuts (walnuts and pistachios), sugar, cinnamon, 2 sticks unsalted butter, and 1 package frozen phyllo dough. You’ll also make a syrup out of sugar, water and honey to pour on top.
Baklava is comprised of several layers of phyllo dough with crushed nuts interspersed. Each phyllo dough is gently laid into your baking pan, brushed with melted butter and then covered with another sheet of phyllo dough. Each layer of dough should have about 10-12 sheets within in. When in doubt, just keep adding sheets of phyllo dough with melted butter lathered between each layer. I did say, the secret to this dish is the butter!
After you’ve layered your phyllo dough and crushed nuts, you cut the baklava into squares and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.
At this point, make your syrup and pour it over the baklava — get it in all the nooks and crannies. It will seep down into the layers so don’t skimp on the syrup! Top with more crushed nuts, re-cut and let the baklava sit for a couple hours up to overnight. This will let all the flavors come together and lead to some pretty awesome baklava!
And there you have it! Homemade baklava — an impressive dish that is actually not that hard to make yourself! It’s the perfect taste of abroad in the comfort of your own home!
- 8 ounces walnuts
- 8 ounces plus ¼ cup shelled pistachios
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
- 1 package frozen phyllo sheets, thawed
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup water
- ¾ cup honey
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place nuts in the bowl of a food processor (reserve the additional ¼ cup of pistachios for garnish). Add the sugar and cinnamon. Pulse a few times to break up the nuts but do not chop them too fine or into a powder. Transfer to a bowl.
- Unwrap the phyllo sheets and carefully unroll onto the assembly surface, keeping the large sheet of plastic used to roll the sheets underneath. Dampen the tea towel (not too wet!) and lay it over the phyllo.
- Using the pastry brush, brush on a thin layer of butter all over the bottom of the baking pan. Carefully remove one sheet of phyllo dough and place it on the bottom of the pan. Butter the top of the phyllo lightly, making sure you are going out all the way to the edges. Repeat with layering 6 more sheets to total 7 sheets of phyllo, buttering the top of each sheet of phyllo before placing the next.
- Sprinkle half the nuts over the phyllo and spread them gently with your hand so that you have a fairly even layer. Be sure to spread them all the way to the edges.
- Place a sheet of phyllo on top of the nuts and carefully brush with melted butter. Repeat, layering 4 more sheets in all, with butter between each layer.
- Sprinkle the remaining layer of nuts over the phyllo.
- Place a phyllo sheet on top of the nuts and brush lightly with butter. Repeat, layering 6 more sheets of phyllo, with butter between each layer, to total 7 sheets.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut the baklava on the diagonal into approximately 28 pieces (can be more if you make smaller pieces).
- Place the pan of baklava in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check half way through and rotate the pan for even browning.
- Remove the baklava from the oven and cool. When the phyllo is evenly golden brown all over, remove the pan from the oven and set on a rack to cool.
- While the baklava is cooling, make the syrup. Combine the sugar, water, and honey in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.
- While the syrup is cooking, run your knife through the baklava to be sure the pieces are cut all the way through.
- When the syrup has boiled for 10 minutes, remove from the stove and carefully pour over the baklava, being sure to coat each piece.
- Sprinkle some of the chopped pistachios on each of the baklava squares. Cover the baklava and let sit for several hours or overnight before serving.