Baklava

baklava

Baklava is a dessert as old as time, to use the phrase loosely. Originating from Turkey probably in the 15th century but perhaps earlier, this layered pastry has now spread throughout the Balkans and Middle East: Serbia, Bulgaria, Jordan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria, Georgia, Greece. The recipe varies slightly from country to country and region to region. All have in common thin pastry layers, nuts, and a sweet syrup. Depending on where you find it, the filling can be made from walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts (even pecans if you’re in Texas). It can be a combination of nuts, or all one type. The pastry is called fillo dough (also spelled phyllo or filo) and means “leaf” in Greek. It is a wheat dough rolled impossibly thin; so thin it’s almost translucent. I’ve read that in Greece, baklava is made during Easter with 33 layers of fillo to represent the 33 years of Christ’s life; I’ve also read that 40 layers are used, I guess just because 40 is a recurring number in the bible. I make mine with neither 33 nor 40 layers. I just make it as many layers as I have fillo sheets.


baklava

In my recipe, I use a combination of walnuts and pistachios but feel free to experiment with yours. Just be sure to use unsalted nuts, and preferably raw, too (though if you wanted to toast them a little first I’m sure that would be delicious, too). I’ve tried recipes using pure honey, heated until thin, as the syrup, but those to me turn out too sticky to be easy to eat. And if there’s one thing I need, it’s for my sweet snacks to be easy as hell to get into my mouth. Flavor your syrup with just the lemon rind or add a few drops of rose or orange flower water for a more Persian style baklava. You can also make this with olive oil instead of melted butter, or use half and half, but I like the sweetness that butter adds.

Making the baklava in a larger pan and doubling the recipe is no more work, either, so if you have a crowd to feed, I recommend that. For just the two of us here, a big pan of baklava is way more than we need so I just make small 8×8 inch batches.

Baklava Video

Baklava Recipe – Printable!

5.0 from 9 reviews
Baklava
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • ½ pound walnuts, almonds or pistachios, or a combination
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ pound phyllo dough, thawed
  • ½ cup (1/4 pound) melted butter
  • Syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2" strip lemon rind or orange rind
  • 6 tablespoons honey
Instructions
  1. Set oven to 325F and line a 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper and brush with butter
  2. Grind or chop the nuts. Be sure to use raw, unsalted nuts. Combine nuts with sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest in a bowl.
  3. Lay 2 phyllo pastry sheets in the bottom, brush with butter, lay 2 more sheets, butter, 2 sheets, butter (8 sheets of phyllo total).
  4. Sprinkle with a third of the filling.
  5. Lay 2 more sheets phyllo on top and brush with butter.
  6. Continue layering filling with 2 sheets of phyllo and butter until filling is used up.
  7. Layer the top with 2 sheets/butter as in the first layer until phyllo is used up.
  8. Brush top with butter.
  9. Use a short sharp knife to cut the baklava into small diamond shapes. Cutting before cooking is necessary because once it's cooked, you won't be able to cut it without crushing the delicate crispy layers.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 300F and bake another 45-60 minutes until golden and puffed.
  11. During the last 15-30 minutes of baking, make the syrup:
  12. Combine syrup ingredients - except honey - in a medium pot and stir to dissolve.
  13. Heat over medium-high until boiling.
  14. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 15 minutes uncovered.
  15. Add honey and simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and remove rinds.
  16. Pour hot syrup over hot baklava then let cool.
  17. Refrigerate once cooled to room temperature.
  18. Quick cool method: Fill a large bowl or dish with water and ice. Place the baklava over the cold water so that the bottom of the pan is immersed. Let cool like this for 10-15 minutes before removing from pan and slicing.
Notes
Recipe may be doubled and baked in an 11x7 inch or 13x9 inch pan instead.
QUICK CHILL: for an 8x8" pan, get a very large bowl with an opening about 13" across. Fill almost to the top with cold water and ice. Set the pan on top, so that the bottom is just touching the cold water. Baklava will be chilled within 10-15 minutes. (See photo below recipe.)

baklawa

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Comments

  1. This recipe is so much less scary than others I’ve come across for baklava! Can’t wait t

  2. Rats, I just got back from the store with my phyllo dough and walnuts and I just realized–I forgot the lemon. How crucial is that? Do you just need something acidic? Could I put in vinegar and a drop of lemon extract instead (or would that just be stupid to do)?

    • I’d just leave it out, Steven. It’s not so much for the acidity itself, as it is for the flavor. If you have an orange that will work, but you should be fine omitting the juice/rind completely, too.

      • I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving out an ingredient so I went back to the store this morning to get some lemons and I’m glad I did! That citrus note makes a noticeable impact I think! I really like the syrup–especially because it’s not overly sweet. I think the first time I tried baklava was when I was a kid and it was just soaked in what seemed like almost pure honey–way way too sweet.

        • Yippee! I’m super glad you decided to make another trip to the store. The lemon juice does a lot to balance the sweetness. It’s GREAT that your first try making it was a success! :D

        • Glad to hear that was not too sweet! I’m originally from Turkey and this is a really great recipe. The ones I had as a child were too sweet but this is much better and easier to do with phillo dough. I love to add some rose water to the syrup after removing from the heat which adds a great authentic touch in my opinion. You can find it in any Middle Eastern market and it has other uses too if you google it.
          Very well done Hilah, you nailed it! :-D

  3. Kim Young says:

    Hilah! What is the name of the band playing during the dough layering?

    • Hi Kim!
      It’s a piece of stock music from Premium Beat, called “Where’s my Banjo”. I don’t know the name of the person or band.

  4. fact: you are my friend. fact: I was there when you were making this. Fact: You are not greek. Fact: but you are a geek. Ergo: deez baklavas were good.

  5. One of my favorite desserts ever! You make it look easy, Hilah!

  6. I always thought baklava was WAY too sweet (well, pretty much everything sweet is too sweet for me), but this syrup idea and the lemon is genius for taming the sweetnes.

    Also, hi!

    • Hi Diane!!
      I have also had baklava that is way too sweet and I think that might be when people use straight honey for the syrup, instead of cutting it with simple syrup (even though that seems counterintuitive).

  7. It looks really tasty..I will try doing it.

  8. I’m going to make this and bring it to my mom’s for Easter this weekend, I’m super psyched to give it a try.

    I went out and bought a giant 3 lb. bag of walnuts at Costco, is it ok to just eyeball what I suppose a half-pound looks like? I don’t have a scale…

    • Awesome, Patrick! A half pound of chopped walnuts is about 2 cups worth. A little more or less than a half pound won’t make a big difference to the recipe. It’s gonna be great!

      • Yo, Hilah. Making this Baklava was awesome, everyone really liked it! I made a test batch and brought it to work and it got devoured too. I received many compliments on my pastry prowess. I can’t wait to try out more of your recipes.

  9. I made this twice this week, and it turned out well both times. The taste is great, not too sweet, and it’s simple enough to make that I’ll definitely make it again sometime. Awesome recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I have always been super intimidated by baklava…so many layers! But now that I’ve seen this, I’m definitely gonna give it a shot! You da best, Hilah.

    • Hooray! Great to hear that, Nicole. It’s wonderful when a difficult-seeming recipe turns out to not be so hard and you can impress everyone with your skillz in the kitchen. Enjoy!

  11. hi i wanted to know if i could use egg roll sheets instead since i couldnt get any phyllo dough

  12. Can I just sqeeze the lemon juice but not put the lemon in the suse?

  13. Matías says:

    Hi Hilah, I love your recipes!. But i have a question. Can i do the syrup without the lemon? Or do you have other recepie of syrups? Thank you hilah! I’m going to do this amazing and delicious recipe ;)

    • Hi Matías!
      Yes, you can omit the lemon from the syrup and the recipe will still work. It will be a bit sweeter, but it will work. :)

      • Matías says:

        ¡Thank you! You’re awesome ;), But one more thing, can you say me the ½ pound walnuts, almonds or pistachios, or a combination in cups? i need that in cups. Thank you, And can i do the syrup without the honey? TY

        • A half-pound of nuts is about 2 1/2 cups (before chopping). I don’t know about omitting the honey. You can try it, but increase the sugar to maybe a 1/2 cup. I really don’t know if that will work, though, and suggest you try with honey if you can.

  14. Hi Hilah, I’m so glad I came across with your website and recipes, which was by accident! Love the idea of a video with each recipe. This was the best baklava I ever made and it was a huge hit, including myself who was not a big fan because of its excessive sweetness! Look forward to try more of your delicious and practical recipes!.:-)

    • Hi Ilksen!
      I’m so glad you found me, too! Really happy the baklava turned out well. I love it when I discover that something I thought was super hard is completely manageable. :) Thanks for writing!

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