Baklava makes me extremely happy. Partial to baklava, I will always buy a piece if I come across it in my travels. I’m sure lovers of nuts and textural crunch will agree that baklava is the perfect treat. Simple, yet complex. Sweet and fragrant.
With so many cultures citing baklava in its staple of desserts, there are many variations, but fundamentally baklava is prepared with layers of filo pastry separated with melted butter, topped with nuts, layered again with filo, and headily drowned in a syrup that is left to seep through the sweet, leaving it moist, fragrant and addictive.
I find it hard to stop at just one piece… but only when the balance is right. All too often I’ve bitten into a piece of baklava to find it sickly sweet. The sweetness can be so overpowering that you almost can’t taste the nuttiness of the baklava. But when the sweetness is just right, baklava is heavenly. A gift from god.
Baklava can be found served in Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Balkans, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Serbia and Syria (and probably more countries that I don’t know about), and they all use slight variations of nuts and syrup flavours.
The day I recipe tested baklava and made it three times, was a happy day indeed in my kitchen. I tried a few different ways of making the filling and syrup and determined that this recipe was indeed my favourite. I also made it in four 10 cm spring form tins which each made four perfect servings (nice big servings of course).
For the syrup, I looked no further than my ‘Authority on all things Greek’, Peter from Souvlaki for the Soul whose syrup was indeed my favourite and the most fragrant by far! Peter has a number of wonderful Baklava-esque recipes which all look pretty spectacular.
Baklava really is very simple. A little fiddly with all the layering and butter-brushing, but not complicated and well worth the effort.
1 cup raw shelled pistachios
1/2 cup raw slivered almonds
1/2 cup raw walnut kernals
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest 1/2 orange
1 packet good quality filo pastry
75g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
Juice of half an orange
Preheat oven to 200° Celsius.
Place pistachios, almonds and walnuts on a baking tray and roast for 10 to 15 minutes until nicely roasted. Remove from oven and cool. Once cool place roasted nuts in a blender, pulsing until the nuts are finely chopped. Transfer nuts to a bowl and add cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 180° Celsius.
Melt butter in a saucepan or in the microwave. Working with 1 sheet of filo at a time and keeping the remaining filo covered with a lightly damp tea towel, brush each sheet of filo liberally with melted butter and lay on top of each other until you have used half of the filo sheets. With an 11 cm chef ring, cut out 8 rounds from the filo.
Taking four 10cm springform baking tins, place four filo rounds in the base of the tin, brush tops with butter and place the remaining four rounds on top. Divide the nut mixture into four and layer on top of the filo in each baking tin.
Using the remaining filo sheets, repeat the process of layering with melted butter and cutting 8 rounds from the filo. Top the nut mixture in each tin with one round of filo then brush the tops and add another round of filo. Brush a little remaining butter on the top of each and score the top section of filo with an “X” so that the baklava can soak in the syrup.
Place in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the tops of the baklava are golden.
10 minutes before the baklava has finished baking, combine sugar, water, honey and juice in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then lover heat and simmer until a thick syrup forms. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove baklava from oven and pour 1/4 of the syrup over each baklava round. Stand for 1-2 hours until baklava is cool. Cover and leave in a cool place until ready to serve. To serve, cut into pieces along score marks.
The baklava will keep for up to a week… if it will last that long.