Baklavas is one of the most famous Greek desserts. It is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo layers, filled with chopped nuts, drenched with syrup.
My mom used to love baklavas and would make it with almonds and cinnamon. This is based on her recipe, although I tweaked her recipe a lot and added nutmeg, and substituted the almonds with pecans and walnuts. I learnt about pecans recently and have been using them often since then and they have become a killer combination in the flaky, sticky pastry. In Cyprus we have a lot of almonds, so it was usually (but not always) made with the local production. Later on pistachios were imported from Aleppo, Syria, known to antiquity as Khalpe, Khalibon and in Cyprus these nuts are called Halepiana and sometimes it was also made with pistachios.
The multiple layers of phyllo should be brushed with melted butter, preferably clarified, so that they do not stick together. The traditional nut filling is usually made with almonds but many other types of nuts such as walnuts, pistachios or even hazelnuts or a mixture of nuts can be used in the filling.
I am not going to explain how we can prove that Baklavas is Greek and not Turkish but, if you like, you may read this article from the Food History. Wikipedia, in my opinion, is not a reliable source (although I refer to it often, as I do not find other sources to refer to) as anyone can go and write whatever they want and there is a lot of paid propaganda going on. See Turkish coffee, Turkish delights, moussakas, Turkish baths etc. It seems that the country which had hot tubs more than 3000 years ago, see Knossos, and has spread its civilization throughout the world, used to feed on raw meat and the Nomads would feed on gastronomical food.
You may also see the Ancient version of Baklavas, called Gastrin here.
To begin, we have to clarify the butter and make the syrup, as it has to be at room temperature.
How to clarify butter:
To do this, heat the butter in a small pan over low heat until it melts. The butter separates in three parts. Skim off foam with a spoon. The milk solids will remain at the bottom of the pan. Strain the butter using a coffee filter and the milk solids will be removed. What remains is clarified butter.
The quantity I made was huge but every Tuesday we have our Tupperware meetings, so half of it was consumed there. The only change that I made to our traditional recipe was to change the nuts.
My mum used to make it only with Almonds and cinnamon, but I made it with pecans and walnuts and added some nutmeg in the filling as well. It was perfect and I am not saying this from what my family said but from what I heard from my Tupperware friends and I was really pleased to see them taking a second piece. Wherever I have eaten baklava, I find that they use too much syrup and too much butter, which is not the case here.
Preparation time: 1/2 hour
Baking time: 1 hour and five minute
Yields: 32 pieces
- 1 packet of thin phyllo dough (500 grams)
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 175 grams of roasted pecans
- 175 grams of roasted walnuts
- 250 grams clarified butter
For the syrup:
- Leftover syrup from fruit preserves (I used quince syrup)
- ½ cup of thyme honey
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 10 cloves
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 250 grams (8.8 oz) good quality chocolate
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp butter
- Combine sugar, honey, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.Add lemon juice, stir and set aside.
- Clarify the butter (see instructions above).
- Combine nuts, spices and sugar.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and grease a 33 x 40 cm baking tin.
- Layer 3 sheets of phyllo pastry in the baking tin, brushing each one separately with butter.
- Sprinkle with the nut mixture and repeat until you add all the phyllo and all the nuts, each time brushing phyllos with butter.
- Top with the last three phyllo sheets, brushing each phyllo with butter but do not butter the last one. Wet your hands with water and sprinkle some on top.
- With a very sharp knife cut pastry beginning with a cross, making 4 squares. Each square, cut diagonally making an X and again cut into a cross shape. In each quarter you will get 8 pieces.
- Bake for 45 minutes, lower heat at 150 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and pour syrup spoon by spoon making sure that it has penetrated through all pieces. Allow to stand at room temperature before serving.
- Baklavas is ready to serve, but if you are a chocolate lover, try this version as well.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and mix in the heavy cream, honey and butter. Dip a piece of baklavas at a time in the melted chocolate.
- Using 2 forks, lift each piece and leave the chocolate to drip off and then place on parchment paper until the glaze has solidified.
- Serve in cupcake casings.
During summer, keep the phyllos covered with a moist napkin, so that they do not dry and crumble.
Do not store baklava in the refrigerator as the phyllo will loose its crunchiness and will become soggy. It’s better to leave it in the baking tin, if it’s stainless steel or remove to another vessel and cover with a napkin.
Alternatively, you can make baklavas into a coil. It’s almost the same method. Brush two or three phyllos with butter and sprinkle the nuts to cover the whole surface. Then fold it into a roll.
After cutting the coil into piece, you can cover it with chocolate. See also my Baklavas Tart.
I am submitting this recipe to Aparna, of My Diverse Kitchen, who is hosting the event Think Spice, Think Nutmeg, in Greek Moschokarydo, which means the nut which smells wonderful, originally created by Sunita, of Sunita’s World.
The chocolate baklavas in the picture has been made using quince preserve and syrup and nuts and is included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,