JThis family of sweet and sticky nutty pastries has its origins in the layered filo desserts of medieval Central Asia, which, combined with the Arab tradition of dipping pastries in syrup, produced the baklava known and loved today. from Uzbekistan to North Africa. Often found in huge golden trays on the counter of bakeries in its native region, it is also surprisingly simple to prepare at home.
Preparation 30 minutes
To cook 65 minutes
Makes 1 tray, to feed 8-10according to appetite
250g of butter
300 g walnut pieces
75 g shelled pistachios
125g ground almonds
Zest of 1 orange
A generous pinch of salt (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds (about 15 cloves)
12 sheets of filo pastry (2 sachets of 270g)
250 g caster or semolina sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon of orange blossom wateror to taste
1 A word about filo
I say surprisingly simple, but I can’t advise you to make your own filo. I tried a recipe for the stuff used in baklava and it takes more patience and finesse than I have. If, however, you would like to try, you can find many recipes online or in Arto Der Haroutunian’s classic book Sweets and Desserts from the Middle East.
2 And on nuts
Although I’ve recommended my favorite combination below, you can pretty much use any nut you like and can afford; pistachios, while delicious, are particularly expensive, while nuts alone may be too bitter for some palates. As long as you end up with roughly the same weight, feel free to customize.
3 Start filling
Once you have your filo, store bought or homemade, and you have chosen the nuts, you can start the filling. To melt the butter. Coarsely grind or finely chop the nuts until you have coarse rubble (if using a food processor to do this, be careful that they don’t turn into nut butter). Cut the pistachios into thin strips – these will add crunch and color to the finished pastries.
4 Finish filling
Mix the walnuts, pistachios and ground almonds in a bowl, then mix in the orange zest (rub the orange well before grating the zest), salt (optional, but recommended, otherwise the baklava can become very sweet) , ground cardamom (if you’re not a fan of cardamom, leave it out and substitute cinnamon to taste) and five tablespoons (75 ml) of melted butter.
5 Grease the mold and line with filo
Heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/gas 4. Generously brush an approximately 30cm x 25cm baking tin with some of the remaining melted butter. Spread the filo out on a work surface and have the nut mixture handy. Line the pan with a sheet of filo, brush with melted butter and repeat with five more sheets, buttering them as you go.
6 Add filling, then top with more filo
Spoon the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of filo, making sure it’s fairly tight without pressing down too much. Top with the remaining filo, brushing each sheet again with butter before adding the next. Be very generous with the butter on the top layer.
7 Cut into diamonds and bake
Using a sharp knife, cut the filo layers and fill in parallel lines about 4cm apart, then repeat diagonally so the dough is divided into diamond shapes. Bake for about an hour, until the top is golden brown, flipping the baklava halfway through so it browns evenly.
8 Make the syrup
Meanwhile, put the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with 125 ml of water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for about 10 minutes, until syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then stir in the orange blossom water to taste (brands vary greatly in strength, so add a little at a time).
9 Dip in syrup, cook again, then cool
Remove from the oven and increase the heat to 200C (180C fan)/390F/Gas 6. Pour the syrup over the top of the baklava, especially along the pre-cut lines, and return to the oven for five minutes. Let cool completely, then run a knife along the lines to loosen them before trying to remove the pieces from the pan.