Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baklava Pastry (Baklavas)

In Greek: μπακλαβάς, say: bahk-lah-VAHS

Sheets of wafer-thin phyllo dough are sprinkled with a sweet nut mixture to create one of Greece's most famous dishes. A wide variety of nuts can be used - alone or mixed - and this recipe calls for walnuts and almonds. The pastry is baked, then covered with a sweet syrup. Syrups can be honey-based, sugar-based, or call for a combination. However it's made, the small pieces of flaky pastry are packed with sweetness.

Baklava is the most famous of the Greek pastries, and every area of Greece - and sometimes every family within a region - has a favorite recipe. Enjoy this favorite of mine, made with walnuts, olive oil, cinnamon, and cloves. The recipe is a modified version of a Cretan specialty from Roman times.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes


· 1 pound of large (14 x 18 inch) phyllo sheets (20 - 22 sheets)
· 5 cups of chopped walnuts
· 1 cup of breadcrumbs
· 2 cups of sugar
· 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
· 2 tablespoons of ground cloves
· 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil
· 4-5 tablespoons of bottled soda water

· Syrup:

· 2 ½ cups of sugar
· 1 cup of honey
· 3 cups of water
· juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
· 1 big stick of cinnamon
· 5 cloves


Defrost phyllo dough according to package directions.

In a large bowl, combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Mix well with hands or a large whisk until thoroughly blended.

Preheat oven to 350-355°F (180°C).

Oil the bottom and sides of a 17 X 13 inch (or equivalent) rectangular baking pan. Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush with a little oil (or butter). Allow any overlap to hang out the sides. Repeat until there are 4 sheets on the bottom. Spoon one third of the nut mixture evenly over the pastry. Add two more sheets of pastry, brushed with oil (or butter). Spoon a little of the nut mixture over the pastry and repeat until all but 4 sheets of phyllo remain. Top the pastry with 4 sheets, each brushed with oil (or butter), except the top sheet. Tuck any overlapping phyllo dough under itself, on top of the filling.

Score the pastry in pieces using a razor blade, and follow up with a sharp knife, cutting all the way through. To make triangles: cut the pastry into squares, then, cut squares in half diagonally to make triangles. To hold the pastry on place I usually put a clove on each corner of each triangle.

Sprinkle just the top of the pastry with 4-5 tablespoons of soda water (to get best results, use a spray bottle). Bake on the rack just below the middle of the oven 350-355°F (180°C) until golden (about 45 minutes).

Note: The cooked baklava may have white spots on top. These are from the soda water and will disappear after the syrup is added.

Unlike many other baklava recipes, hot syrup is poured over the hot pastry:

· Bring the syrup ingredients to a boil.
· Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
· Pour the hot syrup carefully and evenly over the hot baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven, making sure to cover the sides and corners.
Allow the baklava to cool thoroughly and absorb the syrup before serving (at least 3-4 hours).

Yield: 60 small pieces

Notes About Butter: I don't recommend using butter, but if you must, substitute 1 1/2 cups of melted unsalted butter for the olive oil. If there is any butter (not oil) left after making the baklava, omit the soda water spray and pour it over the top before baking.

How Do You Like Your Baklava? Some love a chewy baklava. If this is your preference, refrigeration is the secret. After cooking, cool the baklava completely. Cover well and refrigerate for a day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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