baklava, with walnuts and almonds

baklava piece

Baklava is one of those delicacies whose origins are lost in time. Some trace it back to ancient Greek/Roman desserts with baked walnuts, almonds, poppy seeds, honey and dough from Athinaeus Deipnosofists; others draw a link to Byzantine pies, koptoplakous, as a baklava precursor; and some claim Assyrians to be the fathers of baklava (8th century BC).

Turkey of course has taken the lead, registering a geographical indication for the pistachio-filled Antep baklava, but no matter where its roots lie baklava is savoured throughout the Middle-East and the Balkans. Love for the tantalisingly flaky, syrupy dessert has spread throughout the world. And once you fall in love with baklava, you will be forever smitten. It happened to me early on in life when baklava used to be served at family gatherings with ice-cream. My mind was blown, I had two desserts in one go! Today, my taste for baklava still perseveres and I am always on the lookout for it wherever I go.

I have to admit, baklava in London had disappointed me a little. It was very rare to come across a bite of wonderfully crunchy filo with just the right amount of syrup to make it sweet and nuts crushed gently enough to keep their texture. My frustration ran deep, so of course instead of whining I went ahead and made my own. There are so many types of baklava, but this recipe is a great place to start – a classic with walnuts and almonds.

baklava ingredients

For the baklava

  • 500 gr filo
  • 250 gr butter
  • 200 gr. Almonds, peeled and crushed
  • 200 gr walnuts, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp clove
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Whole cloves for decoration
  • 15 in × 10 in Pyrex dish

crushed nuts

For the syrup

  • 250 gr sugar
  • 200 gr water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Lemon peel
  • A cinnamon stick

What to do

Before you start, make sure you separate the sheets of filo into three batches (similar to my previous galaktoboureko recipe): 4-5 sheets for the bottom, 5-6 sheets for the middle layer, 3-4 sheets to cover the top.

Each brand of filo is slightly different, so always try to get a solid bottom layer and cover the top with at least a couple of layers. I was using a 15 in ×10 in Pyrex dish and one packet of filo was sufficient with the sheets folded in two to form double layers.

baklava layeringSo here we go:

  1. Mix the crushed almonds and walnuts with the sugar, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.
  2. Melt the butter and keep it warm, we will be adding plenty to every layer.
  3. Butter the bottom of your dish and add your first layer, butter again and fold any excess in. Continue like this for 4 sheets, giving you 8 layers in total.
  4. Start sprinkling your mix of nuts and spices evenly on the surface.
  5. Add another layer, butter it and then add more nuts.
  6. Repeat the above step until you only have 3 sheets left for the top (6 layers)
  7. Once finished, cut into diamonds and decorate each one with a whole clove.
  8. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 140 oC for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Uncover for the last 20 minutes.

FullSizeRender (21)

The syrup

  1. Add the water and sugar to the pan along with the lemon and cinnamon stick.
  2. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  3. To check if the syrup is done, dip in a spoon and let some drip on a plate. The drops formed should be solid and not runny.
  4. Pour cold syrup over your piping hot baklava to absorb.

tray of baklava

Let it cool and enjoy, absolutely perfect with a scoop of ice-cream.

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