Layers upon layers of crispy, flaky buttery pastry with crushed nuts soaked in a honey lemon syrup. The iconic Baklava is my all time favourite pastry that I can’t get enough of. You’ll love how homemade Baklava is not overly sweet and how people can’t believe you made this!
It’s GREEK WEEK here on RecipeTin Eats! We started on Monday with Greek Chicken, today we have Baklava for dessert and on Friday, I’ll be rounding out the meal with essential sides including the much-in-demand Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes!!!
BAKLAVA – I LOVE YOU
I can sweep past the window of patisseries without having to fight an urge to pop in.
But if there’s one sweet thing that makes me hesitate – and breaks me more often that I care to admit – it’s Baklava.
This is THE Dessert to make when you want to impress the pants off your family and friends. Everybody loves it. It makes loads. It looks amazing. It tastes even more amazing.
And it ain’t that hard to make.
Something that might surprise you is how few ingredients go into Baklava. Filo / phyllo pastry, walnuts or pistachios (or other nuts, see recipe notes for regional variations) , butter, honey, sugar, lemon, cinnamon and water.
Yes, really, that’s all you need!
PHYLLO – WE LOVE YOU, WE HATE YOU
Phyllo pastry – also known as Filo Pastry – is the paper thin pastry used to make pastries and pies in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s sold frozen and fresh (fridge section of supermarkets).
The difference between Phyllo Pastry and Puff Pastry is that puff pastry “puffs up” when it’s cooked, revealing layers upon layers of flaky pastry. Phyllo pastry is like a single one of those thin flaky layers in puff pastry.
People seem to have a love/hate relationship with Phyllo pastry. The “love” part usually being the consumption of anything made with Phyllo.
The “hate” part usually the making part.
The problem most people have is that the pastry dries out so it crumbles when you try to use it. It’s frustrating and there’s no way to salvage it once that happens.
But when you follow simple tips, you are going to be a Phyllo Queen (or King) and breeze right through this Baklava recipe – and any other recipe using Phyllo pastry:
TIPS FOR USING PHYLLO PASTRY
- Thaw frozen phyllo pastry overnight in the fridge. Don’t try to rush the thawing by placing it in a warm place – makes the pastry brittle;
- Get refrigerated phyllo pastry if you can (fresh pasta and noodles section of supermarkets). No need to thaw, slightly easier to handle (more pliable);
- Take it out of the fridge 30 minutes beforehand;
- Keep the phyllo pastry covered with a slightly damp tea towel to ensure it doesn’t dry out; and
- Handle like tissue paper with fairy fingers. Don’t slap it around like a slice of ham!
Follow these steps and the phyllo will be fine for even a couple of hours out on the bench. And see below for what to do with leftover phyllo scraps!
HOW TO MAKE BAKLAVA
It’s as simple as this: blitz walnuts or pistachios until they are fine crumbs. Alternate with layers of phyllo pastry, brushing every sheet with butter, and walnuts. It’s like making lasagne!
Cut into diamonds, bake, pour over honey lemon syrup. Leave to soak. Devour.
I realise it doesn’t take many words to describe how to make Baklava but actually, the assembling part does take time. It takes me 30 minutes (from phyllo pastry cutting to getting it in the oven), and I’ve had practice.
Don’t fret if it takes you longer. I mean, don’t take a phone call from your chatty Aunt Cecilia mid Baklava assembly. Let’s focus on the task on hand here! But if you keep your phyllo pastry covered, it’s good for up to 2 hours.
CRACKLE AND POP!
It goes without saying that the best part is the eating part, but running a close second is the part when you pour the syrup over the Baklava while it’s still piping hot. It sizzles and crackles and it’s just an all round satisfying experience!
You’d think pouring syrup over Baklava would make the top layers soggy but it doesn’t at all, they stay super crisp – you’ll see in the video. Even the pastry on the bottom stays very crispy even though it ends up soaked in the syrup.
But the syrup’s main job is to soak into the walnuts and let me assure you, it does a very good job of that.
LOSING COUNT OF THE LAYERS….
“Don’t talk to me!!” I say sternly when I’m assembling baklava. “I need to concentrate!!”
It is alarmingly easy to lose count of the layers. I do, practically every single time.
BUT DON’T WORRY!!! Firstly, running out of nuts is a good indicator that you’re on the last layer.
Secondly, if you miss a sheet, or use one too many on a layer, or if you’re short for the top layer – it’s still going to be amazing! You’ll find variations of Baklava all over the internet, and the thickness of each layer of pastry is all over the place, some using as little as 2 sheets.
So honestly, don’t worry. There is a 90% chance that I’ve miscounted somewhere along the way in the baklava you see in these photos!
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER PHYLLO
If you’re in Australia, the number of sheets in the packets are such that you need 2 x 375g packets and it means you will end up with quite a few offcuts.
Here’s a couple of ideas of things to make with leftover Phyllo pastry scraps – a Spinach Feta Scrunch Pie (there is no better name for it!) which I made using this recipe by Scrummy Lane (I added extra scrunched up pastry on the top), or Spinach Ricotta Triangles made using the filling from my Spinach Ricotta Rolls.
THE FINAL WORD ON BAKLAVA!
If all that’s not enough to convince you that this is a must try recipe then the clincher might be this – it keeps 100% perfectly for a week (drops down to 98% after that…) so it’s ideal to make for gatherings. It’s great if you just wait the minimum 6 hours to let the syrup soak right through, but it’s even better the next day…. and the next day….
One of the things my friends liked the most about this homemade Baklava is that while you still get the same signature juicy syrupy experience, it is not sickeningly sweet like many store bought Baklava can be. Also, that tiny hint of fresh lemon is really lovely in this! – Nagi x
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Sometimes it helps to have a visual – so watch me make this Baklava recipe!
Recipe video above. Layers upon layers of flaky pastry with a syrup soaked walnut or pistachio filling! Just like store bought – except it’s not overly sweet, and you will love the hint of lemon. Makes 24 whole pieces plus a bunch of half pieces (cooks’ treat!). Keeps for a WEEK!! This recipe is best started the night before and needs 6+hours resting time.
- 40 sheets filo/phyllo pastry ((2 x 375g or 1 x 1lb pack, Note 1 for pack sizes))
- 500g / 1 lb walnuts ((other nuts Note 2))
- 285 g / 10 oz unsalted butter (, melted and slightly cooled)
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 cup / 200g white sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3/4 cup / 185 ml water
- 1/2 cup / 170 g honey
- You will need a 23 x 33 cm / 9 x 13″ baking pan.
For best results, thaw phyllo pastry overnight in the fridge (even if the pack says otherwise) then take out of the fridge 30 minutes prior.
- Cut phyllo to the size of the baking pan.
- Keep pastry covered with a damp tea towel at all times.
- Place nuts and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse 15 times or until fine crumbs – don’t let it turn into powder.
Assemble Baklava (see Layers visual below):
- Preheat oven to 160C / 325F.
- Base: Brush base of pan with butter. Lay over one sheet of phyllo. Brush with butter. Repeat to use 10 sheets, brushing every single sheet with butter. Scatter over 3/4 cup walnuts.
- Mid layers: Cover with 5 sheets of phyllo, brushing every sheet with butter. Top with 3/4 cup walnuts. Repeat 3 more times.
- Top: Cover with 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing every sheet with butter, including the final layer.
Cut the baklava into 4 long strips, then cut on the diagonal to make diamonds. (Note 3)
Bake for 1 hour – 1 hr 15 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, make syrup (needs time to cool)
- Remove from oven and immediately pour over syrup.
- Leave to soak for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Check to ensure each piece is cut all the way through, then serve. Keeps for a week!
- Place ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer, stir to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes, remove from heat and cool.
1. Phyllo / Filo pastry: Comes in different pack sizes and sheet numbers depending on brand. Do not fret too much if you are slightly short – just reduce sheets in each layer / use off cuts. This recipe calls for 40 layers in total but a traditional Greek version uses 33 layers.
Australia – I recommend Antoniou Fillo Pastry sold in the fridge section. You will need 2 x 375g packs which has 18 to 22 sheets in each pack, and you will have off cuts once trimmed to size, see below for usage ideas. If you use the frozen packs, you’ll need 2 packs and they often only have 15 sheets so you’ll need to do more layers using offcuts.
US – You will need 1 x 1 lb packet, I did a bunch of Googling and looked at other recipe sources and it seems the standard is 40 sheets in those packs in the States. The sheets are just a touch bigger than the pan so you’ll have just a small amount of trimmings.
2. Nuts & Baklava Varieties – Baklava is made with a variety of nuts across the Mediterranean and Middle East, the most common being walnuts, pistachios and almonds. Sometimes just one of these, sometimes a combination. Here are some regional varieties:
* Greece: there are versions made with just one nut – walnuts, pistachios or almonds – as well as a mix of walnuts and pistachios. I usually make it with just walnuts.
* Turkish – usually made with only pistachios, no cinnamon
* Persian – 50/50 almonds and pistacchio with cardamom instead of cinnamon and a touch of rosewater in the syrup (start with 1 tsp, adjust to taste)
* Middle Eastern – typically made with just walnuts, per recipe
3. Cutting – See video and photos. Use small stabbing motions to cut through once, then run the knife through smoothly through the same cut. I cut 4 long straight strips in the pan, then cut across diagonally.
4. Storage – I’ve kept it for up to a week with no change in quality, in fact it gets better with time! Beyond a week I found the pastry starting to its crispiness a bit because the surface tends to go flaky – but not by much, still 100% tasty. Store in an airtight container in the pantry.
5. Leftover Phyllo Pastry – If you’re in Australia, you’ll end up with plenty of scraps because of the size of the pastry sold in packs. I used the offcuts to make this Scrunchy Top Spinach Feta Pie by Scrummy Lane (I added loads more scrunched up pastry on the top) and Spinach Ricotta Triangles made using the filling from my Spinach Ricotta Rolls (brush with butter and bake 25 minutes at 180C/350F)
6. Source – This recipe is courtesy of Natasha’s Kitchen. It is rare that I share a recipe without making any amendments because I do love to tinker. But this recipe is perfect as it is. More layers used than most baklava recipes as well as buttering every single layer, and that’s what makes all the difference.
7. Nutrition per piece. It’s conservative because it doesn’t take into account all the partial pieces all around the edges – my adjusted estimate is about 285 cal per slice.
Calories from Fat 207
LIFE OF DOZER
That’s Sydney city and the harbour bridge in the background there! I should’ve made it less blurry