Although it likely originated in Greece or Turkey, all Mediterranean cultures have adopted it and tweaked it to their own tastes.
Baklava is a Mediterranean confection that sounds really decadent, loaded as it is with honey and nuts. The commercially bought version too often errs on the cloyingly sweet side. But I do have ways to mitigate the amount of sweetness, and to reduce the amount of steps involved, namely:
I don’t make syrup
I know that many cookbooks offer a recipe for this Mediterranean classic, but I couldn’t resist sharing my discovery with you: When you pour plain honey on hot baklava, it absorbs it gradually and completely, ending all the sticky mess syrup tends to make, and you also end up with a reasonably sweet dessert. Just use honey straight from the jar and pour it over the pastry slowly and steadily!
I watch the oil
I don’t brush every sheet of fillo for my baklava, I only brush every third sheet, and not with melted butter but with vegetable oil. I end up with a Super crunchy and flaky pastry.
Tips on Working with Fillo
I am including my chapter on Great Tips on Fillo Dough; read it and you will see how much more confident you will feel about cooking with fillo! As shown in this chapter, get all your ingredients lined up just as instructed, and working with fillo will soon become a pleasure.
I am including individual baklava and individual fillo pastries as well: One big happy and wonderful Fillo Pastry Family!
- 1 ½ pounds walnuts, ground medium-fine (substitute almonds or pistachios if you prefer) in a food processor. Make sure you stop processing while it has texture.
- ½ sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 tablespoons orange flower water
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1 pound fillo sheets, at room temperature
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (you might not need it all)
- 2 cups honey
- 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (10 minutes in a 300*F oven)
Preheat the oven to 375*f. Mix the filling ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Place the fillo sheets flat on cutting board in a stack. Cut through the whole pile crosswise. Make a new pile by stacking the two piles: the sheets should now be the same dimensions as the pan you are using. If they are a little bigger, trim them to fit. If they are a little smaller, overlap the leaves to fill the blank spaces. Brush a 9” x 13” pan with oil. Working very quickly, place 3 sheets of fillo neatly in the pan. Brush lightly with oil. Repeat four times (total: 5 times 3 leaves, 15 leaves). Spread half the filling evenly on fillo. Repeat: 5 times 3 leaves, brushing each time with oil. Spread remaining filling evenly on fillo. Repeat: 5 times 3 leaves, brushing each time with oil. With a serrated knife, cut through the top set of leaves (this is called scoring) into serving pieces: 4 times lengthwise, 6 times crosswise, then diagonally across each rectangle. Brush the top of the baklava with oil, and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Immediately, as soon as the baklava is out of the oven, pour the honey slowly and evenly on top. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Watch the honey disappear through all the hot layers. Cool completely, and cut all the way through the scored lines to separate all the pieces.
Store the baklava in an air-tight tin at room temperature. Baklava freezes very well too.