Have you ever tried Turkish baklava? If you have, you would agree with me that it is one of the most luscious, delicious baklava varieties out there in the world. Dripping with syrup, buttery, flaky, sweet, crunchy—it is so good!
As much as I love store-bought Turkish baklava, I also enjoy making it myself from time to time. It is not as difficult as it may seem or sound to make. Really. A few pointers will help you through the job. You will love the experience and, most of all, the taste of your home-made sweet treat.
Filo (phyllo) dough should be defrosted at room temperature until the sheets separate easily.
Filo dough ready for the baklava.
Filo sheets are so thin you can see though.
Here’s the pan I bake my baklava in.
Layer one sheet of filo dough in the pan.
Then brush with some clarified butter.
Continue layering until you have used up half of the dough.
Sprinkle the walnut filling evenly over the top.
Cover with the remaining filo sheets, buttering each layer.
Cut the dough into rectangles.
A close-up view of the unbaked baklava.
Baked baklava should be light golden.
Pour the syrup on top and let the baklava soak it up.
Adapted from “Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook” by Ozcan Ozan
A few pointers before you begin:
1) Clarified butter is recommended for the butter soak here, for best flavor results (see my recipe at the end, to make your own). However, you can use regular unsalted butter, too. Simply melt and cool it.
2) Filo dough, also known as phyllo dough, can be found in the freezer section of most supermarkets. Keep it frozen until you know you will be using it. Remove it from the freezer and let the roll come to room temperature before using (do not try to unroll the frozen dough or it will break!). Once all of the sheets have defrosted and are easy to separate, open up the roll, and immediately cover the top layer with a damp kitchen cloth, to prevent the dough from drying. As you work with each sheet of dough, keep the rest covered, as the dough dries quickly!
3) You can use pistachio instead of walnuts for the filling.
4) For a crispier baklava, you can use less syrup (in fact, the original recipe suggests using less water and sugar). Use 2 1/2 cup cold water and 3 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
4 cups water
5 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups walnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted clarified butter (recipe follows)
You will also need:
2 packages filo (phyllo) dough, each containing 20-22 sheets of dough
First, make the syrup. Combine the water with the sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Boil the mixture for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. The syrup is ready when it is light yellow. Stir the lemon juice into the syrup and set it aside to cool.
Next, prepare the filling. Place the walnuts and sugar in a food processor. Process until medium ground. Do not grind too fine—you should feel the crunch when you eat the baklava. Set aside.
Brush the bottom and the sides of a 12-by-16-by-1-inch (30-by-40-by-2.5-cm) baking pan with a little of the clarified butter.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
Gently place 1 sheet of the dough in the pan. Be careful, as the dough is very fragile. Do not worry if there are some minor tears though. With a wide pastry brush, lightly brush the dough with a little of the clarified butter (about 2 tablespoons). Continue layering the dough and brushing it with butter until one package of dough is used. Minor tears and cuts are ok.
Spread the walnuts over the dough and drizzle just a little water on top, to help the dough adhere to the walnuts when the next layer is added.
Using the second package of filo dough, layer the dough over the walnuts, brushing each sheet with a little of the clarified butter. Brush the top layer with the butter, too.
Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut through the dough halfway down lengthways 5 times (cutting the dough halfway down before baking will allow the top layers of dough to curl under as they bake), to obtain 6 parallel strips, then cut across 11 times, to obtain 12 parallel strips. Depending on how small or big you want your baklava pieces, you can cut into as few or as many strips as you want. You can also cut the dough into diamonds.
Bake the baklava in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 325ºF (160ºC) and bake the baklava for 30 minutes more, until the top is light brown. Remove the baklava from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Run a knife along the cut lines of the baklava, all the way to the bottom of the baking pan, and pour the cooled syrup evenly over the lines. Let the baklava cool completely. Serve at room temperature. The baklava will keep for one week, stored in a cool, dry place.
Note: To make clarified butter, start with about 25% more unsalted butter than the required amount of clarified butter in a particular recipe, as butter reduces in volume while cooking. Make a big batch and store in a cool place, to use any time you need.
Place chunks of unsalted butter in a heavy bottomed pan and melt over low heat. Gently simmer until foam rises to the top. Skim off the foam. Continue to simmer until dark solids have formed on the bottom of the pan (after about 20 minutes of simmering). Remove the pan from the heat.
Line a fine-mesh strainer with large muslin or 2-3 layers of clean cheesecloth and set the strainer over a heat-proof bowl or a pan. Pour the warm butter onto the strainer to rid it off any solids from the pan. Discard the solids. Allow to cool completely. Store in a closed container (a jar works great) in a cool place for up to 6 months.