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 (Gulluoglu brand is awesome!) 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 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. 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, let the roll come to room temperature (do not try to unroll the frozen dough or it will break!). Once all the sheets have defrosted and are easy to separate, open up the roll, and immediately cover the top layer with a slightly wet kitchen cloth to prevent the dough from drying. As you work with each sheet of dough, keep the rest covered - 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 book suggests less water and sugar). Use 2 1/2 cup cold water and 3 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can now begin. Enjoy!
For the Syrup:
4 cups water
5 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the Filling:
3 cups walnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the Butter Soak:
1 1/2 cups unsalted clarified butter (recipe at the end)
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 inside of a 12 x 16 x 1 - inch baking pan all over with a little of the clarified butter.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Gently place 1 sheet of 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 with butter until one package of dough is used. Minor tears and cuts are ok.
Spread the walnuts over the dough and lightly sprinkle it with water (using a plant mister is best!) 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 butter. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut through the dough halfway down (cutting the dough halfway down before baking will allow the top layers of dough to curl under as they bake) lengthways 5 times 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, you can cut into as few or as many strips 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 325F and for an additional 30 minutes until the top is light brown. Remove the baklava from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Recut the pastries along the lines all the way to the bottom of the baking pan and pour the cold syrup evenly over the cut lines. Let baklava cool completely. Serve at room temperature. It will keep for one week stored in a cool, dry place.
Clarified Butter (AZ Cookbook recipe)
You can make clarified butter out of any amount of butter you want. But before making 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.
To make clarified butter, place chunks of unsalted butter in a heavy bottomed pan and melt over low heat. Gently simmer until foam rises to the top. Once no more foam rises to the top (and dark solids have formed on the bottom of the pan (after about 20 minutes of simmering), remove the pan from the heat. Skim off the foam and discard. Line a fine-mesh strainer with large muslin or 2-3 layers of clean cheesecloth and set the strainer over a heatproof bowl or a pan. Pour the warm butter onto the strainer to rid it off any solids from the pan. Discard the solids. Store the clarified butter in a closed container (a jar works great) in a cool place for up to 6 months.