Friday, October 22, 2010


This is one of our family's favorite treats, and although it may seem exotic, it is quite easy to make. You can find the basis for my recipe here. Of course I always have to make changes, so I will tell you my tweaks and tricks so you can make this awesome dessert that is different and fun.

  • I use a mixture of nuts, this time it was almonds, walnuts and pecans, but I also use cashews, hazelnuts and/or pistachios if I can find them on sale.
  • Chop your nuts in a food processor if you have one, that makes it quick and easy, but pulse the harder nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) a few times first before adding the softer nuts, that way you get uniform pieces. Otherwise you'll end up with big chunks of almonds in a walnut paste. It is up to you how coarse to make your nut mixture!
  • I add about a 1/4 cup of sugar and my ground spices to the food processor while I am chopping the nuts. You can really play with the fun flavors of spices. I used 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom here, but other great spice combos could be played with. Ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, black pepper, cocoa powder, even cayenne could be used. Not altogether of course!
  • The syrup can be greatly enhanced by using different flavored honeys. At the Bakery we sell WV honey that comes in a wide array of flavors, from Wildflower to Tulip Poplar to Basswood. Your local Farmer's Market might have other varieties. Whatever type of honey you get can help you decide what kind of other spices to use, for instance if you found orange blossom honey you might substitute orange flower water for the rosewater and use ginger and cinnamon as your spices.
  • Of course, you can use any citrus rind in place of the orange rind, I have had success with lemon.
  • In place of the cinnamon stick (or in addition to it) you can use any whole spice that won't go to mush when it is boiled (so you can take it out before you pour it over the baklava).
  • I boil my syrup for about 5 minutes so it gets a little thicker.
  • Many recipes say to cover the phyllo dough with plastic wrap and a damp towel, which I would suggest if you've never worked with it before. It really does dry out quickly, becoming very easy to tear. Once you get the hang of putting this dessert together you may find you are speedy enough not to need that step. If your pastry sheets do get a little raggedy, don't worry too much! Try to save one nice intact one for the top layer, that's the only one that really matters for overall good looks.
  • I don't trim the pastry sheets to fit the pan. A little bit of folding and scrunching of the pastry dough just makes for a lighter, flakier dessert! And untidy edge pieces are the beat ones to eat first.
  • I usually only use one stick of butter. You do not have to slather the sheets to get this to turn out wonderful. I also have read of people putting butter in a spray bottle! Whatever works to give you a thin coat of butter on every pastry sheet.
  • Make sure you have a Very Sharp Knife. Do not mess around with this step, it is insanely frustrating to layer up a whole pan of pastry sheets only to have them get all torn up by a dull knife that won't make clean cuts.
  • Don't cut all the way through all the layers when you score the pastry before baking. Leaving some layers intact keeps the syrup from running right down through and pooling in the bottom of the pan.
  • Make the syrup far enough ahead that it has time to get Cold before the pastry comes out of the oven. Cold Syrup poured over Hot Baklava makes the best sizzling crackling noises ever, and that says to me that the dessert will be delicate, crispy and not soggy.
  • Most big grocers carry rosewater, as do specialty international groceries, but don't be discouraged if you can't find it. Baklava is still delicious without it.
  • Phyllo dough can be found in the freezer section, near frozen pie crusts usually. For best results, give it 24 hours to thaw out in the fridge before you attempt to use it. Do not cut open the plastic wrap till you are absolutely ready to use it, the stuff dries out QUICKLY! There are usually 2 packages in a box, and unless you plan on doubling the baklava recipe, I suggest trying to use the other half of the dough to make spanakopita or some other adventurous dish!
  • Leftover syrup is really good on pancakes, in oatmeal, in tea, or anywhere else sticky sweetness is desired.