Baklava is often associated with Greek cuisine but it's a dish that dates back to the Ottoman empire. It is eaten throughout the Mediterranean and middle east and is very popular in Turkey. Turks and Greeks both claim the dish as their own, but it likely belongs to both cultures. Made with layers of thin dough and ground nuts, most often pistachios or walnuts, and sugar syrup or honey, it’s a great way to highlight the taste of our local honey.
I made mine with ground salted pistachios, rose water and Björn’s Colorado Traditional Honey. While the recipe is a bit tedious, it’s not difficult and it’s great served with mint tea.
Ingredients and Supplies:
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter (unsalted is best)
⅓ cup vegetable or corn oil
40 sheets frozen filo dough (16’ by 12’) - I like Filo Factory Organic Filo Dough
2 and ½ cups shelled and ground pistachios or pecans (measure before grinding)
13’ by 19’ baking pan - I use a pyrex pan
1 cups cane sugar
¾ cups water
½ Björn’s Colorado Traditional Honey
½ tbsp. rose water (you can substitute ½ tbsp. of almond extract or 1 tbsp. lemon juice if you prefer)
Melt butter on low in a small pan. Clarify the butter by letting it cool for 2-4 min. and then spoon off the clear butter leaving the milky solids behind. Don’t go too crazy with this, but the more milk solids you get out, the less likely your baklava will be to get soggy during storage.
Preheat oven to 350° F. and stir the vegetable or corn oil into the melted, clarified butter. Using the pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of pan with butter and oil mixture. Be generous, you don’t want to baklava to stick to the pan.
Next, open the package of filo and unroll it. Flatten any parts that are folded or crimped gently and cover with a moistened, clean dishtowel. Make sure the towel covers all the dough. It takes some time to assemble the baklava and you don’t want your dough to dry out while you are working.
Using both hands, fold one sheet of filo in half and place it in the baking dish. It’s okay if you need to fold one side under a bit to make the sheet fit in the pan. Once it’s in the dish, use the pastry brush to coat the top of the sheet of filo with the butter/oil mixture. Coat liberally but don’t pour the butter/oil mixture on, just brush it on. Lay another sheet of filo on the top of this sheet and repeat the buttering process.
Now that you have two sheets in the pan, sprinkle roughly 2 to 2 and ½ tbsp. of ground nuts evenly over the top of the filo. Then place another sheet of filo on the nuts and use the pastry brush to coat with butter/oil mixture. Sprinkle more nuts and repeat this filo and nut alternating process until you have only two sheets of filo left. Use those two sheets to make the top layer of the baklava, with butter/oil mixture in between. Use the rest of the butter/oil mixture to coat the top of the baklava.
The next step is to score the baklava with a small, sharp paring knife. To do this, use the point to make diagonal lines, 2 inches apart and ½ inch deep in the dough. Then go in the other direction with more diagonal lines, creating diamond-shaped pieces of baklava. Remember that this will dictate the size of the slices of baklava you end up with so go bigger rather than smaller when spacing the lines.
Bake the baklava for 30 min. in the 350° F oven. Without opening the oven, lower the heat to 300° F and bake for another 45 min. Make sure the top of the baklava is golden brown, underdone flio isn’t very tasty.
While the baklava bakes, you can make the syrup. To do this, combine water and sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan on medium and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and once the syrup boils, cook for 5 min. Make sure you start timing right when the syrup begins to boil. Ideally, you want the syrup to reach 210° F to 220° F on a candy thermometer. Once the syrup reaches that point, remove it from heat and let cool until it stops boiling. Add honey. Once the mixture cools until it’s just the right temperature to taste add the rose water (or almond extract or lemon juice). Pour syrup into a pitcher and set aside.
Once the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over it while it’s still hot. Make sure to coat the sides and get the syrup into the cuts on the top of the baklava. You can sprinkle with a bit more ground nuts if you like, or not. Let baklava cool and then cut it into the diamond-shaped pieces. You can put the slices in cupcake wrappers to make it more like finger food. Serve with strong coffee or hot mint tea. Enjoy!