Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Baklava, an Authentic Greek Recipe

This recipe was suppose to have gone up over the weekend...and it never did. I ended up slicing my right hand with a very sharp chef's knife, and I'm sure you can all imagine what followed. Lesson learned—never wash knives while distracted.

First things first—if you are searching for a quick and easy recipe, this is NOT it. Between prep and baking time, you will need 2 hrs, if not more. This is not an exaggeration, and if you have never made baklava before, you might need additional time.

The origin of baklava has long been debated, especially between Professor Spiros Vryonis (historian) and food writer, Charles Perry. I won’t go into this too deeply, but I will say that according to Professor Spiros Vryonis, the origin of baklava is said to have come from the Byzantine Empire—the pastry was called “kopte” and was a mixture of honey and walnuts. If you want to know more about this, Professor Vryonis has a number of books you can read on Turkey and Greece, and Perry also has a few books on the history of food.

Although I have watched/helped my mother and aunt make baklava, I have never made it entirely on my own. I immediately asked my mom and aunt for their recipes, and any tips/tricks they might have. I then enlisted my best friend as sous chef, who coincidentally also wanted to learn how to make baklava, and set off to bake.

Before proceeding with the recipe, I thought I would share some of the tips/tricks I was taught, and some I learned along the way. 

The secrets to an amazing baklava:

First: To get layers of fluffy and crunchy filo, always butter each sheet of your filo pastry. Yes, it is a bit tedious, BUT it really makes a difference in the end.

Second: To avoid using too much butter on your filo sheets, try brushing the outer edges of your sheet  first, and then continuing with the middle.

Third: Clarified butter is the secret to crisp sheets of filo. Yes, you have to take that extra step of clarifying your butter, BUT AGAIN it really makes a difference in the end.

Four: Make sure your syrup has cooled before spooning it over the hot baklava—you should hear the baklava sizzling when you add the syrup. This ensures the baklava won’t get soggy.

Five: The key to an amazing baklava is to bake it on a low heat for a long time (at least 1hr and half, or until the top sheet of filo is a golden colour)

Six (this is purely a personal preference): the best way to eat baklava is to nuke it briefly in the microwave, and then spoon some vanilla ice cream on the side—baklava a la mode—absolutely delicious. 


250g Walnuts, roughly chopped
250g Almonds, roughly chopped
4 boxes of Filo Pastry (250g each)
4.5 blocks of Unsalted Butter (250g each), clarified
2 tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Ground Cloves
1 tsp Sugar

1 tsp Lemon Juice
Rind of one lemon
3 cups Sugar
2 cups Water
½ cup Honey

1. For the Filling: mix together the walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, ground cloves, and sugar in a bowl.
2. Measure the length and width of your square/rectangle baking tin. Then cut out your filo pastry (one box at a time so it won’t dry out), to the exact measurements of your tin. Save your trimmings, they will be used to cover the sides of the tin (and plug any holes)
3. For the Clarified Butter: if you have never clarified butter before, this video, How to Clarify Butter, does a good job of explaining the process. Basically, cut your butter into manageable pieces and place them in a saucepan. Slowly melt your butter on low heat (so it won’t burn), stirring occasionally. When it is all melted, turn off the heat and let your butter sit and settle. I didn’t have any foam (no idea why), but I did have a layer of milk solids on the bottom of my pan. My “sous chef” carefully poured the clarified butter in a bowl, being careful to exclude all the milk solids.

you can clearly see the milk solids as the butter melts
clarified butter
4. Now that your butter has clarified, generously grease the bottom and sides of your tin. Lay one filo sheet over the bottom of the tin and generously brush the top with butter.* Then lay another sheet of filo pastry on top. **You will continue in this manner with 2 boxes of your filo pastry: filo pastry, butter, filo pastry, butter, until you have used all 24 sheets.

5. Preheat your oven to 160C/320F. Evenly sprinkle all of your nut mixture over the pastry. Then lay a sheet of filo on top of your nut mixture. Brush the top with butter, and continue placing the remaining sheets of filo in the same way as we did with the bottom layer.
evenly place your filling
6. Once you have placed the last layer of filo, generously brush the top of your baklava with butter. Then cut your baklava. The traditional way to do this is into diamond shapes; I opted for small squares instead, but do whatever you prefer. Some also place a cloves in the centre of each piece, but again I opted not to do that.
butter and cut the baklava into pieces
7. Place the baklava in your preheated oven and bake for about 1hr 30minutes, or until the top sheet of filo is a golden colour.
8. For the Syrup: While your baklava is baking, begin making your syrup. Place all of your ingredients in a saucepan and let boil. Continue to boil for about 10-15 minutes until your syrup has reduced and thickened a bit. Place by an open window so that the syrup can cool completely before your baklava comes out the oven.
9. As soon as your baklava is ready, remove from the oven. Immediately pour over the cooled syrup over your baklava. Make sure you evenly pour the syrup over the top, and make sure it goes into all the cracks and in between all your cut pieces. You should hear a nice sizzle as your do this.

10. Let the baklava cool completely and re-cut all the pieces. Store your baklava at room temperature; it should keep for a couple of weeks. 
*Optional: I also placed about 3 layers of trimmings over the sides of the tin (just to make sure that the filling won’t fall out. If you do decide to do this, be sure to frequently brush the sides with butter, so as not to dry out your filo pastry.
** I used about 24 sheets for the bottom part of the baklava, and 24 sheets for the top. Feel free to use about 24-30 sheets of filo pastry for each layer. 

Don't forget to LIKE/SHARE (Click on the buttons below or to the side)

I've also included a printable version of the recipe below:

Related Recipes

Vasilopita (Greek New Year's Cake)
Melomakarona, Greek Honey Nut Cookies

No comments:

Post a Comment