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Baklava: A Wonderful Baklava Recipe

Baklava: A Recipe for Baklava -Memories of my Lebanese Mother

What is Baklava? It’s a middle eastern pastry containing almost 30 layers of phyllo dough interspersed with a walnut filling, and a fragrant orange flower water/honey syrup scented with cinnamon.

When we were kids, my mom, Mary Calim Nader,  would sequester herself in the kitchen during the holidays, making her famous Lebanese baklava. As we were able, all nine of us kids were allowed to help – whether it was cracking the walnuts out of their shells, grinding them in her ancient cast metal meat grinder or helping stir the special syrup that topped the baklava.

We were rewarded with a piece of the cinnamon sticks that flavored the syrup. Mom used a feather to brush the butter between the 30 plus layers of phyllo.  Baklava was made only during Christmas and that’s the tradition I keep today.  The aroma of  simmering cinnamon and orange flower water syrup takes me back to my mother’s kitchen.

Family Making Baklava

Family Making Baklava

My sisters, and some of their children and my daughters-in-law gather together not just to make this special confection, but to honor the traditions that stand behind it.  As we butter the phyllo, grind the nuts in the same hand-cranked grinder and simmer the honey syrup, we talk about those who have gone before us and treasure those who are with us.  We cry a bit and laugh a lot. That’s what this special issue is about: family, friends, food and the age-old reason we gather together to share our table.  The recipe I’m sharing today is for rolled baklava, not the traditional diamond-shaped ones we make every year.  (Nothing is measured in Mom’s recipe).

Cinnamon and Honey in Baklava

Cinnamon and Honey in Baklava


Baklava Recipe

This is my friend and colleague, Koula Ponticos’ recipe.  Koula is Greek and one of the best bakers and cooks I know. She makes this for family and friends and I am lucky enough to be included as a recipient. This is the best Greek Baklava I’ve ever eaten.

Unlike my mother’s recipe for Lebanese Baklava, Koula has measured out the ingredients for you.  (Because my Mom’s recipe is a “to taste” kind of recipe, it’s one I can’t share here).  Keep a piece of waxed paper over the phyllo with a damp towel to keep it from drying out as you are using it.  Save the best sheets of phyllo for the top of the pastry.  Make the syrup first since it needs to cool.

Koula suggests a baking sheet that’s approximately 18” x  12”  x 2”.  Just make sure your pastry fits into the pan nicely.

Baklava Syrup

4 cups sugar
2 cups water
Juice of 1/2 lemon or more to taste
1-2 sticks cinnamon
1/2 cup honey

Use a big saucepan as this bubbles up. Over medium high heat,  bring to a boil water with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon stick. Then turn heat to medium and cook 15 minutes.  Add honey.  Let syrup cool. Meanwhile, make pastry:

Baklava Pastry

2 pounds phyllo pastry sheets (you may not use it all)
5 cups chopped walnuts
1-1/2 cups chopped almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
Zest (yellow peel) of one lemon

1-1/2 pounds unsalted butter, melted  (you may not use it all)

Preheat oven to 375. Grind walnuts and almonds.  Add sugar and cinnamon and lemon zest.  Butter baking pan and line with 10 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter.  Take a handful of nut mixture and sprinkle on top.   Repeat this process until all nuts are used, using 4-5 sheets buttered phyllo between nut layers. The top layer of phyllo should be buttered well.  Cut into 2” diamond shape pieces.  Sprinkle with very little water.  Bake for 30 minutes, then at 350 for 30 minutes more – this depends on your oven but pastry should be light golden.

To finish baklava:

Pour cooled syrup over hot pastry.  Let pastry cool and cut again.

Step By Step Baklava

Baklava cut almost all of the way through before baking

Baklava cut almost all of the way through before baking

Baklava After Cooking

Baklava After Cooking

Pouring Syrup over Baklava

Pouring Syrup over Baklava

Baklava Ready to Eat

Baklava Ready to Eat

Baklava Ready to Eat

A tip with phyllo – it is very fragile and will dry out quickly. It’s frozen when you buy it so thaw in the refrigerator, not on the counter. The box contains about 30 sheets.  As you work with it, keep a hardly damp towel on top of the dough to keep it from drying out.  Don’t be concerned about some pieces of phyllo tearing or drying before you can use them up.

What to do with leftover phyllo? It keeps in the frig a couple of weeks. Use it to top pies, scrunch up and sprinkle on crisps, etc.

Permanent link to this article: http://abouteating.com/baklava/

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  1. Easy Baklava: A Simple Baklava Recipe

    […] love traditional baklava but it’s pretty labor intensive. The baklava is beautiful and made the traditional way brings […]

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