Baklawa is a dessert of festivities and celebrations in every Arabic household. This Turkish dessert is comprised of layers of filo pastry sandwiching chopped nuts flavoured with cardamom and drenched in simple syrup. Baklawa, which is the way we pronounce it in Arabic, is also widely know as Baklava around the world. It's beautiful, crunchy, sweet and so decadent.
Baklawa is truly a dessert unlike any other. And although it may look really complicated, I'm here to tell you that YES - you can definitely make this at home. Would you believe me if I said the hardest part is cutting it? Keep reading for this delicious Baklawa recipe and my best tips which I learned from the best Baklawa maker I know; my sister!
How to make Baklawa at home
Baklawa is actually made with only a handful of ingredients: filo pastry, butter and oil, nuts, cardamom, and sugar. That's it! For the nuts, you can choose between pistachio or walnuts or a mixture. I usually use walnuts because it's a more cost effective option and tastes just as delicious. Here's how it goes down:
- You start with making the simple syrup by placing the sugar and water in a pot and bringing to a boil then simmer for 7-8 minutes.
- Then you make the nut mixture by chopping walnuts in a food processor until you get a coarse consistency. It's fine if you get pieces in different sizes, as long as the individual walnut gets broken down into about a fifth of it's size. Then mix in the cardamom and add some of the simple syrup to it so the mixture looks wet. Tip: adding the simple syrup to the nuts makes it much easier to cut, since the nuts will be wet and stick together
- Next is melting the butter and mixing in an equal ratio of oil. Tip: you can make it with all butter, however a 1:1 ratio of butter and oil I found to be the best to get the butter flavour without being too heavy.
- Then measure the filo pastry and start layering. Cut the pastry to fit your pan size exactly using scissors. Start by brushing the pan with the oil and butter mixture, then layer 3 filo sheets. Then brush oil/butter, then layer another 3 sheets. Do this until you use at least 10-11 sheets, brushing every 3rd layer. Don't be shy with the butter/oil - brush generously! Tip: every time you add 3 layers, press down and across the pan so you can get rid of any air bubbles that form.
- Add the walnut mixture spreading evenly and flatten it well with the your hand
- Repeat with filo pastry layering the same way, brushing every third layer, and making sure you apply a generous amount of butter/oil for the top layer
- Using a sharp knife cut the baklawa - read the next section for tips on cutting
- Bake at 350F for about 45-50 minutes until the Baklawa is a light golden colour
- Pour the simple syrup on top as soon as it's out of the oven - it will make a splashing sound and that's okay! Then allow it to cool completely before serving.
How to cut Baklawa to achieve a diamond shape
You must cut the Baklawa before it's baked. It's slightly tricky since you need all the layers and the nuts to stay intact. The key to getting a perfect cut is a really really sharp knife. Then start by making straight cuts horizontally across your pan, about 1 inch in size. Then make diagonal cuts starting from one corner of the pan, evenly spaced until you reach the opposite corner. If the diamond shapes are too hard for you, you can always make squares!
As you cut, make sure you don't drag your knife, but rather make a rocking motion so the filo pastry is cut rather than dragged across. Also go over your cuts twice to ensure the last layer is actually cut. While cutting, hold the pastry down using your fingers, but also careful not to tare any of the layers. One final tip you can do to make it easier is to freeze it for about 10 minutes then cut, which will help hold everything together. Check my video for how I cut this Baklawa!
How to store Baklawa to keep it fresh
Baklawa must be allowed to cool completely to room temperature before storing. Then you can store it in an airtight container on the counter if you're going to eat it over the course of a few days. It's fine to also layer the pieces - they should break apart easily. If you end up placing it in a container when it's even just a bit warm, it will soften. So make sure you cool it really well!
It also freezes super well, so you can simply place the pieces in one layer in a container and place it in the freezer. It can stay in the freezer for a few months. Thaw at room temperature before eating it.
This recipe makes about 90 pieces - so it's the perfect dessert to make for a celebration and share with friends and family! I hope you end up trying it, and if you do, make sure you comment and let me know what you think! Also I'd love it if you can take a photo and share it with me on Instagram.
For more Middle Eastern dessert recipes, check out:
- Aish El Saraya (Middle Eastern Bread Pudding)
- Cardamom Shortbread
- Lazy Cake - No Bake!
- Creme Caramel (Not Middle Eastern but so darn good!)
Baklawa (Baklava) | Easy & Traditional Recipe
- 20-22 sheets of filo pastry two 500g packages with 10-11 sheets each
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 kg walnuts
- 3 tablespoons ground green cardamom
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 1 and quarter cups water
- Pan size: 18 inch by 13 inch
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Start by making the simple syrup by putting the sugar and the water in a pot and bringing to a boil. Once it boils, lower to a simmer for 7 minutes. Allow to cool
- To prepare the filling, grind the walnuts in a food processor until you achieve a coarse consistency (as pictured). Each walnut should break up to about a fifth of its size
- Mix the walnuts with the ground cardamom and also add ¾ cups simple syrup (leave the rest for later). Mix until it looks well combined and wet
- Melt the butter and mix it with the vegetable oil
- Unwrap the first filo pastry box (it dries out so work fast). Measure the dimensions against your pan (I used a 13 inch by 18 inch pan) and snip any excess using scissors. The filo sheets should sit inside the pan up to the edges
- Start the layering process by brushing the bottom of the pan generously with the butter/oil. Then layer 3 sheets of filo on top, ensuring you press down and remove air bubbles as best as you can every time you add a sheet
- Brush the third layer of filo generously with the butter/oil, then continue layering, brushing every third layer. If you are using 10 or 11 sheets, also brush the top most layer with butter/oil (even if it is not the third sheet). If you have more sheets, feel free to use up to 15 layers
- Spoon the walnut mixture onto the filo pastry covering it all evenly and pack it down using the back of a spoon or your hand
- Unwrap the second box of filo pastry and measure it the same way. Then start layering the filo sheets and brush every third sheet generously with butter/oil, making sure you remove air bubbles. Continue until you reach the top, and also brush the top generously with butter/oil
- Using a sharp knife, make straight cuts parallel to the long edge of the pan, roughly 1 inch in size. Hold down the pastry gently as you cut, and use a rocking motion so the pastry does not drag out of place. You should be able to fit 8-10 rows if using the same size pan. You can also cut them bigger for an easier option
- Then make diagonal cuts running from one corner of the pan all the way to the opposite corner to create diamond shapes (refer to video). Go over all the cuts twice to ensure you cut all the layers
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until the Baklawa is a light golden colour
- Take it out of the oven and pour the remaining cooled simple syrup on top. You may hear a splashing sound and that's okay!
- Optional: garnish with crushed pistachios and rose petals
- Allow the Baklawa to cool completely before serving. Also read the storing instructions above
- You can use more filo sheets, up to about 15 sheets on the bottom and top layers of the Baklawa. It will yield a higher Baklawa with more pastry dough, if preferred
- To make the cutting process easier, you can flash freeze the whole pan for about 10 minutes then start cutting
- Before storing it in an air tight container, ensure the Baklawa has cooled completely for at least 2 hours
- You can freeze the Baklawa to keep it fresh - read the storage instructions above