I am so excited to finally write this blog post! As I said last week, baklava has been on my ‘To Bake’ list for a long time and after watching the Great British Bake Off contestants attempt them in the semi final it finally felt like the right time to do it. It also seemed appropriate to do a Middle Eastern themed bake since I am moving to Qatar next month!
There are lots of variations of baklava depending on the country. Unlike the Bake Off contestants I decided to stick to a more traditional Turkish flavour baklava – pistachio and almond with a syrup infused with cardamom and orange. In Greece, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries ingredients such as walnuts, rose water and cloves are often used.
I have a confession – I didn’t make the filo pastry because lets face it…ain’t nobody got time for that! Even the queen of baking Mary Berry admits she would never make her own filo now that you can buy good prepared filo in the supermarket. Also if you look in any modern cookery book at recipes requiring filo they will simply say ‘packet of ready-made filo’ in the ingredients list. I would like to try to make my own filo pastry one day but since this was my first experience using it I thought I would take the easy option. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s good enough for me!
150g shelled pistachios
100g blanched almonds
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp mixed spice
125g unsalted butter
12 sheets filo pastry
For the syrup:
250g caster sugar
125ml runny honey
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp orange blossom essence
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- In a food processor, pulse the pistachios and almonds until finely ground. Then add the cinnamon and mixed spice.
- Melt the butter on a low heat. Meanwhile, lay the sheets of filo on a worktop and cover with a moist towel to prevent the pastry drying out.
- Lightly brush a rectangular baking tray with butter. Lay the first sheet of filo directly onto the tray and brush liberally with butter.
- Repeat this process with 3 more sheets of filo. Then spread half of the nut mixture over the pastry.
- Continue to layer 4 more sheets of filo, buttering between each layer as you go.
- Add the remaining nut mixture and cover with the remaining 4 layers of filo as before. Brush the top with the remaining butter.
- Trim the excess pastry from the edges. Cut into vertical strips about 5cm wide and then diagonally about 5cm apart to create the diamond shaped pieces. (These can be made smaller or larger depending on personal preference – mine were big baklava!) Ensure you slice all the way down to the bottom of the tray or they will be hard to separate when baked.
- Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 170ºC and bake for a further 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Meanwhile make the syrup. In a large saucepan dissolve the sugar and honey in 250ml water on a low heat. Once dissolved, add the cardamom pods, lemon zest and juice and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 15mins until it has turned slightly thicker.
- Strain the syrup and add the orange blossom essence.
- Remove the baklava from the oven and gradually pour over the syrup. It will take a while for all the syrup to soak in. Once cooled remove the baklava from the tray and enjoy!
Although there are quite a few steps to this recipe I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was (I’m sure I wouldn’t be saying that if I had made the filo!)
They smelt and tasted so delicious. Not at all modest I know! The tops were slightly crispier than baklava that I have had in the past so if I made these again I might not bake them for as long but the syrup made the the layers perfectly sweet and sticky so this wasn’t a problem.
To make sure that I’m not extremely biased I shared these with my Greek friends who really enjoyed the revani I made a few months ago. They gave me so much positive feedback which was lovely. They keep telling me I’m in the wrong profession. So either they think I’m a really bad engineer or my baking is pretty good…