Turkish Baklava

As someone who was born and raised in Turkey, people always assume I have baklava syrup running in my blood (my cholesterol test results partially confirm this). Moving to the US did not stop me from enjoying this sweet, nutty, crunchy dessert. My cravings were easily satisfied by Baklava King when I was in San Diego (the best baklava hands down).  After we moved to Japan and Hawaii, I had to find a way to make this at home.

Today, we are happy to share our recipe, which takes the most common elements from other recipes.  Turkish baklava is unique in that it uses pistachios instead of walnuts used in Greek baklava.

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter (we used butter substitute) or butter flavored spray
  • Filling
    • 1 lbs of shelled pistachios (or walnuts, or mixture of two) finely chopped.
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Syrup:
    • 1 cup of honey
    • 3/4 cup of sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
    • 1 cup of water
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • pinch of ground cloves
    • pinch of ground cardamom

Preparation

To make the syrup, combine all the ingredients under “Syrup” above in a sauce pan, and cook over medium heat to melt the sugar.  Set it aside as we will use this the last.

If you haven’t already, finely chop the pistachios/walnuts. You can use a food processor if you like.

Melt the butter. You will need a brush to apply this melted butter on the dough sheets in a minute.

If you have a baking pan that is about the same size as the phyllo dough sheets, that’s perfect! If not, you will need to cut the dough sheets to fit in the baking pan. Lightly cover your baking pan with butter using brush or butter-flavored cooking spray.

Preheat your oven to 350F. This will get the preheating going while you lay down the dough layers.

Lay your phyllo dough sheets on a clean working area, next to your baking pan. Put one dough sheet on the baking pan. Brush the sheet with melted butter or spray with butter-flavored spray. Repeat this until you have 6 sheets in the baking pan. Allow for air pockets between the sheets where possible to help the baklava be fluffy.  After the 7th layer, sprinkle 3/4 cup of finely chopped nuts evenly on the sheets. Put another 6 sheets, brushing/spraying butter on each layer. Then again sprinkle another 3/4 cup of nuts evenly. Repeat this procedure until you are out of dough or nuts – but make sure you at least have 4-5 layers of sheets on top.

Now you just made one big chunk of baklava! Cut it in diamond shapes (in Turkey, they call this baklava shape 🙂 If you have a pastry cutter, your life will be easier. First, cut it lengthwise so you have 1.5″ deep, long strips. Now cut them diagonally, which will produce diamond-shaped slices.

Bake the baklava for about 40 minutes on the center rack, or until it’s golden. It will puff up a bit.

Take the baked baklava out, and let it cool for few minutes. Take the syrup you made earlier, and drizzle evenly on the baklava using a big spoon or ladle. The syrup will naturally drip down to the bottom of the baking pan, so make your best effort to keep the top of the baklava slices moist with syrup.

Wait for at least 30 minutes before you try one. Who am I kidding, you will try one right away. We did. But seriously, it gets better as it cools down in the syrup. Also, if you are not going to consume the rest within a day or two, refrigerate it.

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