The very best baklava
- June 2019
- Makes 20-25 piece
- Hands-on time 30 min, oven time 1 hour 5 min, plus cooling
Versions of this crisp, nutty confection abound in Greece, Turkey, the Caucasus and the Middle East, but how do you reproduce it at home? Food writer and cookery expert Debbie Major tested many combinations to come up with the best, this failsafe recipe!
We’ve got a chocolate version of this recipe, too, take a look here.
- 18g (6.5g saturated)
- 36.2g (24.6g sugars)
- 500g shelled unsalted pistachios
- 600g granulated sugar
- 250g salted butter
- 2 x 270g packs filo pastry
- Pared zest 1 lemon, plus 1 tbsp juice
You’ll also need…
- 20cm x 30cm straight-sided roasting tin or baking dish, at least 5cm deep
- Digital probe or sugar thermometer
- Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Spread the pistachios over a baking tray and roast for 4 minutes, ensuring they don’t brown. Remove from the oven and cool, then chop finely (see tips). Mix with 50g of the sugar; divide into 3 equal amounts. Turn down the oven temperature to 160°C/140°C fan/gas 3.
- Put the butter in a small pan and set over a very low heat until melted and the solids have settled at the bottom. Slowly pour the clear butter into a bowl, discarding the cloudy liquid – you should end up with about 200g clarified butter.
- Unroll the pastry, piling the sheets in a stack. Lay the tin or dish on the stack and use it as a template to cut out the filo sheets so they’ll fit snugly into the base. You’re aiming to have 28 filo layers, so you may need to slightly overlap and join together some of the larger trimmings to create further layers (see tips). Stack the layers on top of each other, cover with a slightly damp tea towel and set aside.
- Brush the base and sides of the tin with clarified butter (see tips). Put a layer of pastry in the base, then brush with more butter. Repeat until you have 10 pastry layers.
- Scatter a third of the sugared pistachios in an even layer over the top, then cover with another 3 layers of buttered filo. Repeat once more, then scatter over the remaining sugared pistachios and cover with the remaining 12 filo layers, buttering between each sheet.
- Using a large, very sharp knife, cut the baklava lengthways into 4 or 5 even strips, then across at an angle to make small diamonds (see tips). Drizzle over any remaining butter.
- Bake the baklava for 1 hour until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put the remaining sugar, pared lemon zest and 350ml water in a pan, then stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook until the syrup reaches 107-108°C on a sugar thermometer (known as the thread stage – see this month’s delicious. Kitchen for more tips). Remove the lemon zest with a slotted spoon, add the lemon juice and set to one side.
- As you take the baklava out of the oven, bring the lemon syrup back up to the boil. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Run a knife along the cuts to make sure the pieces are separate, then pour over the boiling syrup. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.
- Remove the baklava from the oven and leave it to cool completely. Run a knife along the cuts again, then use a palette knife to carefully remove the baklava from the tin, one piece at a time.
Chop the nuts by hand so you’re left with small, even pieces.
Different brands of filo vary in size. Where you have to overlap pieces, do so only by a few millimetres, sticking them together with a little melted butter as you use them.
Each of the pastry sheets should touch the sides of the tin. If you only have a tin with sloping sides, use the (wider) top of the tin as your guide for trimming the pastry.
Re-warm the clarified butter just before using. This will allow you to brush on thinner layers, so you’re less likely to run out and the finished baklava will be less greasy.
If it’s difficult to cut the baklava before baking, cover it loosely with cling film or slide the tin into a plastic bag and freeze for 30 minutes. This will make it much easier to cut cleanly
Keep the completed baklava covered in a cool place for up to 3 days.
How to jazz up your baklava:
Vary the nuts. Finely chopped walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds all work well – or mix in some desiccated coconut.
Change your syrup flavour. Use orange juice instead of lemon, infuse the syrup with spices such as cinnamon or cardamom, or add a little espresso powder or a liqueur such as Cointreau, Frangelico or Kahlúa.
Sweeten the syrup with muscovado, maple syrup or honey. Add rosewater or orange blossom water for a floral hint.
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