Baklava is a sweet and rich dessert pastry. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the Caucasus, the Levant, Maghreb, Balkans, and of West and Central Asia. Baklava is a dessert that is mostly consumed for holidays. There are many variations of baklava, but this is the classic, basic baklava recipe. It is very easy to prepare!
For the syrup:
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 lemon slices
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- A pinch ground cardamom
- A pinch ground cloves
For the filling:
- 1 pound walnuts, or a combination of walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A pinch of salt
- 1-pound phyllo/filo, thawed according to package directions
To garnish (optional):
- Finely chopped pistachios or walnuts
To make the syrup:
- In a medium saucepan, combine honey, sugar, water, lemon slices and juice, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, and cloves and cook over medium heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Decrease heat to medium-low; cook until syrup is a little thickened, around 10 minutes.
- Remove cinnamon sticks and lemon zest; set aside to cool. In the meantime, prepare the filling.
To make the filling:
- Finely chop nuts using a chef’s knife or place them in two heavy-duty resealable bags and pound with a rolling pin just till finely chopped.
- In a mixing bowl, combine nuts, salt, and cinnamon. Next, place butter in a small saucepan and melt it over low heat.
- Using a pastry brush, flippantly coat a 13×9-in. or 15×10-in. baking dish with melted butter.
- Then, open the thawed phyllo package and lay sheets on a clean work surface and measure the sheets; if they measure nearly the same size as your baking dish, proceed from here. In case they are larger than the baking dish you are using, use a knife to cut them nearly the same size as the dish (remove any scraps). Next, cover with plastic wrap and a lightly damp kitchen towel, because phyllo can dry out very fast if left uncovered.
- Preheat oven to 350°F/ 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
- Fold one phyllo sheet in 1/2 and apply in the bottom of baking dish and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat the process with six more sheets for a total of seven layers. Add around 1/3 cup nut mixture evenly over buttered sheets. Then, repeat layering seven more phyllo sheets, buttering each one as before, spreading 1/3 cup nut mixture. Carry on until you have used the entire nut mixture. To finish, layer any remaining sheet on top, buttering between each sheet, till you use all phyllo sheets.
- Now, using a sharp knife, make four cuts lengthwise through the dessert at 1 1/2-inch intervals; after that, cut diagonally crossways the strips at 1 1/2-in. intervals to create diamond shapes. You will end up with around 36 diamond-shaped pieces.
- Place in the oven and bake the baklava until golden brown, around 40 minutes.
- Remove and set aside on a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes. Then, use a ladle or small measuring cup to drizzle cooled syrup over warm dessert. Return to oven; bake for an additional 7 minutes. Remove and let stand several hours (preferably overnight) before serving.
- Sprinkle some finely chopped walnuts or pistachios and serve.