My mom used to love baklavas and would make it with almonds and cinnamon. This is based on her recipe, although I tweaked her recipe a lot and added nutmeg, and substituted the almonds with pecans and walnuts. I learnt about pecans recently and have been using them often since then and they have become a killer combination in the flaky, sticky pastry. In Cyprus we have a lot of almonds, so it was usually (but not always) made with the local production. Later on pistachios were imported from Aleppo, Syria, known to antiquity as Khalpe, Khalibon and in Cyprus these nuts are called Halepiana and sometimes it was also made with pistachios.
Although I love baklavas I rarely make it, as I avoid using butter, even for breakfast. The only other desserts with butter are kourabiedes and Galaktomboureko, and these as well I make only once a year and that’s why it took me such a long time to post about baklavas. I avoid them, especially galaktomboureko, which is my favourite, and as I can eat the whole tin for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I do, I make a healthier version using olive oil, which is equally tasty and healthier. However, in order to record this recipe, I made it with butter.
My son was nugging that I haven’t made it for a very long time and when I saw two events in the blogosphere, I decided to make it, just for the purpose of recording this lovely recipe. The quantity was huge but every Tuesday we have our Tupperware meetings, so half of the tin was consumed there. The only change that I made was to change the nuts. I used 2/3 pecans and because they are quite expensive 1/3 walnuts. Although my mum used to make it only with Almonds and cinnamon, I made it with pecans and walnuts and added some nutmeg in the filling as well. It was perfect and I am not saying this from what my family said but from what I heard from my Tupperware friends and I was really pleased to see them taking a second piece. Wherever I have eaten baklava, I find that they use too much syrup and too much butter, which is not the case here.
I am not going to explain how we can prove that Baklavas is Greek and not Turkish but, if you like, you may read this article from the Food History. Wikipedia, in my opinion, is not a reliable source (although I refer to it often, as I do not find other sources to refer to) as anyone can go and write whatever they want and there is a lot of paid propaganda going on. See Turkish coffee, Turkish delights, moussakas, Turkish baths etc. It seems that the country which had hot tubs more than 3000 years ago, see Knossos, and has spread its civilization throughout the world, used to feed on raw meat and the Nomads would feed on gastronomical food.
You may also see the Ancient Version of Baklavas, called Gastrin here.
Preparation time: 1/2 hour
Baking time: 1 hour and five minute
Yields: 32 pieces
- 1 packet of thin phyllo dough (500 grams)
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 175 grams of roasted pecans
- 175 grams of roasted walnuts
- 250 grams clarified butter
For the syrup:
- ½ cup of thyme honey
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 11/2 cups of water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 10 cloves
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Combine sugar, honey, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, stir and set aside.
Clarify the butter. To do this, heat the butter in a small pan over low heat until it melts. The butter separates in three parts. Shim off foam with a spoon. The milk solids will remain at the bottom of the pan. Strain the butter using a coffee filter and the milk solids will be removed. What remains is clarified butter.
Begin with pastry but as soon as baklava is in the oven make the syrup, so until it is baked it will still remain lukewarm.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and grease a baking tin 33 x 40 cm.
Combine nuts, spices and sugar.
Layer 3 sheets of phyllo pastry in the baking tin, brushing in between each layer with butter.
Sprinkle with the nut mixture and repeat until you add all the phyllo and all the nuts, each time brushing phyllo with butter.
Top with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing each phyllo with butter but do not butter the last one.
With a very sharp knife cut pastry but not all the way through beginning with a cross, making 4 squares. Each square, cut diagonally making an X and again cut into a cross shape. In each quarter you will get 8 pieces.
Bake for 45 minutes, lower heat at 150 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes.
When baklava is golden brown, remove from the oven and pour syrup spoon by spoon making sure that it has penetrated through all pieces. Allow to stand at room temperature until completely cooled and then cut it all the way through.
Do not store baklava in the refrigerator as the phyllo will loose its crunchiness and will become soggy. It’s better to leave it in the baking tin, if it’s stainless steel or remove to another vessel and cover with a napkin.
I am submitting this recipe to Aparna, of My Diverse Kitchen, who is hosting the event Think Spice, Think Nutmeg, in Greek Moschokarydo, which means the nut which smells wonderful, originally created by Sunita, of Sunita’s World.
The chocolate baklava in the picture has been made using different ingredients and is included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!