Flaky phyllo dough is, in my opinion, the Ottoman Empire’s greatest gift to mankind. Baklava and many other savory and sweet pastry dishes have been made possible by this flaky pastry they left behind. The unquestioned king of them all, however, is baklava. Every family from every country throughout the Middle East has their own versions that have been handed down by word of mouth for centuries. The Greek version, with it standout citrus honey, can be found in some markets and restaurants but is never as good as when it’s made fresh at home. This recipe is from somebody’s great-great grandmother and it’s a good one.
Middle Eastern Baklava – Nut and Honey Filled Phyllo Pastry
- 1-inch wide pastry brush
- Medium saucepan
- Large baking pan lined with parchment paper
- Food processor
- 1 cup Water
- 2 cups Sugar
- ¼ cup Honey
- 1 3-inch strip of orange peel
- 1 whole Cardamom pod (or ¼ tsp ground)
- ¼ tsp Rose water, optional but worth adding
- 8 tbsp Unsalted butter, melted
- 1½ cups Canola oil
- 2 cup Almonds, peeled
- 2 cups Pistachios
- 2 cups Walnuts
- ½ cup Powdered sugar
- 1 tsp Rosewater, if using
- ⅛ tsp Ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp Ground cardamom
- 16 oz Package frozen phyllo dough, thawed in refrigerator overnight
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine water, sugar, ¼ cup honey, orange peel, and cardamom pod. As soon as sugar is dissolved, stir and add ¼ tsp of rose water. Transfer to a covered container and place in refrigerator. Syrup can be made up-to 2 days in advance.
Make Nut Filling
- In a food processor, combine the nuts, 1 tsp rose water, powdered sugar, ground cardamom, and cinnamon. Pulse until finely chopped. Scoop into a small bowl.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°F). Melt the butter and canola oil in a small saucepan. Remove ½ of the thawed phyllo from the refrigerator and lay sheets on a work surface and cover loosely with plastic wrap and cover that with a moist kitchen towel.
- Carefully place one sheet over parchment on baking sheet. Keep unused sheets under plastic wrap-towel while working. Brush the top generously with butter-oil, covering the sheet completely. Place another sheet over the first and brush the top again. Repeat this process until you have 8 well oiled sheets. Brush the top sheet then spread the entire nut mixture evenly over the top sheet. Pack it down. Remove the remaining phyllo from the refrigerator and create another 8 well-brushed layers just like the first 8.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut baklava into small diamonds about 2-inches apart. You'll have created 24 to 26 diamond shapes. Cover top with parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the parchment from the top and bake until golden brown, about another 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and immediately pour the chilled syrup over the baklava. Allow the syrup to seep into the cuts. Cool completely and serve.