Top 5 Tips To Making Perfect Baklava
Does anyone else think that baklava sounds like balaclava? yes, yes?? OK it doesn’t matter. Today we are talking about baklava. And baklava is much tastier than balaclava … I hope. As you may have noticed I have not shared a baklava recipe with you. That is because for me to share a baklava recipe, I have to know it’s good. I don’t want to share a mediocre recipe for baklava, or even a good recipe for baklava. I want to share a baklava recipe that will have you actually making baklava. But even having a good recipe doesn’t mean your baklava will turn out well. There are a few tricks to making baklava, and it seems appropriate to share these with you on Halloween. Tricks AND treats. So in addition to the recipe below, here are my top five tips to making perfect baklava (note: if you want to learn to make balaclavas this is the wrong place).
5. BE NICE TO YOUR PHYLLO. It has feelings. You cannot use it straight from the freezer. In fact, it is best to defrost the phyllo in the fridge for about 12 hours. When you take it out of the fridge, leave it in its packaging for about 30 minutes to thaw. When opening the pack, carefully unroll it. It doesn’t like to be handled. Phyllo’s motto is “go-away-and-leave-me-alone”. Make sure you keep your phyllo covered otherwise it will dry out. It’s sensitive. Do not freak out if it occasionally rips when handling it. It will rip sometimes. It’s phyllo and that’s just what it does.
4. BAKE YOUR BAKLAVA FOR A LONG TIME. When you bake your baklava, bake it for 1.5 hours. Yup, 1.5 hours. And then an additional 30 minutes at a lower temperature. Why? This ensures that the top of your baklava is crispy, and the bottom well cooked.
3. DRAIN YOUR SYRUP. When you cover the baklava in syrup, you need to pour a lot over the baklava. But if you leave it in the pan, the baklava will become soggy and that’s just bad baklava. So, pour the syrup over the baklava and then about 2 hours later, start to drain it out so the bottom doesn’t become water. Remove a few of the pieces and set them to the side to drain, and just tilt the pan so that the syrup drains to an empty corner where you can spoon the excess syrup out.
2. DO NOT PUT BREADCRUMBS IN YOUR BAKLAVA. That’s all I have to say about this one.
1. POUR HOT SYRUP OVER COLD BAKLAVA OR VICE VERSA. Make sure that you either pour hot syrup over cold baklava, or cold syrup over hot baklava. This ensures that the baklava will absorb the syrup. If you pour hot syrup on hot baklava it will become soggy. I have not tried pouring cold syrup over cold baklava but my guess is that it wouldn’t absorb as much.
For the nut mixture:
3 cups of roughly ground roasted nuts (2 1/4 cups almonds, 1/4 cup pistachios, 1/2 cup walnuts. Roast then grind the nuts)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup sugar
For the phyllo:
1 pack of thawed phyllo (leave frozen phyllo in the fridge over night, and leave outside in the box for 30 minutes to thaw before you begin the recipe below)
1 1/2 cups melted unsalted butter (you will not use all of this)
For the syrup:
3 cups sugar
1.5 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stick cinnamon
3/4 cup good quality honey
6-7 whole cloves
1. Make your nut mixture. Place the ingredients into a bowl and stir together. Ensure that your phyllo will have sat outside the fridge for 30 minutes inside its box before moving to the next step.
2. Preheat the oven to 148C.
3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Skim off any foam produced. Remember you may not need all of the butter but it is easier to have more than too little.
4. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.
5. Open the phyllo package. Using a sharp knife, cut all sheets one on top of each other to form a pile of 9 x 13 inch sheets. It is OK if the sheets are slightly bigger than the pan, when the phyllo cooks it will shrink slightly so that there is no danger that it will overflow.
6. Butter six individual sheets of phyllo. Place each sheet (buttered side up) in the pan, one of top on the other. On top of the six buttered sheets of phyllo spoon just under half of the nut mixture, spreading it evenly across the phyllo using the back of a spoon.
7. Butter two individual sheets of phyllo. Place each sheet (buttered side up) in the pan on top of the nut mixture. Then spoon some more of the nut mixture evenly across the phyllo. Repeat this step until the nut mixture runs out.
8. Once you have spooned the last layer of nut mixture: butter six individual sheets of phyllo. Place each sheet (buttered side up) in the pan, one on top of the other.
9. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into diamond pieces. Do this before baking the baklava.
10. Before placing into the oven, wet your hands and sprinkle some of the water on your hands on top of the baklava. Also if you want a more “buttery flavour” to your baklava drizzle a little more of the excess butter in the lines created with your knife. Don’t worry, the baklava will soak up the butter when it bakes.
11. Place in the oven for 1.5 hours. Watch the baklava to ensure it does not burn. If it begins to brown too early then cover it with tin foil and turn the heat down 10C and continue to cook. After 1.5 hours, turn the heat down to 90C, remove any tin foil and cook for a further 30 minutes.
12. Remove from the oven and let cool completely – about 2-3 hours.
13. Once the baklava is cooled prepare your syrup. Gently bring to a boil the water, honey, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and lemon juice. Simmer for 10 minutes.
14. Pour the syrup over top the baklava so that it is sitting in about a 1/2 cm of syrup. Let sit for 1 hour. If the syrup has been absorbed, add more syrup so that the baklava is sitting in about 1/2 cm of syrup again. Let sit for 1 hour. Remove 2 pieces from a corner and set to the side. Gently rest the pan on a tilt for 2 hours to drain the excess syrup. This will ensure that your baklava is crispy on top, and moist (not soggy) on the bottom.
15. Place the removed pieces of baklava back into the pan and serve!