Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert made of layers of filo pastry filled with cinnamon-scented chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with honey.
The story of baklava began long, long ago. Some have traced the origins of baklava to the Assyrians, who created it as early as the 8th century B.C. by layering bread with chopped nuts, drenching it in honey and then baking it in wood-burning ovens.
The modern-day baklava has gone through a number of iterations as it spread throughout the Ottoman empire and now comes in a number of tasty variations, each with its devoted followers.
Honey walnut pie made easy
The honey walnut pie we’re going to put together is possibly, although this will be open to debate, closest to the baklava from Israel. It combines honey-soaked layers of flaky filo pastry with spiced walnuts and lemon for a nice citrusy bite. It is a recipe that is easy to make but will leave everyone thinking you’re a master chef.
It’s a great make-ahead-of-time dessert and one of the most practical desserts in terms of storage. It keeps well in the freezer and fridge, and even at room temperature for about a week. This Middle Eastern honey walnut pie is a great option for gifts and special occasions.
How to make baklava
A flaky, crisp, tender baklava that is perfectly balanced with the honey-lemon syrup.
Firstly, a few notes:
- If you use a good quality honey, like ours, you can really taste those flavour nuances coming through.
- The filo pastry you use should be paper thin, even thinner than paper. Do not use thick sheets.
- Don’t skimp on the butter or any part of the lemon honey syrup since the recipe needs it to moisten and soften the sheets. If you do, the baklava layers can end up dry and won’t stay together easily.
- Keep your filo covered with a damp towel at all times while you’re putting the baklava together.
- Assembling the baklava, you want to move relatively quickly to prevent the filo from drying out.
- When pouring the syrup over the cooked pastry sheets, the temperature of the sauce and the pastry sheets are really important: one of them needs to be hot and the other cold. Never hot syrup on hot baklava and never cold syrup on cold baklava.
- And the hard part: leave the baklava at room temperature for 8 hours, uncovered, before hoeing in.
- 400g fine filo pastry – thawed
- 1 1/4 cups of butter – about 275g
- 500g walnuts, finely chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup white sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup honey
- Nuts for garnish.
- Thaw the filo overnight in the fridge, then get it out an hour before starting your recipe to bring it to room temperature.
- Trim the filo sheets to fit your baking dish. I normally use a 23×33 cm dish. You should be aiming for around 40 sheets of very thin filo. You can trim one stack at a time then cover with a damp towel to keep from drying out.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a non-stick baking dish.
Start with your honey sauce
- In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and 3/4 cup water.
- Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4 minutes without stirring.
- Remove from the heat and let the lemon honey syrup cool.
Assembling your baklava
- Preheat oven to 165˚c.
- Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until they’re finely chopped.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the chopped walnuts and cinnamon.
- Assuming the filo you’re using has 40 sheets, place 10 filo sheets into the baking pan one at a time, brushing each sheet with butter once it’s in the pan before adding the next one.
- Cover the filo sheets with about 1/5 of nut mixture – about 3/4 cup.
- Add 5 buttered sheets of filo, then another layer of nuts. Repeat four times.
- Finish off with 10 layers of buttered filo sheets. Brush the very top with butter.
- Once the baklava is all layered up, cut it into pieces using a sharp knife: you can do squares, diamonds, triangles, or whatever shape you want.
- Bake at 165˚c for 75mins or until lovely and golden brown
- Remove from the oven and immediately spoon the cooled syrup evenly over the hot baklava (you’ll hear it sizzle). This keeps it crisp rather than going all soggy.
- Let the baklava cool completely, uncovered at room temperature and then WAIT.
- Garnish your baklava with whole almonds or finely chopped nuts. (Pistachios are lovely.)