After my recent baklava recipe I had to make another baklava kind of dessert, I just had to! Taking classic baklava even further I had a dream about a baklava cheesecake earlier this week LOL and my determination was so strong that voila, the recipe is here! If you like baklava and / or cheesecake, you have to try this recipe. Lighter than traditional baklava in the meantime more exciting flavour profile than traditional cheesecake, the best of both!
Creamy and light cream cheese filling on top of walnut filled filo pastry layers soaked in aromatic honey rosewater syrup. A dangerously delicious recipe, I warned you!
First let’s start with some important tips regarding the ingredients of this baklava cheesecake recipe
- read the recipe carefully
- avoid using substitutes unless aware of how to fully reformulate the recipe in order to keep the balance in texture as well as flavours
- measure your ingredients with the help of a digital kitchen scale
For the baklava
- Filo pastry: While I am all about baking from scratch, filo pastry is not something I recommend doing at home. What is filo pastry? Filo or phyllo is a very thin (thinner than paper) dough used for making pastries such as baklava in the Middle East. Baklava is made by layering many sheets of filo brushed with butter then the pastry is baked. I know in many countries filo pastry is available in the supermarkets either frozen or refrigerated. Obviously you will have to experiment with your local brands
- Walnut: Make sure you use whole walnut (so not the ground version) and roast it first in the oven for a few minutes for the flavor to really come out. Then I recommend to pulse bland the whole walnut in food processor. The walnut should not get totally ground, instead it should stay in tiny pieces
- Butter: Use always unsalted as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. Butter needs to be melted in the microwave for a few seconds
- Sugar: No sugar in the actual baklava filling! Just the right amount of sweetness will come from the syrup
For the cream cheese filling
- Cream cheese: I always use Philadelphia when I state cream cheese in my recipes. I find it easy to cream (need to bring it to room temperature first) and very pleasant in taste. I usually beat it with a hand mixer for less than a minute, just until it becomes fluffy and increases a bit in volume. Avoid over whipping
- Granulated sugar: I use simple, white granulated sugar, nothing fancy . While heating it up with cream make sure the sugar granulates fully dissolve. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here.
- Egg: Room temperature as always
- Heavy cream: Also known as whipping cream, has a fat content between 36% and 40% . Use it very cold and do not substitute with vegetable based “whipping cream”. Heavy cream will make the filling effectively more creamy.
- Flour: I used simple AP flour, you probably won´t have problem finding that in your local supermarket. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my article in here
For the syrup
First thing first, some typical mistakes. What makes the baklava sometimes unpleasantly sweet and also very soggy is the inappropriate sugar syrup quality and quantity. The recipe below will provide enough syrup to “hold” the filo sheets together but without making the dessert soggy. Regarding sweetness, I am using a mixture of sugar, honey, water simple syrup base and offset the sweetness with lemon juice! It does not taste lemon, but lemon balances the sweetness of the syrup. Now that you know the secret, you can turn any baklava hater to baklava lover!
- Sugar + Honey: Use simple white granulated sugar, nothing fancy or expensive. Honey is natural inverted sugar, I used acacia honey. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Lemon juice and zest: Secret ingredient no. 1. As mentioned above it won´t really add any taste but balances the sweetness. You can´t skip this, believe me. Zest needs to be added to the syrup in 2-3 pieces then needs to be removed
- Cinnamon: Secret ingredient no 2. I am using a tiny cinnamon stick, again won´t give too much flavour more like a very slight cinnamon aftertaste
- Rosewater: Secret ingredient no 3. Please note that there is a huge different between pure rosewater, pure rose essence and all the other fake ones. Make sure to only use 100% natural pure rose products for your health and also for your desserts´ taste. In terms of rosewater and rose essence, rosewater is sold in a larger bottle usually and you have to use more of that vs. rose essence. I am using 1 table spoon here. If you have rose essence at home, which is a much more concentrated product, then you only need to use a tiny amount, like one teaspoon or even less. Rosewater is rather a love it or hate it flavour, so feel free to skip it if you don´t like it. In the meantime if you haven´t tried it before, I really recommend start using it in desserts, it pairs amazing not just with Middle Eastern desserts but also with e.g. raspberry
Now let’s continue with some further important tips regarding the technique of making this baklava cheesecake recipe
1. How to handle the filo pastry
Filo is an extremely versatile, super thin pastry, which needs to be handled with care. Depending on whether you purchase it frozen or not, first you will need to bring it to room temperature but do not open the package yet as the pastry can get dry out very quickly. Once the pack is open, place the sheets in between lightly wet tea towels to make sure that the filo won´t dry out while you are assembling the baklava cheesecake.
2. How to make the cream cheese filling
This is a classic cheesecake recipe when it comes to the cream cheese filling. You will only need a couple of ingredients like Philadelphia cream cheese, cream, eggs, a little bit of sugar and a tablespoon of flour. The only secret is not to over whip the ingredients. If you are spending more than 3 minutes with preparing this filling then you are probably over beating it. I am not using vanilla and lemon, the two usual suspects given the flavor will very much come from the syrup in this baklava cheesecake recipe.
3. How to assemble the baklava cheesecake
My filo bag had 10 large sheets and I have used 7 of them them trimmed around the baking pan just before baking.
While assembling the baklava cheesecake I used the following pattern (from bottom to top):
1 sheet filo then butter brush
1 sheet filo then butter brush
1 sheet filo then butter brush + 1/2 of the walnut
2 sheets filo then butter brush + 1/2 of the walnut
2 sheets filo then butter brush
Then comes the cream cheese on top of the walnut filled filo sheets
Don’t forget to trim the filo pastry around the cake pan before baking
4. How to make syrup
Making syrup is super simple, you will have remember 2 important things though. 1. Boil the mixture for a few minutes so that it gets syrupy 2. While the baklava cheesecake is baking make sure you cool the syrup down which helps the filo layers later to soak the syrup in properly. To give a guidance, after boiling the mixture I ended up with 150 g syrup.
5. What baking pan to use and how to prepare
You will definitely need a spring form like this one. Spring form type of baking pan has two parts: a round shape base and a side band with a clamp. The band expands and contracts by opening and closing the clamp. Easy peasy! For the best results, choose a non-stick finish and I recommend a not too large (15-20 cm / 6-8 inch) but deep version to avoid sad looking flat cakes.
Before assembling the baklava cheesecake I recommend to cover the outside of the spring form with aluminium foil so that nothing is leaking during baking or later when syrup goes onto the cheese cake.
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Now let´s see the recipe of this baklava cheesecake!
For the pastry
- 250 g filo pastry 1 pack of store bough filo pastry, I only used 7 sheets of the 10 but feel free to use all 10
- 50 g Unsalted butter melted
- 70 g walnut roast whole walnut then pulse blend
For the cream cheese filling
- 300 g Cream cheese Philadelphia
- 80 g Granulated sugar
- 10 g AP flour
- 2 Eggs
- 50 g Heavy Cream
For the syrup
- 118 g Water
- 70 g Granulated sugar
- 50 g Honey
- ½ lemon juice
- ½ Lemon zest do not grate, it should be in 2-3 pieces so that you can take them out from the syrup later
- Cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon Rosewater only use pure 100% natural rosewater
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Start with roasting walnut in the oven for 5-10 minutes in 180 C / 356 F
- While roasting, make sure you do not burn it and remove it from the oven after you start to feel a lovely nutty smell
- Keep the oven on so that it will get pre-heated for baking the cheesecake
- Pulse bland walnut in food processor until very tiny pieces but do not ground it fully. Alternatively use a sharp knife
- Continue with making the cream cheese filling by creaming room temperature Philadelphia cheese for a minute until it gets fluffy
- Mix in sugar, beat for a few seconds then mix in flour
- Add eggs and finally the heavy cream, mix just until combined, do not over mix
- Continue with melting butter in microwave for a minute or less. This will be used to brush the filo
- Then it´s assembling time. Take a 15 cm / 6 inch spring form and generously grease the bottom and side as well with butter. It is also a good idea to cover the outside of the pan with aluminium foil so that nothing is leaking during baking and also later when syrup goes onto the cheese cake
- As explained above from bottom to top the layers are:1 sheet filo then butter brush1 sheet filo then butter brush1 sheet filo then butter brush + 1/2 of the walnut2 sheets filo then butter brush + 1/2 of the walnut2 sheets filo then butter brushThen comes the cream cheese mixture
- After assembling, trim filo around the baking pan then bake for about 1 hour or until filo golden brown
- While baking prepare the syrup: Boil all the ingredients together except rosewater until slightly thickens (5-10 minutes depending on stove) and reaches syrup consistency. Remove from heat, remove lemon zest pieces and mix in rosewater
- Cool syrup down in the fridge then once cheesecake baked pour it over as soon as it comes out of the oven. While pouring the syrup focus on the edges (where filo pastry is) but some syrup can also go on top of the cheese part
- Let it cool and further set in the fridge for minimum 3 hours then carefully remove spring form and decorate with pistachio and rose petals if you like