(Before you jump to the recipe... Do you really want to miss out on all my awesome baking tips?)
My Instagram feed has exploded last week when I posted about a gorgeous greek baklava from Santorini. While I was enjoying my vacation and getting tanned next to the pool overlooking to the beautiful Aegean sea, I promised a homemade baklava recipe for you and I must say, I had no idea what I am up to. Now I am back to Sweden and after reading a lot about the topic and making a few tests, I can confidently state that making baklava at home is extremely easy and rewarding!
Baklava is made of only a few ingredients super quickly and easily and it does not have to be soggy neither overly sweet like many of those baklavas served in some lower quality places. Baklava, if made well, should be juicy and crispy at the same time with intense nut taste without being overly sweet. Try this homemade baklava recipe, you will love it!
Table of Contents
What is baklava
Baklava is a layered dessert made of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is a super popular dessert all around the world particularly in the Middle East, Turkey and Greece with small local adjustments. Baklava is typically made of using walnut however some popular versions contains pistachio or even other nuts like hazelnut. If you think baklava is just way too soggy and almost uneatable sweet, my homemade baklava recipe will change your mind!
My Top 5 Baking Tips for home bakers
- Read this recipe carefully including my tips and recommendations on how to avoid and fix typical issues during baking. Not much issue is expected while making this homemade baklava recipe, yet worth to pay attention to the details
- Avoid using substitutes and changing the recipe unless you are aware of how to fully reformulate the recipe in order to keep the balance in texture as well as flavour. In general, substituting ingredients, leaving out ingredients, or using ingredients not on the right temperature etc. will all have an impact on your baking
- For consistent, happy baking experience always measure your ingredients with the help of a Digital scale. Cup measurement is not an accurate way to measure ingredients and can easily lead to a little bit too much of this, too little of that that is the most common reason for baking fails
- Did you know that most home ovens can significantly under or oven run? Also, oven temperature hugely drops when opening the oven door therefore it is recommended to always pre-heat the oven above the required baking temperature.
- Temperature is super important factor in baking and accurate oven temperature is key, can make or break any recipe. Make sure you invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under baked or burnt baklava
Important notes regarding the INGREDIENTS of this Baklava recipe
For the baklava
- Filo pastry: While I am all about baking from scratch, filo pastry is not something I recommend doing at home unless you are professional and have the right equipment. What is filo pastry? Filo or phyllo is a very thin (thinner than paper) dough used for making pastries such as baklava. Baklava is made by layering many sheets of filo brushed with butter and filled with nuts. Filo pastry is usually available in the supermarkets either frozen or refrigerated, if it is not accessible in your local supermarket, worth to try Middle Eastern theme shops or restaurants.
- 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 or chop it by a knife. The walnut should not get totally ground, but should stay in tiny pieces. Instead of walnut you can use pistachio or even hazelnut or mix these
- 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 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 baklava 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 a few pieces then needs to be removed before drizzling the baklava with the syrup
- Cinnamon: Secret ingredient no 2. Use whole 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, 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, or use less. But, 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
My top 5 tips regarding the TECHNIQUE of making this Homemade Baklava recipe
1. How to handle and bake with filo pastry
Filo pastry is needed to make this baklava recipe. 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 very lightly wet tea towels to make sure that the filo won´t dry out while you are assembling the baklava.
2. How to assemble this baklava recipe
Assembling homemade baklava is shockingly easy! It is literally layers of filo pastry brushed with melted butter and dusted with walnut. That´s it, easy peasy!
Before starting with the ingredients, chose the baking pan. This is a small batch baklava recipe as I am using a 15 cm (6 inch) round cake pan. You can make the baklava bigger, but don´t forget to adjust quantity and baking time.
First, you will have to trim the filo pastry. Calculate the trimming process according to 1. size of your baking pan 2. size of your filo pastry sheets 3. how tall baklava you prefer. For example my package had 10 large sheets. I folded each sheet into 4 so ended up 40 round filo pastry sheets. At the end I only used 32, which resulted in a super tall baklava, just as I wanted.
Next, melt butter. It does not have to be super hot, but need to be melted properly.
After, prepare the walnut at hand.
While assembling the baklava I used the following method:
Place one baking sheet on the bottom of the baking pan
Start with 6 sheets of filo dough at the bottom: 2 sheets then brush with butter and repeat 3x
Continue with placing 20 sheets in the middle: 2 sheets then brush with butter and 1 tablespoon walnut and repeat 10x (this part can be done one sheet at a time as well, if you don´t mind spending more time on the assembling process)
Then Finish with 6 sheets of filo dough on the top::2 sheets then brush with butter and repeat 3x
That is 32 sheets all together and your homemade baklava is assembled!
What happens now? You will have to cut the baklava before baking. It is impossible to cut it neatly after it´s baked so please do not forget this step! I found that straight after assembling the butter is still warm so I recommend to place the unbaked baklava into the fridge for min 30 min then only after cut it into the iconic diamond shape with a very sharp knife. I find this diamond shape cut is not super easy so it is a good idea to practice how you will cut it by making some drawings on a piece of paper!
3. How to bake baklava
First and foremost, always pre-heat you oven for at least 10-15 minutes and make sure you invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under baked or burnt baklava. If your oven tend to burn more on the top, it is better to bake this baklava more on the bottom so the filo pastry won´t burn.
I suggest to bake the baklava in the following way; Bake it at 180C / 356F (no fan) for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Make sure you check the color and consistency - instead of time - and only take it out of the oven when it looks golden brown and properly baked. While baking the baklava prepare the syrup as per instructions below.
4. How to make syrup for the baklava that is not overly sweet
Making syrup is an important part of this baklava recipe. The process is super simple; you will literally have to boil all the ingredients together (except rosewater) however it is worth to note 3 important things:
1. Boil the mixture for a 5-10 minutes (depends on stove) so that it gets syrupy. If mixture is not syrupy enough but more on the liquid side, it can make the baklava wet and soggy instead of moist. Add in rosewater after syrup is ready
2. Prepare the syrup towards the last 5-10 minutes of the baking time so it will be ready by the time your baklava is ready baked
3. While drizzling the baklava with syrup, make sure you pour the syrup all over the baklava. It might look too much at first, but in a few hours the baklava will soak in all that lovely syrup making it super moist and delicious
5. How to store baklava
After applying the syrup, wait until baklava soaks up all that lovely syrup in and comes to room temp. Once baklava is not warm at all, you are free to serve it with a nice cup of coffee or tea! Baklava has a really long shelf life, lasting for 1-2 weeks, but they are usually gone in 1-2 days! It should be stored in an airtight container, either on room temperature or in the fridge.
Try my baklava cheesecake too
Taking classic baklava one step further, this is a must try recipe for baklava and cheesecake lovers. Lighter than traditional baklava, in the meantime more exciting flavor profile than traditional cheesecake, the best of both! You will be pleased to know that making this baklava cheesecake is super easy too, it comes together really quickly and a perfect cheesecake recipe even if you are beginner in the kitchen. Recipe available in here!
For the pastry
- 250 g filo pastry 1 pack of store bough filo pastry
- 80 g (⅓ cups) Unsalted butter melted
- 320 g (3 cups) walnut roast then pulse blend
For the syrup
- 180 g (¾ cups) Water
- 100 g (½ cups) Granulated sugar
- 75 g (¼ cups) Honey
- 1 Lemon juice approx juice of 1 lemon
- 1 Lemon zest do not grate, it should be in 3-4 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. Remove it from the oven after you start to feel a lovely nutty smell
- Pulse bland walnut in food processor until very tiny pieces but do not ground it fully. Alternatively use a sharp knife
- Melt butter in microwave for a minute or less
- Continue with preparing the filo pastry and trim it to your baking pan. Mine is a 15 cm (6 inch) round cake pan
- Then it´s assembling time. You will want to take 2 filo sheets at the same time and then brush it with butter
- As explained above at the tips section mine has 32 sheets of filo:6 sheets at the bottom: 2 sheets then brush with butter and repeat 3x20 sheets in the middle 2 sheets then brush with butter and 1 tablespoon walnut and repeat 10x6 sheets on the top as per: 2 sheets then brush with butter and repeat 3x
- After assembling place it into the fridge for 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 180 C / 356 F
- When the dough cooled down, take a sharp knife and cut it into diamond shape
- Bake for 45 minutes or until top golden brown
- Toward the end of the baking time, 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, cinnamon stick and mix in rosewater
- Pour syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let syrup sink into the baklava for a few hours
- Serve on room temperature, it´s even better on the next day!