For the love of Baklava

One of Toni’s all time favourite desserts is Baklava and she says the best she ever tasted was in Fiskardo, Kefalonia.  Toni makes her own which isn’t far off the mark using a combination of a traditional Greek receipe and Lorraine Pascal’s baklava recipe.

baklava

Mini Baklava

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 packets of filo pastry (you will get about 6 sheets per pack)

For the filling

  • 500g of nuts of your choice – we often choose pecans, walnuts and Almonds (roughly chopped/broken up by hand) and Hazelnuts can work well too.
  • 3tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1.5tsp mixed spice (or make your own by mixing spices you have – e.g. cinnamon and a little nutmeg – a little goes a long way with nutmeg and so don’t be too generous! – or ground clove)

For the syrup

  • 340g granulated sugar
  • 200ml water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Method

  1. Defrost your filo overnight in the fridge.  If you forget and need to do defrost it the same day, place it somewhere warm, but not hot, and leave it for a couple of hours.
  2. Put all your filling ingredients into a large bowl and mix them up.
  3. Put half of the butter in a bowl and melt (we use a microwave to do this but pick whichever method you’re used to).  There is no set amount of butter really, it’s simply as much as you need but 250g is a rough estimate – don’t worry if you don’t use it all or if you need more.  The suggestion is to only melt half now because if you’re not a very quick worker (unlikely when working with filo), the butter will turn white (separation) and you will not be able to work with what’s left.  Keep melting the butter as and when you need it.
  4. Whilst the butter is melting, carefully unwrap the filo and lay all the sheets out on a clear surface and cover with a damp towel (which stops it from drying out which makes it more tricky to work with).
  5. Choose a tray to bake in.  We have a large Pyrex dish (the sort you may cook lasagna in – about 21cm x 14cm*).  You will need to cover the inside of your chosen dish with a coating of your melted butter from step 3; we do this with a silicon pastry brush otherwise, you risk getting hairs on your pastry if you use the standard basting brush.  Once you have done this, take a sheet of filo and line the dish with it.  Then you need to coat the first filo layer with more butter.  Repeat twice so that you have 3 layers of filo with a final coat of butter on the top layer.
  6. Use 1/3 of the filling mixture and spoon this on top of the third filo layer making sure you have an even distribution.
  7. At about this point, put your oven on to get up to temperature (180 degrees or 350 fahrenheit or gas mark 4).
  8. You will then need to add 3 more layers of filo following the instructions at step 5, followed by a second layer of filling, as in step 6.  Then, a further 3 layers of filo (as per step 5) and the final 1/3 of the filling before finishing off with a final 3 layers of filo.  Once you reach the top, score the pasty diagonally so you have diamond shapes on the top and then coat with a final thick layer of butter.
  9. Put your masterpiece in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  10. Whilst your baklava is baking away, put the water and sugar (for the syrup) into a pan and keep on a low to medium heat.  Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Then add the honey and cinnamon stick and turn down to a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  11. Once the baklava is out the over, leave to stand for about 10-20 minutes before pouring over the syrup from step 10.
  12. Enjoy!

*Don’t worry if the dish you use is smaller.  Filo is long!  Simply start placing your filo in the dish one end, let it overlap at the other end and then fold it back on itself.  Essentially, half of the dish will have a layer of filo and the other half may have 2 layers thanks to the doubling up.  Simply rotate the dish for the next layer so you’re all even!

Please feel free to add pistachios (which appear in some recipes) or lemon zest or orange-blossom water which appear in other recipes.  It really is all down to individual taste.  We have tried the recipe inducing these additions but always return to the recipe above!

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