Baklava – nutty, sweet & very delicious

It’s been a few years since I hosted Christmas, so I’m pretty excited about hosting this year. My youngest son said that I’ve gone over the top and a bit crazy with my decorations, but I can’t help myself – I just love Christmas!

I’ve decided to cook mostly Greek dishes for our family Christmas lunch (with a few Italian delights thrown into the mix) and I’m including Baklava as one of the sweets.

Many cultures claim Baklava as their own, but I grew up with Baklava and have always known it to be a traditional “Greek” sweet.

If you have a sweet tooth and have not yet tried Baklava, then you simply must because you are missing out – big time!

Baklava is a heavenly sweet made with walnuts, sugar and cinnamon between layers of buttered light filo pastry, that is baked until it is a gorgeous golden colour and crispy on the top. It is then drenched with a divinely sweet citrusy syrup that flows all the way to the bottom, creating a unique but very delicious sweet treat.

The best Baklava I have ever tasted is one made by the mother of a very special friend, but the recipe is a carefully guarded family secret. However, I have another recipe that is also very delicious and quite easy to make, that I’d like to share with you.img_0686-e1514021772770.jpg

What you need

  • 16 sheets of filo pastry
  • 1¼ cups melted unsalted butter
  • 500g walnuts – chopped very finely
  • ½ cup dry fine breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Approx 40 whole cloves – for decorating
  • 23x30cm metal baking pan

For the syrup

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Juice of 1 lemon

What to do

Heat oven to 180°C.

Grease the baking pan.

Combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs, castor sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and mix to combine.

Place 1 pastry sheet in the pan and brush with melted butter. Add another sheet of filo brushed with butter on top. Repeat the process with 6 more pastry sheets, each brushed with butter.

Sprinkle the walnut mixture evenly over the last pastry sheet.

Place a buttered pastry sheet on top of the nuts.

Repeat with 7 further buttered pastry sheets over the walnut mixture.

Brush the top with remaining butter. Trim edges with a sharp knife.IMG_0681Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal lines across the length of the top layers of pastry to make small triangular (or diamond) shaped pieces. Be careful to not cut through the bottom sheets of pastry.

Place a whole clove in the centre of each piece (see pic above).

Sprinkle with a little water & bake for 1 hour or until golden.

Once the baklava has cooked, remove it from the oven to cool and start making the syrup by bringing the sugar, water and lemon juice to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour hot syrup over the cooled baklava and allow to stand for several hours before serving.

TIP: I don’t mind the rustic look, but if you are a perfectionist, you should use a ruler to measure and cut your pieces evenly.

This recipe has been adapted from The best book of Greek Cookery (Chrissa Paradissis)