Any Baklava Makers Out there?
- TSAW Feb 14, 2014 08:44 AM
I'm interested in making baklava. Does anyone out there make it regularly? I understand it's fairly easy but after looking online it seems there are many variations. I've worked with phyllo quite a bit before so I'm familiar with handling it.
I'm wondering if I could use pecans instead of walnuts. I hate walnuts, plus I have a giant bag of pecans from Costco I'd like to use up. Buying pistachios in my area is pretty pricey so I won't be doing that. Can I cut the pecans with another nut?
I've found recipes with basic simple syrup and also some using honey. I think I would prefer honey but I'm not sure if that wouldn't be too sticky.
Any hints or tips would be appreciated.
As a Costco member you are not limited to your local in-store offerings, e.g., 4 varieties of pistachios, from 3 pounds unshelled to S&P for snacking are also available to you via Costco online.
Also, here in So. Cal. I just paid $10x# for pecan halves. That is $3x# less than The Kingdom is asking for pistachios today.
I like a little orange rather than lemon, but I can see both being very good. I also prefer the taste of honey to the sugar syrup but that much honey can get to be expensive. Same with pistachios. There really is no absolute recipe for baklava. It comes down to what you prefer and how much you'd like to spend.
My best tip, though, has to do with the phyllo, if not making it yourself. Be sure to buy from a store that has good turnover. The fresher it is, the easier it will be to handle. That stuff can be a real bear when the sheets stick to each other.
I like to use almonds but have also mixed other nuts in when that is what is on hand. I have found that a mixture of simple syrup plus honey works well....less sticky and not quite a tooth-jarring sweet. I do like to add a bit of orange flower water to the syrup for a nice aroma and a bit of background flavor.
Baklava is actually fairly easy to make, but it does require patience. Something you undoubtedly have since you have worked with Phyllo before.
The choice of filling is up to you. My favorite is pistachio, but I've had cashew baklava that is quite good as well. If pecan pie is any indication, a sticky sweet pecan baklava should be great.
With respect to the sweetener, I have never really liked baklava made with honey. I find it too cloying. I much prefer baklava made with simple syrup flavored with lemon juice and orange blossom water (or rosewater). It is just sweet enough with a wonderful fragrance that is a little more complex than the straightforward sweetness of honey.
I don't see why you couldn't use pecans. If you need to stretch it you can use graham wafer crumbs. You would still need to season the crumbs with sugar cinnamon and touch of clove. My syrup I do a 50/50 water sugar and then add enough honey to give it some flavour. I then add a squeeze from lemon juice to keep if from crystallizing, a peel of a orange, a couple cinnamon sticks and a couple cloves. You can either put warm syrup on cooled baklava or cool syrup on warm baklava.
I've made it plenty of times. You can use pecans, why not?
I am not sure which regional baklava has honey in it, but I've actually never seen that done, only heard about it. I use a sugar-water syrup with a squeeze of lemon juice in it.
My preferred nut in baklava is walnut, or mixed nuts with a heavy amount of walnuts. but many types of nuts are used. You know how in the US, cheap grocery store bakery goods taste waxy from the lower quality ingredients? I lived in the Middle East for a number of years, and there is cheapo grocery store baklava that is filled with mostly peanuts since walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and cashews are pricier.
Making baklava is indeed super easy. My only tip would be to make a lot of syrup, soak the baklava in syrup well, don't hold back, it will be mostly absorbed as your baklava cools. Dry baklava is the pits.
Here is an interesting time/labor saving technique that I learned from a Lebanese Chef. You don't have to butter each layer. From a package of phyllo, lay half the package down on melted butter then add your filling, add the second half of the phyllo on top. Cut into diamonds and pour the rest of the melted butter over the entire dish and bake. The butter seeps into and between the layers. It works really well and is a real time saver. I would never have believed it until trying it.
You know, I thought it would be more controversial to ask on which syllable you place the stress in the word baklava, but this is almost heresy.
You are one of the authorities on authentic Levantine cooking so I have to try this your tip. How much samneh do I need to put on each half to end up with the crispy, flaky layers I get with buttering individual sheets? Have you ever tried this same technique on boregi like baklava?
It depends on what language you say it in. In Arabic, it will be ba'LAAH-wah or baq-LAAH-wah depending on the dialect because some dialects use a glottal stop for the letter qaaf. For Levantine dialects in particular, Levantine dialects also tend to say that final -ah syllable as an -eh. Plus the long -aah in the middle sounds like an elongated a as in at, cat, mat, but longer (like a lengthened æ: if you know that symbol) so maybe I should represent it something like ba'-LAY-weh. Note the -w- and no -v-. There is no -v- in Arabic, anyway. The stress is on the second syllable because the first long vowel in a word like that gets the stress. Here it is in Arabic, I am copy pasting, lazy to open my Arabic font keyboard, so this actually says al baqlaawah: البقلاوة
The word is Turkish in origin and we have our own way of saying it in American English. I have no idea how to say it in Greek, Farsi, Armenian, or other languages from cultures which traditionally make baklava.
EDIT (again) I found a Lebanese chef saying ba'lay-wah on youtube, just in case anyone is reallly curious how it is said in Lebanese Arabic. He says it around the 10th second: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Slc_r...
I make baklava very often. I use pistachios usually although last time I made it I mixed pistachios with pine nuts. I agree on the walnuts though - not my fav for baklava. I would use pecans and mix if you want with other nuts you like.
I makes a simple syrup with rose water and lemon juice and use that. Let it cool
Brush melted butter on each layer about 10 layers, add the rough chopped nuts with a little melted butter some confectioners sugar, 10 more layers. Chill cut and bake and pour over cold syrup. People really love this recipe
After a year of baklava baking I've decide that the baklava cigars or fingers they are sometimes called are by far my favorite preparation!
I ran through batches of every nut choice and came back to pistachio as my ultimate favorite. Crushed almost to a fine powder and/or pistachio cream layered on the phyllo. As for the syrup, I used simple syrup as the first pour and honey syrup as the 2nd pour. Cutting versus rolling into cigars is only a preference. But I do enjoy the cigars served with tea. Oh and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right before eating baklava brightens up the flavors.
Here's a spicy version I'll be making for Easter:
I always use pecans and Sourwood honey from N. Carolina. The honey has a nice zippy spiciness to it. I always, ALWAYS, blanch, rinse, and toast my pecans.
When you blanch pecans, walnuts, butternuts etc. you will be amazed at the oily scum that rises to the top of the water. It only takes about a minute in boiling water. That scum is rancid oils that naturally come to the surface of the kernels. Toast them for about 10 mins @ 350 F. you will be amazed at the flavor and how sweet they can be. Those who don't care for walnuts have changed their minds.
Thanks everyone for the tips and suggestions. I made this using a recipe from All Recipes magazine. The first attempt was dreadfully sweet and had too many nuts (maybe too coarse). The second attempt turned out better but I still felt it was a little 'heavy'. I used only simple syrup and did use orange water.
I think I'll find a new recipe and continue again. It was pretty simple.
Thanks again all!
I share your disdain for walnuts, but I love almonds. As a Greek, I will say that the following recipe is wonderful and not too heavy. I do use all almonds and/or pistachios, but I imagine pecans would work well.
This is from kalofagas.ca
one 10″X12″ baking vessel (about 2 inches deep)
pre-heated 300F oven (middle rack)
1 package of commercial phyllo (454gr.)
(thawed overnight in the fridge)
1 cup of melted , clarified butter
2 cups of walnuts
2 cups of roasted & skinned almonds
1/2 tsp. ground clove
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 cup of ground rusk
1 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
juice of 1/4 lemon
In a food processor, pulse your walnuts, almonds into a crumbly, grainy consistency. Now ground your rusks and add into a bowl with the remaining filling ingredients. Set aside. Take your phyllo out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (15 minutes). Pre-heat your oven and have melted butter ready.
Grease your baking pan with your choice of vegetable oil. Lay four sheets of phyllo overhanging halfway over each of the four sides. Now place one sheet of phyllo to directly into the pan (total of 5 phyllo sheets). Remember to brush melted butter between each sheet of phyllo.
Sprinkle a layer of filling over the area of phyllo. Repeat each layer (4 sheets of phyllo) followed by equal amounts of nut filling (5 phyllo sheets bottom + 4 sheets X 3 layers + 4-5 sheets of phyllo for top layer).
Now fold in those overhanging flaps from the bottom layer of phyllo. Now place the remaining sheets of phyllo to finish your top layer (folding the phyllo to fit the dimensions of your baking vessel is perfectly fine).
Brush your top layer of phyllo with a good coating of melted butter. Using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo into your desired shaped for the pieces of Baklava (important to do this step before baking). Insert whole cloves into the center of each piece (optional). Bake in your pre-heated oven for 90 minutes or until light brown.
Prepare your syrup by adding your water, sugar, honey and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Now add your lemon juice and bring to a boil then simmer for another 10 minutes.
There are two ways to introduce the syrup to your Baklava: hot baklava and cold syrup or cold baklava and hot syrup – it’s your choice. My family prefers hot baklava and cold syrup. Use a ladle to pour the syrup over the entire surface of the Baklava.
Allow to cool before serving and to allow the syrup to penetrate the entire dessert. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (NEVER place in the fridge).
© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis
I use pecans. I blanch the pecans in boiling water for about a minute, drain and rinse. You will be surprised at scum that develops in the pot...it is from surface oils that get a bit rancid and gives pecans, walnuts etc the bitter taste. Then I toast them at 350 F for 5-8 mins. and then proceed with the recipe. I use Sourwood Honey from the Appalachians. It has a spicy tang to it. It is not too sticky and gives some zip to the Baklava.
Yes, you can make baklava with any nuts you choose. A prominent Middle-Eastern bakery in Chicago (Al-Khayam) makes it with varied kinds of nuts including cashews.
I have made baklava many times. The first difficulty is handling phyllo so it doesn't dry out in front of you but you have already conquered that so you should have no problem. I use an 8 x 8 square metal pan and put down about 6 sheets of phyllo on the bottom to get a good firm base, melted butter in between each sheet of course. Then I alternate nut filling and 3 buttered sheets of phyllo, repeating until I get to the top and end with phyllo. I cut the pastry through in small diamond shapes and bake it at 350* until it is golden, I would say 30-45 minutes. When it comes out of the oven I pour the syrup over it and let it sit in syrup, occasionally adding more. The syrup is 1 cup of honey to 1/2 cup each of water and sugar, simmered with a couple of slices each of lemon and orange, 4-5 whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick broken into several pieces. Simmer about 15 minutes and time this so the syrup is still warm when you pour it over the baked pastry. The nut filling is a pound of nuts (pistachios, almonds, or what you like) toasted in the oven and then chopped fine in the food processor (wait until they are cool) with a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. I would definitely recommend that you use honey for the flavor. The whole thing about Middle Eastern pastry is the flavors of honey, nuts, butter, and cinnamon. Making baklava should not intimidate anyone. It is definitely do-able and if you make it yourself you can be certain of the ingredients, such as real butter rather than a cheaper commercial fat. Try a similar thing, kataifi---the phyllo has been put through a shredder and is sold by the pound. Looks like Shredded Wheat but isn't.
PS My recipe for the syrup came from the cook at a Greek restaurant where my then high-school-age son had a job bussing tables---this was the first time I made baklava (1973) and I made a note on the recipe card that is now amusing---that the total cost including nuts, honey, butter, and phyllo came to $2.