Baklava

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    5-6

Appears in

Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About

Perhaps the most famous of the Turkish sweets, baklava is surprisingly difficult to make well. It is possible to cheat by using ready-prepared filo pastry but, if you have the patience, it is worth while attempting to make the real thing. Once mastered, it opens doors to a variety of other delectable sticky pastries: balkabağı baklavası, sheets of pastry layered with sliced pumpkin and soaked in syrup; dürüm, a roll of paper-thin pastry filled with chopped pistachios; bülbül yuvası, ‘nightingale’s nest’, created by spreading chopped nuts over a sheet of pastry, rolling it into a wrinkled tube, then winding it into a spiral like a nest; şöbiyet, diamond-shaped pastries filled with chopped pistachios in a soft, sweet semolina paste; and sütlü nüriye, pastry layered with almond shavings and soaked in a milk syrup. Baklava can be made with chopped walnuts, pistachios or almonds. The sheets of pastry must be as thin as possible, which is easier to attain with an oklava, a thin rolling pin. Baklava should never be stored in the refrigerator, as the fat congeals and the pastry absorbs the moisture and becomes soggy. Always serve at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz/225 g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 fl oz/60-90 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2-3 oz/60-90 g cornflour
  • 3 oz/90 g butter

For the filling

  • 4 oz/120 g walnuts, finely chopped

For the syrup

  • ½ pint/300 ml water
  • 1 lb/450 g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rose-water

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F/Mark 6/200C
  • Sift the flour with the salt into a bowl. Make a hollow in the middle and drop in the eggs. Draw flour in from the sides and work the eggs and flour into a dough with the water. Knead well for 5-10 minutes, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rest for 1 hour.
  • To make the syrup, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the rose-water and put aside.
  • Now spread the oil around the dough and knead again for 10 minutes, until smooth and light in texture. Sprinkle some of the cornflour on to a flat surface and roll the dough out into a long rectangle. Cut it into 10 equal pieces. Roll out each piece as finely as possible, sprinkling with cornflour when sticky, in the shape of your baking tin. Pile the thin sheets on top of each other, separated by a dusting of cornflour, then roll them out together, distributing the pressure. Cut them into the shape of your baking tin, if necessary.
  • Melt the butter in a pan. Brush the baking tin with the melted butter and layer up the sheets of pastry, brushing each one with butter. Sprinkle the fifth or sixth layer evenly with nuts, and continue with the layers. Brush the top with butter and, using a sharp knife, cut the whole pastry into squares or diamond shapes. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.
  • When it comes out of the oven, brush the top with the rest of the butter. Heat up the syrup and pour it gradually over the pastry, allowing it to soak in. Leave to cool and absorb the syrup.