Baklava – Sweet Nutty Pastry
The Turks love very sweet, very sticky cakes, pastries, and desserts. Many of the stickiest and sweetest have their origins in the east, in Persia/Iran, once a key region within a greater Ottoman empire, that stretched our from modern day Turkey right the way around the Middle East and across North Africa.
Perhaps the most famous is Baklava. It seems to have had its ancestral home in Central Asia, where the Turkish tribes first came from, and was then modified and improved upon to please the Sultan’s palate, in the great kitchens of Topkapı Palace, in the very heart of old Istanbul.
Essentially, Baklava is a pastry made from layers of filo filled with chopped nuts (usually walnuts or pistachios or both) and soaked through with syrup. It’s a honeyed heavyweight – a sticky fingered immoderate indulgence. Enjoy!
Ingredients – Baklava Pastry:
1 pack of Filo Pastry sheets
1 cup unsalted butter (c.250g), melted
2 cups (c.225g) ground walnuts, make sure you do not grind too finely
Ingredients – Syrup:
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius, then find a large ovenproof glass dish (approx 3 litres).
To make the syrup, pour the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring this mixture to the boil, and continue boiling for about 5 minutes. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, then take off the heat. Add the lemon juice and transfer the mixture into a bowl to cool.
Cut the sheets of filo pastry into rectangles that roughly fit the bottom of the glass dish. Having buttered the dish, place a sheet of filo pastry into the bottom. Spread a little butter on the sheet, then put another sheet on top – butter, and continue this process. Every 6 to 8 sheets, sprinkle in some nuts so they form a nice, crunchy, nutty layer. Keep raising the layers until they are about a couple of inches high, just the right height to pop into your mouth. Remember to generously butter the very top layer of pastry.
You now want to cut the Baklava into individual rectangles – perfect for a luxuriant treat. Slowly and carefully pour the remainder of the melted butter all over the Baklava. Then bake in a oven for about 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove your glass dish from the oven, and leave to stand for about 10 minutes.
Pour the lukewarm syrup all over the Baklava, cover, and leave until it’s completely cool and the pastry has soaked up a good amount of the syrup.
It’s best not to put Baklava in the fridge. Just cover with foil or something similar.
Then make yourself a coffee, sit down, put your feet up, and try a piece. Baklava is a blissful combination of textures and flavours – crispy yet gooey, nutty but sweet. This Turkish treat is no light, fluffy pudding. Just a couple of pieces is more than enough to overwhelm the senses and sate the most voracious of desires. It is the ultimate sticky fingered pleasure.