Thirty crisp layers of buttery phyllo and heaps of fragrant pistachios, combine to make an utterly delicious, light yet rich baklava that tastes like it came straight from a Turkish bakery. Plus…recipe VIDEO included!
Happy first day of Ramadan to all those who celebrate! As for everyone else…enjoy the ride!
This year I’m showering the Holy Month with 14 mouthwatering Middle Eastern and Mediterranean desserts that will make your iftar a little sweeter.
As most of you know by now, I live in Egypt, where Middle Eastern desserts are a Ramadan tradition that is as old as time. Their significance precedes their obvious sweetness and beautiful nostalgia. For many of us, its the tangible marking of the month, the symbol of that long awaited moment, the gift that guests bring to their hosts, the sweet ending that gathers family and friends, and the high five for enduring a long day of fasting.
We enjoy Middle Eastern desserts year round, but in Ramadan…they’re extra special.
Make sure that the phyllo is fully thawed before using. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight or on the countertop for four to five hours. Do NOT microwave. Always keep the phyllo you're not working with covered with a layer of plastic wrap topped with a damp towel. When assembling, use the nicest, most intact phyllo sheets for the bottom and top layers; use sheets with tears in the middle layers, where their imperfections will go unnoticed. The baklava tastes best after it has sat for 8 hours upon cooling, so plan ahead!
For Sugar Syrup: (*see note)
1¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
¾ cup water
1½ tablespoons (28g/ 1oz) glucose syrup (optional, but recommended)
A squeeze of lemon
⅛ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoons orange blossom water (more or less according to taste)
For the Nut Filling:
3 cups (340 g/ 12oz) shelled, raw unsalted pistachios, plus more for garnish
For the Pastry:
2 (500g/ 8oz each) packages phyllo dough, a total of 30 sheets thawed
1⅛ cup (255g/ 9oz) melted ghee (or 1 ½ cups (340g/ 12oz) unsalted butter, clarified per instructions below, melted, and cooled slightly) (1⅛ cup clarified)
To make the Sugar Syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, glucose syrup (if using), lemon and salt, and bring to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves. Once boiled, take off heat and stir in the orange blossom water.
Transfer to a measuring cup with a spout or gravy boat and set aside to cool completely before using. (Cooled syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days; bring back to room temperature before using)
To make the Pastry:
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 150C/300F.
Pulse pistachios in food processor until very finely chopped, about fifteen 1-second pulses; transfer to a bowl.
Brush a 13X9-inch baking pan with ghee or clarified butter. Unwrap and unfold phyllo on a large cutting board and smooth out with hands to flatten. Using the pan as a guide, adjust the size of the phyllo by cutting off excess to fit perfectly into the pan. Cover phyllo with plastic wrap, then top with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.
Place 1 sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the prepared pan and brush with the ghee or clarified butter until completely coated. Layer 7 more sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each sheet with more ghee/butter. You should now have a total of 8 layers of phyllo. Top with 1 cup of the ground pistachios and spread evenly.
Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each layer with more ghee/ clarified butter, then top with another 1 cup of pistachios. Repeat with 6 more sheets of phyllo, more ghee/butter, and the remaining cup of pistachios.
Layer the remaining 10 sheets of phyllo into the pan using the nicest, most intact sheets, brushing each layer, except the final layer, with more ghee/ clarified butter. Working from the center outward, use the palm of your hands to compress the layers and press out any air pockets. Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into diamonds; 5 cuts vertically and about 8 cuts diagonally. Brush the remaining ghee/clarified butter (which should be around 4 tablespoons) over the surface.
Bake the baklava until golden and crisp, about 1½ to 1¾ hours (I do 1¾ hours), rotating the pan halfway through baking.
Immediately after removing the baklava from oven, pour the cooled syrup over cut lines until about 2 tablespoons remain (syrup will sizzle when it hits hot pan); drizzle remaining syrup over the surface. Garnish center of each piece with pinch of ground pistachios.
Cool to room temperature on wire rack, about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hours before serving. (Once cooled, baklava can be served, but flavor and texture improve if left to stand at least 8 hours. Baklava can be wrapped tightly in foil and kept at room temperature up to 10 days.)
To Clarify the Butter (if using instead of ghee):
Melt the 1½ cups (340g/ 12oz) butter slowly over medium low heat until the milk solids have separated from the butterfat. and collected on the bottom of the saucepan. Remove the pan from heat, let the butter settle for 10 minutes, then carefully skim the foam from the surface with a spoon. Slowly pour the clear butterfat into a bowl, leaving all the milk solids behind in the saucepan. You should end up with about 1⅛ cup (255g/ 9oz) clarified butter.
* If you have syrup hanging around from this Big Batch Sugar Syrup recipe, you may use 1¾ cups of it, instead of making the recipe above.
* Glucose syrup is added to the syrup to reduce the chance of crystalizing, resulting in a baklava with a longer shelf life.
* Orange blossom water adds a subtle floral note that compliments the taste of pistachios. It is highly recommended here, but may be reduced or omitted if you're not a fan.
Recipe adapted with changes from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.