How To Make Baklava.
I’m about to bombard you with pictures, so let’s just get this out of the way.
Here’s the deal: I’ve wanted to make baklava for YEARS. As a firm believer of the nuts-stink-in-desserts camp, this flaky treat has always made the cut. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for the first like, 15 years of eating this, I didn’t even know it was nuts. I just thought it was some sort of delicious, caramely heaven thing.
No one in my family ever made it, but a few of my mom’s friends would graciously gift us some around the holidays and I would often hog it all to myself, saving one last piece for my mom. I figured it was impossible to make.
I knew I wanted to put a tiny bit of my own spin on the flavor, so I added cardamom and vanilla beans. Freaky.
I also used mostly pecans, then almonds and pistachios. Pistachios are funny. They are green.
Here’s a bowl of nuts.
Um, let’s talk about how I often do things wrong. Like, everyday. I used salted pistachios. Dude… totally okay. I was nervous, but not nervous enough to go buy a bag of unshelled pistachios and then spend a few hours of my life shelling a pound of them. I’d rather paint my nails. So… I had salted pistachios on hand and I used them. They rocked.
Tyler Florence’s (yes, we are BBF’s now) recipe called for a sh*tton of nuts. I am not even kidding. This recipe would be incredibly affordable if not for the raw, unsalted nuts that cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t read the reviews online before chopping mine up (uh, I mean, why would I do something smart like that?), but you could easily get away with about half of the called-for amount. More on this later.
I also used vanilla beans!
I love spending my life’s savings on food related items.
I chopped everything in my trusty lil’ food processor, including adding the vanilla beans in spurts so they’d be somewhat evenly distributed.
I was afraid that I ended up chopping the nuts too fine, but again… I wasn’t afraid enough to have patience and press pulse 42 times while chopping. Regardless, they ended up being perfect for me.
Oh. Oh oh oh! Something else I did?
I REDUCED THE BUTTER. Yes. I REDUCED THE BUTTER.
I know. Wasn’t sure you heard me the first time. This isn’t necessary, but butter is quite a precious (read: expensive) commodity around here and I figured I’d start with two sticks as opposed to the four that the recipe called for.
Maybe I’ve been abducted by aliens.
Oooooh and another thing? Remember when I made croissants? And before that, how I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why croissants were supposedly soooo unhealthy? Then I rolled a pound of butter into between the dough? Well. This is sort of like that.
There is (almost) a pound of butter in this pan. I freaking love it.
Also like the croissants, I figured that this would be quite a challenge. Turns out it wasn’t very challenging at all, just time consuming. I ended up using my 9×13 Calphalon pan, after Tyler’s recipe (see? BFF’s fo’ life.) suggested refrigerating the layers for 30 minutes before baking. I didn’t need anything shattering in my oven, so this worked great.
First up – you brush the entire bare pan with melted butter. Then, you layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough, each brushed with melted butter, like above and below.
Now would be a good time to talk about the phyllo.
Hmmmm. Me? No patience? Yes. You know this. It would probably be wise to read the instructions first. I opened both packages and hurriedly “unrolled” them to let them thaw. Then I ended up with a giant, flakey mess. Eventually (and four boxes later) I learned to be patience and let them completely thaw, and I did follow the directions by placing a slightly damp towel over top. Even though I did all of that, let me just say that almost every single one of my sheets ended up ripping one way or another in this process, no matter how gentle I was. Moral of the story? Keep going anyway.
Since I had all of those nuts, I knew that two layers (as the recipe suggested) just wasn’t going to suffice. I didn’t want super thick nut layers (that’s what she said?) and I didn’t want to waste the nuts, even though I was already angry because sitting in that food processor up there may as well have been a new pair of shoes. So I did four layers of nuts.
Here’s how it went: 8 sheets of phyllo -> 1 layer of nuts -> 4 sheets of phyllo -> 1 layer of nuts -> 4 sheets of phyllo -> 1 layer of nuts -> 4 sheets of phyllo -> 1 layer of nuts -> 8 sheets of phyllo. With EVERY SINGLE LAYER BRUSHED WITH BUTTER.
Then, as Tyler (my love… darn this relationship is moving fast) suggested, I dumped the remaining butter over top. He’s my kind of guy. I also followed his instructions and threw the whole pan in the fridge for exactly 30 minutes, then brought it out and cut it before baking.
What’s that? You think my slices may look nice?
Uh. Look again.
Not so nice.
But guess what? It didn’t even matter! I baked it for exactly 42 minutes, rotating the pan once in between.
The recipe called for removing a piece (that was awesome. I ate it.), tipping the pan to the side and draining the butter. Uh, come again? I am not ever going to “drain the butter.” But whatever. Luckily, there was no butter to drain, which reinforces my decision to use less than the recipe called for. I ended up with 2 3/4 sticks rather than four. Go me.
While the baklava was baking, I made a honey vanilla bean syrup. Holy smokes. I wanted to drink this.
Just check out those vanilla beans.
The millisecond this comes out of the oven, you dump the syrup all over the top.
Then you’re supposed to let it “sit for several hours.” Ha! What a freaking joke.
Just do what I did: make it in the late afternoon, then let it sit overnight. However, during the time it is “sitting,” pick off about 17 flakey layers from the top. Works like a charm.
In all seriousness, I did do that, but letting it sit overnight was key. It was so easy to slice and remove from the pan.
Plus… check out those layers.
But you know all things are better with chocolate…
How To Make Baklava
- 16 ounces of unsalted pecans, roasted
- 8 ounces of unsalted almonds, roasted
- 8 ounces of salted pistachios, roasted (if using unsalted, add about 1/4 teaspoon salt to nut mixture)
- 2 whole vanilla beans, scraped
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 pound of phyllo dough
- 2 3/4 sticks, about 1 1/3 cups or 22 tablespoons(!) of unsalted butter, melted
honey vanilla bean simple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Thaw phyllo dough according to directions on package, then unroll. Once thawed, cover with a slightly damp towel to keep pliable.
- Combine nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, adding the contents of the vanilla bean in two or three separate pulses. Once chopped, add nuts to a large bowl and combine with brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves, then thoroughly mix.
- Melt butter on the stovetop or in the microwave. Using a pastry brush, brush an entire 9x 13 pan with melted butter. Layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough – each one painted with melted butter – in the baking dish. Be very patient and gentle with the dough, and if it begins to rip, just try to push it into place. After layer 8, spread 1/4 of the nut mixture evenly over the dough. At this point, I wasn’t sure how the next sheet of phyllo would stick to the nuts, so I took my pastry brush and drizzled a bit of butter over the nuts. This helps!
- After the first layer of nuts, layer 4 sheets of phyllo on top – each one brushed with melted butter. Repeat this 3 more times: 1 layer of nuts, 4 sheets of phyllo, 1 layer of nuts, 4 sheets of phyllo, then a fourth layer of nuts. After that layer, add 8 sheets of phyllo on top (instead of just 4) like you did in the beginning, brushing each with melted butter. If there is any butter left, pour it over top. Stick the whole pan in the fridge and refrigerate for 30 minutes. As soon as you stick it in the fridge, preheat the oven.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove baklava from fridge and using a sharp knife, cut as desired. I set my pan down horizontally, then made four cuts from left to right. I then started in a corner and cut diagonals. Once cut, place pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. As soon as you place it in the oven, make your syrup below.
- If the top of the baklava gets to brown, tent it with aluminum foil. When finished baking, remove from oven and gently cut out a corner piece. Tilt the pan and if there is any butter laying, drain it. While the baklava is hot, evenly pour the syrup over top. Let set (ideally overnight, covered with aluminum foil once cool) before cutting and serving.
- To make syrup: Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Before drizzling, remove cinnamon stick.
Did you make this recipe?
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I appreciate you so much!
Now all of you get over here now since I seriously HAVE AN ENTIRE PAN OF BAKLAVA ON MY COUNTER!!
252 Comments on “How To Make Baklava.”
All sheets individually brushed with butter? Thats a great test of patience, and well worth it I guess. One of the nicest looking baklavas I have ever seen.
This is insane. I love it!
So I’m not really a huge fan of baklava (truth be told, I’ve only had it once) but I find it really sweet, and oddly enough, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth. HOWEVER.
I felt the need to tell you your photos today were kind of fabulous.
K, that’s all. xo
It IS super sweet. Like sickly sweet sometimes!
That single piece of goodness drizzled with chocolate in the third to last picture ROCKS!! It is so incredibly beautiful and needs to be in a magazine!
I made baklava over the summer and it was so delicious. Yes, extremely time consuming and tedious, but definitely well worth the effort! I still have a piece in the fridge…may have to thaw that for little ol’ me today…
So proud of you for reducing the butter! It’s not an easy thing to do in this dish especially, seeing as how you have to brush EVERY single layer of phyllo with it, but anything that helps us to prevent any weight gain this time of year is very much appreciated, Jessica. ;-)
That looks heavenly. The hubby LOVES that stuff!
Please hold as I gather my jaw which has dropped onto to floor…
ok – OH MY GAHH… I need this in my life.
This one OBVIOUSLY caught my eye! My family would die for this :)
Every time I attempt to make Baklava it has been an epic fail. You make it look so easy though!!!!
Have you seen that trader joes has vanilla beans now?!?! It’s like 2 for 3.50 or something absurdly cheap.
Oh and this looks awesome. You got mad skillz. Virtual high-five.
This is ridiculous. I am obsessed with baklava. We used to have this GREAT Greek bakery by our house that made the most amazing baklava. Sadly, it is gone (and so am I, moving halfway across the country… perhaps that is why it closed) but here is a wonderful recipe for baklava that I can try on my own! Awesome. Now, I just have to convince myself that nuts > shoes…
I too mostly fall in the “nuts stink in dessert” camp. I’m always willing to make an exception when there is honey vanilla bean syrup!
OMG Yes. You are the best! Thanks for an awesome recipe.
I’ve always wanted to make Baklava too!! My grandma made it a few times…one of these days I will try it. And pour chocolate on top :)
I’ve always wanted to try making baklava, but it seemed so fussy. This actually looks like I could handle it. :)
And your photography in this post? I’m sold. I HAVE to make baklava.
If you need help with that pan, I am happy to come over:)
I think this is the first time that I’ve added a recipe to my bookmarks with a longer name than the one you gave it. It’s entitled “Triple Nut Cardamom & Vanilla Bean Baklava” and I want its bad romance. NOW.
Hahaha I love that name!
Oh my, oh my. I’ve never had baklava before even though the little Greek place near where I grew up always tried to push some on me.. i just never understood the fuss.. but now drizzled with chocolate? Pshh. Give me some.
Geez woman. Now that’s what I call dangerous…devilish even.
oh my god! my mouth is just watering so bad! :D
i am seriously, seriously impressed. that looks insaneeeee
I started to read your post thinking that it’s weird that you never tried to make Baklava before, it’s far more easy than Croissants in my mind, yet as much buttery and also super super sweet and decadent… your kind of food no? :)
Been part North African I grew up eating those BUT as you well pointed out those are expensive to make and that is why they are almost exclusively cooked for big events like weddings or holidays. I remember how loonnngg it is to spread butter on all the layers of phillo dough. You got patience girl, after making Croissants, impressive! I never ever tried by myself… I know I’m a lazy a… :)
I was thinking about what kind of cookies I would make for my “christmas partys hostess gifts” and this could be a great idea…! :)
It’s beautiful! Baklava is the first dessert I learned to make – I call my childhood “Growing up Baklava”
I love your courage messing with the nuts and butter ratio! I’m glad it worked out for you. It looks delightful. I’m not sure I have the time to deal with phyllo this season. I make some appetizers with it last year and it was super time consuming to brush all those layers with butter. Totally delicious, but now I have +1 baby screaming for my attention and I’m not sure it would work out. Wish I could come over and eat your baklava though!
I CANNOT believe you put chocolate on top of baklava! I’m someone who can eat the richest of desserts, but there’s something about baklava that makes it impossible to each more than a few pieces.
You are my new hero! I LOVE baklava but the store bought stuff around here is well… less than satisfactory.. Then again that may be because my mom brought some back from Greece several years ago. Yes, I hoarded it.
BTW… this is in my future…. soon.
I’ve always wanted to make baklava toooooo!! I’m so flippin excited!!!
OMG LADY!? THAT LOOKS SO FLIPPIN’ DELICIOUS! And the pics look super fantastic today :D
My family makes baklava every year at christmastime, but we have never added the vanilla beans or chocolate… That’s going to change soon :) Sounds soooo good!
My whole Aunt’s family is Greek, so Baklava has been a part of my life for quite some time…thankfully! Your rendition looks fantastic…you know, as TF would say! “FanTAStic!” I’ve never chopped up a whole vanilla bean into anything and didn’t even know it could be done! I can’t even imagine the flavor that added to the mix. Great photos!
O.M.G I’m drooling…There is no freaking way I would be able to get to the finished product. I would have finger fulls of the nut mixture, raw layers would be consumed without my permission, and that one piece removed would turn into the entire pan, which really wouldn’t be much as I would have eaten so much of the ingredients that my recipe would be a fourth the size it should be. Sit in the fridge all night? Ha! Why don’t you send some my way? I’d be happy to take it off your hands.
I actually tried to consume the raw dough… I’m happy to say it was incredibly disgusting which made it easy to stay away from!
Looks so delish! I like your addition of chocolate on top. My hubby made baklava for me once years ago. It was very good, but I have to agree with you on the expense and the time commitment. So, can I just come over and live with you through the end of the year? I know you must need someone objective to sample all the treats you are making to help with quality control! Love, love, love your blog.
Your baklava is so pretty!!
this looks amazing Jessica… you are very daring when it comes to making these desserts. i’ve been eating all the middle-eastern desserts and I haven’t yet bothered to even try making them. awesome job!
Im so happy you went picture-crazy… they are GORGEOUS!! I love baklava … especially when it’s swimming in honey!!
This is my mother in law’s life. She makes something with phyllo every.single.day. Seriously. You cannot take the Greek out of her. The amount of butter and olive oil in her house would probably even disturb you. Thankfully for my waistline we only see her a couple times a year. One of which will be this weekend. Baklava, moussaka, spanikopita…they’ll all be eaten, guaranteed :)
I think I want to live with her.
I am thinking I need that whole tray, okay? You won’t miss it, will you? It looks fantastic!
Holy S**T that looks so good and reminds me so much of when my mom used to make Baklava…believe it or not, I stopped making it because my family doesn’t like it.
Funny story…one Christmas my brother ate so much Baklava his lips swelled up from an allergy to the nuts and he had to have a shot of Benedryl. He didn’t know he was allergic to nuts!
OMG… talk about the worst thing to eat with a nut allergy. It’s ALL nuts!
and he didn’t know he had an allergy until he ate half the pan of Baklava!
I’ll be right there!! I’ll even bring the coffee. OHMYGOODNESS that looks so good! Not too difficult either. I may just have to try it too. Thanks for a great post! :-)
My dad has made baklava before. He swears it is easier than it looks but he has so much more patience than me when it comes to baking intricate things. But I guess I should give these a shot!
It really IS easier than it looks! It’s just time consuming. :)
OMGGGGGGAWD. The last two photos are soooo pretty. I WANT! Also, step-by-step pictures…such a good idea with this dish.
As a Greek girl, I can say that this looks like some VERY yummy baklava!! You did my mom and grandmother proud ;)
Ah – thank you!
Wow Jessica! You seriously outdid yourself! This looks incredible :)
This looks insanely sinful. I have had the opportunity to eat a lot of baklava, given the fact that I live in the middle east, but none so sexy as yours.! Good going there.
In wish I had an entire thing of Baklava on my counter! :-(
I’ve tried baklava once, but it was store-bought and dry. This looks much better!!
I think it is so easy for store-bought to be dry because of all the layers. You really have to keep this covered tight!
Ok not sure I have the money to fly up north right now (getting ready to move tomorrow), but I will gladly send you my address if you should feel the need to overnight me a couple of slices of that! Looks delicious! Great pictures as always :)
Oh my gosh. That is like, the most amazing thing I’ve seen all week. I would love, love, love to try making baklava but I’d really need some people to share with because there’s no way I could resist that.
Baklava is the beeeeeeest. LOVE it.