How To Make Excellent Baklava Without Disaster

We had a reader request not too long ago for some guidance on how to make the Turkish dessert Baklava. The complexity lies in the use of phyllo dough, paper thin sheets of flour that are stacked atop each other to form the bulk this dish’s culinary mass. Countless adventurous bakers have undertaken the task of making Baklava, only to be met with frustration as sheet after sheet of phyllo dough tears and falls apart.

Aww Nuts Mmm Filling

The problem with phyllo dough is that it dries very, very quickly. Fresh out of its package phyllo dough is delicate, but certainly not fragile. The trick, then, is to take that window of not-dry opportunity and stretch it as far as possible (and working effectively in that window of course).

Keep Phyllo From Drying Baklava Ready For The Oven

The first thing you want to do is prepare a large clean area to work with. You want a spot for your phyllo dough, your baking pan, two bowls of filling and a bowl of melted butter with brush. Give yourself a little breathing room so you’re not bumping one thing into another, especially around the phyllo sheets. Feel free to move the fillings aside, as they will be used the least often.

Baklava Baklava Close Up

Any questions?

Baklava Awesomeness
1 lb phyllo dough

Filling 1
3 cups crushed nuts (walnut, almonds, pistachio, or any combination)

Filling 2
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 325° and grease a 9 inch baking pan. Be sure to grease it well, as baklava will tear or separate easily.

Divy your phyllo dough into two stacks/portions and put one stack in the fridge, sealed. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on your work space and place the non-refrigerated sheets on top. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top followed by a damp towel. As you are working you will fold back the towel and top layer of plastic, remove the sheets you need, re-cover with the towel and plastic, repeat. This will slow the drying process. Work smoothly, efficiently, but calmly. If you’re feeling rushed you’re either working too fast or you need a Zanax. : – P If you get a little tearing here and there, don’t fret. When you’ve used all the dough from one stack, move on to the other.

Place two sheets of phyllo dough into your pan and lightly brush butter on top. Place another two on top of these two and butter again. Repeat until you have a total of eight sheets in your pan. Sprinkle half of each of your fillings atop, distributing evenly as possible. Begin placing more phyllo sheets, just as before until you have another eight sheets added. Sprinkle the rest of your remaining filling and continue placing the remaining phyllo sheets as before.

Take a sharp serrated knife (so it doesn’t crush or pull on the sheets) and cut into small 1-2 inch squares, but don’t cut quite all the way through (just eyeball it). My sister claims this helps your syrup absorb better.

Bake for 35 minutes, reduce to 300° and bake for another 45-60 minutes, until golden brown. While baking, throw all your syrup ingredients into a saucepan, bring to a soft boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside. When baklava is ready, remove from oven and immediately pour your syrup evenly over the baklava. Let cool completely (this will take several hours. torture). Complete the square cuts and serve cold or rewarmed. Enjoy.