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rolled, not layered

Recipe: pistachio rolled baklava

I’ve been so wrapped up with work the past few weeks that I kept missing sunsets and sunrises, except to notice that I missed them. While I walked Kaweah Monday evening, I had one eye on the dog and another eye on the sky. A few clouds overhead began to tint gold as we walked back to the house and I got antsy. Potentially good colors. “Come on, little girl. We need to get moving.” But Kaweah was intent on sniffing every single twig, pine cone, and rock for at least ten seconds apiece. I glanced up and noted that the yellow had become intense with hints of orange. Looking further east, the clouds were orange and pink. I placed my hand on Kaweah’s side and tried gently guiding her in the direction of the house only to have her take interest in the next rock. Determined not to miss yet another sunset, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her across the yard into the house. “I’ll make it up to you with unlimited sniffing tomorrow,” I said, patting her belly as I set her down at the door.


i got my sunset



It’s easy to get sucked into work. Too easy. And that usually comes at the expense of other things. I got together with a bunch of girlfriends for a potluck this past weekend and realized that I hadn’t seen most of them in over a year. But I’m so glad I went because it was nice to just chill out, cook, and talk. I watched my friend’s son playing in the yard while we adults ate lunch on the patio. That carefree kind of play. I think carefree play has been missing from my life these days. Gotta fix that.

the joys of sweet youth



The dish I brought to the potluck was a dessert. Actually, I brought two desserts – some huckleberry ice cream and baklava. Baklava, I can make in my sleep. I’ve been making it since fourth grade which is… a long time. This time, the same old baklava just didn’t appeal to me, so I tried to mix it up a little.

butter, phyllo dough, sugar, pistachios, orange blossom water, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, extra pistachios

place the pistachios, spices, sugar, and orange blossom water in a food processor

pulse it to coarse sand texture



Pistachios cost much more than walnuts, but they are worth it. They are treasured for the gorgeous green color as much as for the flavor. I used organic raw unsalted pistachios to get the best results and added cardamom, nutmeg, and orange blossom water to the usual cinnamon. The motivation was that these additional flavors would complement the pistachios.

keep the phyllo sheets under a damp towel

brush butter on one half of a sheet

fold the sheet in half and butter the top



Working with four layers of phyllo (two full sheets, folded in half with butter between each layer) seemed to be the right amount of dough. If you wind up using half sheets, then just butter and stack four sheets. I wanted to make rolls because it’s different from the usual cut diamonds… I like variety. My first attempt at this recipe didn’t seem to have enough pistachio filling or oomph in flavor (it was too subtle), so I doubled the spices and then doubled the filling per roll.

sprinkle 1/3 cup of filling along one edge

roll it up tightly like a rug

slice the log

arrange on a buttered baking dish

brush with butter before baking



The drawback of making rolled baklava is that it is messier and a little more time consuming than layering everything in the baking dish. The nice part about making rolled baklava is that it bakes for far less time than the layered baklava. Of course, this means you can’t go and do other things while it bakes because you need to make the soaking syrup such that it is ready when the baklava come out of the oven.

sugar, cinnamon stick, honey, orange, lemon, orange blossom water

boil the sugar, water, lemon and orange peels, and cinnamon stick together for 15 minutes

add the honey



Try to let the syrup cool a few minutes (it will still be hot) before adding the orange blossom water. I had misgivings about adding it right as the syrup came off the heat, but every recipe I researched added at this stage. The orange blossom water just seemed to evaporate the second it came into contact with the hot syrup, which makes total sense. As the steam rose up from the saucepan (much in the way it would in a Harry Potter film), I waved it toward my nose and it smelled heavily of orange blossom water. I wondered if all that flavor released into the atmosphere instead of going into my baklava.

stir in the orange blossom water

pour the syrup over the hot baklava

pulverize the extra pistachios



For best results, you ought to pour the syrup over the baklava when it comes out of the oven. It will soak up the syrup more easily when everything is hot. After you pour the syrup, it will look like there is way too much and the whole pan is sitting in a pool of sugar. Give it a few minutes and the rolls will soak up all of that flavor goodness. Meanwhile, crush (use a mortar and pestle or just blitz it in the food processor) the extra pistachios for garnish. I like to reserve the greenest, skinned pistachios for this step. When the baklava have cooled, sprinkle some ground pistachios on top. Friends, neighbors, and husband all gave them a thumbs up, but who doesn’t love flaky pastry?! I find them far easier to eat than my layered version – dangerously so. And my friend’s adorable little boy left me a message, “I love them, Jen! I love those real crispy things!” which makes all of the effort TOTALLY worth it.

rolled, not layered

goes beautifully with tea



Pistachio Rolled Baklava
[print recipe]
based on this technique

2 cups raw (and unsalted) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsps orange blossom water
1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed
8 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup raw (and unsalted), skinless pistachios, crushed or food processed into a fine crumb

soaking syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 2-inch slices of lemon peel
2 2-inch slices of orange peel
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp orange blossom water

Make the rolls: Place 2 cups of the raw and unsalted shelled pistachios in the bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water. Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Unwrap the phyllo dough and unroll so the sheets lie flat. They should be 13×17 inches. Cover with a damp cloth. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Set one sheet of phyllo dough on a large clean work surface and brush half of the sheet (half by the short axis) with butter. Fold the unbuttered half over the buttered half, then brush butter over the top of the unbuttered half. Stack a second sheet of phyllo dough over the buttered folded sheet (line up the corners). Brush butter over the half of the sheet that rests on the stack of phyllo, fold the unbuttered half over the buttered half, then brush the top of the stack with more butter. You should have four layers of phyllo dough. Note: If you purchased half sheets, then just layer four half sheets with butter brushed between each sheet.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup of pistachio filling along the long edge of the dough stack leaving a little margin at the ends. From the pistachio end, tightly roll the dough up like a carpet so the pistachio filling is in the center of the roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into equal-sized pieces (I cut 5 pieces per roll and they were just over 2.25 inches long). Arrange the pieces in the baking dish. Repeat until the baking dish is full. Brush butter over the baklava rolls and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Make the syrup: While the baklava is baking, combine the sugar, cinnamon stick, lemon peel, orange peel, and water in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 15 minutes. Stir the honey into the sugar syrup and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat. Let cool a few minutes before stirring in the orange blossom water. Remove the peels and cinnamon stick.

Finish the baklava: Have the syrup ready when the baklava comes out of the oven. While the baklava is still hot, pour the syrup over the pastries. Let the baklava cool completely (the syrup will pool at first, then the pastries will soak up the syrup). Sprinkle the crushed pistachio over the baklava. Makes approximately 35.


more goodness from the use real butter archives

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16 nibbles at “rolled, not layered”

  1. irenalana says:

    In my country, baklava is the national cake but is only made from walnuts, fillo dough is layered one above other and then cut to rhomboids or triangles. Your baklava looks very nice but since in my country is very hard to find unsalted pistachios I’ll have to try it out with walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds

  2. Kristin says:

    Ooh! I’ve never made rolled baklava. I love the look….and the cardamom…and the pistachios…

  3. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    This is all kinds of awesome!!

  4. Phyllis says:

    I hope you don’t mind, but would you please tell me what brand of phyllo dough you use. I’ve purchased phyllo dough from Whole Foods and it just fell flat, no getting crispy. Perhaps I bought the wrong brand, or maybe it was old. I’ve never failed when I used the same products as you in the recipe. I would really like to try this one!

  5. Beth says:

    Oh, my favorite all-time dessert! What a process, but worth every bite I’m sure.

  6. marlene says:

    I can’t believe it……yesterday I made pistacio, layered baklava and cut it into triangles……it was yummy.
    I am so EXCITED to make your rolled baklava.
    It looks beautiful and different from the triangles, squares, and rhomboids that we are used to seeing.
    I did research on Baklava and found that Turkish baklava does not use honey in the syrup
    but middle eastern and greek baklava always uses honey in the syrup.
    Next time I make baklava, I will try your tolled recipe. Great for christmas gifts.
    I love the two rolls together………LOVE> LOVE> LOVE> your blog!!!!!!

  7. Cindi says:

    Oh yum! They look so good! And I’m impressed ~ making baklava since 4th grade? You were destined to do this.
    And you and I have similar feelings about sunrises and sunsets~~ I hate to miss a good one. I realized when I was walking Kizzie last evening as the sun was setting I didn’t even have my phone with me to grab a shot. She was enjoying her time outside so much I just took pictures in my mind… :)

  8. Pey-Lih says:

    Astounding! YOu make it look so easy, although I suspect rolling it up is not such an easy task. These would make beautiful and delicious dessert for my women rowing club in December. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  9. Marigene says:

    OMG, these look awesomely delicious! I can’t wait to try them.

  10. jill says:

    Those look delicious! Pistachios are a wonderful nut.

  11. anna @ annamayeveryday says:

    I just love baklava and used to make it more but my daughter is allergic to nuts so I rarely make it now. Yours looks so good I am tempted though!

  12. Mary @ Fit and Fed says:

    Making baklava since 4th grade? Such a master! Huckleberry ice cream sounds really good, too. The boy with the toy horse is really sweet….

  13. Magda says:

    In Greece we call these Saragli. They’re my favorite type of baklava, and the ones I learned how to make by my grandmother. Love your version, looks fantastic!

  14. Lisa @ Je suis alimentageuse says:

    Poor Kaweah getting her sniffing time cut hahah. Just kidding. I’m glad you got to enjoy your sunset, it’s true, we do need more carefree play in the day. I’ll try to book that into my schedule somewhere haha! Your baklava looks lovely, it reminds me of my indulgent days in Ottawa whenever I would grab a shawarma sandwich for lunch and think, Oh. I think I need a baklava to go as well =)

    Lovely photos as always, Jen.
    <3 Lisa

  15. jenyu says:

    irenalana – I’ve always had them the way your country makes them, but on occasion I will get to eat the rolled ones with pistachios. They are sooo good (both ways!) :)

    Phyllis – absolutely. I use the Safeway brand of phyllo dough. I’ve actually tried using an organic brand that I bought at Whole Foods and they ALL STUCK TOGETHER! Made me so angry and it’s such a waste of food and money. The Safeway brand, while not organic, at least doesn’t stick together like crazy and the sheets are much easier to work with. Good luck!

    marlene – yes, lots of variations! I kinda love the variety :)

    Cindi – that’s the best way to enjoy it, really :) <3

    Mary – Thank you, he is a VERY sweet and wonderful little boy. My friends are incredible parents :)

    Magda – how wonderful! I feel like these are now “grandma” approved <3

    Lisa – mmmm, shawarma sandwich! :)

  16. lyn says:

    As I am fighting cancer, I am always looking for different was to eat healthy foods. Nuts and honey are on the list so baklava is a natural health food ( I actually forgot about it). Haven’t tried it with pistashios. But I will now! and sooo easy! I have to eat about 5 times a day and this makes a very good snack food. Thanks for sharing. Lyn

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