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party at peabody’s!

Recipe: baklava

Hey everyone, my favorite hockey-playing baker in the whole world just moved into her New House! Not only did Peabody and Co. buy a fancay new abode, but she is throwing a virtual housewarming party potluck – and we are all invited! Sweeeeet.

And I do mean sweeeeet. If you follow Peabody’s culinary forays, you know she bakes tons of beautiful pastries. Of late she has dazzled us with pumpkin, ginger, and all things that make us think autumn. Well, I decided to bring a dessert that is easy to share. It echoes those autumny sentiments as well as indulging in the decadence of delicate layers of flaky pastry: baklava. I hope she likes it.


the filling: sugar, cinnamon, walnuts

I learned to make baklava in fourth grade, if you can believe it. My local 4-H leaders included a chef who taught us to make baklava! I didn’t actually remember the recipe, but I learned the tricks to handling phyllo dough so that when I made baklava in college, it was a cinch.

phyllo sheets

The trick is to first make sure you defrost it properly, either 24 hours in the refrigerator or several hours at room temperature. Next, it is important to keep the sheets covered with a damp towel whenever you are not removing a sheet. Be patient and gentle with the thin sheets of dough. And lastly, remember that with baklava, a few tears or folds will be barely noticeable.

keep a damp towel over the stack

I generally prefer to work with my phyllo sheets on a marble board. Most of the packages I buy come in full sheets. That’s not a big deal – each sheet represents two layers of phyllo and I just brush one half with butter, fold the other half over, and brush the top of that half with butter… two sheets. They fit into a 9×13 baking dish just fine. Don’t worry over the rounded corners if you have them, because people will eat those too.

work quickly and brush with butter

The filling is simply chopped walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon mixed together. When spreading the filling, it will look incredibly scant and you may worry that there isn’t enough. Trust me, it’s fine because there are about a thousand layers of phyllo and filling. It’s quite a lot, really.

sprinkle the filling between phyllo layers

At the start and end of the baklava assembly, there are 8 layers of phyllo to be stacked – top and bottom. Probably the only place you might care about using a good (i.e. not torn) sheet is on the very top. Once that is done, find your sharpest knife in the kitchen and slice the baklava into the sizes you want to serve. Be sure to cut all the way through the bottom layers or they will be pesky to deal with later when serving. I cut mine into 16 rectangles and then cut those rectangles into 32 diamonds. It helps to hold the top layers of phyllo down with your fingers because they like to drag.

use a sharp knife

The baklava bakes for over an hour. While that is in the oven, you can get the syrup ready. Don’t look at the picture below. I screwed it up because I didn’t read the recipe, just the ingredients. You are supposed to boil the sugar, water, lemon and orange peels, and cinnamon stick for 15 minutes and then add honey, but I added the honey and heck – was too lazy to try again. It turned out fine, but I do prefer the proper method to my screw up method.

don’t do this, follow the recipe instructions

When I was in graduate school, I baked a lot because it was a stress reliever and well… there was a lot of stress. I always brought batches of cookies, whole cakes, or other sweets in for the geology department. In my department was a geophysicist from Syria – one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Muawia would sample each treat and grade me on the overall quality. The first time I brought baklava to a party, he gave me an A- and said in a stern Syrian accent, “too sweet!” The next time I made baklava I was terrified of making it too sweet, so I reduced the sugar and Muawia’s verdict, “A+”. I know the recipe is now correct, because it has Muawia’s stamp of approval. Amazing what you learn in grad school.

pour the syrup as soon as the pan come out of the oven

Yes, be sure to pour the syrup over the baklava when it is hot. I love the sound, smell, and vision of the sizzling syrup as it gets sucked into the layers of the pastry. Spread it evenly over the whole pan. It’s easy enough to leave everything in the pan and bring it as is. I prefer to put each piece in a dessert paper ruffle (like muffin papers) if it isn’t an intimate gathering – and it looks like Peabody invited the WHOLE food blogging community to this shindig!

Happy Housewarming, Peabody. I see you have already made good use of the kitchen :)

sprinkled with ground pistachios

[print recipe]
Muawia approved

1 lb. phyllo pastry, thawed
1 cup butter, melted
4 cups walnuts (first measured, then fine chopped)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
2-inch slice of lemon peel
2-inch slice of orange peel
3/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 300°F (I don’t preheat until I’m almost done with the assembly). Brush bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with butter. Layer phyllo then butter so that you have 8 sheets/layers. If your sheets are twice the size of the pan, then butter one half, fold the sheet over the buttered half and butter the top half. That counts as two layers. Mix the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon together. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of mixture over the phyllo in the pan. Set down two layers of phyllo/butter. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of mixture. Repeat two layers of phyllo/butter and 1/3 cup of mixture until you finish with 8 layers of phyllo/butter on top. Cut slices in the pan with a sharp knife – either diamonds or squares/rectangles. Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the water, sugar, peels and cinnamon stick for 15 minutes. Add the honey (careful that it doesn’t boil over) and let boil for 2 more minutes. When baklava is done, pour the syrup over the hot pan. Cool. Serve.

47 nibbles at “party at peabody’s!”

  1. Nicisme says:

    You make it look so easy!
    I like the way you can see all the layers in that last photo, and the pistachios add glorious colour.

  2. kate says:

    this looks like a pros job !!! simply perfect ! i like how u ‘ve very nicely omitted using ghee ( clarified butter which is traditionally used in these) its bloody fattening !!! these really look too good to eat ! Bravo !!!!

  3. Katie says:

    Beautiful! i love baklava!

  4. Liz says:

    That is absolutely gorgeous. I’m getting all sorts of fabulous food ideas from reading your blog! I love cooking, but don’t have the patience or technique to make the gorgeous food that you do.

  5. peabody says:

    YAY! I love Baklava, and yours is absolutely stunning.Thanks so much for making it for the party!

  6. Hillary says:

    That is some gorgeous baklava! Love all the pistachio pieces on there. Great dessert to bring to the party!

  7. Nicole says:

    Wow, I’m suddenly craving baklava … might have to walk down the street after class and get a piece!

  8. Amy says:

    Ooooo yummy! It’s beautiful! The ground pistachios are so green!

  9. Mercedes says:

    I hate to tell you, but Mu’awia would not approve of the honey in this recipe. Syrian baklava always uses only sugar and water in the syrup. The Greeks use honey, which the Arabs eschew because it makes the baklava too heavy and cloying. Nonetheless, it looks beautiful, and I’m sure it’s delicious.

  10. Anh says:

    Baklava is, I confess, something I can never say no to. I have real problem controlling my craving for it. Yours looks so professionally done! Great job!

  11. jenyu says:

    Nicisme – thanks!

    Kate – yeah, I don’t typically bother with ghee, because I’m lazy ;)

    Katie – great! I hope you’ll give this a try.

    Liz – if you come out to visit, maybe you won’t have to make it yourself – hee hee!

    Peabody – so glad you like baklava and I wouldn’t miss your party for the world :)

    Hillary – thanks, hope to see you “there”.

    Nic – that’d would be a good reward to start your break. Have fun with Heather.

    Amy – i’ll admit that I did pick out the greener looking pistachios before grinding them!

    Mercedes – Muawia isn’t so much a purist as someone who loves to eat, but it’s interesting you point out the differences – I’ll have to ask him about it next time we meet :)

    Anh – seriously, anyone who makes baklava can’t avoid having it come out looking so good. It’s just the nature of the dessert, don’t you think? I too have to give most of it away for fear of eating it all myself! :)

  12. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I have to say this is food porn. :)

  13. jenyu says:

    Patricia – oh, but it’s delicious food porn ;)

  14. Culinary Concoctions by Peabody » Come On In….. says:

    […] photos. And speaking of great recipes, Jen(of Use Real Butter) brings us this gorgeous looking Baklava. It surely is a glorious […]

  15. Kevin says:

    Amazing looking baklava! Baklava always sounds so intimidating to make but it looks so good. Bookmarked.

  16. Gretchen Noelle says:

    This sounds delicious! I have never been brave enough to make my own baklava! Always love your photos – beautiful!

  17. jenyu says:

    Kevin – with your culinary skills, I think you can conquer this one – no problem. I’m so impressed with everything you’re cooking on your blog!

    Gretchen – give it a try! It’s soooo good and just requires a little patience with the phyllo dough :)

  18. Peter says:

    There are many “takes” on baklava and yours looks and sounds as good as any that I saw in Istanbul (Turkey) last year.

    Congrats, I’d give it and A+ too!

  19. jenyu says:

    Peter – I’m jealous you went to Istanbul! Thanks :)

  20. Canan says:

    Hello! I’m Canan from Istanbul, Turkey.
    Baklava is a special dessert in Turkey.
    We make it every holidays/hols (?).
    And I loved your site.
    Bye :)

  21. jenyu says:

    Canan – thanks!

  22. Natasha says:

    I needed a special greek themed dessert and a friend sent me to your site for a recipe. Made it last night– tastes delicious! All your pictures made the process very simple– I had never worked with phyllo dough before. Thanks!

  23. jenyu says:

    Natasha – I’m thrilled that you made it! Congrats!

  24. Marija says:

    I have made it and it’s really great! The taste is authentic, as I ate when I went to Bosnia. Thanks for sharing!

  25. jenyu says:

    Marija – you’re very welcome!

  26. renaye says:

    wicked. i only know how to make the baklava without the syrup. now i know. thank u!! can already imagine the tickly sweetly taste in my mouth.

  27. jenyu says:

    Renaye – oh, I think you’ll like it even more with the syrup. Makes everything soooo wonderfully aromatic and sweet.

  28. neringa says:

    I’m impressed!!!!!!!!!!!!! i fell in love with your blog and recipes, Dear Jenyu.i just find your blog by the way by accident!! and i can say that u r amazing!!!!!!!!!!
    p.s. soon my birthday so for dessert i already made your “chocolate bags” :D thank U so much !!!!
    now i’m coming here everyday. good luck i’ll wait very much for your new really great ideas ! Thanks, u made me very happy :)

  29. jenyu says:

    Neringa – thank you. I’m glad you are finding recipes to try!

  30. neringa says:

    Hey Jenyu, it’s me Neringa again :) sorry for disturbing i think i’m starting to make U nervous with my curious, but i just want to ask u about knifes! i saw that you are using KYOCERA , so can you say something about that?
    because soon i want to buy really good knife and i have no idea wich one.. and what do you think about DAMASCUS STEEL?

  31. jenyu says:

    Neringa – maybe you should try using email if the topic isn’t related to the post. I like my Kyocera knife very much, but I don’t/can’t use it for everything. I know zip about Damascus Steel. Sorry.

  32. Desi says:

    This looks delicious. I’m curious- what is the difference you noticed in the timing of adding the honey to the syrup? I’ve seen several recipes direct boiling them together, including Mark Bittman’s and I tend to trust him. Just curious, as I’m making this tomorrow.

  33. jenyu says:

    Desi – Well, when I add the honey at the end, it bubbles up and sputters – which I love. Other than that… Not sure. I think on a basic level it doesn’t matter, but these were the instructions per the recipe in my book.

  34. » Changing Face: says:

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  35. Sandra says:

    Hi Jen,

    I was planning on making baklava tonight for a party I’m going to tomorrow night. Part of the reason is that I’ve never attempted it before, but also because I remembered seeing it on urb and it looked awesome, and I trust your recipes completely :) I was just wondering if there are any changes I should make in regards to altitude (I’m at sea level, in MD). Or, would I be able to raise the temp and bake for a shorter period of time and still get the same results? Also, how would you recommend storing it overnight?

    Sorry for the sudden bombardment of questions! They all occured to me last night when I was trying to time everything.


  36. jenyu says:

    Sandra – no changes necessary – it works the same at sea level as at elevation. Don’t raise the temp, you might just burn it :) Overnight storage – in an airtight container at room temp should work just fine. Good luck!

  37. Food Monger says:

    I followed this recipe this past weekend, and it was DELICIOUS. (I’m a first timer). I bought shelled walnuts and had to chop it myself, which became tedious, so I ended up putting it in the coffee grinder, so there were some chunks but mostly powder =/ Not sure if that was alright.

    Even so, delicious recipe!

  38. jenyu says:

    Food Monger – I think it’s probably fine and really a matter of preference :)

  39. melissa says:

    Hi Jen!

    Made a small variation to your recipe – instead of walnuts I used pistachio – took out half the amount of cinnamon and added in about 5 pods of cardamon (it was a guestimate..I hope I added enough cardamon) and added a tsp of lemon juice to the syrup. Its baking in the oven now and smells wonderful..can’t wait to try it!

  40. Gossamer says:

    Hi Jen,

    Like the previous poster, I used pistachio and…what a coincidence…used cardamon as well. It was a HUGE hit at today’s gathering. Thank you for posting such a delicious dessert.

  41. Bing Cherry Baklava says:

    […] honey syrup poured over the top. If you want a stellar recipe for the classic kind, check out this amazing version. As this was my first baklava attempt, I decreased the amount of layers of phyllo between […]

  42. pooja says:

    Hi Jen

    Any suggestions on home made phyllo sheets? we dont get them in india, and i dont know which internet version to trust :(


  43. jenyu says:

    pooja – sorry, I really don’t know of a good recipe for homemade phyllo. It’s quite involved. Perhaps check some of the blogs on my blog list (blogolicious)? Best of luck.

  44. Gnezda od baklave « Palachinka na srpskom says:

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  45. Meg says:

    Thank you so much for this fantastic recipe! I made it for a cooking party I had with friends and won first place! The prize was a golden nutcracker since we were all supposed to make something with nuts :) Thank you for sharing such a delicious recipe with us, everyone is so happy I found your blog <3

  46. Reshmy Kurian says:

    Pooja, I live in Mumbai, India and just wanted to let you know that the Phyllo pastry is available at almost all the natures Basket (Goodrej) stores. I often buy it and use it for baklava and other random stuff. Haiko in Powai (Mumbai) stores them sometimes too. Infact I am sure that other large supermarkets in Mumbai/Delhi must be storing these as well.

  47. Fahima G says:

    Made the baklava awesome recipe thanks. Just replaced the walnuts with 2 cups pistachios/2 cups cashew nuts. Double the amount of syrup and used maple syrup to replace honey.

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