I’ve always loved baklava. Layers of crisp impossibly light flaky pastry studded with a crunchy spiced nut mixture. Soaked in fragrant sweet syrup. For years satiating my cravings for baklava were easy with a quick trip to a Greek, Turkish or Lebanese bakery. I’d always imagined that assembling a baklava would be painstaking and time consuming. Handling all those fragile layers of whisper thin filo pastry. Fretting over an even crisp bake.
Sometimes the anticipation is worse than the reality. With almost a whole package of filo pastry sitting in the fridge waiting to be used following last week’s Shredded Filo Pastry Topped Pot Pies my opportunity to step outside my comfort zone had arrived. Waste not want not as my mother used to say. With crisp freshly roasted nuts making an early debut at the markets, and the lemon season well and truly in full swing, a baklava was definitely in the offing.
This first attempt was surprisingly therapeutic. An easy rhythm of buttering and layering of filo sheets, interrupted every now and then with a scattering of heady lemon and cardamom spiced nuts Assembled in less than twenty minutes, al fresco in the sunshine of my back deck this afternoon. Baked to crisp and golden perfection before being drenched in a luscious gin spiked syrup. The result? Layers of irresistibly decadent sweetness and crunch. A new and most welcome addition to my Autumn baking repertoire.
Pistachio and Walnut Baklava With Lemon and Cardamom
Makes 18 pieces
For The Baklava
150g unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped
150g unsalted walnuts,
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 x 375g packet filo pastr, completely thawed if frozen (l use Antoniou brand from the chiller section of the supermarket or delicatessen)
200g (about 1 cup) butter, melted
For The Lemon Syrup
200g caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
30ml gin (optional)
PREHEAT oven to 170 C. Butter a 20cm x 20cm baking dish.
PLACE the pistachios, walnuts, caster sugar, cardamom and lemon zest into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until nuts are coarsely chopped. Set aside.
UNROLL filo and cut the entire stack of pastry to fit the base of the baking dish. Discard any trimmings. A 375 packet of Antoniou brand filo contains approximately 20 sheets. Halving the stack provides 40 sheets that will fit a 20cm x 20cm dish nicely. I use about 28 sheets of filo to make my baklava depending on how generously I scatter the filling between layers. Any unused filo pastry sheets should be rolled up and sealed tightly back into a plastic bag, placed back in the packet and returned to the refrigerator as soon as you have finished using it.
COVER stack of filo sheets with a damp cloth while assembling the baklava, to prevent them from drying out.
PLACE four sheets of filo into the bottom of the baking dish, brushing lightly with butter between each layer.
SPRINKLE 2 ttablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the buttered sheets.
TAKE another two sheets of filo pastry, place over the nut mixture brushing each sheet lightly with butter as you work.
REPEAT layering two sheets of buttered filo to one layer of nut mixture until all the filling has been used. The top layer should be 6 sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered.
USING a sharp knife, cut baklava (all the way through to the bottom of the dish) into nine squares. Slice each square diagonally to make 18 triangles. pour over any remaining butter
BAKE in preheated 170 C oven for 30 -40 minutes, until golden and crisp.
WHIlLE baklava is baking, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir in lemon juice and zest, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the syrup has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in gin if using.
REMOVE the baklava from the oven and immediately spoon the syrup over it. Let cool completely before serving. Store at room temperature for up to a week in an air tight container (if it lasts that long).