Baklava is a Greek dessert, traditionally made with sugar and honey. Phyllo (or “fillo” in the Anglicized spelling) is the Greek pastry. Now, I suppose one could make phyllo dough oneself, but it would be really really hard to roll it so thin without¬†mechanical help, so I buy mine. It’s usually in the freezer case of your average grocery store. Some stores don’t carry it, but these days I can usually find it even at Wal Mart. If you do have a bit of trouble, try the more specialty kinds of stores and natural foods stores, like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. This recipe is worth the trouble of finding the ingredients, because once you have them it isn’t too much work for a truly delicious result. In fact, this is one of Sean’s all-time favorites.

Different versions of baklava use different types of nuts. Apparently, many people use pistachios, but that isn’t my wavelength. It does make for an interestingly green filling if you do, though! However, I recommend a blend of walnuts and almonds, as written here. It’s a nice combination of flavors, even if it isn’t so green :D Without further ado … baklava!

Natural Sugar Baklava

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground walnuts (about 2.5 cups before grinding)
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds (scant 1/2 cup before grinding)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup baking stevia (I hear that date sugar would work well, too, but I haven’t tried that yet)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest from 1 largeish lemon
  • 1 lb phyllo pastry sheets
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl combine the ground walnuts, ground almonds, lemon zest, ground cloves, cinnamon, and baking stevia (or date sugar). Mix well.

2. Butter a 9×13 baking dish (I just use my pastry brush and the melted butter and give it a coating). Layer about 10 sheets of phyllo dough, buttering the top of every other one with a pastry brush. Fold the edges inward if you need to to make the pieces of phyllo dough fit (different brands make different dimensions of dough). Once this layer of dough is assembled spread 1/3 of the nut filling over the dough. Layer about 5 more of the sheets of phyllo dough, buttering every other one, over this. Put another third of the filling down and repeat. Top the final layer of filling with five or so more buttered and layered phyllo dough sheets.

3. Cut the assembled baklava into diamond shapes. This is most easily done with a small sharp knife. Start by making diagonal cuts about 1.5″ apart across the pan all in one direction, then do the same again from the other corner. Drizzle any melted butter you didn’t use assembling the baklava over the pan once it is cut into diamonds. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

4. While the pan is baking, put the water, brown rice syrup, honey, vanilla, lemon juice, and whole cloves into a small sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil. Cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until syrupy, stirring frequently. Keep an eye on this–it boils over really easily and it is a horribly sticky mess to clean off of the stove if it does.

5. When the baklava comes out of the oven, remove the cloves from the syrup and then pour the syrup evenly over the whole pan. Use it all, even though it will seem like a lot. Let the whole thing cool before serving (otherwise it will just come apart and be way too sticky). Enjoy!