Easy Greek Baklava
This buttery crispy syrupy nutty baklava dessert is easy to make and double for a larger batch. This homemade baklava recipe is the best baklava recipe I have ever made or followed as a recipe - it’s a rendition of a Delish recipe that simplifies the whole process and makes just the perfect amount. Many recipes claim to be uncomplicated and delicious but this one is the real deal. It is a recipe that can easily be adjusted to your taste from the nuts you use to the spices and even what citrus you choose to flavor it with. My mom’s recipe makes enough to feed a village and I have always wanted to pair her recipe down and this is the best way to do it - simplified small batch baklava that is nutty, buttery, crispy, syrupy in every single bite! That being said this recipe is easy to double as I mentioned above if you would like to make enough to feed a crowd! I love how simple it is to make and I am pretty sure you will too. Whats not to love about layers of phyllo dough (filo dough) interspersed with spiced syrupy nuts. This is a “no counting calories or pieces you have eaten” kind of recipe - just enjoy it!
What is baklava?
Baklava is a dessert made with layers of thin phyllo dough brushed with butter and a flavorful nut mixture. It’s baked and then drenched in a honey syrup. What is the difference between Turkish baklava and greek style baklava? All baklava recipes have their similarities - the biggest difference is what nuts you use in your recipe. Most often Greek baklava recipes use honey, walnuts and cinnamon in their baklava - we are a walnut loving people! Many Turkish recipes use pistachios, sugar syrup and various spices and often don’t include honey in the syrup like many Greek recipes. In this recipe I used my favorite blend of nuts for baklava - being pistachios, almonds and walnuts and I love mine with lemon juice and not just cinnamon but a pinch of clove.
What Nuts to Use in Baklava
The nut mixture in baklava recipes differ between regions as I mentioned above but most recipe call for these four possible nuts options: Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds. Really and truly you can make baklava your own by using whatever nuts you prefer - or go by what’s on sale when you decide to make it.
Ingredients For This Tasty baklava
- Phyllo Pastry - Storebought pastry sheets is what I use - from frozen and thawed in the fridge. you will be trimming the sheets to fit the pan
- Honey - all you need is 1-2 tablespoons with the max being 1/4 cup honey. The type of honey you use will translate its flavour into the baklava so choose one you love
- Nuts - I like to use a combination of nuts for my baklava - almonds, pistachios and walnuts - feel free to use one or all three of them - you will need 3 cups of nuts for this recipe
- Butter - I use unsalted and try to use a very good quality one since the flavour is quite pronounced
- Lemon - this is optional to flavour the syrup - I love to use the peel in the syrup and a little bit of lemon juice for a wonderful flavour - feel free to use orange as well or instead of
- Spices - I like to use ground cinnamon, a touch of ground clove and some salt - feel free to spice up the nuts with whatever spices you prefer - some recipes call for a bit of cardamon which is lovely - use what you like and how much you like as well
- Additional Options - for an even more flavourful syrup try infusing it with some rose water or orange blossom water - no more than ½ teaspoon Is needed
How to Make Baklava - Simple Step by Step
- Prepare Syrup - Simply simmer water, sugar and lemon zest until sugar is dissolved and has thickened then off the heat stir in the honey and lemon juice. Allow to cool and remove lemon peel before pouring over baklava
- Prepare Nuts - prepare the almond, pistachio walnut mixture by placing all the nuts and spices into a food processor and pulse until finely minced but not ground
- Prepare Phyllo - unwrap thawed phyllo and trim 18 sheets of phyllo to fit into your pan - I use the base of it and a sharp knife to run along it cutting them all at the same time. Once the pieces are cut cover them with a barely damp towel and remove sheet by sheet so they don’t dry out
- Assemble - line pan with parchment and grease with layer of melted butter then layer 5 sheets of phyllo brushing lightly with butter in-between each sheet, followed by ⅓ of the nut mixture and a drizzle of butter, then 4 sheets of buttered phyllo repeating twice more with remaining nuts layering 4 sheets of phyllo in-between then finishing off with 5 sheets for the top layers. (5-4-4-5 + 1/3 cup nuts in between)
- Bake and Pour syrup over - Slice the baklava unbaked with a very sharp knife - cutting almost through to the bottom then transfer to oven and bake until golden. Remove from oven when done then gently pour cool syrup over hot baklava - allow to cool completely and set then slice all the way through and enjoy.
Storage, Make Ahead & Freezing
Can baklava be stored at room temperature? It can but for no longer than a day then transferring it to the fridge is strongly recommended. Leftover baklava can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week or more if it lasts that long. Technically it can last up to two weeks in a well sealed container in the fridge but in our household it won’t last past a couple day - especially this size.
You can make the syrup for the baklava and store it in a sealed container in the fridge up to 1 day ahead. You can prepare the nuts and store in a sealed container up to 1-2 days ahead. Make sure to thaw your phyllo dough in the fridge - I usually do that overnight. I don’t like thawing it out on the countertop cause I find sometimes the edges get a bit soft and gummy from the moisture. You can also make the whole thing ahead of time and place it in the fridge assembled up to a day ahead or freeze it unbaked for up to 3-4 months - instructions on how to do this below.
Can Baklava be frozen? It sure can. It can be frozen before its baked after its assembled or after its baked and cooled
- BEFORE BAKING - Make sure to line your baking pan with parchment paper or foil before making baklava as stated in recipe. Once your have assembled the baklava, place the pan in the freezer for several hours to freeze it completely. Lift it out of the pan using the foil or parchment lining. Then, wrap the entire dessert in several layers of plastic wrap. Place back into the pan and into the freezer for up to 3-4 months. To thaw, remove the plastic wrap, place the baklava back in the pan, and cover the pan with foil. Place in the refrigerator for one day and then let rest at room temperature for an hour before cutting and baking. Then make syrup and bake as directed pouring syrup over it after its baked.
- AFTER BAKING - make sure its complete cool after baking then either portion it out or freeze the whole pan of it. Wrap tightly wth a couple layers of plastic wrap then foil and I like to place the pieces or the whole thing in a freezer bag. It will keep frozen for up to 4 months. To thaw simply transfer baklava to fridge and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight.
Tips for making The Best Baklava
- Use high quality ingredients for making your baklava - you definilty can smell the aroma and taste the butter in good blakalva so make sure to use a high quality delicious butter
- That goes for the nuts too make sure you use fresh nuts not stale - taste to check an see if they taste fresh because this will translate into the final taste of the dessert
- Don’t use too much butter when brushing over the phyllo slices - light with the hand as we say - this will ensure cripy flaky phyllo and not overly drenched or soggy
- Thaw phyllo in the fridge overnight as opposed to on the counter for best results - this will keep the phyllo from getting too much condensation and moisture into it resulting in sticky gummy phyllo
- Keep phyllo covered and remove sheet by sheet so that the sheets do not dry out
- Get all of your ingredients ready before you pull out the filo. Chop, mix, blend etc. Have everything ready to go, then unroll the amount of fillo you need – keeping the rest under the moist towel.
What do I do with my extra phyllo sheets or scraps?
- YOU CAN FREEZE IT AGAIN – you can store your leftover phyllo/filo dough in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. Don’t forget to take it out a few hours or overnight in the fridge to thaw before you need it again.
- YOU CAN BAKE IT - yeah you read that right - we use scraps of phyllo dough to make a phyllo cake - it is pretty genius and so delicious. It is baked and dried out then crumbled and used in a cake batter that is infused with orange then after its baked its soaked in a delicious syrup. It is called Greek Orange Phyllo Cake (Portokalopita)
What to Serve Baklava With?
I love my baklava with hot coffee or tea and some water for the sweetness - sounds pretty boring I know but baklava is sweet and rich and that is all I need with my slice - but bare in mind I don’t have a real sweet tooth. Many love to enjoy baklava with ice cream and extra drizzles of honey and sprinkles of nuts - feel free to do that for an even more indulgent and delicious dessert. Some regions serves their baklava topped with kaymak (similar to clotted cream) - which also sounds delicious. There is really no rules - feel free to enjoy this as snack alone or as an indulgent dessert with a hot beverage and ice cream.
More Sweet Treats You Will Love:
- 18 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
For the Syrup
- ¾ cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest or lemon peel
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
For the Filling
- 3 cups shelled raw mixed nuts (My go to combo is almonds walnuts and pistachios)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
Prepare the Honey Syrup
- In a small or medium saucepan, bring ¾ cup of the sugar and ¾ cup water and lemon peel to a low boil or simmer over medium or medium high heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved and thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and then stir in honey and lemon juice.
Preheat Oven and Prepare Pan
- Preheat oven to 350°F and melt butter.
- Line 8x8 pan or 9x9 pan wth parchment paper for easy lifting then brush bottom and sides of pan/parchment with a little butter
- In a bowl of food processor pulse nuts with the spices and remaining 3 tablesppons of sugar until finely chopped but not into a meal/or flour
Prepare layers of phyllo
- Unroll phyllo dough. Cut or trim whole stack of phyllo to size of pan - inot 8-9 inch square.
- Cover phyllo sheets with a damp (not too wet) cloth or plastic wrap to keep from drying out as you work.
- Keep the phyllo covered while you work, lifting the plastic and towel only to grab one sheet at a time.
- Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on the bottom. Brush sheet lightly with butter and add another sheet.
- Repeat this process with 4 more sheets. (5 sheets on bottom)
- Top evenly with ⅓ of the nut mixture and drizzle with 1 tablespoon butter.
- Add 4 more sheets of phyllo layered lightly with butter between each sheet
- Top with the another ⅓ of the nut mixture and another tablespoon of butter.
- Add 4 more sheets of phyllo layered with butter. Top with the remaining nut mixture and another tablespoon of butter.
- Finish with the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo layered with butter (The top layer should be at least 5-6 sheets deep.)
- Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into 24 pieces. Cut into diamond or square shapes
- Be careful not to cut the parchment on the bottom. No need to cut right to the bottom layer. You are essentially pre cutting or pre slicing the slices so they are easy to portion out after it has baked. Sprinkle the top of the baklava lightly with a little cold water
- Bake baklava - Bake until golden brown and crisp, 35 to 40 minutes.
Pour Syrup Over
- Remove the lemon peel from the syrup and pour or spoon/ladle the COOL syrup all over the WARM baklava. Let cool completely at room temperature, then cover with clean tea bowl or cheese cloth and let stand overnight.
- Use the parchment to transfer the baklava to a cutting board and recut into pieces right through to the bottom now before serving. Baklava will keep, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator, for about a week.