Traditional Walnut-Almond Baklava

  • Serves: Makes one 9- x 13- inch pan
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 350
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Sticky-sweet, crispy-chewy baklava, stuffed with toasted nuts and glazed with butter and honey, is a real treat that has been adored by cultures throughout the world for many, many years. The history of baklava is not well-documented, and although it has been claimed by many ethnic groups, most evidence points to it being of Central Asian Turkic origin, with its current form being developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace. Many years ago, I found a baklava filling recipe in the New York Times, and have since adapted it into this recipe. For lots of tips on how to work with phyllo (fillo or filo), see below. For a lower-calorie and healthier version, check out the Healthy Oven Pear Baklava Tutorial.


For the best results, thaw frozen phyllo dough overnight in the refrigerator. If it's thawed at room temperature, the sheets tend to stick together. The dough dries out quickly and can crack when exposed to air, so keep your stack of phyllo sheets covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and work quickly as the sheets are removed from the stack. If you have any extra, it can be refrozen: simply roll it up, wrap it in plastic wrap or place in an airtight plastic bag, and put back into its container.

Walnut-Almond Filling:
2 cups walnuts or skinned hazelnuts
1 cup (4 ounces) slivered almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt

Phyllo Dough:
Nonstick canola oil spray
One 16-ounce (12- x 17-inch sheets) box fresh or frozen phyllo dough
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted or more, if needed; traditional recipes use clarified butter 

More chopped walnuts for topping

Honey Syrup:
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey; SARAH SAYS: any flavor will work, but I like Wildflower or Tupelo Honey
1 whole cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon peel
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater, optional
1 teaspoon orange blossom water, optional

Prepare the filling:

1. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the walnuts, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt until finely ground.
SARAH SAYS: Take care not to turn the mixture into walnut butter by processing the processor continuously.

Prepare the lemon zest and lemon juice:
1. You need both lemon zest and lemon juice for this recipe. It is always a good idea to zest your lemon BEFORE you juice it.
KELLY SAYS: The best tool for the job is a Microplane zester. One of the must-have gadgets in the kitchen.

2. After the lemon is zested, squeeze the juice out into a small bowl and set aside to make the filling.

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9- x 13-inch ovenproof glass baking pan with oil.
SARAH SAYS: Do not use melted butter to grease the pan; it can burn easily, causing the baklava to stick to the pan. You can, however, use clarified butter, instead.

2. Carefully open phyllo packet and count out your first six sheets. Keep the unused phyllo covered with plastic wrap and a lightly dampened cloth, otherwise they will quickly dry out.

3. Place a stack of six phyllo sheets on a work surface. Put the pan on top of the phyllo, and use a sharp knife to trace around the pan and cut out 9- x 13- inch phyllo rectangles to fit inside the pan. Always make sure the unused phyllo in the stack are covered.
Place scraps immediately in a plastic bag and seal.
KELLY SAYS: Do not worry if some of them tear, phyllo is very delicate but it is also very forgiving in the finished product. I made a waxed paper template that was the same size as the bottom of the pan and used that as a size guide.

4. Place one phyllo rectangle in the pan and brush it very lightly with some of the melted butter, starting with the center of the phyllo rectangle working outward towards the edges.
SARAH SAYS: If the phyllo dough does not fit exactly, simply fold over the edges towards the center of the pan.
If the phyllo dough tears, take a scrap from the plastic bag, place it over the tear, and then butter it. Make sure it sticks to the other buttered edges of the tear like a patch.

5. Repeat with the other five phyllo rectangles.

6. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the nut and sugar mixture evenly over top layer. Lightly pat it down.

7. Then with six more phyllo sheets, place one sheet at a time in the pan, brushing each one very lightly with some of the melted butter, before adding another one.
Butter the top of the sixth sheet. too.

6. Sprinkle another 1/3 of nut and sugar mixture evenly over buttered top layer. Lightly pat it down.

7. Then with six more phyllo sheets, place one sheet at a time in the pan, brushing each one very lightly with some of the melted butter, before adding another one.
Butter the top of the sixth sheet. too.

8. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of nut and sugar mixture evenly over top layer. Lightly pat it down.

9. Cut the remaining (approximately ten phyllo sheets) to size, fit them into the pan, buttering in between each one. Butter the top of the last phyllo sheet.
SARAH SAYS: Freeze any left-over sheets and/or scraps in the airtight plastic bag to use with another recipe. Remember to thaw in the refrigerator.
Or, you can butter the scraps, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, and bake at the same temperature as this recipe, for a delightful snack. Make sure you line a cookie sheet with parchment paper first.

10. Using a very sharp knife, score horizontally into three strips. Do not cut all the way through.

11. Score vertically into four strips to make 12 rectangles.

12. Score each rectangle diagonally to make twenty-four triangles.

NOTE: Make the Honey Syrup 15 minutes before the baklava is done baking.
1. Sprinkle the top of the Baklava with chopped walnuts.

2. Bake the Baklava in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire cake rack.

Prepare the Honey Syrup and complete the recipe:
1. About 15 minutes before the baklava is done, combine 1 cup water, the honey and the sugar in a medium saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the lemon juice and peel and cook on medium-low to low until slightly thickened about 5 more minutes.

4. When the baklava comes from the oven, spoon the hot syrup over it; do not dump it all at once over the baked pastry.
NOTE: It looks like a lot of syrup but the pastry will eventually absorb it.

5. Cool in its pan completely before serving. This takes about an hour or more.

With a sharp knife, cut the dessert into individual triangles where the score marks are and serve. 

Keeps for a day or two in the refrigerator, but will become chewier. Bring to room temperature before serving. Phyllo desserts tend to get soggy the longer they are stored.

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