Baklava is a layered pastry dessert made of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey. It was one of the most popular sweet pastries of Ottoman cuisine and is sold in Greek bakeries, pastry shops and restaurants around the world.
Baklava is the perfect make-ahead dessert because it's even better the next day.
The beauty of a recipe for baklava is that the recipe changes depending on who is making it and where they come from. It’s a great way for cooks to put their stamp on it.
This Spiced Almond and Vanilla Baklava recipe comes from renowned Greek chef and culinary creator George Calombaris. His combination of almond and vanilla is beautiful, and adding just a pinch of salt brings out the flavour of the almonds.
We must cook not only to fill our stomachs, but more importantly to fill our hearts and souls.
George’s tip for perfecting baklava is to make sure the syrup has cooled completely before pouring it over the hot pastries (or do it the other way: hot syrup and cold pastries - just make sure one is hot and one is cold).
We hope you enjoy.
Spiced Almond and Vanilla Baklava Recipe
Makes about 70 small pieces
1 kg slivered almonds
½ cup (80g) fine semolina
Pinch of salt flakes
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
500g clarified butter
40 sheets filo pastry, each sheet about 33cm x 23cm
About 70 cloves
750g caster sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Place the almonds, semolina, salt and vanilla seeds (reserve the pod for the syrup) in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (take care not to overprocess otherwise it will become a paste).
Lightly brush a baking dish (about 33cm x 23cm) with clarified butter.
Place a sheet of filo in the prepared dish, folding any overhanging pastry into the tray, and brush with clarified butter. Layer and butter another six sheets of pastry, then sprinkle a good handful of the almond mixture evenly over the top. Lay another sheet of filo on top, brush with butter and top with another handful of almonds.
Repeat this layering until you have used all the almond mixture. Press down gently on the baklava to compress the nuts. Top with a sheet of filo and brush with butter, then layer and butter another six sheets of pastry. Press again firmly to compress the layers and thoroughly brush the top with butter.
Transfer to the fridge for 1 hour to set.
Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan-forced).
Score the baklava lengthways into five strips about 4.5cm-wide (you should only cut through the top layers of pastry), then cut widthways into seven strips. Cut across each square piece to form a triangle, and stud each one with a clove. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, honey, orange zest and juice, reserved vanilla pod and 450ml water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
Remove the baklava from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then strain the syrup evenly over the top. Allow the baklava to cool completely (this will take a good few hours), then cut into pieces following the scored lines.
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