Baklava is “the” oriental dessert par excellence.
Baklava is very popular among Turkish pastries. We can define it as the national dessert, but in reality, it is a dessert that is widespread throughout all Middle Eastern countries.
The recipe that I propose is slightly simplified compared to that of my mother, as I use purchased phyllo dough (called “yufka” in Turkish), while she, on the other hand, kneaded it lovingly by hand.
Before we get started, get yourself a large, shallow pan. I use an aluminium one, which can also be used for making pizza by the slice (hello, multiculturalism!).
The very first thing we need to do is make the syrup, known as Şerbet. here’s how to prepare it.
Syrup for baklava:
- 1 generous spoonful of liquid honey
- 350 grams of sugar
- 400 ml of water
1 teaspoon of lemon juice First, heat the water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. While mixing, let it boil on moderate heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add honey and let it thicken for about 20 minutes over low heat. Once the Şerbet becomes thick, turn it off and let it cool down.
300 gr of cleaned walnuts
100-150 grams of sugar
250 gr melted butter
20 sheets of phyllo dough (yufka)
Finely chopped pistachio for final decorative touches
How to make baklava ?
Here is how to prepare baklava, the oriental dessert par excellence.
I usually chop the walnuts with a mixer. To tell you the truth, I prefer my mother’s method. She put the clean walnuts in a tea towel and roughly crushed them with a rolling pin. The baklava was filled with different sized pieces of crunchy pieces of walnut that my brothers and I liked so much… but if you are short on time, you can chop them in the mixer.
Place the chopped dried fruit in a bowl, add the sugar and mix well. Let’s taste, if you prefer it less sweet, 100 grams of sugar like the recipe calls for is fine, but if you want it to be a little sweeter, add more sugar.
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees. Brush the pan or pan with melted butter. We take the first yufka (phyllo dough) and gently place it in the pan, brush it with melted butter. We need to do this with half of the yufkas, which is 10.
Now we sprinkle all the chopped walnuts on the yufka. As before, we cover with the remaining yufkas, buttering them one by one. But remember that for the last yufka we will need to brush more generously.
We let it rest for two minutes, Then, with a sharp knife we pre-cut our beautiful baklava, without touching the bottom of the pan. We can cut them into either squares or diamond shapes. Personally, I will remain faithful to my mom who always cut them into diamond shapes.
We bake them for about 30 minutes and then lower the temperature to 160 degrees to cook another 20 minutes or so. Baklavas are fully cooked when they become crumbly and golden brown.
Once cooked, remove them from the oven, let them cool for a quarter of an hour and then pour the Şerbet. As soon as the cake is fully chilled, you can complete the cut of the baklava and sprinkle them with finely chopped pistachio nuts.
I shared with you my mom’s methodology, who was really good at preparing typical sweets. I took the liberty of considering supermarket-bought phyllo dough since phyllo dough is not easy to make.
The past mastery of Turkish women was really impressive. In fact, my mom used to roll out a big, perfectly thin phyllo dough, just like the wings of a butterfly. Just the thought of being able to do it like her would worry me, I was always enchanted with her skills. She seemed to come from another world. I still remember how, during the cold days in Normandy, she would concentrate on rolling out beautiful yufka, with an oklava (very long and thin rolling pin) brought directly from Turkey.
All this effort, both to delight us and to recreate the flavours and smells of the Turkey that she loved so much and that she had perhaps left too soon.