Walnut Baklava comes with an amazingly crisp and flaky topping, a softer syrupy center that's filled with walnuts and spices, and a heavenly taste that not many people are able to resist!
This Walnut Baklava recipe comes with a little twist. As it contains a small amount of unsweetened cocoa powder in it as well. Which is not in the authentic Baklava recipe. The amount is enough to enhance all the other flavors without giving any chocolatey flavor.
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Somehow the cocoa flavor goes so amazingly well with the flavors of cinnamon, honey, and walnuts. I find that its bitterness gives a hint of contrast to the excessive sweetness of syrup + honey. And if you want more proof on that point, check out these syrupy Christmas cookies that are filled with a filling similar to Baklavas'.
The Filo Layers
Baklava is always made with many layers of crisp filo dough. These layers are brushed with plenty of butter which is one of the key ingredients in Baklava. Since it makes the filo so crispy and delicious.
Now as for the filling, there are many variations. The most popular Baklava in Greece for example is the one made with walnuts. But we also make it with a mix of almonds and walnuts (the center gets slightly more crunchy).
But in Eastern countries, pistachios are the dominant nut in Baklava recipes. The bottom line on this point is that you can use any nut you personally like, whether it's a mixture or just a single type.
The filling for Baklava also contains spices like cinnamon and cloves. My personal opinion is this: Don't make Baklava without them! Not that I have actually ever tasted a Baklava without them, but I can't imagine it either. These spices are essential because they give Baklava a more distinct flavor.
Baklava can also be made with chocolate or in many other different shapes and sizes. You can check out these recipes if you are a real Baklava fan:
How To Make Baklava Crispy
Making Baklava crispy will depend on three things. One is baking it properly, the second is the temperature and thickness of the syrup when added to the Baklava. And the third is cutting the Baklava all the way to the bottom before baking it.
Baklava is baked for more than an hour (actually 1 hour and a half to be precise) in order for the filo to get so crisp and flaky. But cooking it for such a long time also gives time for the nuts inside the Baklava to get properly roasted.
As for the syrup it needs to be cold when poured over the hot Baklava. And when I say cold I mean at room temperature.
There are 3 ways syrup is added to sweets, 1). is hot pastry cold syrup, 2). is hot syrup to cold pastry, and 3). is hot syrup to hot pastry. For Baklava option number one is the preferred one. It's what makes Baklava both soft in the center and so crisp on top.
Cutting the Baklava all the way through and dividing it into pieces before baking is a must! Because it allows air to penetrate through the layers of filo separating them from each other. Therefore getting very crispy (this is how the top gets so nice and flaky).
QUICK TIPS ON FILO DOUGH:
- Thaw properly. The best way is to leave the package inside the fridge overnight. And then at room temperature for about an hour before using.
- Depending on the size of the filo sheets you may need to cut them in half or trim them to fit inside the pan.
- Always cover the stack of phyllo with a teatowel so it won't air-dry.
- It doesn't matter if it tears. No one will be able to tell in the final result!
Do I Need To Refrigerate Baklava?
You can keep Baklava either at room temperature or in the fridge. In both cases, it will last for up to two weeks. Because the syrup acts as a preservative.
Keep in mind though, that it's a very sweet dessert that's made with syrup so it's gonna taste even sweeter when served at room temperature. This is why I always like to keep mine in the fridge. But that really depends on your liking. Either way, enjoy!
For The Syrup:
- 450 grams / 15.9 oz sugar
- 360 grams / 12.7 oz water
- 80 grams / 2.8 oz honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice fresh
- 1 orange peel
- 1 stick of cinnamon
For The Filling:
- 400 grams / 14 oz walnuts finely chopped
- 1 tablespoos ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
For The Baklava:
- 1 package (450 grams / 15.8 oz) phyllo dough
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz butter
- 40 grams / 1.4 oz olive oil
- First, thaw phyllo by placing the package in the fridge overnight. Then leave it at room temperature for 1 hour before opening and using it.
For The Syrup:
- Add all of the ingredients for the syrup in a small cooking pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. When it starts to bubble, drop the heat to medium and simmer for 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool down completely to room temperature.
For The Filling:
- Mix all of the ingredients for the filling in a mixing bowl and keep it next to you.
For The Baklava:
- Preheat oven to 160°C / 320°F using ovens upper and lower heat function if possible.
- For this recipe, you will need a 9 x 14-inch (33 x 23 cm) baking pan. You may need to cut the phyllo stack in half (or not, some packages contain two rolls of smaller-sized phyllo sheets instead of one roll) and then trim it a little bit to fit inside the pan.
- Place the stack of phyllo in a sheet pan or on your working surface and cover it with a tea towel so it won't air-dry.
- My stack had 24 phyllo sheets. Count the phyllo sheets so you can divide them evenly between the layers of filling. I used 5 sheets for the base then 3 sheets between each layer of filling, a total of 4 times. Then 7 sheets for the top of the Baklava. If your package has more than 24 sheets simply add one more sheet here and there it won't make a difference.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and then mix it with the olive oil. Keep the butter in the saucepan. Since it will take some time until you finish up with all of the Baklava layers you may need to reheat it a bit, later on.
- Brush the baking pan with a bit of the melted butter and oil mixture.
- Place 5 phyllo sheets in the pan and brush each one of them with melted butter.
- Sprinkle ⅕ of the filling on top. Then add 3 more phyllo sheets again brushed with butter in between. Repeat this process until you have used all of the filling. If you are left with more than 7 phyllo sheets for the top that's perfectly fine.
- Add the remaining sheets of phyllo on top brushing each one with butter.
- Cut into 3 wide strips and then divide the strips into squares. Cut the squares in half diagonally to get 12 triangular pieces.
- Pour the remaining melted butter on top and brush it to spread evenly. Sprinkle lightly with your fingers a bit of water on top.
- Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven (not the bottom).
- Ladle the cold syrup over the Baklava right as you get it out of the oven. Then leave it to cool down to room temperature before refrigerating. You can even serve it at room temperature.
- Serve with raw honey and walnut (or chopped walnuts) on top. You may keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or at room temperature.
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