When my husband and I visited Israel this year, we were not so surprised to see baklava everywhere! In the Shuks (flea markets), in the restaurants, in the coffee shops… just everywhere! However, it is a fairly universal dessert. When we visited Greece, we also found baklava to be a very popular dessert. Turkey, yup, there too! New York City? For sure!! There are so many cultures that make this dessert in all different shapes and sizes. Sometimes phyllo dough is used and sometime Kataif (stringy hair like dough) is used. Sometimes it is rolled up and sometimes it is triangular-shaped (like in this recipe). Sometimes they are soggy and sometimes they are crispy. But one thing remains the same, they are all delicious!
My family has been making this dessert for as long as I can remember. So when my parents came over to visit us the other night, my mom and I decided to make some baklava! Why not, right? This is very normal in my family. I love cooking with my mom. She always has the best tips and secrets. She is just an amazing cook and baker! My whole family loves this delectable dessert because its parve (even though you can make it dairy by using butter), its light after any meal, and it’s always been a tradition to have this dessert on our table during the holidays.
This family recipe is one of the more intricate recipes that I have posted so far, but I am listing all of our family tips and techniques to help you along the way. It is definitely doable and rewarding once you are done!! It may not be the healthiest dessert, but walnuts are healthy, right? It is worth it!
Moms Baklava (40 pieces)
1 1/2 lb unsalted margarine (6 sticks of margarine), melted
18 phyllo dough pastry sheets, each sheet approximately 12″ x 17″ (each box that I buy is 16 ounces and holds 28 sheets total but we will only be using 18 of them here)
2 cups of water
4 cups of sugar
1 lemon, sliced
1/4 cup rose-water
4 cups of crushed walnuts
2 tablespoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted margarine (use from the full pot of margarine that you melted already)
The first thing I usually do is make the honey syrup because its great to make ahead of time and you can keep it on hand for a very long time. It can last for several months in the fridge. To make the honey, place water, sugar, and sliced lemon wedges into a large heavy bottom pot. Boil on medium/low until syrupy thick, about 40 minutes. Take off the fire once ready and mix in the rose-water. Cool in fridge. I always like using this honey syrup cold when pouring it over the baklava.
Melt the margarine in a saucepot. The trick to this is making sure that you boil on medium until all the white foam disappears (see image). When you see foam it means that the margarine is not ready. This foamy part of the margarine is what could potentially make the baklava soggy and we don’t want that!
For walnut mixture, you will need 4 cups of ground walnuts (you can grind them up yourself in a food processor). Place walnuts in big bowl. Add the cinnamon, sugar, and melted margarine and mix together.
Now you are ready to assemble the baklava. Brush the melted margarine onto a large 12 x 17″ baking sheet. Place layer of phyllo dough onto the baking sheet, brush generous amount of margarine over the full sheet. Repeat this step until you have about 8 sheets layered on top of each other fully coated with margarine.
Place all of the walnut mixture onto the stack of phyllo dough that you just built. Flatten out the mixture as even as you can and make sure to cover the full sheet. Once ready, place layer of phyllo dough over the mixture, however this time make sure it is hanging off the left side of the baking sheet (the right side of walnuts will be exposed) then margarine this layer. Next, place layer of phyllo dough over the right side of the mixture so that it hangs off the baking sheet. Margarine with the brush. Now you can tuck in the edges with a thin knife. Repeat this step until you have about 10 layers of phyllo dough on top of the walnut mixture.
Place the full tray in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour or until you are ready to bake. This will make the delicate dough easier to cut. This a great make ahead of time dessert and can stay in the freezer for a very long time (if you have the space for it!). I have kept mine in the freezer for up to a month and it was still great. Once ready to bake, take tray out of freezer and cut into 20 squares (4 aisles, 5 rows). Next, cut 8 diagonal lines to make triangle shapes out of the baklava (I start cutting diagonally from the top right corner of the horizontal tray).
Pour the remaining margarine all over the baklava. Place in 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. The crust should be light brown.
When ready, take out of the oven and very carefully tilt the tray towards one corner so the melted butter can drain out into a cup. Keep draining until there is no more margarine coming out of that corner. You can place this extra margarine in the freezer until you are ready to make another baklava or you can toss it!
Last, pour over 2 cups of the honey syrup all over the baklava–I use a big soup spoon!
All of this work is worth it when you taste one bite of this baklava melt in your mouth.. mmmmm!!
Enjoy and please share any comments or questions you may have. I would love to see how yours turns out! Make sure to tag me @lizskosherkitchen if you share it on social media so I can see your masterpiece!
-If you want to make this ahead of time but don’t have space for the whole frozen tray in your freezer, then you can bake it and follow all the steps. You can package the baklava into individual packages and place in the freezer. When you are ready to eat it, just defrost it. Do not bake it again because the honey is already on it. Instead you can warm it up in the micro for 1-2 minutes or just serve it at room temperature.