Dip, Brush, Repeat: A Baklava Story

January 3, 2011

You know you’re part of a foodie family when it’s 10pm on Christmas night and you’re making Baklava together.

I find the process of making Baklava incredibly cathartic. Dipping a brush in butter, then painting the pastry… dipping in butter, painting the pastry… over and over, again and again. It’s a work of art.

My somewhat limited experience with Greek food is that it is often therapeutic to make and comforting to eat. I’m thinking Spanakopita, with lovely layers of filo creating a pastry parcel that envelopes a bundle of spinach and cheese.

Dip a brush in butter, then paint the pastry.

Repeat.

Bake.

Eat.

Lovely.

Boxing Day Lunch

This year for Boxing Day lunch, my family and I attended a Greek inspired lunch hosted by our good friends. One member of the party was Greek and that was enough to warrant a theme. This was music to my ears. Note to readers: no Zorba was played during this party. Instead, the Greek theme came to life in the food.

We feasted on freshly baked bread from their woodfired oven. I made good friends with a slab of marinated fetta. There were the requisite olives, tzatziki and a classic Greek salad. Succulent lamb skewers circulated early on, and Ben made it his number one priority to secure as many sticks as possible. We were then offered lovely little plates of Greek sausage with tomato, before finally tucking into some beautifully roasted lamb, which was also cooked in the woodfired oven, and potatoes.

Then the desserts came. We were treated to authentic, homemade Galaktoboureko. The custard was light and subtle, and absolutely stunning. With cinnamon sprinkled over the fresh filo pastry, I was in heaven. I was speechless. The use of fresh filo pastry appeared to make it refreshingly light and moist. In our Baklava, we used frozen filo, and it did not have the same effect. It goes without saying that next time I am very keen to use fresh pastry.

Our Baklava was greeted with cheers and many generous compliments. Actually, come to think of it, they were probably just being honest rather than generous, it was seriously delicious. I really like this recipe. Just quietly, it is a Syrian recipe. However I didn’t feel it would matter. As long as it was tasty, yes?

Baklava

I used a recipe by Amal Malouf (link). I have been super keen to try it, ever since watching the Food Safari episode on Syrian cuisine. We used a combination of pistachios and walnuts, as this is what we had on hand, however it ended up containing primarily pistachios. It wasn’t too sweet, and it was the perfect level of moistness (surely that is a word). I will certainly be using this recipe again.

I have officially decided that Baklava is one of my favourite desserts. Ben and I have tasted some lovely versions during both our trips to Greece. I do not know if I prefer walnuts or pistachios in my Baklava. I suppose more cooking and tasting is required to come to an educated conclusion.

Either way, there is something really special about Baklava. It elicits hungry groans of longing from whoever is near, whenever it is mentioned. It is superbly delicious. The crunchy nuts and flaky pastry defy their natural properties and completely and utterly melt in your mouth, courtesy of the sugar syrup, which is spiked with orange blossom and rose… it is almost too much to handle.

Evidently it wasn’t too much to handle. I had a piece the next day for breakfast with an espresso.

Heidi xo
  • Iron Chef Shellie January 3, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I've always wanted to try and make baklava but I think I never did cos I couldn't find anyone to help me eat it. I might have to make it for a pot luck thing this year and see how it goes!

  • Leah January 3, 2011 at 10:36 am

    Mmmm warm baklava is super delicious! I love baklava so much, it reminds me of my Yaya (grandmother.) I'm so sad that i never got her recipe before she passed away 🙁 I do remember that she always used a mixture of nuts though, and the syrup was spiked with cloves, cinnamon, and lemon. I think i will have to make some soon!

  • msihua January 3, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I've always wanted to try to make this… the versions I've always had were always much too sweet! And not enough butter… MMmMmm

  • Chanel11 January 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Baklava is one of the few Greek desserts I like (I can say that being half Greek) – but I find that I lack the soft touch needed with filo, I always end up tearing it to shreds 🙁

    Your baklava looks delish!

  • Laura Preston January 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    looks amazing. For years I've been telling people that I hate baklava, but my hubby made me try some fresh stuff at a market recently. my world changed, I loved it! Might even try this recipe.

  • Michelle Chin January 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I wonder if you can have savory baklava… Like serve it with feta and some fresh herbs instead of pistachios.

    I have two boxes of baklava from Turkey.

  • Hannah January 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Predominately pistachios? Count me in! Pistachios are about forty-seven thousand times tastier than walnuts anyway 😉

    Love the story of your family working together in the kitchen to produce something as delicious as baklava, too. If only my family weren't allergic to wheat and dairy… 😛

  • KittyCate January 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I have always wanted to make baklava, yours look amazing!
    Greek food is literally one of my absolute favourites, I could eat it every day xx

  • littleaspects January 3, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Mmm, looks so good! Reminds me of when I was little and we would go to my Papou's house and occasionally a Greek friend or relative would bring homemade baklava as a treat!

  • The InTolerant Chef January 3, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    As long as it's tasty, that's the right attitude!

  • Girl about Oslo January 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Hi girl…
    Love the wonderful cup, and saucer…
    The food looks really jummy…

    Thanks for the lovely comment:)
    Have a great day.

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella January 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    LOL I chuckled at the title of this because I remember the repetitive process when I last made baklava. It's so delicious but yes all of that dip brush and repeat is v repetitive-but worth it! 😛

  • Jacqui January 4, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Never had Baklava!
    Guess I'm missing something :/

  • Heidi January 4, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Michele – It would be great for pot luck! You do need a big crowd to eat it all 🙂

    Leah – wow, your yaya's recipe sounds absolutely delicious! Cloves, cinnamon and lemon would be beautiful in the syrup.

    Msihua – yes, it is a very sweet dessert. I think having a thick layer of nuts helps cut through the sweetness.

    Chanel – filo is so frustrating! I just try to compensate with the tears by layering as evenly as I can.

    Laura – I'm glad you've discovered it's brilliance! 🙂

    Michelle – lucky you! Have a look at the spanakopita recipe I linked in the post – it uses spinach and cheese and is a lovely savoury dish using filo and butter. It also uses dill, so is quite herby too 🙂

    Hannah – yes, I'm very lucky that we don't have any intolerances to work with. It sure makes it tougher, doesn't it!

    Cate – yay for Greek food love! It is so good 🙂

    little aspects – thank you! I only discovered Baklava in my later years, lucky you having it from a younger age 🙂

    InTolerant Chef – thanks lovely!

    Girl about Oslo – you're welcome, you too 🙂

    Lorraine – yes, it is not the dish to make when you're time poor, that's for sure!

    Jacqui – I can safely safe that you are, hehe. You should make some! When you have a sweet craving 🙂

    Heidi xo

  • Honey @ honeyandsoy January 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Happy New Year, Heidi!!! Baklava that isn't too sickeningly sweet definitely is a keeper! Looking forward to more wonderful food from you in 2011 🙂

  • laurak January 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    You made baklava, that's fantastic Heidi!
    I witnessed my relatives making it when I was overseas last year…it was very cathartic to watch, very much an art form!
    Beautiful outdoor photography too!
    Laura 🙂

  • Anna Johnston January 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Baklava…. wonderful, I loved your expresso & baklava next day.., bet that tasted a treat too. Wonderful Greek inspired menu just sounds fabulous.

  • Mez January 4, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Yum! Yum! Yum!!!! We are in the midst of a heavy 'Soup Making' marathon at the moment but when this is over perhaps we could make a sweet treat like these! Great photos and post lady.

  • Hannah January 5, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Why must you post about amazing looking food when I'm reading this late at night? The Baklava is making me hungry!! Looks totally delicious. One of my friends recently made Spanakopita actually and it tasted so yummy. You've reminded me to ask her for the recipe, and to perhaps try making Baklava 🙂
    Hannah x

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) January 5, 2011 at 8:23 am

    oh I am so very very impressed!!! This looks wonderful!

  • Heidi January 5, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Honey – thank you 🙂

    Laura – thanks! It was a lot of fun to make too 🙂

    Anna – ooooh it was – so delicious!

    Mez – thanks! A soup making marathon sounds amazing – your wonton soup looked incredible!

    Hannah – haha, sorry for that 🙂 you should definitely try this AND the spanakopita!

    Lisa – why thank you!

    Heidi xo

  • Emma @CakeMistress January 7, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    My tummy is emitting hungry groans of longing now too. The sight of the glistening topping got it going. Beautiful job on the baklava. It wouldn't be out of place in the window of an authentic European deli.

  • amanda@seegirlcook January 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    mmmmhmmm. i'm a huge lover of baklava, this looks incredibly delicious!

  • Özke September 22, 2011 at 4:31 am

    Baklava is a middle-eastern delicacy but the best baklava is found in the city of Gaziantep in Turkey.
    But i am really impressed by your baklava, indeed it looks like a typical home-made baklava that mothers do here in Turkey. This is different than a baklava master's baklava though.