Baklava – A sophisticated twist on the classic!

Thanks to Peter (I follow his culinary journey on Twitter), I’ve been craving Greek food, baklava in particular. For some crazy reason I haven’t made it since I was in college, about 20 years ago. I love the crisp phyllo which is layered with ground nuts, sweet spices, bathed in butter and honey with just a touch of rose water.  It is this last ingredient that gives the recipe its magic. The rose water should be so quiet as to be undetectable, but make people wonder why this baklava is so much better than any other!

Too much and you cross the line into a Crabtree & Evelyn fragrance, so take it easy!

I decided to make the baklava as individual desserts instead of the traditional diamond shape pieces. I thought it would be more elegant to serve. It may take a few more minutes to assemble this way, but the presentation is worth the effort!

12 Individual Baklava

1/2 pound phyllo/filo/fillo dough (follow the directions on the package for defrosting)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (clarified butter is the best but not essential!)

Nut mixture:

8 ounces (about 2 cups) walnut pieces (you can also use pistachio, almonds or a combination.)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Honey syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup honey (I used the wildflower honey, but the orange blossom honey would be fantastic as well!)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon Rose Flower (or Orange Flower water)

Special equipment:

Round Cookie Cutter


(Tracey at Sugarpunk suggested using a Oil Sprayer for the butter instead of a pastry brush. I LOVE this idea, but it will only work well with the clarified butter)

Nonstick 12-Cup Muffin Pan

Food Processor

Small offset spatula

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Find a round cookie cutter that is about the size of the midway point up your muffin cup. If it is too small the phyllo sheets will not cover enough of the bottom. If too large the phyllo will go too far up the sides and hide all of the nut layers.

Unroll the phyllo dough and cut out circles through the stack of phyllo sheets. This requires a bit of twisting and pushing down to cut through the stack. As you work with the phyllo it is very important to keep it constantly covered in plastic wrap. It only takes a minute or so for the layers to dry out and get brittle.

Prepare nut mixture:

Put the nuts, sugar, cinnamon, salt and lemon zest in a food processor and chop until the largest nut pieces are the size of pine nuts. Set aside.

Brush the inside of the muffin tins with the melted butter.

Put a layer of the phyllo dough down in the muffin tins. Brush the layer with the melted butter. Repeat with the phyllo and butter until you have 5 sheets on the bottom.

From the bottom of the muffin tin this is what your layers will be:

5 sheets of phyllo – each brushed with butter as you lay it down in the tin

1 scant teaspoon of nuts

2 sheets of phyllo – each brushed with butter as you lay it down in the tin

1 scant teaspoon of nuts

2 sheets of phyllo – each brushed with butter as you lay it down in the tin

1 scant teaspoon of nuts

5 sheets of phyllo – each brushed with butter as you lay it down in the tin

If you want your baklava to be thicker just add more layers!

You may need to switch the size of the round cookie cutter that you are using as you get higher in the muffin tin, that is why I recommend having a set with many sizes.

The final layer of phyllo should be 5 sheets thick, with butter brushed between each.

With a sharp knife poke a few holes in each of the baklava before baking. (This will allow the syrup to soak through all of the layers, once you pour it over the baked pastry.)

bake the baklava in the middle of the preheated oven for about 35 minutes or until the top layers of phyllo are golden.

While the pastry is baking make the honey syrup. In a small sauce pan heat the water, sugar, honey, lemon and cinnamon stick until it gently boils. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until the honey mixture is the consistency of thin grade A maple syrup. Remove from heat and add the rose water.

As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven pour the hot syrup over it. You want to fill each muffin tin with syrup until it is just below the top layer of phyllo. You will have extra syrup and I use it to drizzle on the plate when I serve the baklava.

Allow the baklava to sit for about an hour, but up to 2 days at room temperature before serving. When removing from the pan you will need a small spatula to gently ease the pastries from the muffin pan.

I served it with vanilla ice cream with cinnamon bark grated over it and the honey syrup drizzled over the plate.

You can make this recipe in a 9×13-inch baking pan. Follow the recipe exactly but instead of cutting the phyllo in small circles you will just cut the sheets in half to fit your pan. You will also have to double the amount of the nut mixture.