Baklava – A sophisticated twist on the classic!

Baklava Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Thanks to Peter of kalofagas.ca (I follow his culinary journey on Twitter), I’ve been craving Greek food, and 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

PASTRY BRUSH

(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

Muffin tin | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Cutting baklava dough with cookie cutter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Brushing melted butter on muffin tin | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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

Brushing melted butter on muffin tin | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Balkava dough in muffin tin Brushing melted butter on muffin tin | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Honey Syrup Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Pouring hot syrup over baked baklava | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

Baklava Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

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.

48 thoughts to “Baklava – A sophisticated twist on the classic!”

  1. Something I’d read years ago suggested that, for optimal melding of pastry and syrup, that one of them should be hot and the other cool when they were combined (it didn’t matter which). Generally, I make the syrup right before baking the baklava, so it’s cooled by the time the pan comes out of the oven.

    I’m also a big fan of the whole ‘using a bottle sprayer to apply the butter layers’ (clarify the melted butter first), as doing that much brushing takes forever. 🙂

  2. I fully embrace your modern take on Baklava. There are numerous takes on this sweet treat and this one can be added.

    It’s modern, updated yet you’ve used many of the traditional ingredients.

    Zoe, thanks for the shout-out and I wish I was there to taste one!

  3. Hi wind attack, it is happiness! 😉

    Hi Tracey, your spraying idea is fantastic, I added it to the post! Thanks!!! I’ll have to try adding the syrup after it cools a bit!

    Hey Peter, Thank you for so many fabulous recipes! They all look great.

    Hi Patricia, never a better time to try baklava! 😉

    Thanks, Zoë

  4. What a great idea! This is so much better (and less stressful) that traditional baklava, with all the great flavors left in tact. I can’t wait to try!!

  5. I am always asked to make baklava at any family party, but this version you have here would be so much more elegant for an upcoming girls night I’m having. Thanks for the idea!

  6. Hey Zoe — This is off topic, but I thought you might like to know that there’s some ABIF buzz over at the King Arthur Flour blog, Baker’s Banter. And it’s all good, of course!

  7. Hello
    At the present day Baklava is prepared in different countries starting from Middle East to Balkans and with many different types and ingredients. so mentioning the desert itself as a Greek food is not appropriate. It is infact an Ottoman Turkish desert and it is copyrigthed and patented.
    I wanted to mention this to you in case if you have a wrong information about it.
    sincerely…

  8. Hi A,

    You are absolutely right about the origins of baklava. My reference to the Greek version is only because I was inspired by a website that is dedicated to Greek food.

    Thanks for the clarification! Zoë

  9. I really like the idea of making this in muffin tins – Ive never heard of that before! It makes the presentation so beautiful 🙂

    I recently made baklava with apples on my blog, which was quite tasty. I cant wait to try yours!

  10. Hi Chez Us, It is so tasty and so very easy. You need to have a glass of wine and just settle in for a minute, because it takes a while to assemble.

    Hi Finsmom, I love the apple idea!!! I’m going to try it for sure.

    Thanks! Zoë

  11. J’aime le baklava. Miam. I quite like the idea of individual baklava, which means each one is equal. I also liked your previous post of the cake.

  12. Hej Zoe!
    Thank you so much for the idea! I was “pregnant” with your baklva for some time, then I made a normal greek one (my husband is greek) and yesterday I did it! I was afraid it will be difficult to get it out of the muffin form, but it was easy! so it has a lot of chances to be again on our table:)

  13. That looks so good! I really dislike when baklava is done in what I call the “lazy” way – a chunk of phyllo, a layer of nuts, and another chunk of phyllo. It’s so much tastier when the filling and phyllo are interspersed like you’ve done.

  14. Traditional baklava does not belong to Greece it belongs to TURKEY.
    Especially Gaziantep city is famuos for its baklava !!
    Greek people claims baklava is their dessert, but they must know they are wrong..
    sorry but this is not baklava…

    1. Hi Flocke,

      I just spent time in Turkey and discovered the wonder that is baklava there. I’m sure the versions are different, and yet both delicious!

      Thanks, Zoë

  15. OMG what a great idea in muffin tins! I am certainly going to copy that as normally I make them either into logs or in a large tray as diamond shapes.

  16. I am serving diamond shaped Baklava I made with pecans and dusted with pistachios. I am concerned about the plating, do I serve two diamonds or just one per person? I made it in a 9×13 dish, 16 diamonds and about 8 irregular sizes. Is vanilla ice cream nice to serve it with only or are there other ideas?

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Baklava is a very rich dessert, so I think you can get away with serving just one piece and the ice cream will be a lovely accompaniment. You could also mix some of the crushed pistachios into the icecream?

      Enjoy, it sounds lovely! Zoë

  17. Thank you so much! I am so excited about how well the Baklava came out yesterday (my first try ever) that I am going to work today on making them into the individual servings as you have. I have an extra pkg of the phillo and lots of nuts : ) I love the idea of adding the crushed pistachios to the icecream as well, just bumps it up another notch. Thank you again…

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