May 07, 2010 by Susana Fare

I’ve been eating Baklava for many years and always wanted to make it myself. I thought it was difficult to handle phyllo dough because it breaks easily. But by taking good care of it, it won’t.

Baklava is a sweet pastry, very rich, made with layers of phyllo dough and chopped nuts with syrup or honey on top. It’s a typical pastry that originated from the Ottoman Empire cookery and southwest Asia as well.

It’s difficult to trace its entire gastronomical history since many countries attribute the origin as their own. But it’s believed to have origins from the Mesopotamian region–known historically, culturally, and otherwise, as the cradle of civilization.

Indeed, Baklava is served in many diverse religious festivities. Christians serve Baklava at Christmas and Easter; Muslims eat it during Ramadan; and Jews often have it both during Rosh Hashanah and Purim.

It’s believed that the phyllo dough used today, was almost certainly developed in the Topkapi Palace in Turkey. Currently, Baklava is still consumed throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

There are regional variations of course. Those variations could be either in the filling or syrup. Some regions use walnut such as the Levant; while Iranians have a preference for pistachios. Hungarians make an apricot adaptation.

Some cooks even use dates or chocolate chips. As for the syrup, it can include cinnamon, cardamom and rose water.

Rose water comes from the distillation of rose petals which provide it with its characteristic flavor. It is commonly used in Iranian cuisine, particularly in sweets. Muslim chemists during the Medieval Islamic era first produced rose water for consumption in their drinks and perfumes. Currently it’s found in health food stores for cooking.

I chose the simplest recipe; and the closest to the original–so I used walnuts, the “brain food”–as it is called in many cultures–that have a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, and pistachios that are high in fiber along with protein and other nutrients. One serving of pistachios has more fiber than a half a cup of broccoli.

Pistachios have been a common staple from the Near East since ancient times. Indeed, they were consumed in Turkey as far back as 7,000 BC, and it’s also mentioned in the Bible.

Since 1976 they’re mainly produced in California.

This recipe uses ready-made phyllo dough so it makes it quite easy to make. The secret is to let it thaw once it’s out of the refrigerator completely.



1 cup water

  • 1 cup sugar (I prefer honey)
  • 1 tbsp rose water


Olive oil to brush on sheet of aluminum foil in baking dish

  • 4 sheets phyllo dough thawed
  • ½ cup butter melted
  • ½ cup chopped fine  walnuts
  • ½ cup chopped fine pistachios


Preheat oven to 400°F.

To make the syrup, combine water and sugar (or honey) in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add rose water, stir and set aside.

Line a square baking dish (8”x8”) with aluminum foil. Use a pastry brush to apply olive oil foil lining. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on top of foil and brush it a thin coat of melted butter.

Add the next layer of phyllo dough. Continue adding layers and brushing each with butter until you have assembled five layers.

Sprinkle fourth layer with 1/3 of chopped nuts (you might have to fold a phyllo dough in four).

Repeat this process two more times finishing with four more layers of phyllo dough brushing each with butter.

Use a sharp knife to cut baklava into 1-inch squares or diagonal. Trim all excess dough that overlaps sides of pan.

Bake baklava for about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven, or until top is golden brown.

Remove from oven and brush top with butter.

Slowly pour rose water syrup evenly over squares. Allow to cool before serving. Store all leftover baklava at room temperature.

Serves: 8

Tips: Thaw frozen phyllo dough in its original package for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Do not un-wrap phyllo until ready to use. Make sure you have all ingredients ready –melted butter and filling- when starting. Otherwise, the phyllo dough will dry very easily and will break.

After removing a sheet of phyllo from the package, cover remaining sheets tightly with plastic wrap or a wet kitchen towel. Any leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator if well covered.

If you want or need more vegetarian recipes or instructions on different dishes, you can find them here, or at my blog Spanish Steps.

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2 Responses to “Baklava”

  1. Escott says:

    Wonderful article and recipe. The history lesson is especially wonderful! I have always loved Baklava and thought it would be too hard to make, but because of your experience, I’m going to try it!


    Spanish Steps Reply:

    Thanks for your comment! It is not too hard to make it… just don’t let the phyllo dough going dry. I hope you will enjoy it.


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