Without a doubt, baklavas are the most emblematic dessert of the Middle East. A precisely prepared baklava, with fresh and good quality ingredients, is unforgettable. Although it is important to clarify that the name baklava is used to refer to a variety of cakes prepared with filo dough, nuts, and syrup.
So really, what are baklavas? They are a dessert made from filo pastry, filled with a crushed mass of dried fruits. The mass of nuts can vary from pistachios to almonds. Then they are bathed in honey or syrup, and a touch of orange blossom water.
Unfortunately, many of the bakeries that offer these desserts in the West do not do justice to the dessert prepared in the Middle East. The reasons are multiple. One of the most frequent is that they use nuts that are not fresh. Even, sometimes, the sweets themselves, have several days of preparation. Another reason is that some pastry chefs decide to vary the recipes of the Arab pastry chefs, to make desserts more adapted to Western palates. Which is the worst mistake.
If you want to delve into the world of Middle Eastern pastry, get ready to savor pistachios, cashews, filo dough, lots of spices, and honey until you are cloying. This type of dessert is usually very small, but it is almost impossible to eat just one.
In this post, we will teach you how to prepare the pistachio baklavas at home. They will be fresh and delicious. The only downside is that eating Middle Eastern sweets involves trying a lot of different pastries. And in this case, we will only use pistachio. If you want more variety, you should try several types of nuts to obtain different baklavas.
How to accompany the Baklavas?
These cakes, best known for being Turkey's traditional dessert, are usually eaten in the middle of the afternoon. In many pastry shops, they are accompanied by coffee or hot infusions.
However, I consider that you do not need anything extra to enjoy the delicious baklavas. They are cakes with a very strong flavor, and very sweet, ideal to enjoy little by little. When tasting baklava, take advantage of perceiving all the flavors and textures that they provide. It depends on the pastry chef, you can find notes of orange blossom, roses, or even nutmeg.
The recipe for our post is from the famous Turkish Chef Musa Dagdeviren, from his book "Gastronomic Turkey". Incidentally, Dagdeviren's book is a true gem that compiles the best 550 recipes from Turkey, giving particular importance to the fusion of flavors and ingredients that the ancient cuisine of the Middle East has with Europe and Asia.
Recipe to prepare pistachio baklava with phyllo dough, very simple and
¾ cup of ghee, 180 g.15 sheets of phyllo dough
1 ½ cup of pistachio, 250 g.
1 ½ cup of sugar, 240 g.
1 ½ cup of water, 350 ml.
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of orange blossom water
Toast the pistachios in a small skillet for about five minutes. Wait for them to cool down and lightly mash them with the food processor. Be careful not to turn them into flour. Reserve.
Lay a large piece of wax paper on a flat surface. On the paper place a layer of phyllo dough, and glaze it with ghee using a kitchen brush. On top of the first layer, place a second, and repeat the procedure until all fifteen layers of phyllo dough are stacked.
Spread the crushed pistachios over the dough.
Then, with a sharp knife, cut the dough into squares with a maximum of five centimeters on each side.
Preheat the oven to 160 °C / 320 °F. Spread a generous layer of butter on a baking sheet.
Separate one of the squares, and lightly press the opposite corners inwards, as if you wanted to close them, but without touching the tips. Put it on the baking sheet. Repeat this procedure with all the squares. Remember to leave enough distance between one baklava and the other so that they do not stick together inside the oven.
When you have all the baklavas on the pan, add a teaspoon of the leftover ghee over each baklava, then bake for approximately 45 minutes.
While the baklavas are cooking, prepare the syrup. Place a small saucepan on the stove over low heat, and mix together the sugar and water. Cook over low heat for about twenty minutes. Stir from time to time until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the stove, add the lime, the orange blossom water, and let it rest.
Remove the baklavas from the oven, and spoon a generous spoonful of syrup over each baklava. Let them cool for an hour and that's it. Sometimes it is necessary to add a second tablespoon of syrup. This will depend on the absorption of the dough. Remember that for baklavas there is never enough syrup.
Ghee is clarified butter. It is not always available in supermarkets, but it can be prepared very easily at home. You just have to melt the butter and let it rest in a glass for a few minutes. Due to the density of the ingredients, the butter will separate into two layers, the water, and the ghee. The top layer is dark yellow, the ghee, and the bottom layer is water. You will only need the top layer, you can carefully pour it into another glass, leaving the water in the first glass. Or extract the water with an injector.