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layered phyllo pastry with walnut filling

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski

When I think of Baklawa, I’m immediately transported to Christmastime evenings as a child, watchingmy mother brushing carefully layered, paper-thin phyllo sheets with clarified butter, working like an artist into the wee hours of the morning. These days, I like to make my sweets at night, too; I find it so relaxing and therapeutic, especially when making Baklawa, pronounced “bak-lah-wa.”

You may have encounteredthis centuries-old dessert before, but most likely the Greek version, which although similar to the Lebanese preparation has some distinct differences. First, we do not use cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg in our nut filling, and second, while Greek baklava is glazed with honey syrup, we finish ours with orange blossom or rose water syrup. Last, ours is baked light golden brown, whereas Greek baklava is a darker, deeper color. Although my baklawa is a labor of love, it is absolutely and totally worth it, every single chewy, nutty, sticky, flaky bite of it!



40 sheets Athens Fillo Dough (9" x14"), thawed in the box to room temperature for about 1 hour

1 cup Samneh (Clarified Butter)

3 cups raw, unsalted whole walnuts

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon orange blossom water  

3 cups Ater b Mazaher orange blossom syrup

In a food processor, grind the nuts and sugar to a grain like consistency. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir 1⁄4 cup of the clarified butter and the orange blossom water into the nut mixture, so that all the ingredients are completely incorporated and the texture is somewhat moist.


Remove the phyllo from the box and the plastic wrap inside (reserve the plastic wrap) and carefully unroll onto a smooth, dry surface keeping the plastic wrap underneath the sheets of phyllo. Cover the phyllo with a damp, clean kitchen towel.

Brush the bottom and sides of the 9 x 13-inch baking pan with clarified butter, and lay the rest sheet of phyllo on the sheet. Lightly smooth the phyllo sheet with the palms of your hands. Brush lightly with clarified butter, and repeat with 12 more phyllo sheets, placing each on top, then buttering from the edges of the sheet and working your way to the center, to cover the entire bottom surface of the sheet. Make sure not to press down on the phyllo sheets with your pastry brush.


Evenly spread half of the walnut filling on top of the thirteenth phyllo sheet, and lightly smooth the filling out with the back of a silicone spatula so that the filling evenly covers the entire surface area of the pan. Lightly butter another sheet of phyllo dough on both sides and place on top of the walnut filling. Layer and butter 13 more sheets of phyllo (only on one side, as before.)


Spread the remaining walnut filling on top of the stack of phyllo sheets, evenly distributing it without pressing down, as before. Then, lightly butter another sheet of phyllo on both sides and place on top of the walnut filling. Layer and butter the remaining 14 sheets of phyllo dough (only on one side, as before), making sure that the final sheet of phyllo dough is as smooth as possible and generously buttered on top.


Preheat the oven to 350°F.


To achieve the traditional diamond shape baklawa: Using the non-sharp side of the knife, score a straight vertical line down the center, creating two equal halves. Then, still using the non-sharp side of the knife, lightly score 2 vertical lines on each side of each half, so that you have 6 vertical rows.


Then, starting in the bottom left corner and working your way to the top right corner, diagonally score rows about 11⁄2 inch apart from each other, creating diamonds throughout the baklawa. Using the sharp side of the knife, cut into the baklawa, starting with the vertical rows, then the diagonal rows—make sure to cut up and down and not run your knife through the traces, as you will tear the pastry sheets. Drizzle any remaining clarified butter on top.


Bake Baklawa in the center of the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until the pastry is light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 5 to 7 minutes, then douse with Ater b Mazaher orange blossom syrup.


Let rest for 2 to 3 hours before cutting and serving.


NOTE: You will need a pastry brush and 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.

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