Big Girls, Global Kitchens: Baklava

EVENT: Turkish Baking Afternoon; Oscar Party
VENUE: Cara’s apartment for baking; then Phoebe’s parents’ for eating

My sister Kate and I met up in Spain in December because she was studying abroad in Turkey and Madrid is actually about halfway between Ankara and New York (as the plane flies). She arrived with a sticky cardboard box of baklava that her favorite baklava vendor had made specially for me, with walnuts instead of pistachios.

Sitting in the hotel room, I inhaled the baklava.
about halfway through the box
Though she’s back in the States now, she hasn’t lost any of her fervor for Turkish cooking. I haven’t lost mine for eating the fruits of her labor. So when she was in New York for the week and suggested coming over with phyllo and walnuts to make homemade baklava together, I obviously was into it.
Baklava is pretty simple, ingredient-wise. The most complicated part, I think, is dealing with the phyllo dough, but as long as you defrost it in time and then remember to keep it covered—corners and all—with a wet cloth or paper towel, you’ll be fine.
The recipe produces a lot. Fortunately, Kate was home on Oscar weekend, and so I was able to bring the majority of it up to Phoebe’s parents’ get-together. In other words, I had plenty of people to help me shoulder the heavy burden of inhaling this batch of baklava. They didn’t seem to mind.
From my kitchen, a sweet, syrupy mess, to yours,


Makes about 4 dozen pieces

Making baklava is an unusual process. You assemble and bake relatively austere rolls of phyllo, butter, and walnuts. When you take them out of the oven, you pour a scented, sweet syrup all over the rolls and let them sit for a full 24 hours. Don’t overlook that: A FULL 24 HOURS. This is good, because it means you can make the sweets long before you need them, but bad, because there’s no instant gratification in baklava. Plan accordingly.

1 package phyllo dough
4 cups wanluts
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2-1 cup butter, melted

For the syrup:
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 small piece lemon peels
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Chop the walnuts into small pieces. Combine with the 6 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

Put the melted butter in a bowl and bring over a cooking brush.

Unroll the phyllo dough on a board or table. Cover its entire surface with a moistened paper towel. Pick up two sheets. Lay them in front of you and brush with melted butter. Repeat twice (so you have 6 sheets), being especially generous with the butter on top. Now, take 1 cup of the walnuts and spread them evenly over the pile of sheets, leave 1 inch at every edge. Fold in the vertical edges, then loosely roll the whole thing. Set 9 x 13″ baking pan (must have 2-3″ sides), seam side down.

Repeat four more times with the remaining dough and walnuts.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the tops of the rolls are golden and your kitchen smells like delicious toasting nuts.

While the baklava are baking, put all the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil slowly, then simmer for 2-3 minutes. When the baklava comes out of the oven, immediately removed the lemon peel, cinnamon stick, and cloves (if you can get them), and pour the syrup over the baklava.

Let rest for at least 24 hours (they get even better with more soaking).

Taking a roll at a time, slice into portions about 1 inch thick. If the inside is still dry, you may want to arrange them back in the syrup to juice up.

  • Frankie

    Now I know why baklava is so fattening. Gag me! No, changed my mind. Feed me!

  • Kate

    Does it really have to sit for 24 hours? I wonder how it dos in the mail….would it help the soaking process?

  • Jill

    Looks delicious. Can’t wait for the next batch- perhaps I can sample that?!

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    It REALLY has to sit for 24 hours. More is better.

    It’d be a decent candidate for sending in the mail. But only if you put it in a super airtight container. Then it could soak and ship simultaneously. Brilliant!

  • TurkishTornado

    Real Turkish Bankalava doesn't have cinnamon or honey in the syrup.

  • Brandon

    I like making my Baklava with crushed almonds instead of walnuts or pistachios. So good!

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