It took me a while to warm up to the idea of baklava, simply because the idea of eating something that is predominantly nuts, took a while to catch up with my brain. Lately, if you disguise the nuts with enough fun stuff, I’ll eat them pretty much without batting an eyelid. In this case, crispy filo that crackles as you bite into the top, orange zest that makes everything so much more Christmasy, the best winter spices and a ton of honey infused syrup.
Move over, every other festive dessert. I think this one takes the cake.
Baed off this Jamie Oliver recipe, I decided to use more hazelnuts than any other nut, because we know by now that hazelnuts rule the world. In fact, I loved them so much in this baklava that the next time, I’m using only hazelnuts and leaving the pistachios and almonds to fend for themselves.
Can we now take a moment to admire that crispy, crispy, sugary filo?
The only really painful part about making baklava is slicing it before baking. The filo will move around and crack and annoy you and stick to your fingers and what not, but hey, we’re not going for glamorous, we’re going for delicious. Unfortunately, this step can’t be skipped because slicing after baking will make you want to give up your worldly possessions and move to the mountains.
So power through and you will be rewarded by a just-the-right-amount-of-sweet, soft and crunchy bite with orange zest bursting around when least expected, all of the nuts in there making their individual personalities loud and clear, and basically, a Christmasy dessert with of the familiar flavours and a bit of a makeover.
About the layering process. If you have a shallow baking pan (Jamie recommends a 40 x 25 cm), you’re a lucky person. Because since all I have is my average rectangular cake tin, I needed to fold my filo layers in half and then layer them. If you’re working with a similar situation, you can either cut the filo in half for thinner layers, or simply do what I did, and enjoy thicker layers. It honestly will be delicious either way.
Did I mention each layer is brushed with A TON of melted butter? That’s why folding, unfolding, cutting, not cutting and whatever else, doesn’t matter. Butter butter butter. Let’s bake!
- For the syrup
- 1 and ½ cups caster sugar
- 1 and ¼ cups water
- ½ cup honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder or 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 orange, for zesting
- For the filling
- 1 and ½ cups hazelnuts
- ½ cup almonds
- ¾ cup pistachios
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- ¼ tsp cloves powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg powder
- 1 orange, for zesting
- For assembly
- 12 sheets of filo pastry, thawed to room temperature (if they're too big and you want crispier baklava, use only 6 sheets and cut them in half)
- ⅓ cup butter, melted but not hot
- First make the syrup because it needs to cool completely or at least to lukewarm before being poured over the baked pastry so that it doesn't go soggy. In a saucepan on medium heat, combine all the syrup ingredients, stir and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or till ⅓ of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool at room temperature. If you used cinnamon powder, strain the syrup twice before leaving to cool.
- In a food processor, pulse the nuts till they're chopped small with a few bigger bits here and there for crunch. Tip into a bowl, stir in the spices and then zest the orange over it. Mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and brush a rectangular shallow baking tin (about 9x5 inches) with melted butter. See above post for ideal baking tin recommendations.
- To assemble, layer four sheets of filo, brushing each with melted butter before placing the next one. Spread half the nut mixture evenly, then layer on another four sheets. Don't forget the butter!
- Spread the remaining nut mixture, then top with the final four sheets, buttering the top very generously so it browns well.
- Now use a sharp knife to slice the baklava diagonally to create diamond shapes. Make sure the knife goes all the way through and it's ok if things get messy.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden-brown and crispy.
- As soon as the baklava is out, spoon half the cooled syrup all over it, making sure it reaches the edges and slides between the pieces too. Cool for 5 minutes, then pour the remaining syrup. Allow to cool completely before taking each piece out using a knife and metal spatula or palette knife. Enjoy!
*You could swap one of the nuts with walnuts.