I’ve recently learned a new trick – how to make my own baklava! It’s very popular in Croatia, where the local version generally uses walnuts more than pistachios and almonds. But as I don’t actually have a walnut tree, that made no difference. However I did add another very local ingredient – my own homemade rose syrup which makes a wonderfully fragrant addition to many desserts. Now I can add baklava to that list! And although baklava is usually served with coffee, we like it with an after-dinner pairing of prošek or eiswein. Both, in fact, go really well, and that would be my own personal serving suggestion.
Here’s my recipe, adapted from one I found on Jamie Oliver’s website:
200g melted butter
Packet of frozen filo pastry (defrost overnight in fridge, then take out for a couple of hours, leave in wrapper until ready to use)
Juice and zest of one small orange or mandarin
Water – top up orange juice to 300ml of liquid
50ml clear honey (I used orange blosson honey)
50ml rose syrup (very similar consistency to the honey)
Cinnamon stick or sprinkle of powdered cinnamon
Make the syrup first, as you’ll want it to cool before pouring over the pastry. Otherwise your baklava will end up soggy! Put the syrup ingredients into a saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Set aside to cool. Strain out the zest and cloves.
Preheat oven to 180 C and use the butter wrapper to grease your baking tray.
Roughly grind up the nuts in a blender, leaving some good-sized chunks. Melt the butter and find your pastry brush. Prepare a damp tea towel, open the pastry packet and carefully unroll. Cover with the tea towel whenever you’re not working with it or the sheets dry out and go brittle.
Layer sheets of the filo pastry into the tray, brushing each with melted butter. My baking tray was exactly half the size of the pastry sheets. so I chose to butter half of each sheet, then fold it over (carefully!) and move it on to the growing pile on the baking tray. Then butter the top side on the tray, and repeat. I used one third of the pastry as the base, sprinkled over half of the nut mixture, added another third of the pastry, the rest of the nuts and finally topped it off with the remaining pastry sheets. So you have two layers of nuts, sandwiched between three layers of multiple sheets of pastry. Brush the top with butter.
Now for the tricky bit – cut the baklava into a diamond pattern, taking care to cut through all the layers. Stick any stray bits of pastry back on again!
Bake in the oven – middle shelf – for 30-35 minutes or until nicely brown on top. Remove from oven.
While the pastry is still hot, spoon half of the syrup into the cuts. Wait 5 minutes and pour over the rest of the syrup.
Allow to cool a little. Serve and eat. Dobar tek!