Assyrian people are from all over the Middle East and many other parts of the world, so our food is as diverse as the regions we live in. It’s hard to find one recipe for a dish that we’ll all agree is the definitively authentic one. Baklawa is really representative of this diversity: Most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions have their own version of baklawa with different ingredients, preparations, presentations, and pronunciations (“baklawa,” “baklava,” “baqlawa,” etc.), and so baklawa varies from one Assyrian family to another.
There are literally thousands of possible combinations: baklawa can be layered with just about any kind of nut, most often pistachios, walnuts, or almonds. The sugar solution can be made from any combination of several different sugars, but usually includes some amount of honey. Rosewater or orange blossom water can be added to the syrup. All sorts of warm, sweet spices can be added, such as cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. The dough is made with pastries ranging from delicate, crispy filo dough to soft, bready crust. It can be molded or cut into many beautiful shapes.
Among so many perfect combinations, it’s hard to go wrong, but my grandmother, Romy, makes a very special version that stands out as one of the best. Most importantly, it’s delicious. She uses 100% honey for the syrup along with some powdered sugar in the walnut mixture. She uses a combination of walnuts and pistachios, imbuing it with richness, color, and balance. And she uses cardamom, which gives it a really special flavor that reminds us all of the way her kitchen smells.
While enjoying this baklawa is absolutely delightful, I also love this recipe’s no-nonsense attitude, which demystifies the whole process. The recipe completely eliminates the most tedious step: individually brushing each of the dozens of filo sheets with butter before they dry out. No damp tea towel or pastry brush is necessary here, since it takes literally 5 minutes to deal with the filo. This is accomplished by slicing all the way through the layers of dough and walnuts, pouring clarified butter over the top, and then baking it. Butter seeps all the way through each layer, making its way to the center of each piece as it bakes and resulting in perfectly cooked baklawa without the tedious layering. And by slicing through before baking, you don’t end up shattering the delicately crispy tops before serving. The whole thing comes together so perfectly. There is not a thing I would change.Print
cardamom baklawa (baklava)
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 2 1/2 hours
- Yield: approximately 3 to 6 dozen pieces (depending on how you slice them)
- 1 cup (2 sticks / 8 ounces) butter*, plus an extra tablespoon for greasing
- 16 ounces walnuts, about 4 cups medium-chopped
- 5 ounces powdered sugar, about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
- 16-ounce container of filo dough sheets (do not open until the recipe tells you to)
- 16 ounces honey
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Use the extra tablespoon of butter to grease a 12″ x 16″ rimmed sheet pan.
- Melt the 2 sticks of butter.
- While the butter is melting, combine chopped walnuts, powdered sugar, and cardamom, and set aside.
- Once the butter has melted, get a fine mesh strainer ready (if you don’t have a mesh strainer, spoon the foam off the top of the butter) and then open the filo dough container.
- Place half of the filo dough on the sheet pan.
- Spread the chopped walnut mixture evenly over the filo dough.
- Place the rest of the filo dough on top of the walnut mixture.
- Cut the baklawa into diamonds by slicing straight across in one direction, then diagonally in the other direction (see photos above). It’s best to work with a very sharp or serrated knife so that you don’t tear, stretch, or dishevel the filo. It’s alright if a few of the pieces go a little awry, but you want everything to stay pretty lined up.
- Pour the butter through the sieve to capture the foam, slowly drizzling it evenly all over the baklawa.
- Cook the baklawa in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes**, until it has lightly browned. (Start checking after 15 minutes of baking).
- As soon as it comes out of the oven, immediately pour the honey evenly over the top.
- Immediately top with ground pistachios.
- Let it sit until it comes to room temperature, at least one hour.
- Cut through the same lines you made before baking and serve.
* You can use either salted or unsalted butter. My mom and grandmother use unsalted, but I use salted. If you like your baked goods well-seasoned, salted works great.
** 20 to 30 minutes results in very traditional lightly browned baklawa, but you can let it bake for up to another 10 minutes if you prefer yours to be more golden brown. Just keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Note: If you have any leftover baklawa, you can freeze it and turn it into baklawa frozen yogurt. To store, keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week or the freezer for about 3 months. For more baklawa, also feel free to check out my recipe for dairy free botanical baklawa.
This is the best baklava you will ever taste, have made it many times. Whenever I order baklava in a restaurant, it’s never as good as this!
Yesss, simply the best!
Tried It today (first time making baklava ever) and it went brilliantly. Thank you for uploading all these recipes- makes coronavirus quarantine so much more fulfilling and fun!
Aw I’m so glad your’e enjoying it!! Stay healthy, and have fun baking!
Made this. Family fave now. Thank you! Love you!
Aw I’m so glad!! ❤️❤️❤️
Most of the time I have heard that you have to brush butter on each layer of filo but I’m loving this idea of pouring butter on top after it has been cut. Is there a big difference of outcome between the two techniques or does it just come down to person preference.
It’s such a time saver!! My grandmother taught me this way, and learned this from a friend decades ago when she first started making baklawa at home. Honestly, I do think it’s just a preference thing, and it turns out beautifully either way. With the pour method, the pieces end up looking a bit more uniform and the butter indeed makes its way between the layers. And with the brush method, the layers end up a little tiny bit wavy, which lets them get a bit crispier, and looks a little more wabi-sabi and homemade. Although these are totally just generalizations, and either method can turn out differently depending on who’s making it. But all that to say, there are totally different reasons to choose one over the other—definitely no right or wrong 🙂
Thanks for posting this recipe, I live in the England so had to do some coverting with the measurements, but it’s absolutely delicious the cardamom makes it in my opinion, one of all time favourite spices. Also a big plan a not having to faff about painting each leaf of pastry with butter!
Oh that is so awesome!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it (and yes, isn’t it so much easier? Love it!). Also, I really need to come up with a convenient way to include both measurements—so thank you for the very helpful reminder to get to work on that (if all goes well with a couple other similar projects, I will hopefully get a chance to implement it later this summer or fall).
We made this a few weeks ago, and its the best baklava/wa I’ve ever had!
I’m so glad you liked the recipe! Thanks so much for the kind words!