Baklava bought in shops can often taste old and dull and pales in comparison to a fresh, homemade version.
It’s often a revelation when people try a homemade version and it always gets a great response when we serve it as part of our dessert platter for our Middle East Feast.
Makes 20-25 mini baklava
For the baklava
– 125g butter
– 125g walnuts
– 50g icing sugar
– zest of 2 oranges
– 2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp ground cardamom
– 1 packet of filo pastry (20 sheets)
For the syrup
– 250g caster sugar
– 250ml water
– zest of 2 oranges or 1 tsp orange blossom water
1. Preheat your oven to 170°C. Melt the butter gently and set aside.
2. Roughly chop the walnuts until it resembles gravel, then mix in a bowl with the icing sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and cardamom.
3. Brush a 21cm x 31cm baking tin with some of the melted butter. To build the baklava, start by placing one layer of filo in the base of the tin.
4. Brush with melted butter and add another layer of filo. Continue this process until you have used 10 sheets of the filo pastry.
5. After you’ve made 10 layers, add a layer of the walnut, sugar and spice mixture, using all of the mix to form the layer. The baklava doesn’t need much of this mixture, but it should be an even layer 2–3cm thick all the way across the tin.
6. Now make the cap by adding the next sheet of filo and brushing with butter. Repeat until another 10 layers are completed, finishing with a last layer of butter.
7. Carefully cut the baklava into a neat diagonal or square pattern in the tin before baking – a small serrated knife is best for this job. You want to end up with diamonds or squares about 3cm long on each of its 4 sides.
8. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then increase the heat to 200°C and bake for another 8–10 minutes, until it’s light golden on top. (If you have a fan oven, I recommend putting a wire rack on top of the baklava as it bakes, as oftentimes the fan can blow some of the filo pastry around.)
9. While the baklava is baking, place the sugar in a small saucepan with the water and the orange zest or orange blossom water.
10. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring. Continue to simmer until all the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is clear.
11. As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, gently but liberally brush with plenty of the orange sugar syrup and then leave to cool.
12. At this stage you may need to redo the original cuts to ease the individual baklava pieces from the tray. The baklava keeps well if stored in an airtight container. It will be at its best for 3–4 days, but it will be fine for up to a week or more.
– Mix it up by replacing some of the walnuts with roughly chopped hazelnuts, almonds or pistachios to bring the total weight of nuts up to the same amount (125g in total).
– Though not as authentic or traditional, you could add some chopped dried dates, dried figs, dried apricots, dried cranberries or crystallised ginger to the nut filling. Just reduce the nuts by 50g and replace it with 50g of the dried fruit of your choice.
Garrett Fitzgerald left his office-based career to follow his dream: to immerse himself in the creative adventures to be enjoyed with food. That journey started off with three wonderful months in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School. Next, he and his partner James travelled the world, exploring the flavours of local food throughout. Bringing that experience back home on a wing and a prayer, Brother Hubbard opened on Dublin’s Capel Street in 2012. Leaning towards aspects of Middle Eastern and Southern Mediterranean food, The Brother Hubbard Cookbook is packed with nutritious, wholesome, often deceptively vegetarian dishes that emphasise flavour, colour and texture.
The Brother Hubbard Cookbook is published by Gill Books, and is available to buy on www.gillbooks.ie.