Monday, September 12, 2016

Walnut Baklava

We love baklava!!! Do you?

For those who don't know, baklava is a Middle Eastern sweet pastry that is made of layers of filo, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or a thick perfumed syrup made of rosewater and orange flower.

I love baking baklava at home and it is very easy and versatile to bake. Typically, baklava are assembled with many layers of filo pastry separated with melted butter or vegetable oil and they are generously filled with any chopped nuts like walnuts, pistachios, almonds or even hazelnuts. Depending on individual preferences, some have multiple layers of filo and nuts while some have only one middle layer of nuts sandwich in between thick layers of top and bottom pastry. The assembled baklava pastry is usually cut into symmetrical shapes like parallelograms (lozenge-shaped), triangles, diamonds or rectangles before baking or can be rolled and assembled as a cigars shapes too.

Sound easy? With no doubt, definitely! And this is why I have not publish any baklava recipes in my blog before this post assuming that everyone can easily bake baklava at home???... but now, I had to because I'm using this baklava recipe to review the book, Aimee's Perfect Bakes by Aimee Twigger. Why am I not using other recipes from this book? I will tell why later...

I have to say that this baklava recipe is pretty typical. Honestly, there is nothing special! ... as it is made with multiple layers of buttered filo pastry and walnuts just like most baklava recipes but the good thing is this baklava is sweetened with a rather thin rosewater and orange flower syrup and so it is NOT "disgustingly" sweet like some that are thoroughly drenched with bucket-loaded of sugar-loaded syrup that is selling in some shops!

YES that this is an extremely easy to-bake baklava that will give you NO shocking sugar-overloading feeling and lots of happy nom nom nom...

Easy Walnut Baklava

This typical baklava recipe originates from the book, Aimee's Perfect Bakes by Aimee Twigger which is not the type of book that I was expecting when I first saw the title.

Aimee's Perfect Bakes by Aimee Twigger

Well, this is a typical case of "don't judge a book by its cover". As you can see, it says "over 50 beautiful bakes and cakes for friends and family" and so I was expecting 50 homely types of well-tried-and-tested PERFECT recipes that can bake good food for my family and friends but instead I saw a series of shocking-stunning-quirky-looking cakes!!! Gosh! As I was flipping the book, these impressive-looking cakes are like exploding into my face!!! And I was like "Hey... This is not I was expecting from this humble country style book cover!!!"

Feather-light Lilac Cake
... but is very heavily decorated with lilac flowers and whipped cream!
"Rainbow" cake made with natural food colours with edible flowers
Raspberry Ripple Cake
... and I can tell that this cake is not easy to assemble!
Cookie Dough Chocolate Cake
... and I know that this cake is not easy to assemble too!!!
Guess! What are these???
They are chicken pies in the shapes of cones!!!
I'm so sorry, Aimee but these cone-shaped chicken pies are way out of the box for me :p

After flipping the book back and froth many times, I have finally chosen two recipes that I actually want to bake and they are more like the basic, easy and non-shocking ones as shown below. My apology that these basic recipes are not the best to represent this quirky creative baking book but I reckon this is the best I can do for this review. 

I have chosen to bake this Personal Apple Pie...
...And this Walnut Baklava recipe

Despite the fact that the personal apple pie is actually the easiest recipe in this book, mine failed pretty badly as the pastry shrink a lot and can't cover the apples during baking. *sign*

Honestly, this failure has affected my impression and confidence in this book. And so I have thoughtfully modified some of the steps in this walnut baklava recipe and will mention both the original and modified steps for you to choose.

Here's the recipe but not in its exact text as I have agreed to the publisher that I can't publish the recipes with the exact text in this post but has mention the original step (in blue) and modified steps for you to choose.

Makes about 30 pieces but the size of the baking tin is not mentioned in the recipe and so I have use 17 cm square tin but reckon you can any sizes that you want as long as the tin is slightly smaller or about the same size of half of each of your filo pastry.

For the baklava:
250g (1 1/2 cups) walnuts, processed with short pulses
110g butter
one 220 g pack of filo pastry, covered with plastic wrap or tea towel to prevent pastry from drying out

For the syrup:
60g caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water
1 tbsp orange-blossom water
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (60ml) water
- I reckon this amount is too much and will make the pastry very soggy!

With my modifications:

For the baklava:
200g (1 1/4 cup) walnuts or any nuts that you like, finely chopped, not processed to avoid over-processing
100g unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
10 sheets filo pastry, covered with plastic wrap or tea towel to prevent pastry from drying out

For the syrup:
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water
1 tbsp orange-blossom water
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp (30ml) water and I think it can be reduced further to 1 tbsp or none!

For the baklava:
Preheat the oven at 160°C/325°F*. Line baking tin (any sizes that you want to use and preferably those with non-stick surfaces as the cutting step might damage your non-stick surfaces) with baking paper.
To melt the butter, you can either place the butter and salt into a heat proof bowl and cook with short pulses of low microwave power or place the butter into a saucepan and cook with low heat until the butter is all completely melted.

To assemble:
Take a sheet of pastry and brush it with the melted butter. Fold the pastry to fit evenly into the tin. It is ok if you scrunch the pastry while fitting into the tin and it will be good if the scrunching bit is well-distributed throughout the tin. Repeat the same step with 3 more layers of pastry and place the layered pastry on top of the first layer of pastry. Spread over half of the nuts on the pastry. Repeat the same butter brushing and layering step with 3 more layers of pastry and place the layered pastry on top of the nut-layered pastry. Spread over the remaining nuts onto the pastry but remember to reserve a small amount to sprinkle the final layer later.

To finish, repeat the same butter brushing and layering step with 3 more layers of pastry and place the layered pastry on top of the nut-layered pastry. Brush the top layer with more butter and use a sharp knife to slice into diamond shapes, right the way through to the bottom of the pastry. Sprinkle with reserving nuts, then bake for 60 mins* or until thoroughly crispy and golden. If the nuts brown too quickly, cover the tin with foil very loosely and continue to bake until all layers are crispy.

*The original recipe bakes the baklava at 180°C/350°F for 25 mins but I prefer to bake mine more until it is thoroughly crispy and golden.

For the syrup:
Place all syrup ingredients in a saucepan or a heat proof bowl. Cook with low heat for about 5 mins or short pulses of low microwave power until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has reduced into a thick consistency. Brush water around the sides of the saucepan if required to stop the syrup from burning.

Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool completely at room temperature.

Once the baklava has cooled down completely, pour tablespoonfuls of syrup all over it - do not do this while the syrup or baklava are still warm or the baklava will turn soggy.

Serve at room temperature. Due to the least amount of added sugar and high amount of water content in the syrup, this not-so-sweet baklava will cause the pastry to be a little wet in its bottom and so it is best to consume the baklava within the same day of bake. Otherwise, pour the amount of syrup only on the amount of baklava that you want to eat on the same day and store the non-syrup drenched baklava and syrup separately in airtight containers for up to 1 week at room temperature and combined them just before consuming them.

After baking... This is my thoroughly baked baklava.
After pouring the syrup... It's time to feast.
Look at the generous layering of nuts!
Very nutty and just nice in their sweetness!

Want to see how I baked this easy baklava? Here's a one-video for you.

We like this baklava but we like to make it more according to our preferences...

1) Personally, I prefer the rolled types of baklava as it keeps the nuts inside more and less messy to eat.

2) Although I have reduced the amount of nuts to make this baklava, my son and I think that this amount of nuts is still too much for us but my husband wants more! So we will make two types of baklava, one with less nuts and another with more. Hmmm... This will make everybody happy :)

3) I like the sweetness of this syrup but reckon there is too much water content in it and prefer my usual recipe of using warm honey, rose water and orange blossom water without the addition of any water. So instead of drenching my baklava with the syrup, I prefer to brush mine with the warm honey syrup and is able to keep my honeyed baklava fresh and crispy for more than a week at room temperature.

See! There is no right or wrong baking the kind of baklava that you like and this nice basic recipe is actually a great start for you and me to adapt.

Before ending this post, I like to mention a few things:

If you like this book and want to buy it, you may wish to know that it is available now in most retail or online book shops selling at the retail price of AUD$39.99.

As this post is specially written to review this book, I'm sorry that I have agreed to the publisher that I can't publish the recipes with the exact words in this post. However, if you really wish to make this baklava, please read my post in details, you will see that you can actually do it as I have fully illustrated the process very thoroughly to you. *Hint*

I like to thank Murdoch Books for giving me this opportunity to do this review. I like to make a disclaimer here that I'm not paid to do this and like to share my most honest opinions with everyone who read this review.

Happy Baking
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  1. Hi Zoe,
    I have not eaten Baklava. This looks crispy & nutty sweet dessert. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. I really love baklava... This is indeed a great twist to normal baklavas.... great recipe... :)

  3. Love Baklava. Don't think I've seen a recipe without honey, though -- interesting. Fun stuff -- thanks!

  4. Zoe, I have eaten some Turkish sweets and liked them a lot but have not had the chance to try baklava. Looking at your baklava, I am very certain I would love it very much!

  5. I really love baklava... this looks so delicious, but I would prefer it with the tradition filling of pistachios to walnuts... :) I agree that once we try a recipe from a book and it fails, we are hesitant to go back to trying it again. And I really don't understand why baking cookbooks sometimes fail to mention the very basic information of pan sizes... :(