Bryan and I spent last Thanksgiving with his family, and being a good Southern girl, I refused to show up empty handed. My normal go-to would have been brownies, chocolate chip cookies, or pumpkin pie, but his aunts already had that covered. I assumed Bryan would know his family’s likes and dislikes better than I, so I enlisted his help.

“Baklava,” he said, with no hesitation. “Make baklava. They’ll love it.”

So I made baklava. It’s considered a challenging dessert to make, which I didn’t know until I showed up with baklava in hand. From a time perspective,  I could see the difficulty, but with a steady hand and a bit of patience, baklava is actually pretty simple. This recipe is based on Bryan’s mom’s traditional recipe, and I’ve given it a bit of a modern twist.

Bring this to the next gathering of your Middle Eastern friends, and you’ll wow them with your chutzpah. And your awesome baking skills. It won’t disappoint.


1 pkg phyllo dough, thawed (do not bend)
2 sticks melted butter
1/2 c pecans
1/2 c almonds
1 c pistachios, shelled
2 T sugar
2 T cinnamon

For the glaze
1 c water
2 c sugar
2 T rose water

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and pour into a bowl.

Grease a 9×5 glass baking pan thoroughly, and preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, grind the nuts into very small pieces. It’s okay if you have some larger bits, but to be most traditional and “correct,” you want them to all be a uniform size of about 1 mm.

Toss the nuts with cinnamon and sugar.

Lay down one sheet of phyllo dough, and brush with melted butter. Repeat with 5 more sheets of dough, then sprinkle nut mixture in an even layer over the phyllo dough.

Repeat until you’ve used all of the nuts and dough.

Pour the rest of the melted butter over the top of the baklava and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a light golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, melt the sugar and water together over medium-low heat, and reduce until it’s viscous.

When the baklava is finished baking, let cool until it’s warm, then add rose water to the glaze. Pour the glaze over the baklava until it’s filled about 1/4″ from the bottom. Let it soak into the baklava, and repeat. Add as much or as little as you want, keeping in mind that the glaze is the fragrant, sticky, sweet finish.

Cut into small squares and serve with coffee or hot tea.

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