Baqlawa (Baklava)

Kud shata paskhoutha! That, my friends, is Chaldean for “May every year be filled with happiness.”

As the first post of the new year, or rehsha d’shata, I’m presenting you the recipe for a classic Middle Eastern dessert: baqlawa, or baklava. I know that a number of you probably made new year’s resolutions to eat healthier, to cut back on sugar, fat, go to the gym…etc. But, it’s a Chaldean tradition to start the year with something sweet, a hehlotah. Ringing in the new year with a sweet treat represents hope that the new year will be full be of wonderfully sweet events. While baqlawa is not the go-to dessert for yearly post-midnight celebrations, it is the sweet of choice for almost every special occasion and celebration.

My mom told me that in Iraq, they traditionally used to eat kubba helluya (sweet kibbee) to celebrate the new year. Kubba helluya are small kibbee cooked in a tomato sauce with dried fruits, such as apricots, and date syrup. Kibbee are balls of crushed bulgur and meat, stuffed with more meat. The tradition of eating kubba helluya has not carried over for my family. Growing up, I can’t recall ever eating it. My mom says she cooked the sweet dish for us once, a long time ago, but my brother, dad, and I disliked it. Ah, well. My brother and I were always picky eaters.

I have made baqlawa twice thus far, once over the summer for a work event, and once for Christmas. It was a hit both times! My first batch included only walnuts. The second time I made itI made two small trays – one with pistachios and one with walnuts. Both nuts taste wonderful, though I do love the color of pistachios.

The recipe that I followed, with some modifications, is from A Baking Journey: From Samira’s Kitchen to Yours by Samira Cholagh. My only complaint about this recipe is that the baqlawa came out slightly too sweet for my taste. Next time I make it, I will probably not add any sugar to the nuts.

Ingredients

*Note: For this recipe, you can either make one half-sheet tray (13″ x 18″), or two quarter sheet trays (9″ x 13″). The instructions below are for two separate trays of baklava, one with pistachios and one with walnuts. If you choose to make one tray, double either the walnuts or pistachios, or use a pound of each. The pictures below showcase one large tray of baklava being made. 

  • 1 package phyllo dough, at room temperature

WALNUT BAKLAVA

  • 2 sticks clarified butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar (for the nuts)
  • 1 lb pistachios
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp rose water (half for the nuts, half for the syrup)
  • 1 tsp lemon

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA

  • 2 sticks clarified butter
  • 1 lb walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar (for the nuts)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp rose water (half for the nuts, half for the syrup)
  • 1 tsp lemon

Clarifying Butter 

Clarifying butter is a process that removes the water and milk solids. Clarified butter has a higher burning point than regular butter. In a saucepan, place the four sticks of butter. On low heat, melt the butter and let it come to a gentle boil. A layer of foam will develop on the top; the foam is the milk solids. Scoop out the foam. Strain the melted butter with a cheese cloth or a damp paper towel.

Directions

  • Clarify the butter (see above).
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Crush the nuts into small chunks. (Don’t crush them too much – you don’t want crumbs!) Mix the crushed nuts with rose water and cardamom. The nuts should be slightly wet and stick together. Add a few teaspoons of water if the nuts are still dry.
  • Cut the phyllo dough in half. Cover half the dough in plastic wrap or a lightly damp paper towel (make sure the paper towel is not actually wet – it will make the phyllo dough soggy)
  • Place one sheet of phyllo dough in the tray. Brush the phyllo dough with clarified butter. Add another sheet of phyllo dough. Brush with clarified butter. Repeat until you’ve gone through half of the phyllo sheets.
  • Spread the nut mixture onto the phyllo dough.
  • Using the remaining sheets of phyllo dough, place a sheet of phyllo dough on top of the nuts. Brush the phyllo dough with clarified butter. Repeat until you’ve gone through all of the phyllo sheets.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds.
  •  Bake the baklava for about 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.
  • While the baklava is baking, add sugar, water, and honey to a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil using medium heat. Once the mixture has started boiling, reduce heat to low, and add rose water and lemon. Keep the mixture on heat until it forms into a syrup. (You’ll know it’s ready when it can coat a spoon.)
  • Remove the baklava from the oven. Pour the warm syrup over baklava. Let it sit for at least an hour before serving.

Pistachio Baklava

 

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Boushala. You'll receive notifications of new posts by email.

2 Comments

  1. January 12, 2016
    Reply

    Happy New Year, Candice. This sounds and looks delicious!

  2. admincy
    January 12, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you Darya! Happy New Year to you too!

Leave a Reply