I literally could not be more excited to share this recipe with you. As a half-Greek person, I actually identify with the culture and cuisine as though I was fully Greek. It’s just that important to me. And a big part of Greek cuisine is dessert — specifically baklava! So in preparation for the holidays, I wanted to share my yia yia’s traditional Greek baklava recipe with you. It’s truly special and near and dear to my heart. I hope you love it!
How to Make Traditional Greek Baklava — Just Like my Yia Yia
What is Traditional Greek Baklava?
Baklava is one of those recipes that’s incredibly simple to make and yields impressive results. However, this iconic Greek dessert has a few variations that can slightly differ from region to region and country to country. This specific recipe takes a more Greek approach and is slightly different from the Turkish version.
While there are slight differences between the two, the most significant difference is the type of nuts used and the spices in the baklava syrup.
What is the difference between Greek and Turkish baklava?
The Turkish version of baklava typically has more significant layers of the nut filling and a thinner top layer of phyllo dough. This iteration also uses pistachios or hazelnuts, whereas the Greek version is most commonly made with walnuts.
Additionally, the layers, nuts, and thickness are all unique, but spices and syrup set the two apart. Traditional Turkish baklava doesn’t have spices, unlike the Greek version, which is rich in warm flavors. Instead, Greek baklava syrup is typically infused with orange and cinnamon to accompany the sugar and honey.
The Greek adaptation tends to be sweeter, more flavorful, and all-around better, in my (very, very Greek) opinion. My memories are full of the scent of the syrup simmering on our stovetop all season long… love it!
One unique addition that sets this recipe apart from any others I’ve seen is the addition of an individual clove poked into each individual slice. When I was a kid, it was my job to put a clove in each slice. It is a wonderful flavor to pair with the walnuts. Just be sure to remove it before eating!
Tips for Making the Best Baklava
Handling Phyllo Dough
As I said, baklava is a simple dessert, in theory. However, there are a few tips that will make working with phyllo dough a bit easier. The first thing you must remember is that the dough is very fragile. Therefore, handling the layers with care is essential when constructing. These thin sheets of dough dry out quickly. So my best advice is to work carefully, but with urgency. Wrapping the squares of dough up in a damp paper towel helps to keep the sheets from becoming dry and frail.
The next major tip is to be generous with the butter! Baklava is an indulgence, after all. Butter gives the dough a beautiful color and flavor, while also keeping things from getting too sticky.
Finally, don’t cut all the way through when you’re making your cuts before the oven. This allows the syrup to distribute more evenly. Also, this helps to keep the syrup from just settling into the bottom and soaking the layers.
How to store baklava and how long does baklava last?
The final step to a successful baklava making is storage. Ideally, you want the lovely nut layers to be wrapped in flaky pastry layers. Improper storage can be a detriment to this, though. The best method for storing leftover baklava is in an airtight container that kept level.
The shelf life is very long for this treat, at about two weeks with proper storage and wrapping to avoid moisture — which makes it absolutely perfect to mail! My mom regularly sends care packages of baklava because of this.
How to Serve Baklava
I grew up with platters of baklava pretty much available any time of day during the holidays! It was always there (along with these cookies). One thing that is unique to my family is serving each piece in a cupcake wrapper. I don’t know the origin of this tradition, but it’s just always been like that!
My Yiayia’s Traditional Greek Baklava Recipe
- 1 Square 9-inch baking pan
- Sharp Paring knife
- Pastry Brush
- Food processor
- 1 Pound Phyllo dough thawed
- 3 Cups Walnuts chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Cloves ground
- 2/3 Cups Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Butter melted and cooled
- 1 Cup Honey
- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Orange Rind
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 cups Water
- Whole cloves
- In a medium-large heavy bottom pot, combine, sugar, water, and honey. Bring to boil, only stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
- Once the mixture is boiling, add in the orange rind and cinnamon sticks. Cook over medium heat until reduced and thick. Set aside to cool.
- In a food processor, pulse together the walnuts, sugar, and spices.
- Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with melted butter, using just enough to coat the pan.
- Cut the phyllo dough to fit the pan and cover the top and bottom in a damp paper towel.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Working one sheet at a time, layer the sheets down, coat with butter using the pastry brush, and repeat until about half the dough has been used.
- Once the base has been created, pour on 1/2 of the nut mixture. Repeat layering dough and butter about three sheets deep with the remaining nut mixture, then cover with the rest of the dough, layering butter and sheets until completed.
- Thoroughly butter the top layer of the dough. Then, using a sharp paring knife, cut a diamond shape into the layers, making sure not to cut all the way through.
- Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown on top.
- Once golden brown and flakey, pour the syrup over the baklava, making sure to cover in syrup as evenly as possible. Let rest 12 to 24 hours, lightly covered and out of the refrigerator.
So what do you think?? I hope you love our traditional Greek baklava recipe and agree that it’s the best!
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