Baklava with Mom

Thank you for all the Christmas wishes – I wish everyone happy eating and the very best for 2009! My Christmas food coma lasted slightly longer than I anticipated with all the leftovers we have had at my house. In all seriousness, my mom went into full-on Arabic mode and cooked enough food to feed a medium-sized Army; needless to say it was more than enough for the 20 guests we had at our house.

I contributed a humble tray of baklava, which I’m posting about today. But, before I forget, I want to give props to Marianna who correctly named the famous Lebanese singer on my computer screen in my stuffed grape leaves post: Najwa Karam. I have some Middle Eastern goodies that I’ll be sending your way once I fly back home.

The two Greek Pete’s must forgive me when I say this, but Middle Eastern baklava is the best I’ve had. It might be because I grew up hooked on the countless trays my grandmother would whip up in her kitchen for parties, birthdays or when she knew her grandson was visiting – I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not one to turn down a good serving of the Greek kind either!

old school scale: 1/2 kg walnuts

My mom has had this scale for longer than I can remember. It’s seen better days, yes, but it never lets her down. Oh, and mise en place you ask? I was already pushing it with my camera and asking to take photos of every step.

mom brushed each layer with clarified butter

This is probably one of the most crucial steps for a good baklava, Greek or Middle Eastern. You want to use clarified butter to avoid the butter from burning in the oven and you also want to make sure to brush each layer liberally to achieve maximum crispiness.

my job was to sprinkle the chopped walnuts

The walnuts must be fresh for making baklava. Taste the nuts before you use them and chuck them if they’re rancid or stale. You also want to make sure you use fresh ground cinnamon for the filling. These little components is what makes for a good baklava.

slice before you bake

Since the layers will be too crispy when the the baklava comes out of the oven, you want to slice it before you bake it. This will also help the baklava absorb the syrup once it’s finished baking.

cool syrup on hot baklava

This syrup, called عطر (a’ater) or شيرة (sheera), must be at room temperature and poured over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven. Alternatively, you can let your baklava come to room temperature and douse it with hot syrup, but I find the first way to be more convenient.

Baklava (بقلاوة)

After you pour the syrup over the baklava and allow the whole thing come to room temperature, sprinkle each piece with bright green ground pistachios and enjoy! الف هنا و عافية (bon appetit in Arabic)

Middle Eastern Baklava

approx 24-32 servings


  • 1 lb phyllo dough
  • 3 cups walnuts, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter, clarified
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • simple syrup
  • pistachios for garnish

Putting them all together

  1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
  2. Pulse the nuts, cinnamon & sugar in a food processor until you reach a coarse consistency.
  3. With a pastry brush begin by brushing the bottom of a 9X13 pan.
  4. Layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough, making sure to brush clarified butter between each sheet.
  5. Spread half of the nut mixture.
  6. Layer 4 more sheets of phyllo dough.
  7. Spread the remaining half of the nut mixture.
  8. Top with the remaining 12 sheets of phyllo, making sure to brush each layer with clarified butter (including the top sheet).
  9. Carefully slice the baklava into trapezoidal/diamond shapes (~24-30 pieces) .
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes, then transfer to the broiler on low until golden brown.
  11. Pour the simple syrup (see next recipe) over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow to come to room temperature before serving.


Arab simple syrup (قطر او شيرة)

approx 3/4 cups


  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 strip of orange peel (optional)

Putting them all together

  1. Bring the sugar and water to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Continue cooking over low heat until mixture becomes syrupy (approximately 10 minutes).
  3. Add the lemon juice to prevent the syrup from crystalizing.
  4. Remove from heat and mix in the orange blossom water.
  5. Transfer to a mason jar or a jar with a tight fitting lid.

note: Syrup can be made a few days in advance and stored in an airtight container.


25 thoughts on “Baklava with Mom

  1. Tony, Sydney has a very big Lebanese community and I have tasted the Lebanese version many times and I always find it delicious. You offer good advice about the “filo”, using clarified butter and the syrup. Thanks for the shout out! Your TV appearance sounds exciting and I would probably do the baklava. Please make sure you post it…

  2. Tony, I wish you seasons greetings too. I love the ME baklava too and I wish I was there with you and your mum in that kitchen. I love the ME hospitality as it is so much like we Indians are – so I can totally understand what you mean when you say your mum cooked for an army LOL! I would do the baklava on the TV show. Hugs!

  3. Tony, mom’s know best and they are the greatest food instructors. No offense taken…my mom’s is still the best! lol

    The baklava looks fab and congrats on the TV segment…I’d go with the baklava…do the demo and have another one ready to show the finished product.

  4. Please please please do the baklava on the TV segment, and give us a link to the video, if possible! This baklava looks great, I will love to try some!

    Happy holidays Tony!

  5. I vote for the baklava. But I have also been eating it throughout the holidays and I am more attached to it than the almond drink. Your recipe looks fantastic!

  6. Yummy, I love baklawa! One of the best ones I have had was in Caracas, where I see you are originally from. Do you ever cook venezuelan food?

  7. Mmmm, I’ve never tried Arabic baklava.

    I think the almond milk seems more achievable in three minutes.

  8. A beautiful baklava. I made baklava once but the recipe used too much syrup for my taste – I will try yours next time, it looks beautiful too.

  9. Delicious! I didn’t use to like Baklava, but recently I’ve tried some and loved it.
    Is it possible to use rose-water in the syrup as well?

    I would choose baklava-however, if there’s less time perhaps almond milk as the previous commentator suggested.

  10. Tony! Thanks for stopping by my blog! It’s truly wonderful to see a fellow lebanese/mediteranean blog and all your yummy treats! I love baklawa and you’ve done a great job! Thanks for sharing! I think this is the recipe to share for you demo…. Break a leg 🙂

  11. Nice! I just came back from Syria & Lebanon so enjoyed a lot of this aplenty there!! I definately miss the food over there, so it’s great to see you blogging about deliciousness such as Baklava..brings back a lot of memories 🙂

  12. i would think you should do the baklava… everyone i know loves it and it is so popluar! can’t wait to see what you do … happy new year!

  13. Your bakalava looks so so so good…..very professional looking…mine looked fine but i did not have any pistachios to top it…thanks for sharing.

  14. I love baklava though I’ve only made it once myself. I’ve seen recipes that call for rose water…do you know if there any authentic basis to this or is it just a contemporary, alternate version?

  15. Your Baklava’s are amazing..But can i use unsalted margarine(Fleishman’s unsalted margarine) instead of clarified butter???? And you said to bake on 275 degree F for 2 hrs yes????? Pls answer my questions and also 1 more if I use clarified butter than which brand i should use and where to get that????

  16. Hi Sapna–I wouldn’t use margarine since you really get a lot of flavor out of the butter in this dish. Also, the reason why you want to clarify the butter is so that it can last a long time in the oven without burning. The clarification process removes the dairy solids from the butter, which have a tendency to burn easily. You should be fine with leaving the baklava in the oven for 2 hours, sometimes I even leave it in there longer for a crunchier result. In terms of butter, I usually go with a good quality European butter or organic butter. I hope this helps! Let me know how it turns out 🙂

  17. I fell in love with Palestinian and Middle eastern Levantine (i believe arabs call it ahl sham) food when i visisted Palestine in 1995. The food was simply amazing. Cant wait to try this baklava recipe. Thanks Tony.

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