"Who doesn’t love the swooning moment of biting into freshly baked baklava with its golden layers of pastry, spiced nuts and fragrant syrup. It’s believed to be Assyrian in origin, spreading through Turkey and Greece and into the Middle East and beyond along the ancient trade routes established for silk and spices. This version is from Armenian home cook Arpy Iskikian who likes to brew her cinnamon and cloves as tea before adding to the syrup which uses heavenly orange blossom water and rosewater." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
The cinnamon and clove set this Armenian version apart from the crowd.
- 250-300 g unsalted butter
- 2 375 g packs filo pastry
- ground pistachios, for decorating
- 400 g coarsely ground walnuts
- 150 g coarsely ground cashews
- 50 g dry roasted peanuts, ground to a paste
- 60 ml (¼ cup) orange blossom water
- 2 tbsp rosewater
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 330 g (1½ cups) sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) very strong clove-cinnamon tea (see Note)
- 3 tsp rose water
- 3 tsp orange-blossom water
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 heaped tbsp honey
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time: 1 hour
For the filling, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and combine well. Set aside for 1 hour or overnight if time permits- this will help the nuts absorb moisture and flavour.
When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 170°C. Melt half the butter and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the base of a 30 x 30 x 3 cm tray with the melted butter, then trim the pastry sheets of one packet of filo to fit the base. Place the sheets of the first packet of filo, one at a time, into the tray, spraying with butter on every layer (about 4-5 squirts each time).
When only one sheet of the first packet of filo is left, sprinkle and spread half the filling evenly over the surface. Spray butter liberally over the filling, about 15-20 squirts. Place the last sheet of pastry over the filling and spray with butter. Spread the remaining filling over the surface, then spray butter liberally over the top again.
Melt the remaining butter and pour into the spray bottle. Place the sheets of the second packet of filo, one at a time, in the tray, spraying butter over every layer. Brush butter liberally (not spray) over the surface of the last three sheets of filo. Stand for 15-20 minutes or until the butter on the surface becomes solid.
Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into 5 cm squares or rhombus shaped pieces. You can pour any leftover butter in the gaps between the pieces. If you run out of butter, before the end of the process, it does not harm anyone to use more butter. The more, the merrier! Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove the tray from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Wait for 20 minutes or until you can touch the baklava tray without burning your hands, and then prepare the syrup.
For the syrup, place all the ingredients in a saucepan or a Middle Eastern coffee pot and stir to dissolve the sugar. If you prefer a thinner syrup, you can add 30 ml water. Bring to the boil for 30 seconds, lifting the pot up and down to avoid overflowing.
While the syrup is boiling hot, use a teaspoon to pour over the top of the warm (not hot) baklava. Pour one spoon at a time over each square. Repeat the process at least twice or as many times you need to use up the syrup. The boiling hot syrup helps the top layer to stick and not peel off. You can modify the sweetness by using more or less syrup or make the syrup thinner or thicker. Garnish the baklava with ground pistachios, then stand until cooled to room temperature.
• To make the tea, place 250 ml (1 cup) water in a saucepan with 2 tsp ground cloves and 3 cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil, then remove from heat and cover with a small plate. Steep for at least 3 hours before straining and using.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.