• Baklava with a custard filling (China Squirrel)

This version of the classic Lebanese pastry combines my two loves - custard and baklava, all wrapped up in filo and finished with fennel-spiced walnuts.






Skill level

Average: 4 (22 votes)



  • 500 ml (2 cups) full-cream milk, chilled
  • 150 ml thickened cream
  • 95 g (½ cup) fine semolina
  • 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar



  • 220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 125 ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed strained orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1 orange, rind finely grated
  • ½ cinnamon quill
  • 1 splash orange blossom water 



  • 6 sheets filo pastry
  • 200 g melted butter or olive oil 


Spiced walnut praline

  • 50 g (½ cup) walnuts
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground fennel
  • 75 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch sea salt 


  • 750 g mascarpone, to serve

Cook's notes

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.


Cooling time: 30 minutes

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

For the syrup, combine the sugar, orange juice and zest, and cinnamon quill in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until thickened, stir in the orange blossom water, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour into a jar with a lid and refrigerate until required.

For the custard, combine the milk, cream, semolina and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. Using a whisk, constantly stir until the custard becomes very thick. Pour into a shallow glass dish or baking dish, about 20 cm x 30 cm and leave to cool. Once the custard is cool and set, cut into 20 ‘cigars' about 9 cm x 1.5 cm x 1.5 cm.

To assemble the baklava, cut each pastry sheet into 4 pieces and keep covered under a damp tea towel. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat one piece of pastry with the butter. Place a custard cigar at one end of the pastry, roll up one-third, then bring the sides over to completely enclose the custard and continue rolling up. Repeat with  the remaining custard and pastry.

Arrange the baklava in a large shallow baking dish, drizzle with the remaining butter and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

For the praline, lightly rub the walnuts with the oil and sprinkle with the fennel. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 4-5 minutes, then remove and cool.

Lightly grease a baking tray with oil.

Heat the sugar and water in small saucepan over over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil, without stirring, and cook for about 10 minutes or until caramel in colour. Remove from the heat.

Add the walnuts and stir quickly to coat. Pour onto prepared tray and sprinkle with the salt. Allow to cool.

Process in a small food processor until coarsely ground.

To assemble, smear a large dollop of mascarpone on a serving plate and drizzle over 2 tsp of the syrup. Top with the hot baklava and scatter over the praline. Serve immediately.


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel


This recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.

This recipe has been edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the series.