Yiayia Marina Antoniou, the co-founder of Antoniou Fillo Pastry, is renowned for producing the pastry that thousands of Australians have been cooking with for over 60 years. After emigrating from Cyprus, in 1960 she and her husband Chris started making Fillo Pastry by hand from a small shopfront in Glebe, Sydney. For 60 years that pastry has been used by passionate home cooks and chefs to create so many wonderful mouth-watering sweet and savoury creations. One of her most cherished recipes using that Fillo Pastry is her Baklava. She has been making it the same way for 60 years and it makes an appearance at every celebration for her family to enjoy. Layer upon layer of crispy Fillo Pastry laden with butter sandwiches a filling of chopped almonds and cinnamon, all coated in a sweet syrup to create a delicious, moreish, mouth-watering dessert. Yiayia Marina loves cooking for her large family, including her 9 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, and nothing makes her happier than seeing them all gather together to enjoy her culinary creations.
Yiayia Marina’s been making it the same way for over 60 years and it continues to make an appearance at every family gathering, large or small. Our family’s recipe is for a large-sized tray, enough to make 100 tiny bite-sized serves, or 25 larger dessert sized portions.
For the syrup
- 1½ cups water
- 2½ cups sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 10 whole cloves
- 3 heaped tbsp honey
For the baklava
- 500 g almonds
- 2 heaped tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 250 g unsalted butter (bottom half of baklava)
- 2 packets Antoniou Fillo Pastry
- ½ cup water
- 335 g unsalted butter (top half of baklava)
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.
We’ve used a tray measuring 42cm x 24cm.
1. Before you begin this pastry recipe, take your fresh filo out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you begin to bring it up to room temperature.
2. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
3. To make the syrup, place water, sugar, lemon, cinnamon and cloves in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil until the sugar has dissolved. Add the honey and continue to boil until the liquid thickens and bubbles. To test whether the syrup is ready, place some syrup on a tablespoon and place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. If it sets on the spoon then it is ready. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
4. To make the baklava, process almonds in a food processor until a chunky crumb is reached. Mix sugar and ground cinnamon through almonds and set aside.
5. Melt the 250 g butter and brush the baking tray well before you begin layering the sheets. Ensure only the clarified butter is used, not the milk solids (see note below).
6. Open one packet of pastry onto the bench & place the empty baking tray on top of it. Using a sharp knife cut around the tray to ensure sheets will fit perfectly inside the tray. Set offcuts aside for later use.
7. Place the tray horizontally in front of you. Using three sheets of pastry, line the base of the tray vertically leaving approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) overhanging around all edges. Then lay two sheets horizontally in the tray, buttering between each layer. Repeat layering and buttering horizontally with the remainder of the packet.
8. Place the nut mixture on top of the pastry, pressing down to compact. Using your hands, sprinkle the top of the nuts with water – this helps the almonds stick together when cutting baklava once cooked. Using the baking tray as a guide, trim the second packet to size (sit the baking tray on top of the pastry and cut around the base).
9. Place any scraps from both packets in the food processor until roughly chopped into small pieces. Place chopped pastry on top of the nut mixture. Drizzle any remaining butter (including the milk solids) on top of the scraps. Fold the overhanging sheets over onto the nuts. This will ensure the nut mixture doesn’t fall out. Lay the entire second packet of pastry into the tray and apply pressure to compact.
10. Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into small diamond shapes. To do this, firstly cut horizontal lines, approximately 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart. Then start at the top left of the tray cutting at a 45-degree angle towards the bottom of the tray, repeating until the whole tray is cut. Ensure you cut all the way through to the bottom of the baklava.
11. Melt the 335 g butter and slowly pour it over the cut baklava, allowing it to seep through the incisions (ensure only the clarified butter is used, not the milk solids, otherwise it will burn). Sprinkle the top with a small splash of water using your fingers. This will prevent it from burning immediately.
12. Bake in the oven at 180°C for approximately 30 mins, until the baklava begins to puff up and brown. Reduce the heat to 160°C and bake for a further 1¼ hours. Reduce the heat to 140°C and bake for a further 45 minutes.
13. Remove from the oven and pour the cold syrup over the hot baklava immediately. Cool in the tray before cutting and serving.
• A tray that has square corners rather than rounded ones is preferable as it is easier to line the pastry. We used a tray measuring 42 cm x 24 cm.
• Clarified butter is regular butter with the milk solids removed. As you melt your butter, it will naturally separate into layers, only use the golden liquid layer (the clarified butter), and not the white milk solids (the bottom layer).
Recipe from Antoniou Fillo Pastry. Photography by Effi Tsoukatos.