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21-3 How to make baklava


This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

21-3 How to make baklava

(by Chris Kantarjiev)


Baklava is claimed by almost every Balkan state as its own invention;
most people in the United States first encounter it in Greek
restaurants. If the truth were known, it's probably the Turkish who
invented it, as is the case for many other ``typically Greek'' dishes.
This recipe comes from my Bulgarian grandmother, and follows Bulgarian
tradition, in that the filling is very simple.

Ingredients - Makes two small pans

1 lb strudel dough (or fillo leaves)
1 lb unsalted butter, well melted. Salted butter or margarine
are not acceptable.

1 lb walnut meat, chopped medium fine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or use vanilla sugar)

4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp lemon juice


1. Heat oven to 300 to 325 (fahrenheit).

2. Make the syrup first. Boil the water and sugar for 15 minutes.
Add lemon juice, boil 10 more minutes, set aside to cool.

3. Make the filling: Mix all ingredients well. I prefer the walnuts
fairly coarse; some people like them quite fine.

4. Cut the dough with scissors to the size of the tray. Handle the
dough very carefully; do not press hard on it at any time. Cover with
wax paper and damp towel.

5. Take out one sheet of dough at a time and place it in the pan.
Brush the dough with melted butter between each layer. Continue until
you have about 12 sheets buttered. Small and broken pieces of dough
can be used in the center, but there must be butter between every two

6. Spread walnut filling across the tray.

7. Put on a sheet of dough, brush on butter, and continue until all
the dough is used up.

8. Cut into diamond shapes: cut into quarters with cuts parallel to
the long axis, then cut diagonally across. Don't press hard!

9. Bake for about 1\(12 hour, until golden brown. Be careful not to
burn the bottom or the walnuts, especially with a glass pan.

10. Let cool on rack for 5 minutes. Add syrup which should have
cooled to room temperature. Let cool for at least two hours before


Probably the hardest thing about this recipe is waiting those last two

Depending on where you go, you'll hear the name of this dish pronounced
different ways. I learned to pronounce the name with all /ah/ sounds,
with accents of equal intensity on both the first and third syllable.
The second syllable is quite faint. Greek-speaking persons typically
put a heavy accent on the second syllable.

Many variations on the filling are to be found. A simple one was
mentioned above, regarding the coarseness of grind of the walnuts in
the filling. They may even be ground. Spices such as chopped cloves
or cinnamon may be added, and the filling may be included in several
layers instead of just one.

A large 14x10 inch pan is almost too big to handle. I typically make
this recipe in two 7-3/4x11 inch pans, which is just about the size of
a half sheet of the dough I buy. By the way, if you can make your own
strudel dough, it will be even better ... but much more effort.

It is best to have a partner help you prepare the pans. One person
handles the dough and places it in the pan, while the other applies the
butter. It is very important that sufficient butter be placed between
layers so that each layer gets flaky, rather than having them stick
together. Pay particular attention to the edges and corners.

In case you haven't noticed, this is very sweet stuff. It goes great
with a fine cup of coffee, espresso, or Turkish coffee, even with
sugar. Two pieces will probably fill anyone up; it refrigerates and
freezes quite well. This recipe requires a lot of effort, but it's
well worth it.

Time: 1-1/2 hours preparation, 1-1/2 hours cooking, 2 hours cooling.


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