Create the honeyed decadence of baklava at home

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Ambrosia may be the food of the gods, but we mere mortals must make do with the heavenly richness of baklava. Flaky phyllo pastry layered with nuts and topped with a fragrant honey-infused syrup is as close as we will ever get to the Olympian peaks.

Though baklava is often thought of as the quintessential Greek pastry, the Turks vehemently differ. The matter was settled in 2013 when the European Union awarded the “protected status” award to the Turkish version. Be that as it may, the creation of this layered pastry probably came about by the intermingling of many different cultures.

Because baklava is made throughout the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, there are many variations to the basic recipe. The Greeks prefer walnuts, while pistachios are de rigueur in Turkey. You can use that as a blueprint when making your own version at home. Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans or a mix of any of these will make a wonderful filling. The only caveat is to make sure that whatever nuts you use are fresh. Check the date on the package.

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If you’ve never worked with phyllo dough, some tips are in order.

Thaw the dough still in the package overnight in the refrigerator.

Take the package out a couple of hours before baking so that it comes to room temperature.

Have all of your other ingredients prepped before opening the package.

While working, cover the unused sheets with a barely damp kitchen towel, as they dry out very quickly.

Baklava is not difficult to make, but buttering all those layers does take some time. The result, though, will truly be a transcendent pastry fit for the gods.

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The most time-consuming part of making baklava is buttering each layer of phyllo dough. In all, the recipe uses 40 sheets to create the flaky delight. (Julie Falsetti/For The York Dispatch)


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 pound walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 package (16 ounces) phyllo dough
  • 21/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

Begin by making the syrup, as it has to cool before being used. In a small saucepan, add the sugar, lemon juice, water and honey, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Reduce the heat to medium low and boil uncovered for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix the chopped walnuts with the cinnamon in a medium-size bowl.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Open the first pack of phyllo dough, and using scissors, trim off 1 inch from the short side of the sheets so that they will lie flat in the pan. Do the same when you open the second pack.

Place the first phyllo sheet in the pan, and brush with the melted butter. Continue doing this, brushing each sheet with butter, until you have 10 layers. Sprinkle on 3/4 cup of the nut mixture. Add 5 phyllo sheets, again brushing each with melted butter, and a layer of nuts. Repeat this 3 more times. Finish off with 10 phyllo sheets. In all, you will have used 40 sheets. With a sharp knife, cut the finished baklava into 11/2-inch-wide strips lengthwise, and then cut diagonally to form diamond shapes. Be sure to cut through to the bottom layer.

Cut on the diagonal to make diamond-shaped baklava pieces. (Julie Falsetti/For The York Dispatch)

Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the top is golden brown. As soon as you remove the baklava from the oven, evenly spoon on the syrup. Let the baklava sit 4-6 hours or overnight at room temperature for the syrup to penetrate and soften the layers. Store at room temperature.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at