Classic Baklava with Zest of Orange: I made these delicious classic baklava + orange zest treats at 5 am. The result was crisp, buttery sheets of phyllo, stuffed with cinnamon walnuts, and drenched in a honey-citrus sauce. Simply irresistible! This recipe is really pretty easy and I used a lot of good tips from people who have been making baklava for years. I added to a classic recipe I found some orange zest to balance out the sweet flavors and give it an undertone of citrus. Noted are all of the tips below for making this a classic baklava recipe taste super delicious in a whole lot less time. If you plan ahead, you can make this baklava in under 20 minutes prep time and then you are simply waiting for it in the oven!
The Back Story: A few weekends ago, my husband and I went to a Greek Food Festival near us and got to sample several of their tasty desserts. Baklava was one of them. And boy, it was good. So, when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday as a treat he didn’t ask for cake, cupcakes or ice cream, he asked for baklava. I have been craving these ever since. But now, the birthday weekend is finally here! I have been planning and running around like a crazy woman for the last few days getting all of the details taken care of. Balloons…check. Crazy, awesome party favors…check. Personalized soda labels…check. Mod Podge craftiness…check. Baklava….ummmm, check, finally. This baklava may have taken me three trips to the store and a 24 hours prep time to make, but it tastes wonderful. First trip to the store, bought ingredients…check. ….Maybe. Second trip to the store, I forgot the walnuts..ok, walnuts, check. Third trip to store, bought phyllo dough, not the pastry dough I accidentally grabbed. Sneaky pastry doughs. All of the ingredients, finally, check. Then after making everything ready to go, I still had the overnight hours to defrost my dough. So much for planning ahead. But, the birthday is still on and the tasty baklava is our new birthday cake around here. So delicious!!
- 1 (16 ounce) package of phyllo dough (I found the ones that came in 9″ x 14″ sheets)
- 1 pound chopped walnuts (finely chopped)
- 2 cups unsalted butter (I clarified mine, tip below!)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon zest of orange
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup honey
- Let phyllo dough defrost in the fridge overnight. I recommend making the sauce the night before as well, since you will want it cooled to pour onto the baklava when it comes out of the oven.
- For the sauce: Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan then add sugar and boil until the sugar is melted. Turn, the heat down to low. Then immediately add in the honey, vanilla extract, and zest of orange. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. If making the night before, store in an air tight container in the fridge. If not, place your pan in the fridge and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
- Clarify the butter – Put the butter into a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for about 2 minutes on medium heat or until the butter has melted. Remove from the microwave and with a spoon remove all of the foamy white fats that have separated on top. Set aside.
- Next get a large damp cloth and set it out. You will want to use this to cover your phyllo dough as you work to prevent it from drying out. Get an extra sheet of plastic wrap to keep in between your dough and the cloth to prevent sticking.
- Prepare the walnuts (make sure they are finely chopped) by placing them in a large bowl and tossing with the cinnamon.
- Get out your 9″ x 14″ baking pan and lightly coat with butter. Get out the phyllo dough and place on already prepared damp cloth. With a pastry brush, place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan, brush with butter (all of it, but not super soaked/ butter each sheet!). Repeat with 7 layers.
- Next, add in 3-4 tablespoons of the nut mixture. Then place 2 sheets of phyllo dough (buttering each sheet) and then add 3 tablespoons of nut mixture. Repeat until there is no more nut mixture.
- Finally layer 7 more layers of phyllo dough. (Be sure to butter the top of the last peice!) Then with a sharp knife cut the baklava in diamond shapes – only cutting to about 1 inch from the bottom of the pan. This way the sauce will not sit at the bottom when you pour it on later.
- Place in oven at 325 degrees and bake for 50 minutes. When removing the baklava from the oven, IMMEDIATELY pour on the sauce (you will hear it crackle).
- Let cool. Serve immediately (we added crushed pistachios on top) or cover in an air tight container and set out at room temperature if eating in a day or two so it will not get soggy. You can refrigerate or freeze for longer shelf life, but it will taste soggy when you defrost. Enjoy!
Source: modified from neonwillie on allrecipes.com
The Fresh Fridge Tip: To make this go even quicker. I bought a spray bottle of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, dumped the contents, and added my clarified butter to the bottle. Instead of brushing each piece of phyllo dough, I just sprayed. Worked great!