A step-by-step guide (and video) for how to make homemade baklava with perfectly crispy golden layers of phyllo, your choice of nuts, and lovely citrus honey syrup. See notes above for possible ingredient variations.
- 1 (16-ounce, 40-sheet) package frozen phyllo dough, thawed to room temperature (see thawing instructions below)
- 1 pound your choice of nuts (I used half walnuts and half pistachios)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups melted butter (preferably clarified butter*)
- Thaw the phyllo dough. For best results, transfer the package of phyllo dough to the refrigerator overnight. Then let it rest on the counter (still in its packaging) at room temperature for 1 hour before working with it.
- Make the honey syrup. Meanwhile, combine the honey, water, sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture nearly reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Transfer the syrup to a heat-safe bowl, stir in the orange blossom water (if using), and refrigerate the syrup until ready to use.
- Finely chop the nuts. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are finely-chopped. (Alternately, you can chop them by hand with a chef’s knife, or place them in a ziplock and pound them with a mallet.) Pulse or stir the nuts together with the cinnamon until combined. Set aside a few tablespoons of nuts to use later as a topping, then divide the remaining nuts into 5 equal portions (roughly 3/4 cup per portion) and set aside.
- Trim the phyllo dough. Unwrap and transfer the thawed phyllo sheets to a cutting board and use a chef’s knife to slice them into a 9 x 13-inch rectangle (to fit the baking dish). Discard the scraps, then lightly cover the stack of phyllo sheets with a damp towel so that they do not dry out.
- Arrange your assembly line. Heat oven to 325°F (162°C). Place a 9 x 13-inch baking dish on your work station, followed by the bowl of melted butter, followed by the phyllo sheets, followed by the chopped nuts. Time to begin!
- Butter the baking dish. Use a soft pastry brush to lightly brush the inside of the baking dish with butter.
- 1st layer. Carefully lay 1 phyllo sheet in the baking dish and brush it lightly with butter. (No need for it to be perfectly brushed!) Repeat with 9 more sheets, brushing each with butter, until there are 10 sheets total. Sprinkle approximately 1/5 of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of phyllo.
- 2nd layer. Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 3rd layer. Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 4th layer. Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 5th layer. Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 6th layer. Finally, repeat with the remaining 10 phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter. Brush any remaining butter on the top and final layer.
- Cut the baklava. Using a very sharp paring knife, slice the baklava all the way through into your desired shapes/sizes. (I sliced mine into diamonds.)
- Bake. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top layers of the baklava are golden brown and crispy.
- Drizzle with syrup. Transfer the baking dish to a wire cooling rack. Then immediately drizzle the cooled syrup evenly over the top of the hot baklava. (It will sizzle and crack, which is what we want!) Sprinkle a pinch of the reserved chopped nuts on top of each piece of baklava as a topping.
- Cool to room temperature. Let the baklava sit out uncovered for 3-4 hours until it has completely cooled to room temperature, then serve and enjoy! Storage instructions included below.
Layers: Here is an easier to read checklist for the baklava layers:
10 sheets + nuts
5 sheets + nuts
5 sheets + nuts
5 sheets + nuts
5 sheets + nuts
How to thaw frozen phyllo dough: For best results, remove the sealed package of phyllo dough from the box and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, followed by 1 hour on the countertop. Or for faster results, let the sealed package of phyllo dough thaw on the countertop for 2-3 hours until chilled but no longer frozen. I do not recommend defrosting it in the microwave.
Clarified vs unclarified butter: You are welcome to use either for this recipe, but the advantage to using clarified butter (or ghee) is that it will be more evenly browned and will last a bit longer. You can purchase clarified butter or make it yourself. Or you just melt a few sticks of (unclarified) butter to use in this recipe, which will still work great. Just be sure to regularly whisk the butter while assembling the baklava so that it does not separate.
Orange blossom water: Its flavor is quite strong, so I recommend starting with 1 or 2 teaspoons and then adding more to taste. Alternately, you could use rose water or a mix of the two. Or leave the orange blossom/rose water out of the recipe altogether.
Storage instructions: To keep the baklava as crispy as possible, it’s best to store it at room temperature in a lightly covered baking dish or food storage container. (I loosely cover mine with aluminum foil.) It will keep for between 8-10 days at room temperature, but will be crispiest the first 5 days.
Source: Recipe adapted from Natasha’s Kitchen.