Baklava: A Middle Eastern Favorite Updated for the 21st Century

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Who doesn’t like the nutty, crunchy, syrupy goodness of baklava? A favorite in Greece and the Middle East, with butter, white flour and sugar, baklava is not exactly god’s gift for a healthy lifestyle. I’m not claiming that my version is completely righteous either, but with whole wheat filo, high quality oils rather than butter, and rice syrup and barley malt to replace the sugar and honey, this recipe is a step in the right direction. Make this for a crowd, or freeze half, once you’ve opened a package of filo dough, you might as well use the whole thing. Because filo dough nearly always comes frozen, be sure to check thawing directions, you may need to thaw it over night. My recipe for new age baklava is after the jump.

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BAKLAVA

Preheat oven to 350˚ F

32 pieces

For the pastry:

1 pound package of whole wheat filo dough (about 18 sheets), thawed according to directions

1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) almonds, toasted and ground

1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) walnuts, toasted and ground (or whatever combination of almonds, walnuts, or pistachios you like, to equal 3 cups)

1/4 cup barley malt syrup

1/4 cup rice syrup

1 tablespoon cinnamon

a little sprinkle of salt

1/4 cup mild olive oil and 3/8 cup canola oil mixed together is a small bowl

1/2 cup slivered, toasted almonds, for sprinkling on top, or an equal quantity of shelled, toasted and chopped pistachio nuts

For the syrup:

Although the maple syrup and rose water are optional, the maple syrup adds a welcome complexity to the sweetness, while the rose water adds exotic flavor and is traditional in many baklava recipes.

1 3/4 cups rice syrup

1/2 cup barley malt syrup

2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons rose water (optional)

1. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat  the bottom of an 11 x 13-inch cookie sheet with oil.

2. Using a kitchen shears, trim the entire package of filo sheets to fit your pan (you should be able to cut through all the sheets at once). Lay down a sheet of filo in the cookie sheet and brush lightly with oil. Lay down 9 more sheets, one by one, brushing each lightly with oil.

3. Spread 1/3 of the nut mixture evenly over the top filo sheet.

4. Lay down 2 more sheets of filo in similar fashion. Sprinkle another 1/3 of nuts over this sheet. Lay down 2 more sheets of filo, topped with the remaining nuts.  Lay down the remaining 5 sheets, also brushing each with oil.

5. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut this into 32 pieces.

6. Bake 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

7. As soon as the pastry goes into the oven, make the syrup by heating the syrup ingredients in a small sauce pan until very hot. Turn off the heat and allow to cool a bit while the pastry bakes.

8. When the pastry is ready, remove from the oven, pour the syrup evenly over the pastry and sprinkle with the toasted almonds or pistachios.

9. Allow at least a couple of hours (or even over night) for the pastry to cool and absorb the syrup.  Recut before serving. Keeps well for a few days.

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Pour warm syrup over the pastry after it comes out of the oven. Scatter toasted, sliced almonds on top.

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One response

  1. oh my goodness I can’t believe it a somewhat healthy baklava. I absolutely love this sweet, and I was going to attempt a vegan, no refined sugar version but you have beat me to it! Thank you, I will definitely give this a go (and will let you know how it turns out). It’s been a long, long time since I ate this and living in the United Arab Emirates has been a little difficult as there are lots of pastry shops.

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