Triple Nut Baklava with Spicy Orange Syrup

Today a friend and I baked up some Greek baklava inspired by and adapted from a cookbook featurette in the September 2011 issue of House Beautiful Magazine.  The original recipe is from a cookbook entitled Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros.  More information on the original magazine article can be found on the Resources page.

We made substantial changes to the recipe as we played around with the flavors to suit our tastes.  Instead of half of a fresh lemon in the syrup, we used a whole orange.  We also added ground cloves, nutmeg, and pecans.  We made the baklava VERY nutty, so feel free to cut the nuts back a bit.  I think this is a very easy baklava recipe and I can’t wait to try it again with pistachios!

I might even buy the cookbook, too.

Triple Nut Baklava with Spicy Orange Syrup
Makes one 9 x 13 pan of baklava.

Ingredients:
For the syrup
1 cup turbinado sugar
3 tablespoons honey
juice of one orange
strip of orange peel
2 cinnamon sticks

For the filling
1 1/2 cups almonds, crushed
1 cup pecans, crushed
1 1/2 cups walnuts, crushed
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the dough
1 roll of thawed phyllo dough (approximately 20 sheets, but it varies by brand)
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted

Garnish:
whole cloves (optional)

Equipment:
pastry brush
9 x 13 baking pan
meat mallet
juicer
knife

Method:
Thaw the phyllo dough prior to starting the baklava and leave it in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble.

Begin by making the syrup. Combine the sugar, honey, juice of one orange, orange peel, and cinnamon sticks in a sauce pot. Bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar in the syrup.  Reduce the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the stove-top and allow it to cool and thicken.  Once it has cooled, remove the cinnamon sticks and the orange peel.

These oranges had a deep color to them and were wonderfully sweet and juicy.

This syrup has a great subtle orange flavor and a spiciness from the cinnamon. Delish!

Next, prepare the nut filling by combining the crushed almonds, walnuts, and pecans with the sugar and spices in a large bowl. Stir to incorporate the ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves with the nuts and sugar.

What an aromatic, nutty filling!

Before assembling the baklava, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter and get a pastry brush to begin assembling the phyllo dough layers.

Prepare the pan by brushing the bottom with melted butter.  Have a knife handy so that you can trim any excess phyllo dough from the edges of your baking pan.

When I assembled the phyllo layers, I tried to break up the nuts in three sections. I did 7 layers of phyllo with melted butter between each one on the very bottom, then a layer of nuts (1/3 of the nut mixture), then 6 layers of phyllo with melted butter between, then another layer of nuts (1/3 of the nut mixture), then 4 layers of phyllo with melted butter between, then the final third of the nut mixture, and topped it all off with the remaining 3 sheets of phyllo.  Now, I wish I had added a couple of extra sheets of phyllo to the top.  The original recipe called for 22 sheets of phyllo, but I would add 6 or 7 sheets on the top layer if I could do it over again.

Great tip: My 9 x 13 baking pan had swooped handles at the sides and I slid the phyllo sheets down the handles and into the pan allowing the side to “hold” each sheet as I placed them. It decreased the likelihood of breakage and splitting of the phyllo sheets as I worked.

The bottom layers of phyllo and the beginning of the first nut layer might look like this...

When you smooth all the nuts out, each nut layer should lie flat.

Next, brush melted butter over the top. Cut the baklava into portions, making sure to cut through all the layers of dough to the bottom.  I used the diamond shapes in the magazine article as a guide.  Decorate with whole cloves if desired.

Cloves are just so pretty, aren't they??

The baklava is ready to be baked!

Bake the baklava for 25-30 minutes.

When the baklava comes out of the oven, pour the orange syrup over the cooked baklava. The article recommended pouring the syrup in two batches while the syrup was absorbed by the dough, but for me, the absorption happened very quickly, so I didn’t have to wait long.

The spicy-sweet orange syrup gets added to the warm baklava...

Allow the baklava to cool and re-cut the pieces in the pan to help portion them out.

All done and ready to eat!!

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