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Friday, January 14, 2011

Baklava and Turkish Coffee

Baklava in front and to the right, gingerbread to the left.
Our dessert for the State Dinner at the Dolmabahçe was Baklava—layers of phyllo dough surrounding a filling made of chopped nuts and rose water. It's popular in the area formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire—of course, Turkey being the center of this region—and has a long, rich, and murky history.

Wikipedia says, "The history of baklava is not well-documented. It has been claimed by many ethnic groups, but there is strong evidence that it is of Central Asian Turkic origin, with its current form being developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace." (The Topkapı Palace was the palace used by sultans until the construction of the Dolmabahçe.) Beyond this certainty, there are many theories about the origins of Baklava, crediting it to a vast number of places ranging from ancient Mesopotamia to Greece to China—few of these can be properly substantiated, and indeed Baklava as we know it came about sometime between 150 and 450 years ago.

Oz and Blue (right) with Phyllo.
The cook for the dessert course was not, in fact, our good friend Oz. It was our other good friend Blue, who puts together desserts as though it were part of her nature to do so. She is also one of the most stalwart of kitchen helpers, usually eschewing dinner to help plate food and wash dishes. It's a pleasure to let her take over the kitchen, and a pleasure to work with her.

She made two versions of Baklava, and has provided me with both of the recipes, which I shall now pass on to you. I have preserved the two recipes separately—though they are very similar—as they were provided to me. The procedure is somewhat tedious, but the results are well worth the effort.

At the dinner, we served the baklava with a cup of Turkish Coffee. The term refers to the method of preparation, and not to a specific blend or style of bean; it is the foundation of a strong coffee-house culture in Turkey, and a delightfully different way of enjoying your coffee fix. A link to a good recipe is included at the bottom.

Baklava with Mixed Nuts
1 (5-inch/13 cm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground
15 to 20 whole allspice berries
6 ounces (170 g) blanched almonds
6 ounces (170 g) raw or roasted walnuts
6 ounces (170 g) raw or roasted pistachio
2/3 cup (157 ml) sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) rose water
1 pound (453 g) phyllo dough, thawed
8 ounces (227 g) clarified unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups (296 ml) honey
1 1/4 cups (296 ml) water
1 1/4 cups (296 ml) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch/5 cm) piece fresh orange peel

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4.

2. Place the cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.

3. Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.

4. Combine the water and rose water in a small spray bottle and set aside.

5. Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch (33x23x5 cm) metal pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with melted butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo.

6. Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture and spread thinly. Spray thoroughly with the rose water.

7. Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo with butter in between each of them, followed by another third of the nuts and spray with rose water. Repeat with another 6 sheets of phyllo, butter, remaining nuts, and rose water.

8. Top with 8 sheets of phyllo brushing with butter in between each sheet. Brush the top generously with butter.

9. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cut into 28 squares. Return pan to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes.

10. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool for 2 hours before adding the syrup.

11. Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine the honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart (3.75 l) saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick.

12. After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Walnut Baklava with Cinnamon Rose Syrup
2 Lbs (906 g) Walnuts
3 Tbsp (45 ml) Cinnamon
1 Package Phyllo dough, thawed
4 Tbsp (60 ml) Fine White Sugar
2 Cups (551 ml) Butter, Melted

2 Cups (551 ml) Fine White Sugar
2 Cups (551 ml) Water
1/4 Cup (60 ml) Rose Water
1 Cinnamon Stick

1. In a large blender/chopper, place walnuts, cinnamon, and 4 tbsp sugar and chop coarsely.

2. In a non-stick pot, add all the ingredients for the syrup except the cinnamon stick, and cook on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat to low, add the cinnamon stick and cook for an additional 10 minutes so the cinnamon flavor is absorbed in the syrup.

3. Remove syrup from heat, discard the cinnamon stick, and let the syrup cool completely.

4. Brush the bottom and sides of a baking pan with melted butter; lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat this step 9 more times for a total of 10 sheets of phyllo. (Ideally you will use a pan equal in size to the phyllo sheets, but you may also trim the sheets to the size of the pan you have on hand.) Add 1/3 of the walnut filling and spread evenly with a spoon.

5. Cover the filling with phyllo dough, buttering each layer, until 5 additional layers have been placed on top of the filling. Add the second 1/3 of the filling and spread evenly with spoon. Once more, place 5 more layers of phyllo dough, and the last portion of the filling. Cover with the remaining phyllo dough (10 more sheets), and brush with ample melted butter..

6. Cover with foil and place in the over for about 20-25 minutes or until the phyllo dough has risen slightly and is completely golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

7. Add all or desired amount of syrup over top. Cut in squares or diagonals and serve immediately.

The cup is wrong—it's Turkish Coffee!
This excellent Turkish Coffee Tutorial will get you started on making Turkish Coffee to accompany your Baklava—though note that ours was prepared somewhat differently.

We used:

1/2 lb (230 g) finely ground dark roast coffee
10 cardamom pods
1 gallon (3.8 L) water

In an effort to industrialize the process, we made our coffee in a large (8 quart) stockpot. The coffee grounds—which should be ground finer than for espresso—were mixed with the water, and the seeds from the cardamom pods added. It was slowly brought to a boil, then stirred, re-boiled, stirred again, and served. Nothing too fancy, but delightful nonetheless.

Photographs for the Turkish Dinner by Mark Moore.


  1. I love baklava. It is fun to chew. I also love rosewater. Tasty.

  2. Mmmm, Turkish coffee... "Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love", as the saying goes. I did note that there was no sugar in the recipe you gave, did you do it that way or was it an omission by mistake when transcribing the recipe?

  3. There was no sugar added to our coffee—the inclusion or exclusion of sugar being a personal preference and not necessarily a requirement of the coffee type.

  4. YES! BAKLAVA & COFFEE, two of my addicitons

  5. Thanks for the clarification! Most of the times I've had or made Turkish coffee, it's been by the process you linked to in the article, so that's why I was wondering about the sugar.

  6. Great Blog, there is so much reality written in this content and everything is something which is very hard to be argued. Top notch blog having excellent content. buy turkish coffee


Your opinions and comments always are welcomed, but do be civil... this isn't a kitchen, after all.