This Turkish-style baklava tastes deeply and richly of pistachio nuts and butter, without the spices, honey or aromatics found in other versions. It has a purity of flavor that, while still quite sweet, is never cloying. This very traditional recipe is from one of the most celebrated baklava shops in Istanbul. Feel free to substitute other nuts for the pistachios, particularly walnuts and hazelnuts. Or use a combination of nuts. Once baked, this baklava will last for several days, but it is at its absolute best within 24 hours of baking.
- Serves: 36 persons
- 2 ¼cups/300 grams shelled pistachio nuts
- 4sticks/2 cups/454 grams unsalted butter
- 1pound phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
- 3cups/600 grams sugar
- Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
Step 1In a food processor, pulse the pistachios until coarsely ground (or you can chop them by hand until very finely chopped). Don’t overprocess the nuts. You want to maintain some texture.
Step 2Clarify the butter by melting it over low heat, then letting it cook until the foam rises to the top and the milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan. This will take about 5 to 15 minutes depending upon how high your heat is, but don’t rush it or the butter could burn.
Step 3Skim foam off the top of the melted butter. Line a fine-mesh sieve with a piece of cheesecloth, place it over a bowl and pour the melted butter through.
Step 4Heat oven to 400 degrees and brush the inside of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a little of the clarified butter.
Step 5Prepare the phyllo dough by trimming the stack of it with scissors to fit the bottom of your baking dish. Packages of phyllo come in different sizes; some won't need any trimming, some may need an inch or two cut off a side, and some may need to be cut in half crosswise. Cover phyllo layers with a lightly damp kitchen towel, and keep covered.
Step 6Place 1 piece of phyllo on the bottom of the baking pan; brush lightly with clarified butter. Layer phyllo sheets on top, brushing each sheet with butter as you go, until half the phyllo is used.
Step 7Spread pistachios on phyllo in an even layer, then layer with remaining phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter as you go (rewarm butter if necessary).
Step 8Cut the pastry into 36 pieces, using clean up-and-down strokes and rotating the pan if necessary. Make sure to cut all the way through to bottom of pan. Pour any remaining butter evenly over pan.
Step 9Bake baklava until the top is golden brown, and the lower phyllo layers beneath the pistachios are thoroughly baked through. To test this, use a knife to lift up a corner of one of the pastry rectangles from the center of the pan so you can peek at the bottom layers. Start checking after 40 minutes, but it could take an hour or even 1 hour 10 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown before the pastry is cooked through, lay a piece of foil over the top.
Step 10Meanwhile, prepare sugar syrup: In a medium pot, combine sugar with 1 2/3 cups/400 milliliters water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in lemon juice.
Step 11When the baklava is baked through, reheat the syrup until it comes to a simmer. Remove pan from oven and place in the sink or on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips of syrup. Slowly pour hot sugar syrup over the pastry; it will bubble up and some may overflow. When the syrup stops bubbling, move pan to wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.