When we first started Vassos’s Kouzina, many of our friends offered their food tasting services to us. Barely a week went by without us being asked to bring a dip here, take a spanakopita there, or transform our kitchens into a Greek taverna on a Tuesday night.
Our friends were so supportive of our new venture that it was all we could do to stop them from smashing our mismatched crockery on the kitchen tiles!
This enthusiasm from our loved ones is very welcome. However, one of the downsides has to be that expectations have definitely soared and we have had to really raise our game in the kitchen to be taken as seriously as Yiayia in the domestic Greek goddess stakes.
Baklava is a huge crowd pleaser and is astonishingly simple to make. The only fiddly bit in preparing this deliciously nutty dessert is making sure that your pastry doesn’t tear when you assemble the filo layers.
Traditionally enjoyed with coffee in Greece, or with wine in South London.
Will make around 20 portions
Preparation time: less than 30 minutes
Chilling time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
24 filo pastry sheets, defrosted
For the baklava filling
85g granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g unsalted butter
For the syrup
170g granulated sugar
175g honey (we use homemade honey from Crete but any kind will work just as well)
1 tsp vanilla essence
If your filo pastry is frozen, defrost it overnight in the fridge.
To make the filling for your baklava put the pistachios, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and blend until roughly chopped. Set to one side.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and then brush a thin coat of melted butter over the bottom of a rectangular baking tray approx, 30cm x 20cm size.
You can then start to layer your filo pastry.
Gently take one sheet of filo and place it evenly on the bottom of your dish.
Brush the filo with melted butter and be sure to cover the whole sheet, but do not drench it.
Place another sheet of filo on top of the first and brush with butter again.
Repeat this process until you have 6 sheets of filo, which will form your base layer.
Take 1/3 of your chopped nut mixture and scatter it on top of your assembled filo.
Continue layering as above with another 6 sheets of filo – remembering to brush with butter between layers – and then sprinkle another 1/3 of your nut mixture on top.
Add another 6 layers of filo/butter and the remaining nut mixture.
Lastly, assemble your top layer by placing your final 6 sheets of filo on top and brush lightly with melted butter.
Trim any excess pastry that is hanging over the edges of your dish and discard.
Place the dish of uncooked baklava in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden. This will help when you slice your baklava in the next step.
Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.
After 30 minutes, take the dish out of the fridge and cut your pastry on the diagonal to create a diamond pattern before baking. This will allow the syrup to soak through each layer of your baklava later.
Make sure you cut the pastry all the way to the bottom of the dish, as these diamonds will also serve as portions.
Bake the baklava for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is slightly puffed and golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
While cooling, prepare the syrup. In a saucepan simmer the sugar and water over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear.
Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and vanilla. Then pour the syrup over the baklava so that it runs into the cut marks and along the sides of the pan.
Allow the baklava to cool to room temperature before serving.
Yiayia’s tip: don’t cover your baklava as it might go a bit soggy.