Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Koula's Baklava Rolls

This is another one of Koula's amazing desserts that everyone is addicted to in the Limnos House. The baklava recipe was passed down to her by her mother, and Koula has now kindly allowed me to share her mother's secrets here with me.

I've tried making baklava many times, in many different ways. There are so many different recipes with such varying ingredients out there – I'm really not sure how they can all be called "baklava". It's obvious from the vastly different results I keep getting, from burnt nuts to soggy pastry, that none of the recipes I've been following have been accurate.

So finally I have been able to witness the Baklava Queen produce the perfect Greek baklava. I spent every minute with her, documenting and photographing her every move, listening to her instructions and watching her technique.

This is Koula's recipe to create a genuine, crispy, sticky, sweet baklava, guaranteed to drop you to your knees on first bite.

Koula's Baklava (makes 70 small portions)


300g walnuts
200g almonds
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
375g unsalted butter
1 packet of filo pastry (around 30 sheets)

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons Greek honey


Place the walnuts and almonds in a nut grinder or food processor and pulse until broken down to small pieces (around 2–3mm) with some coarse sandy-textured nuts at the bottom of the mixture. Don't allow the entire mixture to grind down to a powder.

Add the cinnamon to the nut mixture and mix well.

Melt the butter over low heat for brushing the filo pastry. In Greece the filo pastry sheets are huge – one sheet is twice the size of a standard filo pastry sheet you can buy in Australia. Because Greek filo is so big, Koula's method for creating her pastry layers for baklava is to fold each sheet in half. For this recipe, I will assume you are using standard-sized filo sheets (around 40cm x 30cm), therefore, we won't be folding the sheets.

Lay one sheet of pastry on a flat surface and butter liberally. Lay a second sheet over the top, butter again, and sprinkle a handful of the nut mixture evenly over the pastry. Repeat two more times so there are a total of 6 sheets used, finishing with the nut mixture.

Carefully begin to roll the pastry to create a log, but before completing the roll, brush some more butter on the underside of the first part of the pastry roll. Continue to slowly roll the pastry, not too tightly, until you have a log shape. Place with seal side down in a large buttered baking dish.

Create four more rolls and lay side by side in the baking dish. You should still have at least a 1/4 cup of melted butter left. Reserve this butter for the final brushing.

Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava rolls diagonally, almost all the way down to the bottom of the dish, but not touching the bottom, to create 70 portions.

Brush the baklava with the remaining butter until it is absolutely drenched (trust me, this is very important), and place in a preheated, fan-forced oven set to 175 degrees celsius for one hour.

While the baklava is cooking, create the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and heat until boiling. Allow to boil for 10 minutes without stirring. Add the honey and continue to boil until it starts to thicken.

Similar to Koula's Galaktoboureko recipe, the syrup must be the perfect consistency to ensure the pastry doesn't become soggy. The syrup needs to slowly drop from a teaspoon, leaving a thin thread behind for a few seconds after the drop has fallen. Because there is honey added to this syrup, it will be slightly thicker than the syrup made for galaktoboureko and will have a slight golden tinge to it.

Click here to see details for Koula's Galaktoboureko recipe.

Once the syrup has reached the correct consistency, remove from the heat. Remove baklava from the oven and pour hot syrup directly over the hot baklava.

As delicious as your baklava looks, you will need to allow it to sit, uncovered, for at least an hour before eating. The syrup needs time to penetrate the pastry and do its crisping-up thing. The crisping-up thing is the magical part of the process, and it happens all by itself. Amazing, and so very yum!

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