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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

July 3, 2008

From Hellas with Love: Baklava

click me for a closer lookEver since I was in kindergarten, I wished I was Greek. My mom, my sister, and my sister's boyfriend all worked at the same Greek restaurant and they made the BEST Greek food. The owners had a daughter my age and we were best friends. I spent a lot of time over her house and loved being surrounded by her Greek culture. Her Yaya (grandma) lived directly behind her and she was the sweetest woman! She made the most delicious avgolemeno soup I have ever had. I wanted a Yaya of my own so badly that one of my mom's good friends let me call her Yaya -- and I still do, a good 25 years later!
As luck would have it, almost twelve years ago I had an opportunity to live in Greece. It was a life changing experience in many ways. I learned a lot about who I was and where I was in my life, and what I wanted to do next. It was not always pretty but I wouldn't trade that year for the world.

Since I had no car when I lived there I would walk for hours every day around town, each day going a little further. It was on these walks that I would find the most AMAZING bakeries. Not just Greek, but French too (I'll save those bakeries for a future post). It was at the Greek bakeries that I was introduced to a new level of Greek desserts. True, I had a lot of desserts at my best friend's house and at the restaurant, but nothing like this! I ate galaktomboureko (milk pie), loukoumades (honey puffs), moustalevria (Greek wine pudding), and my favorite, baklava. Buttery, sticky, layers of honey almond (or other nut) goodness. I would eat it several times a week. At one particular bakery, I befriended a few of the people that worked there; and when it was time for me to return home, they gave me a loosely translated cookbook chock full of Greek recipes. Here's one of them, word for word:

Yield: I make this in 9x13 pan and get about 20-30 slices. It's all in how you cut it.

500 grams phyllo dough (1/2 package of phyllo dough)
800 grams almond meats, coarsely and evenly chopped (this is roughly equivalent to 1 lb 12 oz of whole, raw, unsalted almonds. I run 1 cup at a time on the coarsest setting in the blender. You want them evenly ground but not to the point where it comes almond flour.)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter, melted
1 cup honey
juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups water

Mix the almond meats with the cinnamon and cloves. Butter a baking and line it with 4 phyllo sheets, brushing each one with melted butter. Sprinkle on a little of the filling, add two more buttered sheets of dough, and continue in the same way, leaving 4 sheets of dough for the last layer. Cut into diamond shaped pieces, down to the bottom of the baklava. Pour the rest of the butter over the top and bake in a moderate oven for 40-45 minutes. (Okay, so I have no idea what "moderate oven" means. I have made this at 300F and baked it for 40-45 minutes and it wasn't ready, however I baked it an additional 20 minutes and it was great.)

Place the sugar, honey, 1 1/2 cups water, the vanilla and the lemon juice in a pan and boil for 5-6 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms and pour the hot syrup over the lukewarm baklava. (Note: it will look like you're completely submerging the baklava, but its a sponge and will drink it all up! I promise!). Serve cold.


  1. just so you know, i'm taking that top picture and making it the background on my computer. it's quite possibly the most beautiful thing i've ever laid eyes on. i love baklava, and yours is glorious. :)

  2. Does the 800 grams of almonds just equal 1 cup or is 800 grams more then 1 cup? I've always wanted to try a good bakalava. Hopefully when I make it it trys out as good as yours looks.

  3. Grace - your comment really blew me away. I took about 10 pictures of the baklava and this was one of two that came out. I think that might be one of the best comments ever!

    Nicole - when I make this I weigh the almonds as I go but if you don't have a scale 800 grams of almonds are about 1 lb 12 oz of whole nuts. I used unsalted, raw almonds but you can also do half almond and half walnut. I hope that helps!

  4. Wow. I lived in Astoria, Queens, so I know me some good Greek food! If I ever get married, I want to go to Santorini on my honeymoon. :)

    I never would have ever thought to attempt my own baklava, but you made it sound easy. I'll have to try this someday.

  5. This looks sooo good i too am a big lover of Baklava. I will definitely be making this recipe, thanks for posting it. BTW i just love your blog.


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