Picture it: Crispy, flaky filo pastry. Crunchy crushed nuts. A sweet, sugary syrup shining on top of it all.
You may think that I'm describing baklava, the delectable Greek dessert that bakers smother in honey. In reality, I'm describing baklava's equally delicious Lebanese cousin, baklawa.
Never heard of it? You're in for a treat, as this sweet sandwich of nuts and sugar is a delicacy! But what makes baklawa different from baklava, other than the W?
Read on to learn the ins and outs of this Lebanese dessert, including what you need to make your own!
Baklava vs Baklawa
In a fight to the death between baklava and baklawa, it would be challenging to choose an ultimate champion. Both desserts share similar ingredients and require similar techniques in the kitchen. In fact, they are such close cousins that baklawa is often called "Lebanese Baklava!"
But what is baklawa, and what makes these two pastries different?
Baklava is a flaky dessert that originates in Greece. Bakers layer nuts in between sheets of crispy filo dough. The whole thing is then covered in sweet middle eastern honey, which soaks through the layers to sweeten it.
There are multiple layers of nuts in your average baklava. The nuts that you use can vary from recipe to recipe, but pistachios and walnuts are common. In the original mixed nut baklava from Jamila's cookies, we use a combination of walnuts, pistachios, and cashews.
It is common to add a final sprinkle of chopped or crushed nuts to the top of the baklava for garnish. It is then cut into rectangles or triangular wedges and served!
Baklawa is an equally flaky dessert that originally comes from Assyria. It hit its stride in Lebanon and, from there, moved onto the middle east. Baklava comes from baklawa, not the other way around!
While baklava involves many layers of nuts, baklawa is more like a sandwich. There is one substantial layer of nuts in between several layers of filo. Walnuts are the most common nut used when creating authentic Lebanese baklawa.
A major difference is how you sweeten your baklawa. Instead of honey, Lebanese bakers use atter. Atter is a sugary syrup that is very common in Arabic desserts.
You make atter by combining sugar and water until a syrup forms. The kind of water that you use will impact the taste of your syrup. Baklawa is often sweetened with atter made with infused water.
Atter infused with orange blossom and rose is common in traditional baklawa recipes. Like the honey in baklava, the atter seeps into the filo, sweetening and flavouring the pastry.
Sometimes people serve baklawa with the atter on the side, almost like a condiment. That gives the lucky individual the ability to control the sweetness of their baklawa! I prefer baklawa nice as sweet, as the notes of orange and rose are what makes Lebanese baklava unique!
How Is Baklawa Made?
Is your mouth watering? Luckily, baklawa can be made at home with simple ingredients. Slightly different to how we make it but If you want to make it at home, you can do so fairly easily!
You will need:
Filo (or phyllo) pastry dough
750 g Raw walnuts / Cashews / Pistachios
Honey or Atter
You can purchase filo dough pre-made at the grocery store. Sometimes it found in the frozen section. For this recipe, you will need approximately 40 sheets.
You will also want to use the freshest raw walnuts that you can find. Quality has a big impact on flavour.
You can also use traditional ghee or a vegan alternative. Ghee is another name for clarified butter so, in a pinch, melted butter or olive oil are fine substitutes.
How to Make Atter if not using honey
You can make your own atter at home by combining sugar and water at a ratio of 3:1. Heat until boiling, and then add 230ml rose and orange blossom water to the mixture.
Stir for about a minute. Let cook for two minutes further. Once cooled, your atter is ready.
How to Make the Nut Filling
To create the nut filling, chop your walnuts, cashews and pistachios to their desired size. Combine with sugar and a quarter cup of rose and orange blossom water. It should be somewhat crumbly.
How to Prepare the Baklawa
Brush your tray with ghee to prevent sticking, the put half of your filo dough into the tray. Spread sugar and your nut filling over the entire surface of the dough. Then, add the other half of the filo dough to the top, like a sandwich.
You will want to tuck in any edges and pat it down until it is compact. Cut it into pieces and soak in warm (not hot) butter or ghee before baking at 180C for about an hour.
Upon removal from the oven, you may need to drain off some of the butter or ghee. Then, you can add the atter over the top to sweeten. Let the pastry cool completely before you enjoy it, as baklawa is traditionally a cold dish.
If you wish to add garnish, chopped nuts are a beautiful touch. You can use chopped walnuts, or use chopped pistachios to add some colour.
Once you have topped it off and chilled it, your Lebanese baklawa is ready to be enjoyed with a cup of tea!
The Best Lebanese Dessert
Baklawa is, hands down, our favourite Lebanese dessert! It is sweet, flaky, and delicious after a hot meal! Because it is simple to make, you can enjoy baklawa anytime you like!
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