Desserts + Sweets Recipe Index

Traditional Sheet-Style Almond Baklava


Almond Baklava | Wandering Spice

The other night at dinner, a few friends and I debated the qualities of what makes, in our minds, the best baklava. The general consensus was that it had to be flaky and floral-tasting, not too dry, and yet not overly drenched in syrup. Tough crowd. After playing with several recipe combinations, I’ve landed on this one, filled with crunchy almonds and topped with pistachios, for a bit of variety.

This is the recipe that I submitted to the Baklava Bakeoff, a competition to find the state’s best baklava baker earlier this year. I came in as a semifinalist, and have my sights set on the gold next year… if only because it means I get to practice and taste test sheet after sheet of this heavenly dessert.

Almond Baklava | Wandering Spice

My little secret for maintaining a crispy top layer of phyllo while still ensuring a soft, syrupy middle: pour the syrup into the “cracks” (or slice lines) when the baklava has just come out of the oven. The syrup will pop and sizzle as it hits the pan, and soak into the bottom and middle layers without dampening the top. I then grab a spoon and drizzle a tiny bit of syrup over the top, enough for the crushed pistachios to stick.

Extra syrup is never a bad idea, either, for days that require that extra bit of indulgence. Double or time-and-a-half the recipe, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to eight weeks. Traditionally, baklava was made with pine nuts, which are truly the most decadent, both in cost and flavor. These days, cashews are often used to simulate the pine nuts’ creaminess. Or almonds, as I’ve done here, and walnuts, as the Greeks often use. Use whatever your heart desires.

Almond Baklava (Traditional Sheet Style)

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Yield: 35-40 pieces


    For the pastry and filling
  • 2 packages (or 40 sheets) phyllo dough (preferably refrigerated rather than frozen), at room temp
  • 3 cups almonds, blanched and skins removed
  • 4 tbsp syrup (see below)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tbsp pistachios, crushed
  • For the syrup
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (mazaher)
  • 1/4 tsp rose water (maward)


Remove phyllo dough from the fridge and thaw according to package instructions.

Preheat oven to 160C / 320F. Prepare the syrup: place sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow the syrup to boil 2-3 minutes without stirring (stirring causes the sugar to crystallize). Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes until it is a light, syrupy consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the orange blossom and rose waters. Set aside.

If your almonds aren't already peeled, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit until the water is warm to the touch but won't burn your hands. Pinch the skins off of the almonds and discard the skins.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until coarsely ground. Pour in four tablespoons (or a drop more, to taste), of the syrup. Continue pulsing until the almonds are finely ground and the syrup is well incorporated. Melt the butter and set aside.

Line a baking dish with wax paper. Remove the phyllo dough from its packaging, and place a clean, damp cloth on top to keep them from drying out. Cut the stack of phyllo dough to fit the size of your baking dish - this makes it much easier to stack the sheets perfectly without overlapping.

Place one sheet horizontally in the baking dish and brush all over with melted butter. Place another sheet on top and brush with butter. Continue stacking and brushing sheets until you have 20 sheets on the bottom of the pan.

Pour the almond mixture on top of the phyllo stack, and spread out evenly throughout the pan.

Repeat the buttering and layering process with 20 more sheets on top of the almond mixture.

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the raw baklava into 1.5" vertical strips, making sure to slice all the way to the bottom of the baking dish. Then, Make diagonal slices in a crossways pattern, to create diamonds (or, just cut totally crosswise to make squares).

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the tops of the baklava have puffed and are golden brown.

Pour the syrup all over the hot baklava (hear it sizzle!). Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Set aside to cool and hold its shape. Serve at room temperature.

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  • Reply Raficus 28/06/2014 at 1:03 am

    Tried your baklava recipe yesterday, and it’s absolutely the best and easiest one I have ever made, I just used ghee instead of butter and 2 tbsp of orange blossom water in the syrup ( like it better as I’m Moroccan), thanks!

  • Reply Building a Middle Eastern Kitchen: The Essentials | Wandering Spice 24/04/2014 at 8:14 am

    […] Multipurpose baking/roasting pans, for everything from roast lamb to baklava. Try a rectangular baking tin for sweet dishes like syrupy semolina pie, and oval dishes for […]

  • Reply Tamara Aranha 05/09/2013 at 5:42 pm

    wow that picture looks just like my moms baklava, in the old days she would use walnuts and she would butter each layer of phyllo until one day she just put the whole package of phyllo down butter that add nuts then add the top layer. oh and she also did the adding of hot wow i think butter or syrup and watched it rise. i miss that smell in the house. yumm

  • Reply Kiran @ 15/08/2013 at 3:27 am

    Baklava is usually very sweet, but that wouldn’t keep me away for a bite 🙂

  • Reply msihua 11/08/2013 at 10:08 pm

    I myself find baklava a little too sweet, but i don’t really do desserts. In terms of the pastry, love the puff pastry!

  • Reply Gerry @ foodness gracious 06/08/2013 at 11:02 am

    Looks soooo good! Next time you’ll be a gold winner or I’ll eat my hat…

  • Reply Mimi @ Culinary Couture 06/08/2013 at 6:36 am

    There was a baklava bakeoff?! I would have been all on that! I’m going to try your tip for pouring the syrup between the cracks when I make it this week for Eid!

  • Reply Tutti Dolci 06/08/2013 at 5:05 am

    I love baklava and this variation looks fabulous – especially like your tip on when to drizzle the syrup to ensure a crispy top!

  • Reply Dixya Bhattarai RD 06/08/2013 at 4:24 am

    I loveeeeee baklava and i want some RIGHT NOW!

  • Reply Rosa 06/08/2013 at 3:36 am

    One of my favorite treats! arabic treats are so irresistible.



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