My easy Moroccan Baklava recipe is made with almonds, honey, cinnamon and orange blossom water to bring the flavours of North Africa to life in this classic sweet treat.
Where does Baklava come from?
Baklava or baklawa (depending on the transliteration) is a layered sweet made with nuts, sugar syrup and thin filo (also known as phyllo) pastry. The exact origins of the dessert are not known, but there are many popular theories. It is traditionally associated with Ottoman Turkish cuisine and some believe it originated in Constantinople (now known as Istanbul).
Ingredients for an Easy Homemade Baklava Recipe
The ingredients for homemade baklava can range dramatically. A Greek friend of mine taught me her family's recipe for baklava which only had four ingredients: filo, sugar, water and pecans. For my Moroccan version, I've opted for almonds, which are native to Morocco, and flavourings of cinnamon and orange blossom water.
Alternatives for Almond Baklava
Baklava can be made with essentially any nuts. If you would rather not use almonds, you could try:
- A mix of these
Filo Sheet Layering for Baklava
Tips for handling filo/phyllo
Layering filo can be a tricky task as the pastry is extremely thin and fragile. The filo (or phyllo) available in America tends to be more delicate than the standard brands in Britain, so take extra care with handling this!
When using filo:
- Ensure you have all ingredients and relevant equipment ready before taking the pastry out of its packaging.
- Have a lightly dampened cloth or paper towel ready to cover the filo once it is opened. This will help to keep the pastry from drying out too quickly and will make it less brittle.
- Work as quickly as possible to avoid excessive drying.
- Use kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut the filo if needed. A dull blade with rip the delicate pastry.
The layering of baklava varies a lot, based on personal preferences, traditions and tastes. My best tip if you are experimenting with layering is that
- Each sheet of filo is a layer. These should be cut to fit the baking tin or placed alongside each other to fill the space.
- Have plenty of melted butter. Brush the filo layer generously with butter to cover. You do not want a puddle of butter, but these should be coated in a layer of butter all over. This helps produce a crisp baklava.
- The bottom layer should be the thickest, meaning the most layers of filo before the first nut layer. This will help form a better base, especially as you soak this in the syrup.
- You can opt for different numbers of filo layers between the nut fillings - there is no set rule.
For my almond baklava layer as follows:
- Seven filo layers on the bottom
- A nut layer
- Four filo layers
- Another nut layer
- Four filo layers
- The final nut layer
- Six filo layers to finish
How to Cut Baklava
The key to cutting baklava is to do this before baking! If you cut baklava before baking the sheets will be easier to slice and less fragile.
You can cut baklava into squares or other shapes, but a standard way is to slice this into diamonds. Do this simply by following these steps:
- Make long straight slices down the length of the pan. In the image below, I chose dividing the pan into three, making two long straight slices.
- Then make diagonal slices across. In the below image, I've made 9 diagonal slices. I use the end of each long straight slice as a start for the first three diagonals. Then follow in similar widths down the pan.
- These diagonals will result in a couple of odd shaped end pieces. You can use these to sample the baklava before serving - quality control!
Simple Syrup for Moroccan Baklava
While the baklava bakes, turn your attention to the syrup. This will need to be ready to pour over the hot pastry as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Baklava with Honey
Baklava is traditionally a bit of a sweet and sticky treat, due to soaking in a sugar syrup. In its simplest form, this can be made with just sugar and water.
Standard simple syrup is equal measures sugar and water, boiled together to dissolve the sugar and reduced to slightly thicken.
You can also opt for baklava made with honey. The honey adds to the flavour in the syrup and helps to thicken this a bit more. For my Almond Baklava recipe, I have used a combination of the two: sugar and honey.
Infusing Flavours into Syrup
The syrup is a great opportunity to add a touch of additional flavours from extracts and spices.
Many recipes will have rose water in their syrup, as a classic Middle Eastern flavour. I prefer baklava without rose water, but a bit of orange blossom water nicely accentuates the almonds in this recipe.
You can also opt to infuse spices in the syrup. I never pass up the opportunity to add extra cinnamon. By adding a couple of sticks of cinnamon to the pan while it boils, the syrup also takes on cinnamon flavourings.
Other Flavours for Baklava
Some ideas for other spices you may like in baklava:
- Star Anise
- Citrus peel, such as orange or lemon
FAQs for Almond Baklava
Baklava can keep for about two weeks at room temperature. It is best not to put in the refrigerator or to wrap in plastic wrap as this may make it soggy.
You can freeze baklava for several months. Once cool, remove the pieces from the tray and place on a piece of parchment paper or cling film, on a baking sheet, spaced apart. Place in the freezer until frozen and then transfer to a freezer safe container or plastic bag. This will help prevent them from sticking together too much and makes storage easier. Defrost before consuming.
No, this recipe can be made without the orange blossom water or with an alternative flavouring if preferred. See above for some suggestions for flavour infusions in the syrup.
If you like this recipe, you may also like:
Moroccan Almond Baklava
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 pack filo pastry (about 7 sheets)
- 1½ cup ground almonds
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ teaspoon orange blossom water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C/155C Fan). Mix together the ground almonds and ground cinnamon, set aside.
- Carefully unroll the filo pastry and cut the sheets in thirds (lengthwise) to fit the size of your baking tray. See the photos above for example. Place a damp cloth over the filo to keep this from drying out while you work.
- Brush melted butter in the base of the baking dish and place your first sheet of filo. Brush this again with butter and layer another sheet. Continue repeating until you have a layer of 7 sheets (or a third of your filo).
- Brush the top sheet with butter and sprinkle ⅓ of the almond cinnamon mixture over this and spread evenly.
- Place another sheet of filo, and butter the top of this. Repeat layering the filo until you have 3 or 4 sheets. Then add another third of the almond mixture, spreading evenly. Layer three or 4 more sheets of filo, buttering each sheet. Add your final third of the almond mixture and then layer the remaining 6 or 7 sheets of filo, buttering each sheet.
- Brush the top with butter and then slice in a diamond pattern - see the photos above for example.
- Place in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, meanwhile make the syrup.
- For the syrup, place the sugar, water and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan. Bring this to a boil over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the honey, orange blossom water and vanilla. Continue to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
- As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over this and leave to cool for at least an hour.
- Use a spatula to remove slices from the tray and serve.