A Christmas-inspired baklava that is simple and very tasty. Ok, it doesn’t skimp on the calories but this is, after all, an indulgent treat rather than a staple bake! This version is not as sickly sweet as some baklavas can be: sweet, yes, but not to the level that you need to ring the dentist after a couple of bites! The orange cuts wonderfully through the sweetness but given you are only going to be eating small pieces of it, it is not too much of a hardship to resist I think!
I have not made baklava for well over a year and my last one was a savoury version using toasted pine nuts, a little feta cheese, caramelised onions and sun-dried tomatoes: if you have never eaten a savoury baklava, you are missing out!
Sweet, spicy & tangy:
My sweet version has a filling of nuts, dried cranberries and orange between layers of crisp filo pastry, and soaked in a syrup that has been flavoured with cinnamon, star anise and orange. Quite a few of my bakes recently include cranberries and orange, but they work so well together. I just used a mixture of nuts that I had to hand.
On this occasion I made the filo pastry, adding a little ground cinnamon to the flour, because I fancied a bit of a challenge on a very cold, windy winter’s day – and boy is it a challenge to get it stretched very thinly – but there is something quite therapeutic about the process. Shop-bought filo is, of course, excellent, making these baklava very simple to assemble and in not much time at all.
Recipe: spiced cranberry & orange baklava (makes about 25 pieces)
- 150g mixture of pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans, blitzed
- 100g dried cranberries soaked in hot orange juice for at least an hour, drained and finely chopped (reserve the orange juice for the syrup)
- finely grated zest of a large orange
- about 200g filo pastry
- about 100g melted butter
- 150ml water
- 150ml sugar
- 30g good quality honey
- 1/2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- juice of a large orange plus any orange juice reserved from the cranberries
- the remains of a whole orange once the zest and juice have been taken
(1) Put the syrup ingredients into a pan and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Leave to cool and then strain, leaving this lovely spiced syrup.
(2) Brush a shallow rectangular tin with melted butter and lay 4 sheets of filo pastry on top, brushing each with melted butter.
(3) Scatter over half of the nuts and cranberry mixture and add 4 more sheets of filo pastry, again brushing each with melted butter, and patting the sheets down over the filling. Don’t worry about any overhang: it will be cut off shortly. NB: you could cut the filo pastry to the exact size of the tin but I find it easier trimming afterwards.
(4) Repeat with the rest of the nuts and cranberry mixture and a final 4 layers of filo pastry, each brushed with melted butter. Pat down gently to flatten the surface.
(5) Trim the overhang and the edges with a sharp knife or even scissors edge so the surface is flat and without pastry rising up at the edges.
(6) Cut into squares or rectangles with a sharp knife and bake 160C(fan) for 30-35 minutes, covering it with foil or greaseproof after about 20 minutes.
(7) Spoon about half of the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and leave for about 10 minutes, Spoon the rest of the syrup over the baklava. Leave to cool fully before gently removing each piece with a small palette knife. You can leave the baklava just as they are, or scatter over a few crushed nuts.