I love Baklava—the Greek, Turkish, Lebanese rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with nuts and sweetened with syrup. Something about it just grabs me, which is surprising since I usually don’t like very sweet pastries. Perhaps it’s the subtle scent of rose water infused in the syrup or the gossamer layers of phyllo dough. Maybe it’s the baker’s fascination with the amount of liquid that Baklava can absorb. It could be the oozing of syrup in your mouth when you bite into the once crispy, but then chewy pastry layer with the earthy nut filling.
Every time when I go to Kaluystan’s for spices, I can’t help but be seduced by their array of Baklava from many regions. As I pay for my purchase, I always treat myself to a piece (maybe two, or three). As long as there’s a pistachio filling, or a mix of it with other nuts, I’m game for a new variation.
I’ve often thought of making baklava, but hadn’t worked out the right approach. So after my recent trip (2 weeks ago), I went to work on my own version. As much as I love it, it is hard to eat more than a couple small pieces without sugar overloading. I wanted to make a version that allowed me to eat more than just a small portion to satisfy my craving—and not go into a sugar coma.
The result is a tender pistachio cake doused with the orange/rose water syrup. Discs of baklava with pistachio filling are used as if they were frosting for the cake. If you like baklava or love pistachio as much as I do, this cake saves a trip to Kaluystan’s.
Pistachio Baklava Cake
yield: one 6-inch cake
2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs (about 4 ounces)
1 cup pistachio, whole and roasted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Orange-scented syrup, recipe to follow
1-1/2 cups pistachios, toasted and ground, for decorating
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350℉. Butter two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans; line each with a circle of parchment paper. Butter paper, and dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Set aside.
2. In a mini food processor, add panko, pistachio, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Process until finely chopped, set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall in a ribbon rather than a stream. Gently fold in nut mixture by hand with the whisk attachment. Add melted butter in a slow stream and fold into the batter with a rubber spatula.
4. Divide batter into the prepared pans and bake until cake tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cake on wire rack for 10 minutes, remove cake from pan and set it on cooling rack. Generously brush syrup on the top and sides of cake, let cool completely. Wash cake pans, to be used in baklava layers.
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
16 sheets of phyllo pastry
1 cups pistachio,toasted and ground
Orange scented syrup, recipe to follow
1. Fold phyllo sheets in half along the long edge. Use cake pan as template and cut out 8-inch circles, roughly 1-inch wider than the pan on all sides. (Circles do not have to be perfect.) Cover phyllo with damp towel.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350℉. Brush two 6-by-2-inch round cake pans with melted butter. Place one sheet of phyllo in one pan and fold in edges to fit the pan. Brush with melted butter. Continue this layering and brushing until you have 8 layers of pastry.
3. Scatter ground pistachio over the pastry and continue the layering and buttering for 8 more layers. Repeat process with the second pan. Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown and crisp on top. about 30-35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and slowly drizzle 1/4 cup of syrup into each pan. Set aside to cool completely.
4. While baklava layers are baking, roughly tear/chop up leftover phyllo into shards and brush generously with butter. Spread pastry shards on parchment lined baking sheet. When baklava are done, place baking pan in oven and baking until golden brown, about 18-25 minutes. (Keep a close eye towards the end to avoid burning of pastry.)
1 cups (5 ounces) of granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon rose water
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water
1. Combine sugar, honey, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. Stir rose and orange flower water to cool syrup. Add more, a few drops at a time, to taste. (Flavor will mellow out after it sits for a while.)
1. Level top of the cakes with serrated knife to remove indent in the center of cake. Place one cake layer on cake stand or plate, brush top of cake generously with syrup. Place a layer of baklava on top of cake, brush top of baklava layer with syrup if it’s not sticky and top with second cake layer. Brush with more syrup and top with second baklava layer.
2. Brush baklava layer with more syrup to make it sticky. Decorate top with baklava shards, press slightly to make sure they adhere to cake.
3. Brush side of cake with syrup and apply ground pistachio evenly on the side of cake, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle top of cake with more ground pistachio if desire. Serve.