Pistachio Baklava

Posted on 06/19/2012 by leslie_levine
I don't know about you guys, but when I think of layers, I think of baklava. It's one of my favorite sweets (mostly because of the honey). I love all types of baklava, but after visiting Istanbul and tasting a pure pistachio version almost exactly a year ago, I can't have them any other way. I kind of botched this version up because I used toasted and salted pistachios, so the flavor didn't come through so clearly. But I still really do like this recipe and the baklava was really, really tasty. 

pistachio baklava

If you'd like to see more pictures, the recipe, and a little blabbing about my trip in Istanbul (with some photos of the place), please visit my post on this baklava at The Moveable Feasts.

You can also find the recipe below under the 


1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 large strips of lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
12 ounces raw unsalted, untoasted pistachios
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), melted, and cooled slightly
1 pound frozen phyllo, thawed
To prepare the sugar syrup, combine sugar, water, honey, lemon juice and zest, and cinnamon stick in small saucepan and bring to full boil over medium-high heat, making sure the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a small glass bowl and set aside to cool while making the baklava. Once the syrup cools, remove the cinnamon stick and strips of lemon zest. (Note: This can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.)
Next, to make the nut filling, pulse the pistachios in the food processor until very finely chopped—think the texture of coarse sand. Add the sugar and pinch of salt and toss to combine. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the ground nuts to be used later as a garnish on the finished baklava.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Unwrap and unfold the phyllo dough on a large cutting board. Most phyllo dough will already be in a 13 by 9-inch shape, but if yours comes in one large sheet, cut the phyllo dough so that you have roughly two evenly sized stacks that are 13 by 9-inches. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying and cracking. Brush a 13 by 9-inch glass baking pan with some of the melted butter.

For assembly of the layers, it’s important to note here that you should save the best-fitting, most intact sheets for the top and bottom layers of the baklava. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking pan, and brush the sheet until completely coated in melted butter. Repeat with 7 more well intact phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, until you have 8 phyllo sheets stacked on each other.
Evenly distribute about 1 cup of the nuts over the 8 phyllo layers. Cover the nut layer with a phyllo sheet, and dab butter all over it (if you try brushing it on, the phyllo will slip all over the place). Repeat with 5 more phyllo sheets, brushing each with butter, for a total of 6 phyllo sheets on top of the nut layer. Repeat the layering process with another 1 cup of the ground nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo and butter, and the last 1 cup of nuts. Finish off the layering with 8 to 10 sheets of good, intact phyllo dough, brushing each layer with butter except for the final top sheet. Use the palm of your hands to press down on the layers, starting at the center and pressing outwards to remove any air bubbles. Then, drizzle 4 tablespoons of butter over the top layer and brush to cover completely.
Using a good, sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds—I found it easiest to make one long cut from one corner of the pan to the other and then making parallel diagonal cuts every couple inches on either side. I then repeated this on the other side of the baklava, to make complete diamonds.
Bake in preheated oven until lightly golden, about 50 minutes to an hour. Once removed from the oven, immediately pour all of the reserved syrup over all of the cuts lines and then over the surface of the baklava. Garnish each piece of baklava with a sprinkling of the reserved ground pistachios. Cool to room temperature, for about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let stand at least 8 hours. Really, please don’t try cheating on this. The baklava gets really, really good after some good rest to soak up all of the syrup. Since honey never goes bad, baklava can be kept wrapped tightly in foil or plastic wrap for a couple weeks.

rowangolightly 20th-Jun-2012 03:22 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness, that looks and sounds SO good. I never would have thought to use pistachios in baklava but now I have to try it!
epic_cakes 20th-Jun-2012 03:34 am (UTC)
My friend's mum makes the most amazing baklava ever, and seeing this post has made me want some D: they look delicious!
wolf_goat 20th-Jun-2012 08:59 am (UTC)
Baklava is AMAZING, I love it to bits. For me though it's cheaper than the ingredients to get it at the Turkish bakeries that are all dotted around here. <3
phyllis7609 20th-Jun-2012 07:06 pm (UTC)
You had me at "turkish bakery." I'm coming to visit you.
decemberthirty 20th-Jun-2012 11:41 am (UTC)
Ooh, that looks wonderful. And I love that plate in your photo!
leslie_levine 20th-Jun-2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I got it while in Istanbul last year. The colors there are so beautiful. :)
decemberthirty 20th-Jun-2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
I thought that might be the case--that explains why the plate and the baklava look so perfect together. :)
(no subject) - Anonymous
leslie_levine 20th-Jun-2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Hahah, oh don't worry---by the end of the day my mom, dad and I had polished off 3/4 of the pan by ourselves. :) It's worth it!
wattle_neurotic 20th-Jun-2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
Oh this looks sooooo good. I might have to try it...one day *g*
churmanteeva 20th-Jun-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
It looks gorgeous! I want to be mutually friends with you, I like your blog a lot!
leslie_levine 20th-Jun-2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Ah thank you!
querulouspeg 20th-Jun-2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
LOVE baklava! Make it every christmas! I often have a problem if the pistachios are not toasted enough that when I pulse them they turn into a paste instead of crumb. Often I just smash the crap out of them with a rolling pin and it works well to have some chunky pieces with pistachios. Have also made almond rolls. Itching to try making birds nests, but I have no idea how. If you have any tips, would love to hear!
leslie_levine 21st-Jun-2012 06:31 am (UTC)
I really want to try bird's nests as well! I found this recipe to be pretty intriguing? http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cheese-Filled-Birds-Nests-102749
I'm hoping to give it a try some day soon. Let me know if you try it out, too!
querulouspeg 21st-Jun-2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
oooh it must be like knafeh! (also called kunafe or kunafa) which looks divine! Supremely gooey Palestinian thing with crispy pastry and cheese and dripping in syrup!
mylove_and_rain Very nice!21st-Jun-2012 01:22 am (UTC)
My husband is Arabic, and loves loves loves pistachios. He would probably enjoy this. Way to go attempting baklava!!
leslie_levine 21st-Jun-2012 06:32 am (UTC)
Better yet make it yourself so you know exactly what's in it. :)
elvisisdead 21st-Jun-2012 04:08 am (UTC)
i have always wanted to make baklava. definitely saving :)
leslie_levine 21st-Jun-2012 06:33 am (UTC)
It's easier than it seems! Just takes some patience. :) Let me know if you give it a try!
caketwins 22nd-Jun-2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
one time, a friend's mom made my boyfriend and I eat an entire half pan of homemade baklava. it was the best day of my life.

I must try this recipe.
sleepwalker41 27th-Jun-2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
One day I must get out of my travel 'comfort zone' and experience what you have done. LOVE baklava, but have only made it twice. Your pic is gorgeous, love that plate.
rachelpage 13th-Apr-2015 07:09 am (UTC)
I can't wait to try and make this! Thank you!
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