by - 02:25

Walnut Baklava is a holiday tradition! Layers of butter pastry loaded with ground walnuts drenched in homemade simple syrup that’s scented with orange blossom water and rose water.

Question for you

I’ve got buttery layers of phyllo pastry alternating with cinnamon-scented ground walnuts that i’ve generously drizzled with orange blossom and rose water scented simple syrup. Now would it be okay if I shared a piece with you

The sweet smells of orange blossom and rose water scented simple syrup tortures me. Mingling with toasty ground walnuts and buttery layers of phyllo. It’s a classy sort of dessert. One that I oddly grew up loving. Don’t get me wrong – I loved chocolate cupcakes smeared with frosting as much as the next kid too. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have said no to any sort of dessert. Biggest sweet tooth on the block right here. ? ? ?

There was always an abundance of this buttery pastry loaded with ground nuts and floral notes when the colder months rolled around. Homemade baklava has been a staple in our household for a majority of my life.

So many sweet memories of buttering thin layers of phyllo with my mom on chilly winter mornings. Hot cups of chai steaming in the background, uneaten toast, the windows just starting to fog, a glistening blanket of snow just beyond it. Brushing away at the phyllo layers with melted butter. It’s almost as if time would slow down and the only thing that mattered was making perfect layers for our baklava.

This year for the holidays, I wanted to revisit those beautiful times. Since making walnut baklava was a such a big part of the winter holidays for me, I pitched the idea to Anees knowing full well that it probably wouldn’t fly. To my surprise, he immediately agreed. Baklava sorta has that affect on people I guess. And then there was something about how chocolate baklava needed to come next but by then I was already swooning over the thought.

And that’s when it happened; panic struck. I grew up watching my mom make baklava (and ate loads of it too) but somehow the idea of thin phyllo alternating with nuts, without my mom watching, kinda scared me. And don’t even get me started on making simple syrup! So I did what anyone would do. I called my mom. Frantically asked for every tip she had and she assured me I could do it. She even offered to baby sit because I insisted on finally doing it all by myself. Moms are just the best, aren’t they? Besides, this was the year I told myself I’d do 30 things on my culinary bucket list I hadn’t done before. Times atickin’,  So checking another one off the list was priority.

This walnut baklava recipe is a combination of a few things like my moms baklava recipe and my favorite bakery’s take on it. They have a more middle eastern style of simple syrup where it’s spiked with orange blossom and rose water. I expect a huge thank you note for the glorious floral aromas coming from your kitchen.

The first step is to make the simple syrup. You need two parts sugar to one part water, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a couple tablespoons of honey. Once it reaches a boil, you’ll lower the heat and let it just simmer away for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the syrup. You don’t want the flavorings to cook so be sure to do this step off the flame.

The next thing we’re going to do is make the nut filling. You’re going to  melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan or the microwave in a small bowl while you combine the California Walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir. You’ll be left with something that looks almost like a crumb topping or streusel.

The most laborious part about making baklava is making the phyllo layers and buttering them. But if you’re anything like me, you enjoy repetitive tasks like these as they really give you a chance to just relax and let your mind wander.

You’ll start by buttering each layer of phyllo. A total of 10 layers then 1/5th of the nut mixer. Followed my 5 more layers of phyllo, then more nuts and more phyllo. See what I mean? It’s easy, just layering. The key is to start and end with 10 layers of phyllo to create a steady base, all the layers in between get 5 sheets. Cut the pastry into 4 wide strips, turn the pan and make diagonal cuts for that signature baklava look.

Finally, while it’s still hot and fresh out of the oven, drizzle it with that simple syrup. You can hear the syrup sizzling as it hits the pan. This keeps the baklava crispy for the first few days. It’s important to use room temperature syrup poured over hot baklava so that the phyllo stays nice and crisp.

Now the hard part, let it sit for 6-8 hours to soak up that syrup. My mom always says to let it sit overnight if possible. This really allows the syrup to be soaked up and the phyllo gets all crispy again. You can store leftover baklava loosely covered by a tea towel or in an airtight container. Note that it will start getting a little softer after the first couple of days.

Buttery layers of phyllo with ground nuts perfectly layered in between and topped with a rose water syrup.


Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, and honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the orange blossom water and rose water. Let cool.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl, add the ground walnuts, sugar, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and ground cinnamon, stir to combine. Your filling should be coarse, almost like a streusel or a crumb topping.
Lightly butter or spray the inside of a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
Working on a large clean surface, unroll the phyllo dough and lay flat. Place your baking pan on top of the phyllo and trim off any excess. Cover the phyllo with a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. Keep it covered as much as possible.

Place the first sheet of phyllo in the baking pan, brush with butter until the entire surface is evenly coated. Place a second sheet of phyllo on top and again brush with melted butter. You’ll do this a total of 10 times. Then, sprinkle on ¾ cups (or eyeball about 1/5) of the ground walnut mixture. Here’s the order:

10 sheets of buttered phyllo, ¾ cup filling
5 sheets of buttered phyllo, ¾ cup filling
5 sheets of buttered phyllo, ¾ cup filling
5 sheets of buttered phyllo, ¾ cup filling
5 sheets of buttered phyllo, ¾ cup filling
10 sheets of buttered phyllo, ¾ cup filling

Brush the top of the last layer of phyllo with melted butter. Cut into 4 wide strips, turn the pan and cut diagonally to form a diamond pattern. Bake the baklava for 40-50 minutes or until it’s golden brown on top.

Immediately pour the simple syrup over the baklava while it’s still hot. Let cool completely to room temperature. For best results, let sit at least 6-8 hours and ideally, overnight. Cover loosely with a cloth once it’s room temperature. Garnish with additional ground walnuts as desired. Baklava can be stored at room temperature for about 1- 1 ½ weeks.

If you don’t have ground walnuts, all you need to do is toss them into a food processor and pulse until ground.

You’ll notice that sometimes, the phyllo sheet starts sliding around over the nut layer, tap your butter-filled pastry brush rather than brushing that layer if this happens to you.

Note that the baklava will start getting softer after the first couple days. Perfectly fine to eat, but the phyllo just starts losing a little crispness.



4 cups (1 lb.) ground California Walnuts
¼ cup sugar
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups) melted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 lb. box phyllo dough, thawed in refrigerator overnight


2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
2 tablespoons rose water


Serving Size: 1 (109 g)      Servings Per Recipe: 24

Calories 208.5    Calories from Fat 114 55%    Total Fat 12.7 g 19%    Saturated Fat 4.9 g 24%    Cholesterol 17.8 mg 5%    Sodium 79.8 mg 3%    Total Carbohydrate 22.9 g 7%    Dietary Fiber 1.1 g 4%    Sugars 13.8 g 55%    Protein 2.7 g 5%


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