I discovered a little about baclava while I was at the Al Samadi Bakery recently – the term “baclava” actually refers to the pastry, not the sweets. It’s a super-soft mix that is flattenend, then has more layers of the same placed on top, and then is flattened again and again and again until you get a mille feuille style of multi-layered pastry. They then use this “baclava” to make sweets in hundreds of different ways.
There is another wonderful style of pastry that abounded in the factory, and that was knafe (or kanafe) – pastry made up of hundreds of threads that can be pulled apart and moulded any which-way. Like Baclava, the pastry has given the dish its name, and if you type kanafe into a search engine, you will get hundreds of recipes for the wonderful arabic cheese-filled desert pie.
- 1/2 packet filo pastry
- 1/2 packet of knafe pastry
- melted butter
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp rosewater
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 1tsp lemon juice
- 5 cardamom pods, split
- 1 cup sugar
- coarsely chopped pistachios
- To make the syrup: Put all syrup ingredients in a saucepan on a low heat and simmer for 20 minutes then strain
- To make the pastries: Take three leaves of filo at a time, and slice into 1-inch strips (across the short length) and brush with melted butter. Take small portions (about 10 threads) of the knaffe pastry, and fold it over itself to make a sausage shape about about 2 inches long. Then position it neatly at one end of a filo strip, and roll. Brush with butter and lay close together on a tray lined with baking parchment. Cook for about 15 minutes at 180ºC, or until golden.
- While still warm, pour the syrup all over the pastries, rolling them to ensure all parts are covered. Sprinkle with pistachios if desired, pressing in a little to make sure they stick.
Serve when the pastries are cooled. Store at room temperature for two days. They can be refrigerated for a little longer, but it’s best to eat them quickly! Baclava can be made in almost any shape or form, with or without nuts, and the syrup can also be flavoured however you like it – try it with star anise, cinnamon and orange rind! The basic principle is to cook the buttered pastry, then soak in the syrup while it is still warm. If you are making a large shape with the intention to cut it, make sure you cut before you cook – the pastry shatters when it is baked. I can imagine a few layers of filo, then ground pistachios, then more layers of filo, then cut into diamonds – yummy!
Make sure you keep the left-over pastry refrigerated, and use it for samosas and knafe-wrapped prawns – recipes coming soon!