Baklava with pistachios, cardamom and rose water

Photo: America’s Test Kitchen

We wanted our baklava recipe to produce crunchy, flaky, buttery lozenges that are light yet rich, full of nuts and aromatic spices, and sweetened firmly enough to match Turkish coffee. To achieve this goal, we sprinkled store-bought phyllo dough with three separate layers of nuts (pistachios) flavored with cardamom. We clarified the butter to get an even brown color. We found that slicing the baklava rather than taping it before baking helped it absorb the sugar syrup. Finally, allowing the baklava to sit overnight before serving it improved the flavor of our baklava recipe and was well worth the wait.


sugar solution

  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon

  • 10 black peppercorns 1/8 teaspoon table salt

  • 1 tablespoon rose water

walnut filling

  • 12 oz raw shelled pistachios

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

  • teaspoon table salt

Pastries and butter

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), clary-ed as per instructions below, melted and slightly cooled (about 1 cup)

  • 1 pound frozen potato chips, thawed (see note)


A traditional straight (non-stick) metal baking tray works best for making baklava; The straight sides ensure that the cuts will have neatly shaped edges, and that the surface of a conventional pan will not be warped by a knife while slicing, as with a non-stick surface. If you don’t have this type of pan, a glass baking dish will work. Make sure it is completely defrosted before use; Leave it in the refrigerator overnight or on your work surface for four to five hours. When assembling, use the gentlest and strongest phyllo sheets for the lower and upper layers; Use sheets with tears or sheets that are smaller than the size of a pan in the middle layers, where imperfections will go unnoticed. If clarified butter remains after assembly, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator; It can be used for distortion.

1. For the sugar syrup: Combine the syrup ingredients, except for the rose water, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the cup to two cups and set aside to cool while preparing and baking the baklava; When the syrup has cooled, discard the pepper and stir it into the rose water. (The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.)

2. For the nut filling: beat the pistachios in a food processor until finely chopped, about fifteen one-second beats; Transfer to a bowl. Take out a tablespoon of nuts and set aside for garnish. Add ground cardamom, sugar and salt. Toss well to combine.

3. To assemble and bake: Brush a 13″ x 9″ traditional baking tray (not non-stick) with butter. Set the oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Unscrew and open the lid on a large cutting board; Carefully smooth with hands to flatten. Using a baking pan as a guide, cut the sheets crosswise with a chef’s knife, resulting in two roughly equal sized packets of phyllo (one may be narrower than the other). Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying out.

4. Place a sheet of potato chips (from a larger pile) in the bottom of the baking tray and brush it until completely covered with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets of foil (from a larger pile), brushing each with butter.

5. Distribute about 1 cup of nuts evenly over the shell. Cover the nuts with phyllo paper (from the tight stack) and dip them in butter (the butter will slide off if they’ve been brushed with butter). Repeat with 5 more sheets of foil (from a narrower stack), arranging the sheets slightly if necessary to cover the nuts, and brushing each with butter. Repeat layers with 1 additional cup of nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo chips, and 1 cup of nuts. Finish with 8 to 10 sheets of phyllo foil (from a wider stack), using the most beautiful, most intact sheets for the top layers and brushing each except for the final sheet with butter. Use the palm to compress the layers, working from the center outward to squeeze out any air pockets. Place 4 tablespoons of butter on the top layer and spread to coat all surfaces. Use a bread knife or other serrated knife with a pointed tip in a gentle spreading motion to cut the baklava into diamonds, rotating the pan as necessary to complete the cutting. (Cut the bias into eighths on both diagonals.)

6. Bake until golden and crispy, about an hour and a half, rotating the baking tray halfway through the baking process. Immediately after removing the baklava from the oven, pour the cooled syrup over the cutting lines until about 2 tablespoons are left (the syrup will sizzle when it hits the hot pan); Sprinkle the remaining syrup over the surface. Decorate the center of each piece with a few reserved ground nuts. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, about 3 hours, then cover with aluminum foil and leave for at least 8 hours before serving. (Once cool, baklava can be served, but the flavor and texture improve if left for at least 8 hours. Baklava can be wrapped tightly in tin foil and kept at room temperature for up to 10 days.)

Butter Clarification:

1. Let the melted butter rest for 10 minutes. Using a soup spoon, carefully remove the foam from the surface.

2. Pour the lard of butter into a small cup, and stir the saucepan gently and only when necessary.

3. Make sure you leave the water and milk solids in the saucepan so they can be discarded.

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