Add a touch of Mediterranean magic to your Christmas baking with this gorgeous and simple version of baklava that has all those festive fruits you expect in mince pies and Christmas cake but set in delicate layers of filo pastry and soaked in spicy orange syrup.
I always think of Greece of course when thoughts of baklava come to mind. However, this tasty sweet treat is also found in Turkey too. Our bakery in the village of Agia Galini where I lived sold amazing baklava all year round.
But it really comes to the fore during Greek Easter and at Christmas when people go all out on the sweet stuff. tradition says there should be 40 layers of filo pastry to represent the 40 days of lent.
If you haven’t come across baklava before it is a feather-light pastry dish. Layer upon layer of buttered filo pastry with nuts in the middle and soaked in fabulous sweet syrup. Sometimes there are layers of filling, the whole thing can be served rolled. There are loads of variations of this wonderfully sweet dish.
I decided to make this Christmas Baklava as a way of using all those lovely dried festive fruits we have around at this time of year. I buy bags of luxury mixed fruit to make my homemade vegan mincemeat recipe, then that goes into my lovely little mince pies with all their fancy extra fillings. Finally, I use it for my Last minute Christmas cake recipe. The dried fruit itself also goes into my easy Christmas cake too and these Christmas cake cookies too.
So I had the fruit to use up and just thought it would be really nice to add a touch of Greece to my festive baking and make this Christmas baklava instead of yet more mincemeat or mince pies.
Wow, am I glad I did because this baklava is totally delicious and knocks any mince pie into the proverbial cocked hat!
Mixed dried fruit – I always soak my dried fruit in whisky or brandy overnight before I use it for making anything. This plumps up the fruit and of course adds a lovely boozy flavour. For this recipe I used Metaxa brandy just because it went with my whole Greek theme. Of course, you can use any brandy or whisky or rum, it’s entirely up to you.
Filo pastry for those delicately crumbly layers. While I have only used 12 sheets of pastry as opposed to 40 I got a really lovely flaky dessert with 6 layers as my base and 6 on top.
Butter – unsalted butter is really important here because that’s what makes baklava so special. Eave delicate layer of filo pastry is painted with melted butter before the next sheet goes on top.
My other ingredients are walnuts for crunch and a nod to traditional baklava which is packed with nuts, an orange for its juice and zest, cinnamon for that Christmas flavour and sugar of course because we just need sweetness at this time of year.
How to make it
This is simplicity itself. Just a case of melting your butter first then layering up the filo pastry with butter in between each sheet.
Smothering the base with your other ingredients and then carrying on with the rest of the layers and finishing off with more butter. Wasn’t it Julia Child who once said that you just cannot have enough butter? Well, she was right!
It’s important to cut the baklava into slices before baking it as otherwise, you will get into a right mess when you try to slice all that flaking crisp pastry once its cooked.
I made a spiced orange syrup to pour over my baked Christmas baklava and then finished the whole thing off with a dusting of icing sugar.
Too much sugar? Never! In my defence, I am looking on this last sprinkling of sugar as festive snow and what could be better than a white Christmas.
Get the full recipe below this post.
You can change out the spices to suit yourself for this recipe. In fact, if you prefer the taste of lemon or orange you could go for a spiced lemon syrup.
Nuts – you can use any nuts you like for this baklava. Think pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts. Whatever nuts you have hanging around really.
The syrup – traditionally the syrup used in baklava would be made with honey. Use honey if you have it instead of sugar.
Layering – as you can see I just keep things really simple by having all my filling in the centre of my baklava. You could put a layer of filling between every three layers of filo pastry if you like. There are no hard and fast rules here.
This Christmas baklava will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Don’t put it in the fridge as that can make it a bit chewy, room temperature is just fine.
If you want to freeze it do that before you bake it. Simply wrap the baking tin in foil and a freezer-proof bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Serve this sweet delicious treat just as you would a mince pie, with whipped cream, brandy butter, brandy sauce or ice-cream. Afterall you can never have too much of a good thing at Christmas.
So that’s it, my Christmas baklava. Sweet and fruity, a wee bit boozy with the crunch of nuts and that oh so flaky pastry. Did I mention that spiced sweet syrup, oh boy that makes this dessert such a sticky sweet treat.
A nice change from your usual mince pies and super easy to make.
Looking for some more festive bakes to try? Then check these out before you go;
Finally, if you do try this recipe don’t forget to leave a comment/star rating below as I just love hearing from you. Want more Larder Love? Then follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest and sign up for my newsletter too of course.
- 18 x 18cm baking tin
- 150 g mixed dried fruit
- 3 tbsp brandy
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 150 g filo pastry
- 50 g walnuts crumbled
- 20 g demerara sugar
- 1 orange zest and juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 100 g caster sugar
- Preheat oven to 200C and grease the baking tin with butter
- Soak the fruit for at least 2 hours (better overnight) with the brandy or other booze so it's plumped up ready to use
- Melt the butter in a small pan
- Cut the filo pastry to fit your baking tin and lay the first sheet on bottom of baking tin and paint with the melted butter, do this for another 5 sheets
- sprinkle the walnuts and fruit mixture over the pastry and add all the orange zest and the demerara sugar
- Lay another sheet of filo pastry on top and paint with the melted butter and carry on till all sheets used then paint the top with remaining butter
- use a sharp knife to cut the pastry into pieces (I made 6 slices)
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes till golden on top
- leave to cool in the tin while you make the syrup
- make the orange juice up to 150ml with water and pour into small pan with the sugar and cinnamon
- heat gently till sugar dissolved then boil and simmer about 10 minutes to make a spiced syrup
- pour syrup over the baklava and dust with icing sugar just before serving
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