With almonds indigenous to Morocco, it's natural that they are the nuts of choice in Moroccan style baklava or baklawa as it's also known, due to the absence of the letter "v" in the Arabic alphabet.
A nutty almond filling is sandwiched between layers of paper-thin pastry; syrup flavored with orange flower water adds sticky sweetness. Instead of phyllo dough, this recipe follows a North African method of making your pastry dough, which is rolled paper-thin and layered.
- For the Syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water
- 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
- 1 or 2 tablespoons orange flower water
- For the Pastry Dough:
- 3 cups (500 g) fine semolina
- 4 cups (500 g) white flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup orange flower water
- warm water as needed to make the dough
- For the Almond Filling:
- 3 1/2 cups (500 g) whole almonds
- 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
- 1 to 3 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup syrup (recipe above)
- For Assembling the Baklawa:
- 9" x 12" (20 cm x 30 cm) or similarly sized baking pan
- corn starch (Maizena), for rolling out the dough
- 2/3 cup (150 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) vegetable oil
- 60 (approx.) almonds, blanched and peeled, for garnish
Make the Syrup
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and orange flower water. Place the pan over medium-low heat, constantly stir to dissolve the sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and leave the syrup to simmer undisturbed for 12 to 15 minutes, until thick. Remove from the heat.
Make the Dough
While the syrup is simmering, make the dough. Combine the semolina, white flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, orange flower water, and enough lukewarm water to make a pliable, but not sticky, dough. Knead until smooth, cover with plastic or a towel, and leave to rest for 30 to 40 minutes.
Make the Almond Filling
If desired, lightly toast the almonds in a preheated 400° F (200° C) oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Grind the almonds to a coarse powdery texture, then mix with the sugar, cinnamon (if desired) and a little syrup or honey. Set aside.
Assemble the Baklawa
Combine the melted butter with the vegetable oil in a small bowl. Generously brush the interior of your baking pan with the butter mixture.
Divide the dough into 24 smooth balls. Leave the balls covered loosely while you work. Dust your work surface with cornstarch and roll out one of the balls to a paper-thin rectangle the size of your baking pan or a bit larger. Place it in the bottom of the pan (trim any excess from the edges for a neat fit) and generously butter the dough.
Roll out another ball of dough in the same manner. Fit it into the pan, trim any excess dough, and butter generously. Repeat until you have used half of the dough, for a total of 12 bottom layers.
Distribute the almond filling over the layered pastry dough, pressing to pack it slightly. Drizzle a little-melted butter over the almonds.
Roll out the remaining balls of dough, layering them over the almond filling, and brushing each layer generously with the melted butter mixture, including the very top layer.
Bake the Baklawa
Preheat your oven to 350 F (180 C). Reheat your syrup if necessary and leave warm.
With a long, sharp knife, carefully cut the unbaked baklawa into small diamond-shaped or square-shaped pieces, taking care to cut all the way through the pastry layers and filling. Decorate each piece with a whole blanched almond (press it gently into the dough), or you can use other garnishes as desired, before or after baking.
Bake the baklawa in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.
Carefully spoon warm syrup over the top of the baklawa, taking care that some syrup drips into the cuts you made before baking. Use as much as you like, keeping in mind that the almond filling already has sugar. Leave the baklawa overnight to cool and fully absorb the syrup before serving.
The baklawa will keep for two or three weeks at room temperature in a tightly sealed container. You may also freeze it for longer storage.
To use phyllo dough, assemble the baklawa with 12 layers of phyllo pastry the bottom and 12 layers on top. Generously butter each layer as you work.
To use warqa instead of homemade pastry, trim the round edges straight across large leaves of warqa to make rectangular shaped pieces to fit your pan. Use only four layers of warqa on the bottom and four on the top, remember to butter each layer generously.
If using honey instead of homemade syrup, heat the honey in a saucepan until hot and thinned in consistency. Stir in a little orange flower water to taste.
Plan ahead when making this dessert, as it needs to sit overnight to absorb the syrup before serving.
Leftover syrup can be stored in the fridge to use as a sweetener for beverages, as a glaze for fruit tarts, or as corn syrup substitute.