It’s no secret that I like figs. So, a few months ago, when my aunt asked for a recipe for fig baklava, I was more than up for the challenge. Baklava is a pretty popular dessert in Macedonia, but without a strong cup of Turkish coffee to cut through all that sherbet (sugar syrup) I find it to be unbearably sweet. I will never forget the first time I watched my mother-in-law make it. After carefully layering finely chopped pistachios between seemingly hundreds of sheets of paper thin phyllo, I waited eagerly for the baklava to come out of the oven. Just as we were about to take it out, I watched her pour 1 kilo of sugar (an entire kilo!!!) into a sauce pan with a bit of water to start making the sherbet. An entire kilo! No wonder baklava can make your throat burn from all that sweetness! My aim with this recipe was to give my aunt a way to incorporate some of her delicious homemade fig jam without overwhelming the baklava with sugar. All that to say, this is not a traditional recipe for baklava, but it is a delicious one!
Baklava is actually more diverse than you might think. Besides swapping in various kinds of nuts–walnuts, almonds, pistachios–my mother-in-law makes a pretty mean version that’s filled with chocolate! I have also been impressed with baklava infused with rosewater or lemon. This is the first time I have ever tried making baklava with any kind of fruit preserves.
Since I wanted to include a bit of fig jam in this baklava, I knew that the main challenge would be to avoid overwhelming the inside of the baklava with sweetness while maintaining the characteristic texture of all those layers of phyllo. I settled on a thin layer of jam at the bottom, and an additional thin layer in the middle. Instead of using a kilo of sugary syrup on top, I used 3/4 cup honey mixed with a little water. The jam alone probably would have been enough for sweetness, but without some kind of syrup poured over the top, you can’t even come close to achieving that traditional baklava texture.
Baklava is actually really simple to make. There are really no secrets or even tips, except maybe to remember that the goal is a lot of thin layers, so go easy on the nuts.
- 1 package phyllo dough
- 1 cup almonds (finely chopped)
- 1 cup pecans (finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup fig jam
- 1/2 cup butter (melted)
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- Lightly grease a baking pan with a little bit of the melted butter. (I used a 9×12 pan, but try to use whatever you have that is the closest to the size of your sheets of phyllo dough).
- Combine finely chopped almonds and pecans in a small bowl with the cinnamon, cardamom, and salt.
- In a small bowl, heat 1/2 cup of fig jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds. The goal is to get the jam nice and spreadable, not for it to be hot.
- If the sheets of phyllo dough are way bigger than your pan, use a sharp knife to trim them to the right size (if they’re just an inch or two too big, don’t worry about it.)
- Ok! Now we’re ready! Take two sheets of phyllo dough and put them in the bottom of the pan. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top layer with butter. The goal here is not to coat the phyllo dough, so use a light hand. Place two more sheets of phyllo dough in the pan.
- Spread a very thin layer of fig jam over the phyllo dough. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of the nut mixture.
- Add two more sheets of phyllo, brush with butter, ad a few tablespoons of nuts. Repeat this four more times before adding another layer of fig jam. Then, keep adding phyllo and nut layers until you run out. End with three layers of phyllo on top.
- Brush the top layer with the remaining butter and cut into diamonds.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
- Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, bring 3/4 cup honey and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Remove baklava from oven and evenly pour the honey mixture over the top. Let cool completely before serving.