Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Paklava - Traditional Style

Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. After observing Lent for 40 days and 40 nights, we've earned the right to enjoy some of the pleasures we’ve resisted for what seems like a very long time. One way to do this is to serve Traditional Paklava at your Easter table.

Some years ago, Susan Ounjian, a lecturer and performer, hosted a cooking video, “The Art of Traditional Armenian Cooking”. In it she explained her version of the origin of the word “paklava.” She stated that the word came from an old Lenten tradition: “With ‘pak,’ meaning Lent, and ‘halva’, meaning sweet, the story says that paklava was made with 40 layers of dough to represent the 40 days of Lent. After Easter services, paklava was served in celebration.”

So, with this in mind, here is our recipe for traditional paklava to serve and enjoy with your family and friends this Easter Sunday.
Just-baked traditional Paklava

Yield: 30 to 40 pieces

Filling Ingredients:
2 cups walnuts, pecans or pistachio nuts, chopped
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Main Ingredients:
11/2 cups clarified unsalted butter, melted*
1 lb. Phyllo dough, thawed

1. In a medium bowl, combine nuts and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Lightly brush a 9" x 13" baking pan with melted butter.
3. Place half of the phyllo sheets (20 sheets) on the bottom of the pan, lightly brushing every (or every other) sheet with melted butter.
4. Spread with nut mixture.
5. Layer the rest of the phyllo sheets (20 more sheets) on top, lightly brushing each sheet, including the top layer, with melted butter.
6. Place tray of unbaked paklava in refrigerator for about45 minutes to one hour before attempting to cut.
7. To make diamond-shaped cuts: using a very sharp knife, cut diagonally, then make vertical cuts through phyllo dough.
8. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown.
9. As soon as the paklava comes out of the oven, spoon some of the cooled syrup over the top of each piece. Cool completely before serving.

*To clarify butter: Melt about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups butter or butter and margarine over low heat until foam appears. Skim foam and keep on low heat for about 15 minutes or until water has evaporated and salt and solids settle to bottom of pan. Cool about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully pour clarified butter into container, leaving salt and solids at bottom of the pan. Discard solids.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 strip of lemon peel or a drop of lemon juice
Bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and cool.


  1. Funny timing, we're planning on making Paklava today. We were always taught to pour hot syrup over cold Paklava though. Hot on hot for Kadayif, hot on Cold for Paklava. I've never heard of anyone refrigerating it before. Does it make it easier to cut? That's the one thing I don't like about making Paklava. Either the layers try to slide apart while I'm slicing it, or I smush it trying to hold it together.

  2. My mom taught me that you either pour hot syrup on cold paklava or cold syrup on paklava so I think both are correct ways. Funny how those little things get passed down.

    Yours looks fantastic. I'm ready to make some now.

  3. Seems like every region has a slightly different method. I was taught to pour just enough of the cooled syrup over hot paklava so you hear a 'sizzle'. Extra syrup should be available for those who like their paklava wet. (I prefer mine a bit crispy.)
    Chris, chilling the unbaked paklava does make it easier to slice, but it's still a little tricky no matter what! Good luck with your recipe.

  4. I'm really looking forward to trying to make paklava for Easter. I've wanted to try for a long time and, after reading your introduction, it seems like Easter season is really the right time. I've been enjoying your website and videos. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks Jeremy! Paklava is great anytime, but Easter is when it takes center-stage. I'd love to know how yours turns out...good luck.

  6. I do hot syrup on hot paklava. it sizzles like crazy and helps keep the bottom crispy. I also add 1 tsp of vanilla to the syrup. What a difference that makes. Our family went crazy for that change. Gotta try refrigerating befor cutting.

  7. Kathy,
    Thanks for your tip...vanilla sounds like a tasty addition to the syrup!

  8. i make it this way but i also found an easy shortcut version. buy frozen baklava shells ( mini size, make the filling mixture then fill the cups using a teaspoon bake for 8 minutes or until brown. add the syrup using a teaspoon until you get the desired amount of syrup you want in the cups. the first time i did it i added way to much syrup and they came out very wet. 1-1/2teaspoons works well and gives it just the right amount of syrup and sweetness

    1. We also make a shortcut, mini paklava just as you have described: http://www.thearmeniankitchen.com/2009/03/paklava-anyone.html

  9. My mom was told by my grandmother tho melt crico shortening,but not too hot so phyllo would burn, over the completed and cut paklava to cook and crisp it. Take out a corner piece, then drain. Discard drained oil. While still warm pour simple syrup over paklava. Let set, then serve. excellent!