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Gretchen's Baklava | My mom's baklava with layers of buttery filo & a walnut filling doused with orange blossom water kissed sugar syrup

Gretchen’s Classic Greek Baklava

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Nothing held my mom back in the kitchen and this Classic Greek Baklava was one of the most delicious, memorable treats she made for our family! Layered with filo, nuts and an orange flower water flavored syrup, it’s unforgettable!

If you’ve never baked with filo, fillo or phyllo dough, scroll down and read my tips for working with these extremely thin pastry sheets.

Classic Greek Baklava stacked on a small white plate

My Mom’s Classic Greek Baklava

I was blessed to spend most of my childhood in a small, Midwest university town. Basically, Ames, Iowa, was in the middle of nowhere, but the college brought many benefits. We’d attend the symphony, theater and football games. So what if all the key players were university students! My parents became friends with folks from all over the world and with that, we were exposed to new cuisines.

After chatting with my Greek friend, Eleni, I learned that baklavas can vary depending on the family and area it is made. Many have honey, cloves, cinnamon and bread crumbs. My mother’s classic Greek Baklava is lacking all of those ingredients, but she did reassure me that sugar syrup and orange blossom water were also traditional. I will try adding her suggestions of breadcrumbs and cinnamon to my next filling.

Overhead view of Classic Greek Baklava cut into diamond shapes in a glass 9x13-inch panGreek Influences

Down the street lived the Adamantios family, and Marcia and my mom became fast friends. Through this friendship, my mom acquired recipes for Greek lemon soup, moussaka, and, our favorite, baklava.

Thanks to an international grocery store on campus, we had access to filo dough, quite exotic for Iowa in the 1970’s! I remember painting melted butter over the thin, fragile pastry sheets with my mom at my side. No other baklava tastes as wonderful as this version made with love by my mother.

Once you get the hang of working with filo (or fillo or phyllo), you’ll be adding traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita, tiropita to your menu! I’ve also had my eye on these No Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake Phyllo Bites as well as this Spinach Feta Quiche with Flakey Phyllo Crust.

Overhead view of a slice of Classic Greek Baklava slice on a white plate

Tips for Working with Filo  or Phyllo Dough

Filo or phyllo dough is a paper thin pastry that is used in Mediterranean cuisine.  Due to it’s thin nature, filo dries out quickly and becomes extremely fragile when exposed to air. Therefore, extra care is needed when you’re using filo in your baking.

  • Filo dough is usually found in your grocer’s freezer case. Follow the instructions on the box for defrosting. A slow overnight defrosting in the refrigerator is usually the best option.
  • Do not remove the filo from the plastic wrapping until all your other ingredients are prepped and ready to go.

 

  • PRO-Tip: When you’re ready to start layering, remove the filo from its packaging, unroll and place it on a clean work surface. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, then a damp towel.
  • Work quickly, uncovering the filo just to remove a sheet. Make sure to cover again as soon as possible.

 

  • Brush your pastry with oil or melted butter as directed in your recipe. Since the exterior edges are more likely to dry out first, brush around the perimeter first. Using a soft pastry brush will minimize any tearing.
  • Don’t worry too much if you have sheets tear. I use these in the middle of my baklava. No one will be the wiser as there most likely are intact layers above and below.
  • Wrap any leftovers well and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Close up on the insides of a slices of Classic Greek Baklava

You May Need:

13 by 9 by 2-1/4-Inch Baking Pan
Orange Blossom Water

More Nutty Recipes You’ll Love:

 

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Gretchen's Baklava - My mom's baklava with layers of buttery filo & a walnut filling doused with orange blossom water kissed sugar syrup

Gretchen’s Classic Greek Baklava

A traditional Greek dessert that you can now make at home!

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 24 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Greek

Ingredients

Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 1 pound filo dough

Baklava:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 68 ounces chopped walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Instructions

  1. Make syrup by dissolving sugar in water and simmer till thick enough to coat a spoon, then add lemon and orange blossom water and simmer 2 more minutes. Cool to room temperature in the refrigerator.
  2. Brush a 9 x 13 pan with butter. Place half of filo in the pan, one sheet at a time, brushing each layer with butter. Keep the filo covered with a damp towel while brushing the layers to prevent it from drying out. Don’t worry if it tears, though, it will still look and taste fine. Mix nuts and sugar and spread over the filo layers. Cover with remaining filo, brushing each layer with butter as before.
  3. Cut diagonally into lozenge shapes. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes, then increase temperature to 450º for 15 minutes or less till puffed and golden.
  4. Remove from oven and quickly pour cold syrup over baklava. Cool.

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35 comments on “Gretchen’s Classic Greek Baklava”

  1. Dear Liz, what a lovley tribute to your mother, your childhood and lots of fabulous food memories. And what a wonderful recipe to treasure and pass onto the next generation. Baklava is quite the treat and every once in a while I will indulge. I have never attempted to bake one myself though, as this dessert is abundant available around here at Middle-Eastern store. But it has been one of my baking projects for the longest time.
    Have a nice Sunday,
    Andrea

  2. Love the story. Love the baklava…and the recipe! Thank you for making the Greek dessert accessible.

  3. College towns are the best! They can be small but the university brings diversity, which is wonderful. Your mom’s baklava looks absolutely perfect, Liz! I really don’t see how it could be improved by cinnamon or bread crumbs. What a beautiful tribute to your mother as well!

  4. I love baklava, have never tried to make it at home though!

  5. I remember making baklava with my mum as a child as well – I think it’s almost a bonding experience! Looks delicious.

  6. Small college towns have SO much to offer. Your childhood sounds wonderful 🙂 And so does this baklava.

  7. Beautiful post. I’ve never made baklava, but I must now that I’ve seen this. It looks very very eatable. I think I should eat some lunch.

  8. Great tale and love baklava…and moussaka. When I was a kid my dad’s partner was Greek. Sometimes his wife made a Greek dinner for us, I remember her baklava so well.

  9. I can well imagine the wonderful, comforting thoughts that this delicious treat conjures up for you Liz, I want to try this recipe just because of how you describe it with such love and affection. I have only made baklava a couple of times (once with my own phyllo) but never in a sheet like this. I love it. We will be hosting our 30th wedding anniversary party in a few weeks and this would be a gorgeous dessert to have. I will put it on my list for sure (cue JT to roll his eyes as the list is already out of control!!!

  10. I have such a weakness for baklava. Yours looks incredible. I would love to hear more about your childhood as well – it sounds very interesting.

  11. A very nice tribute Liz! I’ll bet your Bakalva is amazing. I see lots of other tempting goodies in the list too:@)

  12. Baklava is one of those things that seems so intimidating to make that I have never thought about attempting it before. Loving participating in #SundaySupper. So much inspiration from the great recipes that are shared each week.

  13. I’m probably one of the biggest fans of walnuts and have them almost every day with my breakfast or lunch! Your recipe seems really nice and quite easy to follow. Mniam! Mniam!

  14. Gosh, Mother’s Day is near! I wish my mom could bake too. Have a wonderful week, my dear! xoxo

  15. Your baklava looks amazing – actually everything you do is stunning. I guess that’s why I love your blog so much!!!!

  16. Lizzy what amazing look your baklava Im impressed ! Is something I never have doing !
    My dad in law loved. Not only greek arabian love baklava too.
    Look stunning dear Lizzy!!
    xoxoxoxo

  17. Nothing tastes as good as a dish made with love. This baklava sounds wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever had it made with orange flower water.

  18. Your baklava looks beautiful – you can practically taste those buttery layers of filo just by looking at it.

  19. Looks amazing! I will break down and eat baklava – we have a fascinating Greek store here that makes it usually with honey!! So your gift for cooking and baking comes through the blood line from your mother. 🙂

  20. My neighbors are Greek and this baklava looks like it would pass any taste test with them! Gorgeous!

  21. How fortunate you were to be surrounded by culture and arts. This baklava, though different from what I’m used to, sounds amazing.

  22. First of all, your pictures have me drooling! This looks wonderful, I have never made baklava!

  23. What a great recipe Liz! It looks AMAZING!

  24. looooove baklava. I have to make this

  25. I love baklava and the best part of this recipe is that it was your mom’s <3 so special!

  26. I had never heard of Baklava until I moved to St. Louis. YUM upon first bite. I’ve never even attempted to make it either. But it is such a classic Greek treat! I’m sure your mother’s recipe is divine!

  27. wow this looks bakery perfect!

  28. Where do you find orange blossom water? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that! Can you make it?

    • Ann, I have found it at gourmet food stores as well as Middle Eastern/global markets. I left an Amazon link on the post b/c I had a heck of a time finding it the last time! I don’t think you can make it as it has a very subtle, unique flavor!

  29. I love how you cut it into diamonds – so pretty!

  30. This reminds me a bit of the nut rolls my aunt used to make around Christmas time. Love that flaky filo and sweet walnut mixture.

  31. Beautifully made! I have to try this now!

  32. I am a sucker for Baklava! This looks so tasty!

  33. Such a classic dessert and this is a great version!

  34. I LOVE Baklava!  I’ve always been afraid to make it myself but I’m definitely going to try this recipe soon!

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