Baklava. An image of a slice of this heavenly dessert that’s layered with filo pastry and a sweet pistachio filling was dancing in my mind. The last time I had a slice of Baklava was several years ago in the Gold Coast, Australia from a Greek stall at the Surfers Paradise beachfront markets. Fast forward to 2020, I was thinking I ought to have a go at re-creating baklava (more like something that’s somewhat close to it) at home with limited ingredients and sans filo pastry. It’s way easier than constructing a time machine!
After reading and skimming through countless baklava and baklava-inspired recipes (baked, ‘no-bake’, healthy, indulgent – the list goes on!), a common theme appeared – everyone seems to have different spins on their own baklava. I reckon there’s thousands of combinations to choose from! Some include orange/lemon juice, while others don’t. Some add cinnamon, and some have chosen to exclude it (like me, as cinnamon and I have a longstanding love-hate ‘friendship’ – we’re frenemies). My heart was soon set on creating my own baklava-inspired treat with my own spins to suit my taste buds. My goal, which I decided on before finalizing my experiment’s formula, was to create a simple and healthy treat.
Dates and pistachios (walnuts are great too but I prefer pistachios in general) are two core ingredients in my baklava bites. Baklava, however, isn’t complete without its crowning glory – the glossy sweet syrup. With its transparent-ish appearance, this syrup’s contribution certainly reflects that there’s more to the dessert than meets the eye (or at least the elements that are identifiable from a glance). My take on the syrup comprises of a 2:1 ratio of honey and lemon juice. The syrup on its own is a nice collaboration between two well-loved ingredients! If you prefer a sweeter syrup, half a tablespoon of lemon juice should work.
My final recipe comprised of the following ingredient ‘equation’:
7 medjool dates (medium-sized, pitted and chopped)
+ 3 – 4 handfuls of pistachios (handfuls include shells; remove shells and pound them – I wanted them to be a little chunky for texture and a pop of color)
+ 2 tablespoons of honey
+ 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
= 7 Baklava Bites (of various sizes – 5 were medium-sized/larger and 2 were smaller, as I was seeking a single portion size that hits the sweet spot)
Firstly, mix everything together thoroughly to allow each flavor element to intertwine. Secondly, roll them into balls and place them on top of a layer of baking sheet. After tasting these bites in various sizes, I realized an ideal single ‘bite’ is slightly smaller than the size of a golf ball. Pop them into the fridge to set – this depends on how firm you’d like the bites to be. Voila! They’re ready to be enjoyed.
I loved the inclusions of lemon juice and pistachios as they contained punches of sweetness from honey and dates without eliminating their signature sweet notes. The bites are sweet, nutty and zesty – all at the same time. I wanted the pistachios to retain their chunkiness rather than having small crumbly bits mixed into the dates as they add a wonderful crunch to the otherwise fudgy/toffee-like texture. Additionally, the green and purple hues are pretty!
I highly recommend setting them in the fridge overnight before biting into them, as they’ll be chilled and firmer the next day. Plus, refrigerated ones are perfect for this time of the year as the atmosphere feels like one large sauna that operates 24/7 (you could probably fry an egg under the midday sun!)
Do remember to store them in the fridge.
I had a blast with this yummy experiment. It made my weekend fun!
Catch up on my previous kitchen experiments here!