Baku Pakhlava (Baklava) is layered pastry dessert. It is usually prepared to celebrate the beginning of spring, which is called Novruz in Azerbaijan, but these days it is eaten throughout the year.
There are many variations of pakhlava in Azerbaijan. This recipe is my sister’s version of pakhlava, which is very popular in her household. I heard it gets eaten pretty quickly, and it is for a reason that this pakhlava is oh-so-delicious. Try it!
Prep: 1 hours Cook: 50 min Total: 2 hours
6 cups* unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1 or 2 tbsp sugar
1 /2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
1 packet or 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water or milk at 115°F
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup water or milk (depending on the humidity level of your location and the quality of the flour you are using, you might need additional 1/2 cup of water or milk)
4 1/2 cups walnuts**
4 1/2 cups almonds, blanched
4 or 3 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cardamon (optional)
Decorations and glaze
30 halved, blanched almonds
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk
1/2 to 1 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
Place the yeast in a small bowl. Add the water, and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes. In a medium-size bowl, mix the sour cream, butter, and eggs. In a large bowl, place the flour, sugar, salt and turmeric. Mix well. Make a well in the center. Add the liquid ingredients and yeast to the flour mixture. Mix well, and add the water slowly kneading until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a working surface, and knead for 15 minutes or until the dough is smooth and soft.
If you are making the dough in a blender, use a dough hook for mixing. Mix on low speed for a minute, then go up to medium for 6 or 7 minutes. Place the dough back into the bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour. It should double in size.
Lightly toast the walnuts and almonds in separate frying pans on low heat. The walnuts for 10 minutes or until their skin starts to peel slightly, and the almonds for 3 minutes. Make sure to stir them to prevent over toasting. Remove the skin from the walnuts. Grind the nuts in a blender or finely chop them by hand. Place the nuts, sugar, and cardamon in a large bowl. Mix well.
Line a 12X16 inch baking dish with parchment paper (you can use a round shaped dish as well). Divide the dough into 10 sections. Make 2 of them slightly larger for the bottom and top layers. Shape them into balls. Place them apart on a large plate, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. On a lightly floured working surface, pat a ball down and roll it into 2 mm thick rectangular sheet.
Place the sheet in the baking dish. The first sheet should be a little thicker than the rest of the layers to prevent the sauce from seeping through it. Press it down on the bottom and sides, and seal any holes. Evenly spread 1 cup of the filling on the sheet.
Repeat the process with the rest of the sheets. The top layer will not have any filling on top of it. Trim the edges. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, and place into the freezer for 5 minutes, or the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make cutting easier.
Place the egg yolk in a small bowl. Whisk it, and add the milk. Mix well.
Take the pakhlava out of the fridge, and brush it with the egg mixture. Score vertical and diagonal lines into the pakhlava creating diamond shapes. Don’t cut through the bottom layer. Arrange halved almonds in the center of the each diamond.
Place into 350 F preheated oven for 50 minutes or until the top looks golden.
Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Half way through the baking process take the pakhlava out of the oven and pour the sauce into the cuts, and brush some of it on top of the pakhlava to give it a glossy look. Place it back into the oven to finish baking. Take it out of the oven. Let it cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing.
Serve with tea.
* You can half the amount of the ingredients to make smaller pakhlava.
** If you can find hazelnuts, substitute 3 cups of the walnuts and almonds with 3 cups of the hazelnuts.