A Little History of Round Pistachio Baklava
When I was a little girl, my mother brought me a special dessert. It was baklava, and I loved it. It wasn’t until I was a lot older and moved to a community that had a large Armenian population that I learned that there were a lot of varieties of the venerable dessert. The history of this pastry is long and contested – some say it originated in Ancient Rome citing a recipe from Cato the Elder in 160 BC, some say the Romans stole the recipe from the Greeks, and Byzantine Turks say it was already theirs – Wikipedia Baklava.
I had no idea how the dessert was made, and when I found out it was made with Filo dough, I thought it being so gossamer that I would never be able to handle it. Of course, I was also convinced that I was unable to make decent rice, and frying completely perplexed me.
I have lately been watching YouTube and found the Heghineh Cooking Show. She demonstrates all kinds of good Armenian food, and one day, it was a round baklava with pistachios. The way she did it, and explained it, I thought, you know what, I can do that! I have already conquered rice and mastered frying, so why not Filo, too? I decided to make it for a small dinner party because I was getting kind of tired of cakes or fruit.
Working with Filo
If you have already worked with filo dough, then this recipe should be a breeze for you. If not, and you need to see the method of making these luscious pastries, then head on over to the YouTube video by Heghineh. Please note that you will probably not use the entire roll of dough, some might stick together too much, or get too torn to work with. I would say I lost about 6 sheets.
There are a couple of things I did differently. I used Cortas Rose Syrup that I buy at Armenian stores or at Amazon (it makes a fine cocktail with vodka over ice), and I used True Orange that you can also get at Amazon. I also messed up with the first baklava and forgot to squeeze them together, so I ate those.
What You Need to Make Round Pistachio Baklava
The recipe here is for a half box of frozen filo dough, that you can buy in the frozen dessert section of your local supermarket. You can also get frozen filo at Mediterranean stores.
You will need a soft cloth, a dish towel is about the right size. This is to keep the filo dough from drying out while you work with it. Don’t skip this step!
You will need thin dowels to roll the dough – I used bamboo skewers, they were perfect. Buy those in the barbecue section at the supermarket. You will also need a baking pan with sides, a cake pan is a fine choice.
You will need a pastry brush to brush the filo dough with butter. A knife is not going to do it.
For the pistachios, I bought the pre-shelled variety, if you have willing helpers that won’t eat all the nuts before you can use them, then go ahead and get the ones with shells. Don’t get ones that have flavorings or coloring, you want basic nuts.
These beautiful little pastries are rich with butter, crunchy and melt in your mouth delicious. Don't be afraid of roses, they taste as good as they smell.
If you are allergic to nuts, you could use finely chopped dried fruit instead.