Try this coconut and walnut baklava for layers of crispy pastry, a melt in your mouth filling, all finished with a saffron and rose syrup.
Coconut and walnut baklava, it honestly tastes just as good as it sounds. It’s perfect for sharing (or not), and great to have alongside a cup of tea/chai or coffee. There are layers of crispy filo pasty, each brushed with a layer of clarified butter.
These are entwined with a soft coconut and walnut filling, with hints of cardamom. The baklava is baked till golden and finished with a rose and saffron syrup. This syrup honestly soaks into every nook and cranny.
Let it sit to really infuse those flavours and allow them all to mingle. I guarantee that you’ll be left with one of the most delicious baklavas you’ll ever try.
What is baklava?
Baklava is a filo based pastry that’s served as a dessert across the Middle East and parts of the Mediterranean. Its origins have always been debated and I’m sure the modern day baklava has had influences from several of these regions.
There are strong ties with the Ottoman Empire and it’s believed that the baklava recipe was perfected in Istanbul in the 17th century. But the only thing that needs no debate is agreeing that this small morsel of pastry is incredible.
There are a few variations in baklava dependent on the region where it’s prepared.
For example, pistachios are used in Gaziantep. Walnuts and almonds are used in some parts of the Aegean region. Whilst Greeks tend to favour walnuts alone, along with hints of cinnamon.
Cardamom and rose water are often added to Iranian baklava which often utilises walnuts, almonds or pistachios.
Some Turkish baklava will also be served with kaymak which is another type of clotted cream. Some shops in Gaziantep will even put a layer of kaymak inside the baklava itself.
Şöbiyet is another variety, quite similar to baklava but it contains a cream mixture that is often made from milk and semolina which is then combined with a nut filling.
I’ve only just touched the surface when it comes to baklava varieties. It’s an incredible mouthful that’s all things nutty, chewy, sweet and sticky. It’s even made its way into Indian mithai boxes and has fast become a family favourite.
Due to its popularity and all around deliciousness, it’s become a great gift around Diwali time.
The inspiration behind this coconut and walnut baklava
This baklava recipe has elements from a few of the regional variations. There’s cinnamon in the filling which stems from the Greek variety, as well as cardamom from the Iranian.
There’s a mixture of walnuts and coconut which is not a traditional filling, but it’s a combination that I personally love. I’ve then added a rose and saffron syrup to tie all these flavours together.
A lot of these flavours crossover with common Indian mithai. Hence it seemed fitting for baklava to make their way into Indian mithai shops and boxes. It’s quite likely that the shared love for these flavours and spices was spread through the maritime silk road.
I would say that this baklava captures the essential and flavour and texture. But the addition of coconut does add something rather different and very welcomed.
The cream cheese is completely untraditional but it acts as a way of adding moisture and richness. Of course, clotted cream could be used instead to keep it more true to the kaymak baklava. However I found clotted cream to be too overpowering in a dessert that’s already quite rich.
What are the main elements in this coconut and walnut baklava?
- Pastry – in this case, filo pastry
- Filling – ground walnuts and desiccated coconut, along with a handful of spices (which I’ll explain below)
- Syrup – a simple syrup infused with rose, saffron, and vanilla
What you’ll need to make coconut and walnut baklava
The full recipe can be found at the end of the blogpost
- Desiccated coconut
- Ground green cardamom
- Cinnamon (ground)
- Nutmeg (ground)
- Cream cheese – I now this sounds like it doesn’t belong but just trust me on this!
- Filo pastry – this can be found pre-packaged in most supermarkets. It can be found frozen or refrigerated, but make sure to thaw it out completely before using (if frozen)
- Clarified butter/ghee – don’t worry if you don’t have any, I’ll explain how to make this later!
- White granulated sugar
- Dried rose petals or rose water, or a combination of both
- Vanilla extract
Clarified butter – what is it and how do I make it?
What is it?
Clarified butter is essentially a form of ‘butter fat’ that’s separated from butter as it is rendered down. Rendering the butter down involves placing it under heat and simmering.
This allows the various components to separate so that we can remove the milk solids and whey proteins. This happens due to each component having different densities which allows us to isolate the portion we want, i.e. the butterfat. We need the butter for the baklava to be clarified for two reasons.
Firstly it allows for even browning of the pastry during baking. Secondly by removing the milk solids it allows the butter to be heated to a higher temperature.
If we just used butter that had not been clarified, the baklava would be coated with brown and black marks due to the milk solids burning during baking.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter and is prepared in the exact same way. However ghee is usually allowed to simmer for longer which causes the milk solids to caramelise. This caramelisation imparts a more earthy and nuttier flavour which is synonymous with ghee.
Ghee can be used for these coconut and walnut baklava and would work absolutely fine. It will provide a slightly different flavour but it’s equally delicious.
How do I make it?
- To render the butter down, simply place it on a low heat and allow it to proceed to a gentle simmer
- Over the first few minutes, you will begin to see the butter separate. A white foam will form on top which will need to be skimmed off with a spoon or a fine sieve. The foam consists of the milk solids that we want to remove. This will need to be repeated throughout the simmering process
- As the butter continues to simmer, it will begin to look translucent and there may be a white layer forming at the base of the saucepan
- Once the butter appears completely translucent, place this over a fine sieve. If your sieve isn’t fine, line it with a muslin cloth or paper towel. Allow the butter to drain through and you will be left with perfectly clarified butter.
Why does the butter need to be clarified?
Clarifying the butter increases the smoke point and hence allows it to be heated to a higher temperature. This means it’s better for cooking or baking when the butter is going to be exposed to direct heat for a long period of time.
Without using clarified butter, the baklava will end up with uneven browning as well as some of the milk solids burning on the surface of the pastry. This can lead to a speckled appearance as well as a burnt flavour imparting on the final result.
Clarifying the butter is an extra step, but it’s a crucial step that does make a huge difference. It provides a richer, and more buttery flavour – you can’t really go wrong with that.
Plus it’s not as time consuming as one may think.
How to make the coconut and walnut baklava
Making the sugar syrup
It’s worth making the sugar syrup first in order to allow it to infuse and cool completely. We want the syrup to be cooled to room temperature before pouring over the baklava. The longer it infuses, the more flavour it develops.
1) Add sugar and water to a saucepan and place on a low simmer until the sugar has dissolved completely
2) Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the syrup to a boil until it reaches 110’C. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer you can simply bring the syrup to a rolling boil for 2 minutes and then turn the heat off. This will roughly take you between 110-120’C
3) Once the sugar syrup has been taken off of the heat, add a generous pinch of saffron, dried rose petals (or rose water) and vanilla extract. Give this a gentle stir and allow it to infuse as it cools down to room temperature. The aroma from this syrup will brighten up your entire kitchen – it’s incredibly fragrant.
Making the filling
Next start on the coconut and walnut filling. There is no need to add sugar to the filling as all the sweetness will come from the sugar syrup.
1) Blitz walnuts in a food processor until they’re coarsely ground. Leave some chunks in for texture. It will soften as it bakes so don’t worry
2) The main tip is to make sure it’s not blitzed too finely, having different sized pieces is great
3) Transfer the ground walnuts to a bowl and add desiccated coconut, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Please don’t forget the salt, it’s a flavour enhancer and a balancer. It brings out sweetness in desserts and will enhance the natural flavour of the nuts
4) Add in the cream cheese and slowly mix this in until it’s incorporated
5) There should be no lumps of cream cheese remaining
Assembling the baklava
Before we assemble, let’s talk about tins
Ideally you want to use an 8×8″ square tin without a removable base. This will prevent any butter or sugar syrup from seeping out of the tin.
However, all my tins have removable bases so I’ll show you what I did to try and limit any of the liquids from seeping out. It was 95% successful so just make sure to place an oven tray underneath your tin if you also have a removable base.
Place foil all around the base of the tin to try and remove any small gaps. Then cover the exterior of the tin with foil in the same way you would for a baked cheesecake in a water bath.
Make sure this is sealed tightly.
Now let’s get to making the baklava:
1) Place the tin around your filo pastry and cut around it to get your layers. DON’T discard the excess, cut it into large strips and we’ll use these pieces for our middle layers. Save the intact sheets for the top layer
2) Generously brush the base with the clarified butter
3) Place a sheet of filo at the base (you can use the excess strips here too if you need to). Generously brush this with the clarified butter and place another sheet on top. You want to repeat this until you have a total of 5 sheets at the base, each coated with butter except for the last sheet
4) Place 1/3rd of your filling over the sheet of filo and gently press down into an even layer. Then lightly drizzle with more butter.
Place another 4 layers of pastry over the filling (with each layer brushed with butter except for the last).
Then add another 1/3rd of your filling and gently press down once again.
Repeat once more with another 4 layers of pastry and the remaining 1/3rd of the filling.
5) Use up all the remaining sheets for the last layer. I had around 6 or 7 sheets left. Gently press down to seal and remove any air pockets. Cut your pieces all the way through at this stage as it’s not possible to cut filo neatly after it’s been baked
6) Pour all the remaining clarified butter over the top and allow to soak into all the spaces
7) Now it’s ready to bake. Place in a preheated 180’C oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown on top. If you’re using a tin with a removable base, place an oven tray under your tin.
Pouring the syrup
As soon as the baklava is out of the oven, immediately pour the infused syrup over it. It will begin to sizzle and the syrup will slowly soak in.
Let this sit for a minimum of 6 hours (but best left overnight) before eating in order for the flavours to mingle and the baklava layers to soften up. This will develop the traditional soft chewy texture.
Can I make the coconut and walnut baklava vegan?
Yes, you can substitute the cream cheese for a vegan alternative and use melted (but cooled) coconut oil instead of clarified butter.
What is the purpose of the cream cheese?
The cream cheese adds flavour, richness, moisture and texture. Some Turkish baklava will use kaymak which is a type of clotted cream, for the same purpose. I’ve made this with and without cream cheese and it is by far better with.
It won’t make the baklava taste like a cheesecake, in fact you would never even know it’s there. But the textural difference with cream cheese is remarkable. Trust me on this one.
Square or rhomboid baklava?
I’ve gone for square here, but cut it into a rhomboid if you like. That’s entirely up to you!
Can I just use melted butter?
Not really, no. The butter will burn and you’ll end up with a dark speckled baklava. It will also taste a little burnt due to the milk solids burning in the oven.
Clarify your butter people, it makes a huge difference and in fact makes the butter taste more buttery – who knew that was possible?
Can I use ghee?
Ghee is a form of clarified butter that is normally simmered for longer. This allows for caramelisation of the milk solids which infuses the butter fat with a nutty flavour before these solids are then removed.
As it’s clarified, it’s perfectly fine to use here. Just make sure to melt it so it’s easier to brush on to the filo pastry.
Where can I buy dried rose petals?
Amazon is always a reliable place, but for anyone UK based, they can be found in Waitrose (just tap and it’ll take you to the link).
How long will the coconut and walnut baklava last and how should it be stored?
This baklava is best within the first 7 days but can last up to 10 days if stored in an air tight container.
It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can be kept at room temperature. Keeping the baklava at room temperature will keep the top layer of pastry crispy. However you can refrigerate this if you wish.
Refrigerating will soften the top layer of pastry and the baklava will develop a firmer and more chewy texture. If that’s your preference then keep the coconut and walnut baklava refrigerated.
Coconut and Walnut Baklava
- 8″ square tin
- Food processor
- 19-20 sheets of filo pastry
For the clarified butter:
- 200 g unsalted butter this will reduce into ~160g of clarified butter of which we will use 150g. Alternatively use 150g melted ghee
For the syrup:
- 200 g white granulated sugar
- 200 ml water
- Pinch of saffron be generous
- 2 tsp dried rose petals or rose water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the baklava filling:
- 125 g walnuts
- 125 g desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 100 g full fat cream cheese
For the clarified butter:
- First bring the unsalted butter to a low simmer until it has completely melted
- It will begin to bubble and slowly separate. As a white foam forms on top, remove this with a spoon or fine sieve. You will need to remove this foam 3-4x
- The butter will then begin to appear more translucent and a white layer will form at the base of the pan. At this stage pass it through a fine sieve, or a muslin cloth and allow to cool
For the syrup:
- Bring the sugar and water to a low simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved
- Then place it on a high heat until it comes to a boil
- Boil the sugar syrup for around 2 minutes and then immediately turn the heat off
- Add the vanilla, saffron, and rose to the hot syrup and gently stir to infuse
- Allow the syrup to cool completely
For the baklava filling:
- Blitz the walnuts until they’re coarsely ground, leave some chunks for texture
- Transfer to a mixing bowl along with the desiccated coconut, cardamom, cinnamon and salt. Mix to combine
- Add the cream cheese and mix until it has been fully incorporated
Assembling the baklava:
- Preheat your oven to 180’C fan of 200’C conventional
- Cut your filo pastry to the size of your tin, make sure to leave the sheets under a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out
- Grease the base of your tin with clarified butter and place the first sheet of pastry
- Brush the pastry with clarified butter and place another sheet. Repeat this until you have a total of 5 sheets, there is no need to brush the last sheet
- Then place 1/3rd of the baklava filling and gently press into an even layer
- Drizzle a small amount of clarified butter over the filling and then proceed to place another layer of pastry
- Repeat until you have placed 4 sheets of filo. Again there is no need to brush the last layer as the filling will go on top
- Now place another 1/3rd of the filling and press into an even layer once again
- Repeat this process once more until you have used up all of your filling. You will end up with 3 layers of filling, separated by 4 layers of pastry each
- For the last layer use up all your remaining sheets of filo, at least 6-7 for best results
- Gently press down to remove any air pockets, and then cut the unbaked baklava into 16 equal pieces
- Pour over the remaining clarified butter and allow it to sit for 1-2 minutes to soak in
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown on top
- Immediately pour the syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow it to sit for a minimum of 6 hours to infuse. Preferably over night for best results
If you’re looking for Diwali recipe ideas, this makes a great one to gift to friends and family. You might also really enjoy my pistachio kulfi cookies! Tap the image below to take you to the recipe: