Recipes·Star Baker

Saffron-Almond Baklava

This popular dessert consists of crisp layers of phyllo nestled with almonds and soaked in a saffron-infused syrup.

This popular dessert consists of layers of phyllo nestled with almonds and soaked in a saffron-infused syrup

Four baklava squares on a dessert display with chopped almonds and threads of saffron sprinkled on top
(Photo by: Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo)

Baklava is a popular dessert originating in Turkey and typically consists of nuts, syrup and phyllo. This version is punctuated with almonds, and the crisp layers of pastry lock in a saffron-infused syrup. 

Zoya’s Saffron-Almond Baklava helped her claim the title of Star Baker for Pastry Week in Season 6 of The Great Canadian Baking Show.

Saffron-Almond Baklava

By Zoya Thawer

Ingredients

Phyllo (Alternative: 12 sheets store-bought phyllo, defrosted):

  • 1¾ cups (270 g) bread flour, plus more for rolling
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 5 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp vinegar

Almond Filling:

  • 1⅔ cups (230 g) almonds
  • 1⅔ cups (230 g) Marcona almonds
  • 1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of saffron

Assembly:

  • 1 cup (180 g) ghee
  • Pinch of saffron

Syrup:

  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp saffron

Garnish (optional):

  • ⅓ cup (60 g) ghee
  • ¼ cup (40 g) food-grade gum arabic granules, optional (sold online; if the granules are large, crush in a spice grinder)

Preparation

Phyllo:

Whisk together the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the water, oil and vinegar and mix on medium speed until smooth, 5 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface dusted lightly with flour, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes.

Almond Filling:

Pulse both types of almonds, sugar and saffron in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.

Assembly:

Heat oven to 375 F.

Add the ghee and saffron to a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll out each into a 12-by-8-inch rectangle (the sheet should be wafer-thin). Brush the bottom of a 12-by-8-inch cake pan with ghee. Lightly brush one sheet of phyllo with ghee and place in the bottom of the pan. Repeat with three more sheets of phyllo. 

Spread half of the almond mixture on top, then cover with another four sheets of phyllo brushed with ghee. Top with the remaining almond mixture and phyllo sheets. Transfer to the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into squares or diamonds.

If using store-bought phyllo, brush one sheet with ghee and fold in half crosswise, greased side in. Place it in the pan and brush the top with ghee. Repeat with another three sheets, then continue as above with the almond mixture and remaining phyllo.

Bake until golden brown, 40 to 55 minutes.

Syrup:

Meanwhile, heat the sugar, water and saffron in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Strain if desired.

Once the baklava is baked, pour the warm syrup over the hot pastry. Set aside to cool completely.

Garnish (optional):

Line a rimmed quarter-sheet pan with a paper towel.

Melt the ghee in a small non-stick skillet. To test the temperature of the ghee, add one or two granules of gum arabic to it; they should puff up fairly quickly, like puffed rice. Add the rest of the gum arabic and stir until puffed and opaque. (This should take a few seconds; be careful as it can burn quickly.) Transfer to the prepared sheet pan to cool, then sprinkle over the baklava.

Makes 12 squares

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