Mmmm...baklava. Can't you almost taste the flaky pastry right now? Baklava making was honed in Ottoman sultans' kitchens in the 1600s, so who better to share the perfect baklava recipe with us than an actual Ottoman palace?
The Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul is now a swanky 5-star hotel—complete with Turkish baths and an infinity pool—but more than 300 years ago, it served as the royal abode of Admiral Kılıç Ali Pasha, one of the Ottoman empire's greatest admirals, and eventually flourished into the extravagant 19th-century palace of Sultan Abdülaziz.
Even if a stay in the property's "sultan suite" (24-hour butler included) doesn't exactly gel with your budget, you can still make like a pasha and savor this baklava recipe from the hotel's classic-Ottoman-cuisine-focused kitchen.
3 cups sugar, or 2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
5 pieces saffron
1 lb hazelnuts, coarsely ground (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 lb (about 24 sheets) phyllo dough
About 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
1. To make the syrup: Stir the sugar, water, lemon juice, saffron, low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes (it will register 225˚ on a candy thermometer).
2. To make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients.
3. Preheat the oven to 350˚. Grease a 12-by-9-inch or 13-by-9-inch baking pan or 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan.
4. Place a sheet of phyllo in the prepared pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with seven more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with eight more sheets, brushing each with butter. Use any torn sheets in the middle layer. Spread with the remaining nut mixture and end with a top layer of eight sheets, continuing to brush each with butter. Trim any overhanging edges.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips (about 1 3/4 inches wide) through the top layer of pastry. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.
6. Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300˚ and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.
7. Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the hot syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours.
8. If desired, coat each piece of baklava with gold leaves as a garnish. Serve at room temperature.