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Nut-Free Baklawa Recipe

Nut-Free Baklawa


A special filling of seeds and sugar, along with layering the filling twice, make this a wonderful Lebanese baklawa. Perfect for those with nut allergies or anyone avoiding nuts, but also just delicious to try for fun! Do everything as you would for my walnut baklawa diamonds, except for the extra layering (and the nuts...).


1 pound box of phyllo, 9"x14" sheets, room temperature
3/4 cup clarified butter (measure after clarifying), melted

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange blossom water

1 1/3 cups roasted pepitas (raw works fine too!)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/3 cup granulated sugar


To make the syrup (do this in advance as it has to be cold!), in a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the orange blossom water. Pour into another, heatproof, container, then cool and chill completely. It is essential to pour cool/room temperature syrup over the hot pastry when it comes out of the oven.

To make the sugared seeds: Process all of the seeds in the food processor using pulses, taking care not to go too far (to avoid making too much seed-dust). Combine the seeds and sugar stirring until all of the seeds are coated.

Sugared seeds for baklawa

Assemble the baklawa: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Open one sleeve of the phyllo and unroll it on top of the plastic it is packaged in. Keep the phyllo covered with a towel.

Use a metal, straight-sided 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan and trim the phyllo to fit. Lay the pan over the phyllo, and cut about an inch off of the short side of the phyllo so it will fit in the pan. It’s better to leave the phyllo just a hair larger than the pan because it will shrink when it bakes.

Brush the bottom of the pan with clarified butter. Lay 2/3 (13 sheets) of the stack of  phyllo leaves in the pan. Spread half of the seeds over the phyllo in one even layer and place the remaining 1/3 (7 sheets) of the phyllo over the seeds. Open the second sleeve of phyllo and trim the same way as the first sleeve. Lay 1/3 (7 sheets) of the second stack of leaves over the phyllo that is already in the pan. Spread the remaining half of the seeds evenly over the phyllo, then place the remaining phyllo stack (13 sheets) over the seeds, taking care that the top layer is a sheet that is not torn. Take a layer from the center of the leaves for the top layer if necessary.

Baklawa assembly

Clarified butter in the pan

Brush the top layer or two with clarified butter. Using the tip of a very sharp chef’s knife, cut the baklawa into diamonds by cutting six rows (5 cuts) lengthwise and ten rows (9 cuts) crosswise on the diagonal. Make slightly smaller pieces by cutting 7 rows (6 cuts) lengthwise. Lightly score the top with your knife before diving in so you can see where the cuts will be.

Use your dominant hand to cut and the other hand to hold the top layers of phyllo down while cutting, and be sure to cut all the way through to the bottom of the pan. This is essential so that the butter will seep through all layers. The knife is held almost perpendicular to the pastry, cutting straight down into the phyllo and nuts all the way through. The top layer will lift and in general make you want to curse as you cut, but just lay the phyllo back down where it belongs and move on. The sharper your knife, the easier the cutting will be.

Baklawa cut and buttered

Pour the melted clarified butter over the baklawa evenly. Allow the butter to settle in, about 5 minutes. Bake on the oven shelf second from the top until deep golden brown, 50-60 minutes, rotating the baklawa halfway through baking.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the chilled orange blossom syrup evenly over the baklawa. When the pastry is just cool enough to handle, cut away a few pieces of the uneven edge morsels to eat warm (the baker's reward...). Let the baklawa cool for several hours.

Baklawa syrup

Cut the pieces of baklawa from the pan with a sharp knife as needed. Serve in foil mini-muffin cups or directly on a plate, arranged in a circle with the points of the pieces facing the center. Keep the baklawa lightly, not tightly, covered in the pan with plastic wrap or a piece of wax paper for up to 2 weeks.

Baklawa with seeds in cups

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