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Azerbaijani-style Pakhlava

What's the big idea?

Pakhlava is a delicious sweet pastry from the Middle East. There are several versions of the dish, but the most popular in Azerbaijan is apparently the multilayered Azerbaijani-style pakhlava. Traditionally it is eaten during Novruz, an Azerbaijani holiday celebrating the new year and the coming of spring, but is also often enjoyed throughout the year. We think it would traditionally be served alongside a cup or glass of strong black tea - if anyone can confirm or disprove this theory, please get in touch.

This is not one for the diet-conscious, or if you're looking for a quick and simple snack!

Shopping List

Here's the list of what you need:

For the yeast mixture:

  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • 85ml warm milk
For the dough:
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (at room temperature)
  • 8oz warm melted unsalted butter
  • 250ml warm milk
  • 600g plain flour
For the filling:
  • 450g crushed nuts (a mixture of ground almonds, crushed walnuts, etc)
  • 450g white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
Ingredients for layering:
  • 225g warmed and melted butter
For coating and decorations:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • A pinch of saffron infused in a little warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Assorted nuts
  • 100g warmed and melted butter
For the syrup:
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 125ml water
  • 125ml honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

What To Do

  • In a large cup, mix together the dry ingredients for the yeast mixture (the yeast, flour, and sugar)
  • Add the warm milk, mix until smooth, and leave in a warm place to rise
  • Meanwhile, over a low heat melt the butter for the dough, and lightly warm the milk
  • Once the yeast mixture has risen, mix the egg, salt, sour cream, yeast mixture, warm milk and melted butter in a large bowl
  • Gradually add the flour, kneading the dough as you go. Save some of the flour for dusting the layers
  • Continue kneading the dough until it is smooth, soft, and no longer sticks to your hands - you may need slightly more or less flour than stated
  • Cover with clingfilm and let the dough rise for 2 hours in a warm place
  • While the dough is rising, prepare the filling and syrup:
  • Blend the nuts using a blender or food processor. Remove the nuts from the blender and mix them with the sugar, ground cardamom, ground coriander, and vanilla sugar
  • For the syrup, mix together sugar and water in a small saucepan, and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes, without letting it boil
  • Add the honey and lemon juice, mix well, and cook over very low heat for about 10-15 more minutes, again, without letting it boil
  • It should reduce to leave you with approximately 1 cup of syrup
  • Once the dough has risen, divide it into 12 balls, 2 of which should be roughly 50 per cent larger than the others
  • Cover them to prevent from drying out
  • Brush a baking pan with melted butter
  • Roll out one of the larger balls of dough, place it into your baking pan, making sure the dough completely covers the bottom, and gently brush the layer with warm, melted butter
  • Spread approximately 4 tablespoons of the filling over this
  • Roll out one of the smaller dough balls into a very thin layer - almost see-through
  • Place it on top of the first layer, brush with butter, and spread the filling on it as before
  • Repeat until all the dough is used, but do not butter or spread the filling on the top layer, which should use the other large dough ball, and therefore be thicker than the layers beneath it
  • Cut the pakhlava into diamonds and coat it with a mixture of egg yolks, saffron infusion and olive oil
  • Press a nut into the center of each diamond-shaped slice
  • Preheat the oven to 350F/180C, and bake the pakhlava for 20 minutes
  • Remove it from the oven, make sure all diamonds are cut all the way through to the bottom of the pan, and slowly pour the remaining melted butter over the top
  • Place it back in the oven to bake for an another 15 minutes
  • Remove from the oven, and again make sure all the diamonds are cut through to the bottom of the pan
  • Slowly pour over the honey syrup, making sure that it gets in between each slice. Place pakhlava back into the oven for another 10 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly
  • While still warm, carefully remove each slice from the baking pan, and transfer to a serving plate

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