Calling all Greek Cooks, how do you

Joined Mar 6, 2001
How/when do you add your sugar syrups to your cooked pastries? For instance....after baking my baklava or galaktoboureko (I slice them before baking) I pour my syrup over the pastries when their still hot. But my pastry doesn't remain as crisp as the Greek pastries I've purchased. So, I'm kind of wondering what your technique is, perhaps it's better to add your syrup after the filo cools so it won't absord as much?? What do you think?

I have a small cookbook I bought from a ladies group at a local Greek Church. In it I've noticed that the amount of syrup varies from one persons recipe to anothers for the same thing. For example, they all call to be baked in a 9 x 13" pan but some use 3 cups worth of syrup and some call for 2 do YOU judge the 'right' amount?

Any tips at all would be great. Storage, slicing, how long you hold your baklava, do you ever freeze them baked or unbaked....???
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Dear Wendy!

I think you got it! YES! You should add the hot syrup when the backlava has rest for two hours after baking it !

This is the golden rule with all the pastries that need syrup
" One of them must be cold!" Either the pastry or the syrup!

I agree that you should cut the backlava before baking it but not deep cut! The last fyllo , the one that covers the pan should stay uncut!

As for freezing, you can freeze backlava before you bake it NOT after!
Storing backlava? I don't know because it never lasts more than 2 days... It can stay long enough in a box out of the fridge, even for a month!

The quantity of syrup? I cannot help you with this one I am afraid.
I have inherited my grandma's little casserole who used exclusively for making syrups! This can hold 5 cups.
Two cups doesn't sound enough.
Another tip that if you serve this to Greeks they will appreciate it : In the centre of each piece of your backlava, after additing the syrup, nail a clove!

Let me ask you something

Do you make your own Fyllo??
Do you scent your syrup with lemon when you make galaktompoureko?

Good luck with backlava!



Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001

All I can say is... wow! The cold/hot rule is something I would never have thought about. Wow! :)

And what is galaktompoureko?

Joined Mar 6, 2001
Galaktoboureko is one of my very favorite pastrys (and I've eaten ALOT of pastries in my life)!!! It's similar to baklava in that the top and bottom layers are phyllo and you soak syrup over it after it's baked but the filling is THICK custard.....well technically it center is pastry cream with cream of wheat as a major thickner (it's totally firm to the fork). So it's unbelievably sweet custard and phyllo.

Have you ever done cold syrup on the cold pastry? I know it doesn't work using cold syrup on hot baklava, mine crust still got soft.

The Greek restaurants in my area all refridgerate their baklava but when I do that my phyllo becomes pale (Maybe I use too much butter?). Ever use half butter half oil??

GOSH no, I don't make my own phyllo, there isn't time in a professional kitchen to make it. No one makes their own puff pastry either. Actually the reason I turn to making pastries with phyllo is because of the speed and easy of make these types of pastries. When I make my syrup I bring it to a boil with half a lemon in the syrup, then I remove it (No squeezing juice into it) so it's a light lemon flavor. One of my recipes calls for adding a cinnamon stick while boiling. What do you prefer Athenaeus?

I noticed www.Martha has galaktoboureko made into beggar's purses. I did attempt this a while ago, I made the mistake of using her recipe which wasn't nearly as good as the one I already had. But I think it's a neat concept. In the past I've served warm strawberry beggars purses that are filled with pastry cream and a strawberry chunk then served on sb. sauce (It's wonderful). Well those used to be unpredictable because often they'd burst in the oven....if I use the galak. filling it works great!

I love the tip of not cutting the top layer before baking (that makes alot of sense). Thank-you! Do you lightly brush it with h20 before baking? I do, then the top layer doesn't blow off in the oven.

Sometimes my nuts don't hold nicely in the pieces around the sides of the pan and the nuts totally spill out when lifted. Do you have any secrets that prevent your nuts from spilling out? Doesn't that have to do with how well chopped they are, or is more about pressing down my layers as I build?
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Well Wendy, I have to take my time to answer all these, I have answers because as people say, I am not bad in pastries with syrop.
In Greece our grandmothers used to say that you cannot find a proper husband if you don't know how to make backlava and galaktompoureko...


Where is Papa BTW, I am sure that he has some theories of his own.

I will be back!
Joined Jun 1, 2001
Oh, YUM! Please, pretty please, W., could you post the recipe for the galaktoboureko filling? You probably don't remember my pastry-cream dilemma -- but that sounds like just EXACTLY what I'm looking for!!!

Mmm, phyllo pastries. There's a Middle Eastern restaurant just round the corner from me, too.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
W., thanks for the tip! I never knew that brushing water on before baking will hold the top layers together.

I don't get why you'd want to mix butter and oil, though.:confused:

For the spillage of nuts, it could be due to not pressing down enough, but maybe there's not enough syrup getting around the edges, too. That was my first thought.

I never had a problem with soggy baklava; it definitely has to be cold syrup on HOT baklava. I use 1 1/2 cups of liquid in the syrup to a pound of phyllo. They stay crispy.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
A couple of years ago, I had a similar problem to yours, W.; not with the nuts spilling out, but with the layers separating between the nuts and phyllo. The solution was to add melted butter to the nut and sugar mixture. Now it holds together well.

I cut mine all the way through before baking, and never had any problems. Athenaeus, why do you suggest not to do this?
Joined Jul 24, 2001
You see Wendy,

Momoreg and I we are talking about the same thing!

As I said the backlava OR the syrup must be hot , NOT BOTH of them!
I prefer to leave the backlava rest for a while and put the hot syrup afterwards.
I think chemicaly speaking, this sounds to me more correct!
If I remember my chemistry class from school I mean! ;)

Yes of course I brush it with cold water, sorry for not mentioning before!

I agree with Momoreg, using butter between the layers of phyllo is the sollution! I do not use sugar it gets too sweet!

Try to use butter and not margarine, I wouldn't suggest olive oil because there is a fatal attraction between wallnuts and olive oil! Too heavy !

Well I am very very very surprised that they freeze baked backlava! I am going to try it! Sorry for insisting but are you sure about that?

My backlava stays pale when I use almonds or not very good quality of butter or when it's not well baked! In Greece, we bake it a lot!

As for the syrop , for backlava you don't need a scent
But for galaktompourekjo, I use the peel of a lemon and a couple of drops of lemon juice!
I do not like cinnamon in syrup for pastries but you can use it if you prefer the flavour.I also flavor the cream filling with lemon.

The most surprising of all was to read that you consider galaktompoureko an easy pastry...
I know that you are a pro but still...

Do you know Revani ?? Made of semolina? It's so good and I think it's so easy for a pro.
Do you want me to post you the recipe in order to realize what is all about.
let's say a semolina cakje with syrop. We have it with ice-cream or creme fraiche or chocolate!

And Wendy! Don't forget the clove! You will mekae the difference!

Joined Nov 20, 2000
Well W.D. I will defer to the delightful Athenaeus for the most part. I will only speak of my experience. In fact I made a 9"x13' one last week.
My walnuts were fine chopped to the size of say rice krispies. I added about 1/3 cup sugar to 4 cups of nuts to help bing them a little.
I added my syrup while the pastry was hot and the syrup warm. Neither seemed to suffer. The pastry remained crisp in the 3-4 days it took me to finish it off. I scored the top of the phyllo before cooking but did not cut through, though that doesn't sound like a half bad idea to cut part way into it.

I used about 1 cup of syrup and it was great. Truthfully it probably could have used 1-1/2 cups, but personally I wouldn't use any more than that. Anymore than that and you get soaking not moistening and that could detract from the crispness.

Can't get enough of that Baklava!!!

Joined Mar 4, 2000
I had to freeze many things as a caterer, including baklava. It's much better fresh, but if you thaw it correctly, it's passable. Just don't unwrap it until it's at room temp.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Lots to respond to:

I've never frozen baklava, just curious. I couldn't see why not before it's baked...after yes it could loose some quality...just curious. I wouldn't unless I was forced by time.

I agree with cool baklava hot syrup but I have tried it the other way: hot baklava cool syrup and it still soaked up too much syrup making it soggie. I don't get it, that works for others, but not me?

Momoreg just a light sprinkle of h20, because in my convection oven the top just blew around too much. I read that tip somewhere.

I used to preslice all the way threw, because I was putting the syrup on imediately (following my Greek recipe, ha) and it's so much easier slicing it before baking (I also chill in the cooler before slicing). BUT what happens is the top layers really can curl (and blow off) during baking. SO it does makes sense to cut all the way threw (when it's easy uncooked) then put your last few layer on top. I think that will stop the curling, giving a nicer look.

Angry mentioned she uses part oil with her butter, that's where I got that thought. Even though I use clarified butter I was wondering if some oil might crisp the dough better. Also I was thinking about how frugel many of the restaurants are and maybe they would adding oil (or even use all oil, canola) to extend the shelf life? Just a wild guess...

I do press down, almost too much so I'm trying to figure out why my nuts don't away stay in place. Maybe I don't get them fine enough?

I use 2 c. of syrup for a 9 X 13" pan, but I have recipes that call for more....
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Here's the recipe I use, apparently I use less sugar then everyone else in the nut fillng...?


1 lb. chopped walnuts
1/4 lb. chopped pecans
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. sugar (really)
1 lb. phyllo
clarified butter between the sheets no sugar there either. Chill, pre-slice bake.

2 c. h2o
3 c. sugar
1/2 lemon

Here's the Galaktoboureko recipe I use: I don't know about using this in place of pastry cream Compassrose...but you can try.

2 qt. milk
3/4 stick butter
3 c. sugar

heated, then temper into:

9 eggs
3 yolks

1 1/4 c. farina (cream of wheat)

cook together until thick (stirring the whole time). Then you put have a lb. layer phyllo on the bottom of your 9 x 13" pan, then the filling then the remaining phyllo (each sheet of phyllo always is brushed with butter through-out).

When cool slice and pour sugar syrup over, just like baklava.

How authentic do they look to you Athenaeus?


Joined Apr 4, 2000
I have frozen baklava without problems. The one time I made baklava. I defrosted them in the fridge and then brought them to room temperature.

My favourite are the pistachio baklava.:lips:
Joined Mar 4, 2000
"SO it does makes sense to cut all the way threw (when it's easy uncooked) then put your last few layer on top".

Wendy, I'm having trouble visualizing what you mean by t his.

Yes, you do use very little sugar in the filling. Have you tried increasing it?
Joined Jun 1, 2001
Oh, I don't know. I know Mediterranean desserts are stereotypically supposed to be so sweet that, as MFK Fischer quotes her then-husband, "it makes every tooth in my head quiver like a startled doe," but I think if you're pouring sugar syrup over the whole, it would be far more appealing to have a less-sweet sort of a filling to counter the general stickiness. Speaking purely as a pastry-eater, of course.
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Thanks for letting me now that I can freeze baked backlava. This can make my life much easier because this month we have a lot of name-celebrations in Greece and .
(Michele , if you were Greek Orthodox, I should have made a pan of backlava for you :) with home made phyllo yesterday when all the Greek Micheles were celebrating their name day )!

I was wondering about the backlava filling. Buttering the phyllo is one point and the use of sugar is another, since you uses very small amount of syrup...
You now in Greek the whole point is not to use sugar but syrup...
That's why we call them "Syropiasta" that means soaking in syrup.
A common mistake that "home chefs" make is that they put enormous amounts of filling between the phyllo...
This is wrong, you have just to sprinkle the walnuts!

The galaktompoureko recipe is great!

BTW do you know why in the Middle East they use so much syrup?
I hope that none of our friends that comes from Middle east gets insulted by that, I just mention it for historical reasons.
In fact I have citizenship of a Middle eastern country as well and I have spent great parts of my life there, so please no offense!

In Middle East they have this habbit of smoking hashish. it's not a habbit really , it's just that it is more acceptable than in the western countries.
They say that after smoking a "joint" you need something very very sweet , and this is the reason that the pastries in Middle East are soaking into syrup.
With the exception of Israel that such habbits are not acceptable, unless you go to the beloved eastern part of Jerusalem ,if you go let's say in Lebanon in Beyrut to a coffee shop ...they serve you the cigarette and after a while ...there is your backlava!
There is always a reason behind a culinary habbit!! This is my theory ;)

Backlava was invented in Constantinople (Instabul) during the Middle Ages , in fact backlava was the favourite pastry of Emperess Theodora who lived in the 6th century AD , one of the most weird,and powerfull figures of History and I have read in a manuscript that the original recipe had a substitute of sugar in the feeling!!
I can post the original 6th century recipe if you wish!

So, dear friends, the american version is more close to the original one!

Adam, I can live with idea that you may make a better backlava than I do, but I just cannot stand te fact that you have a better collection of gifs than me
Joined Mar 6, 2001
If you have the time I would love to see how they made this in the 6th Century AD?

Are you saying theres a difference in how we make baklava then you, other than... perhaps we over fill ours with too much nuts? Any chance you would outline your recipe? I suppose you don't write it down since it's so basic.... But I'm curious about how much sugar, cinnamon or nutmeg your use in your filling?

I just noticed this, my book tells two different ways of layering. One way has you sprinkling on nuts after every two buttered sheets. Until you use up all your nuts. They completely preslice and use cloves ontop. (They mention that you can bake, freeze and thaw but you should warm it before serving.)

My other recipe (which I follow) has me putting 1/3 of the buttered sheets down then adding 1/2 my nuts, 8 more buttered sheets, the other half of my nuts, then the rest of my phyllo. SOOOOO maybe this isn't a good techinque? Perhaps this is why my nuts fall out!

More questions, please?...

Here's my recipe for Revani:

1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/3 c. fine semolina

then beaten together:

4 yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. OLIVE oil.............REALLY? or do you use canola?
grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. almond extract

add the flour mixture alternating with 1/2 c. orange juice to moisten.

Whip whites:

4 whites
1 tsp. vinegar
pinch tartar

fold into above batter, (bake at 350F) in a 10" pan that lined and sprinkle on 1/2 c. slivered almonds.

After it's baked pour syrup over it.

I also have a recipe for Revani that only uses orange flavoring and almonds, which do you prefer? And does my recipe look right to you?
When do you serve this...would it be a typical dessert or more of a tea cake. Also couldn't you make these into mini cakes (I think that might be interesting on a tray with baklava)?

I have a recipe for a rolled baklava where you put kataifi (shredded phllyo) with a small amount of chopped almonds inside in place of a tons of's supposed to be lighter in calories. Would a Greek eat that or think it was crazy? I had never heard of baklava made with almonds...yes we are doing some fun things like using pistachios even bananas but I haven't ever considered then "authentic" in anyway. Are there tons of ways people make this in Greese?
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Athenaeus, I never knew any of that. My family is Syrian, so as a child, I ate a lot of Syrian pastries (including pistachio baklava, and kataifi). It was always sickeningly sweet, and sometimes had a hint of rosewater.

Also, I have seen and used both techniques that you describe, Wendy, and they both work fine for me. I think that melted butter in with the nuts is the key.

I'm going to check some of my Syrian cookbooks, and see what they say.
Joined Jan 15, 2001
Wendy, I only use the 1/2 butter 1/2 oil when using phyllo for strudels. For baklava, I use all butter---better flavor. The only problem I've encountered with baklava is some of the top leaves being blown in the convection oven. For the syrup I use sugar, honey water and orange zest. For the nut filling pistachios, sugar,small amount of cinnamon. Hot baklava, cold syrup is usually the method I use. And I pre-score the top layers but don't cut all the way down to the pan.
I think I will try the water tip you gave. It really is aggravating to see all your phyllo getting blown around in the oven.
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