I’ve been posting recently about sugar-free treats, and some people might be thinking that this is a pretty crummy food blog without any sugary desserts. So just for you, here is my vegan baklava – fat, sugar, with more sugar poured on top. Delicious.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup dairy-free spread
1 cup almonds, finely ground
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
½ cup flavoursome brown sugar, such as rapadura, sucanat or jaggery
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cardamom
18 sheets filo pastry
Oven: 170 °C/325 °F/Gas 3 then 120 °C/225 °F/Gas ¼.
You will need a 23 cm x 32 cm baking pan, about 5 cm (2”) deep.
For the syrup, heat the sugar, water, agave or maple syrup and cinnamon stick in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then raise the heat and bring the syrup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the lemon zest and juice and allow to cool. Remove cinnamon stick when cool.
For the pastry, melt the dairy-free spread in a small pan. Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on the hob to keep the spread liquid.
The easiest way to deal with the nuts is to add 1 cup almonds to the food processor bowl and grind to fine crumbs, then put these in a large bowl. Then put the other cup of almonds, along with the walnuts and pistachios and pulse these until they are coarsely chopped. Add these nuts to the bowl and add the sugar and spices. Stir well to combine.
Count out your sheets of filo pastry and wrap them in a damp tea towel until you are ready to use them to stop them going Dry and crispy. Now you can start to assemble the baklava. Remove 6 sheets of filo and cut them with scissors so that they it the pan. Brush the pan with melted spread, then lay 1 sheet filo in the bottom. Brush again with spread, add another sheet of pastry and repeat until all 6 sheets, plus trimmings, are used up. Take about a third of the nut mixture and sprinkle evenly over the pastry. Then take out another 3 sheets of filo and do the pastry/spread layer thing again.
Sprinkle another third of nuts over the pastry, layer another 3 sheets filo, then add the final third of nuts. Finish layering with the remaining 6 sheets of pastry, plus the trimmings, and brush all the remaining spread over the top.
If you are making a gluten-free version of baklava, use a single layer of rolled gluten-free pastry on the bottom of the pan, fill with all the nut mixture and top with another single layer of pastry. You don’t need to brush gluten-free pastry with dairy-free spread, as the fat is already in the pastry.
Cut through the top layers of the baklava with a sharp knife. This looks pretty and facilitates serving. You can cut rectangles or cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.
Bake at 170 °C/325 °F/Gas 3 for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 120 °C/225 °F/Gas 1/4. Bake for a further 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. When completely cold, pour the syrup over the baklava. Refrigerate overnight to allow the syrup to soak in.