An evolving recipe for pomegranate baklava (with pictures)

In The Lost Recipe for Happiness there is a recipe for Pomegranate Baklava.  It is the invention of a surly, beautiful gay chef who is Elena’s nemesis for much of the book.    I’ll be serving it at booksignings and wanted to be sure I remembered how it all went together (of course I tested it several times during the Major Winter of Cooking, which you may remember from blogs here).   So, yesterday, I gathered all the ingredients and my camera, my Ipod and Santa Fe Cooking School apron, and made a fresh batch, documenting it for you, faithful readers.  

Every book eventually reaches a place where it is no longer revised (even if that moment only arrives when it’s ripped out of our clutching hands), but that is not true of recipes.  As anyone who has ever tweaked a recipe over time knows, a recipe is an adventure.  By the time I sent the book to my editor, I was pretty happy with this recipe.  Buckwheat honey was important to the plot, so I went with it. 

For singings this time, I am bringing the baklava, and last week, I made batch to test it (as it has been more than a year since I finished the book).  It seemed the buckwheat was overpowering the pomegranate, so I switched to a lighter honey, cut the water and instead used entirely pomegranate juice. Because I was having trouble with the pomegranate arils on top scorching, I added the final nuts and arils at the end of baking.

REALLY good.  So, in a web exclusive, here is the revised version, with illustrations.  (Don’t tell Ivan.)

FIRST, the pomegranate

I adore pomegranates.  They are absolutely luscious, packed with great nutrients, and very low in calories.  I bought a couple for the baklava and a couple to nibble on between bouts of extreme cookie baking.

hey’re intimidating, but  I found a handy-dandy flyer at my grocery store that illustrates how to get those danged seeds (called avrils) with a very small amount of fuss.   Cut the top off about an inch or so from the crown:


Then find the sections, four to six, and score the skin, and break the fruit open:





pomegranante quartered by you.

Next, bend the rind to release the seeds over a bowl of water.  The inner skin will float to the top and you can skim it off with your fingers.  Drain the water and you have a delectable bowl of arils.

pom seeds by you.













As you see, you will probably need to open two pomegranates, one for eating, one for the baklava. 

Now to the recipe itself:


1 1/2 cups light honey
1 cup sugar
1 T rosewater
1 cup plus 2 T pomegranate juice
Seeds of one pomegranate, divided in half
2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pistachios
½ vanilla bean, scraped
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 pkg phyllo dough

Syrup: Combine the sugar, honey, juice and rosewater in a heavy small pot. Stir constantly while bringing to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat at let cool, then add ½ pomegranate seeds.

Preheat the oven to 425

Mix spices, nuts, and vanilla bean seeds into ½ stick of melted butter.
Butter a 13 x 9 inch glass pan.

On a clean work surface, unroll the phyllo and generously butter one layer at a time and lay it in the pan, then repeat until you’ve used half the dough. Spread the nuts and other ½ of pomegranate seeds evenly over the pastry, reserving about ¼ (mixed nuts and seeds) for the topping. 

Continue buttering and layering the dough on top of the filling until all the dough has been used. Brush the top with remaining butter.  With a small sharp knife, cut the pastry layers into diamonds, then bake for 50-60 minutes until golden, watching carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.  Toward the end of baking, scatter leftover arils and nuts over the top. 

When baking is finished, pour the syrup over the hot pastry, and serve when cool. 

This was a big hit at the signing.  You’ll have to let me know if you try one version or the other.

10 thoughts on “An evolving recipe for pomegranate baklava (with pictures)

  1. Yvonne Erwin

    I finished your book and I have to tell ya, afterwards, I sat for a long couple of minutes and digested (no pun intended) the whole thing. Should have had a cigarette. It was that good. Baklava. Love it. I’m going to try this recipe and I’ll let you know.

  2. Barbara

    LOL, Yvonne. Cigarette is appropriate, I think. 🙂

  3. How I wished I lived on the west coast. But since I don’t, I will attempt to make this at some point. The description in the book is mouth-watering!

  4. Amanda

    Oh how glorious and I especially love the visuals… I have never seen (read looked for!) pomegranates before… living in Sydney – do they have them?! I shall go on the hunt because this is just too mouthwatering and inviting to not try!

    Amanda x

  5. Barbara

    Teri, are pomegranates hard to find in the east?

    Amanda, I have no idea if they have poms in Sydney. Any other Aussies want to weigh in? Let us know, Amanda.

  6. Barbara,

    I wish you all the best with your new book. I was in your memoir class at the SBWC 2008. The woman who’s writing about her one year in Belize. I’m going to try your recipe for pomegranate baklava.

  7. Barbara

    Thanks, Sonia! Good to see you.

  8. I live in Texas, and I have a pomegranate bush in my back yard. We get about seven or eight each year, minus the year we moved it from the front to the back. We had an Asian family in our house before us, and apparently, planting a pom bush in direct line with your front door brings good luck. BUT … it’s really ugly. 🙂 We kept it and replanted it in the back to appease the neighbors, who were quite worried for us.

  9. Amanda

    Well… my local green grocer will have them when in season… he can get me one though, now – of course for a shocking fee – however, as I desperately want to try – I mean eat – the baklava I am more than happy to pay it! Let you know how it goes!! Amanda x

  10. Pat

    I tried your recipe with a few changes. You don’t need the cardamom or the pistachios. I just mixed the pom. seeds in the nuts and sprinkled them on layers of filo dough – Sprinke lightly on each sheet after buttering each one until you have 6 or 7 layers (layer 10 butered sheets on bottom first) and then topped with 10 buttered sheets on top. Also, I didn’t sprinkle nuts and seed on top because I was afraid they would burn. By the way, 450 is way too high to bake baklava – after 20 minutes it almost burned. A temp. of 325-350 is plenty. Also, if you sprinkle water on the top just before baking, the filo stays crisper. I have been making baklava all my life but found this and will be using it on the sweet table at my daughter’s November wedding for something different. It is delicious.

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