Twice-Baked Caramelized Cashew Baklava

Recipe by Sohla El-Waylly

In this baklava recipe from Sohla El-Waylly’s cookbook Start Here, tight coils of phyllo dough are scrunched around cardamom-scented ground cashews, baked, and soaked in orange syrup. The next move is up to you: Either let the baklava cool as is, for a syrupy, sticky treat, or return the pan to the oven, where the syrup will reduce, caramelize, deepen in flavor, and become chewy and candy-like. Not traditional, but highly delicious. Baklava comes in thousands of forms layered flat and cut in diamonds, scrunched into rolls or nests and Sohla loves this version because the coils of dough don’t shatter or make a mess and the filling stays put. (Not to mention: It’s hypnotizing to look at!)

45 mins
22 to 55 mins
2 hrs
about 50 pieces
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Twice-Baked Caramelized Cashew Baklava  - select to zoom
Twice-Baked Caramelized Cashew Baklava  - select to zoom
Twice-Baked Caramelized Cashew Baklava  - select to zoom
Twice-Baked Caramelized Cashew Baklava  - select to zoom


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  1. To make the filling: In a food processor, pulse together the cashews, sugar, zest, cardamom, and salt until finely ground. (Alternatively, finely chop the nuts in batches. Transfer them to a bowl and toss with the sugar, zest, cardamom, and salt.) 

  2. Have a pastry brush, the melted butter, and a wooden skewer close by. Brush a 9" round pan with melted butter, line the bottom with a parchment round, and butter the parchment. (Alternatively, use an 8" square pan, lining the bottom and all sides with buttered parchment.) Unfold the thawed phyllo sheets onto a baking sheet and cover with a barely damp kitchen towel. 

  3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375°F. 

  4. To assemble the baklava: Working quickly so the phyllo doesn’t dry out, uncover the phyllo and place one sheet on a clean surface with the short side facing you. (Re-cover the remaining phyllo.)

  5. Lightly brush the sheet with melted butter. Lay the skewer crosswise across the center and fold the top half of the phyllo sheet over it. Lightly brush with melted butter. 

  6. Over the phyllo, just below the skewer, spread about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the ground cashew mixture, depending on the size of your sheet, evenly across in a strip roughly 1" wide. Use the skewer to loosely roll the phyllo from top to bottom.  

  7. Scrunch up the roll, pushing the ends gently toward the center until ruffled. Slide the roll off the skewer into the cake pan and brush with melted butter. Repeat until the pan is snugly filled with spirals of phyllo rolls. (If using a square pan, you’ll have rows, rather than spirals.) 

  8. Bake the baklava for 22 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Meanwhile, make the syrup.

  9. To make the syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture is syrupy and flows like warm honey, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water. 

  10. Remove the baklava from the oven and pour the syrup evenly over the top. If you want a traditional sticky and crunchy baklava, stop here: Cool the baklava fully, invert it onto a plate, and serve. 

  11. For chewy and extra toasty baklava, return the cake pan to the oven. Bake for another 18 to 20 minutes, until the phyllo is deeply brown and the syrup is bubbling and lightly caramelized. (The caramelized syrup has a deeper flavor and reduces into a chewy glaze for baklava with a totally new texture.) 

  12. Rest the baklava for 5 minutes, then run an offset spatula or butter knife along the edge and invert a plate over the pan. Quickly flip the pan to invert the baklava onto the plate. (If the baklava is sticking, gently warm it over a low burner or in the oven and try again.) 

  13. Cool fully, then use a small, serrated knife to cut it into 1" to 2" pieces. While the baklava can be served immediately, the flavor and texture significantly improve the next day. 

  14. Storage information: Store any leftover baklava in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 month. 

Tips from our Bakers

  • From Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook © 2023 by Sohla El-Waylly. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. 

  • Phyllo sheets come in various sizes. If you can’t find 14" x 18" sheets, you may not need all 8 ounces of phyllo. Your baklava rolls maybe be larger or smaller but will still bake up the same. 

  • With its long shelf-life and sturdy texture, baklava is ideal for mailing to family and friends. You can easily double this recipe for a 9" x 13" pan without adjusting the bake time; the syrup will take longer to reduce (step 8). 

  • Feel free to swap out the cashews for pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or a combination of these nuts.