I first saw a picture of this truly unique dessert on Instagram! This recipe comes from Figs & Pigs, a UK based blog with great ideas and photographs. I had to convert the measurements, and ended up making a full sheet pan to avoid ending up with half of a container of filo dough and half a can of sweetened condensed milk leftover.
The syrup from the original recipe sounds awfully sweet, so I used a lighter version with just local honey courtesy of the CSA+, water, lemon, and cardamom. This raw honey has a rich flavor and texture, it’s great for baking, spreading on toast, or right off the spoon. Did you know you can order CSA+ shares and a la carte items right to most of our pick-up sites? Visit their website to learn more about their Share Options!
I used whole cardamom pods which can be ground into powder, or ground cardamom can also be used. The results were “very cardamom-y” which I enjoy, but if you want a less intense flavor use ground cardamom or a spice grinder for the pods.
Once everything is set up, it turns out baklava is actually very easy to make! I’m looking forward to testing out a more conventional version soon. The carrot filling is inspired by Halva, a dense, sweet Asian confection. Halva is usually nut butter based, but is sometimes based on vegetables like carrots, squash, pumpkins, or yams. Finely shred the carrots so they cook down into a very soft and sweet paste. The easiest way to do this is the shredding disk of a food processor, but a little (maybe a lot) of elbow grease and a box grater will work just as well. When the carrots are ready, melt the butter and set up everything up on the counter. Filo can be difficult to work with, and it’s best to keep it covered with a damp cloth while working.
I consulted a couple of different recipes before getting started, and picked up a few great tips from The Pioneer Woman! The easiest way to put this together, is to unroll the filo dough, brush the top layer with butter, and then pick up 2 sheets and lay them butter side down in the pan. You’ll end up with butter in between each layer and avoid lifting single sheets slick with butter. Layer the pistachios and carrots in between half of the sheets of assembled filo. While the baklava is baking simmer the sauce on the stove. Pour the sauce over the baked dish, and let cool completely! We noticed this is definitely easier to eat the next day when the sauce holds everything together.
Carrot & Pistachio Baklava
For the carrots:
4 cups finely shredded carrots
1 can sweetened condensed milk (organic available at Greenstar in Ithaca)
2 tablespoons grated ginger
8 cardamom pods, de-seeded and ground or left in chunks for a very cardamom-y flavor
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
To assemble the baklava:
1 package filo dough, thawed overnight, and brought to room temperature
1 1/2 – 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 cups chopped pistachios, 1/4 cup reserved for the top
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups cardamom pods, whole
Make the carrot halva. Melt the butter over medium low heat, add the cardamom and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and butter starts to brown. Add the carrots and sweetened condensed milk to the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently until the milk is reduced and the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350°F, grease a baking pan and then add parchment paper. Unroll the filo dough and brush the top layer with melted butter. Lift up the buttered sheet, and sheet below it, then place them buttered side down in the pan. Repeat with half of the filo. Carefully spread the carrot mixture over the filo that is inside the pan. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top, remembering to save 1/4 cup for the top of the baklava. Continue buttering and transferring the remaining filo over the filling. Brush the top of the assembled pastry with melted butter. Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into diamond shapes, slicing through all of the layers. Bake the baklava for 45 minutes, until the top is browned.
While the baklava is baking, make the honey syrup. Bring the ingredients for the syrup to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the cardamom pods. When the baklava is finished, carefully pour the syrup all over the top. Let cool completely (for several hours or overnight) before serving.
Recipe Notes. This baklava tastes very different from a traditional version. It’s not nearly as sweet, and it’s heavily spiced. If you love sweet and syrupy baklava double the syrup. Shelled pistachios can be quite expensive, but the color and flavor work really nicely with the carrots. Feel free to sub half of a different type of nut in combination and sprinkle just pistachios over the top. I purchased the pistachios and cardamom pods from the bulk department of Greenstar.