Recipe Corner: Chocolate Walnut-Raisin Baklava with California Raisins


FRESNO – California Raisins are made for healthy eating, cooking, and snacking. Dried in the warm California sunshine, they come by their sweetness naturally. This esteemed fruit offers benefits that may help to maintain a healthy lifestyle. On approximately 200,000 acres, the 2,000 California raisin growers produce 100 percent of the U.S. raisins, totaling approximately 300,000 tons annually in an area within a 60 mile radius of Fresno – known as the central San Joaquin Valley. Two-thirds of the U.S. raisin production is consumed in the U.S. and Canada, while one-third is exported to nearly 50 countries with Japan and the United Kingdom being the top two export markets.

According to the Friends of the Fresno Fair Armenian Exhibit, “Armenians were among the first settlers in Fresno County to enter the agriculture industry in significant numbers. When they first began arriving in the early 1880s, Fresno County was a relatively small, rural community, having a population of around 9,400. Grapevines were among the first crops planted, as raisins were becoming the predominant crop of that time. Raisin production increased significantly from the late 1880s to the 1920s, creating a series of rather a dramatic boom and bust cycles. Armenians also farmed melons, figs, peaches, and various nuts, quickly becoming some of the
earliest pioneers in the agriculture industry. By 1894, Armenians owned approximately 200 acres of farmland; by 1904 they were farming over 10,000 acres.”

Natural (sun-dried) seedless raisins include the Thompson seedless and other newer cultivars such as Selma Pete, Fiesta and DOVine. California Golden Seedless and California Dipped Seedless raisins are mechanically dried and processed. Other raisin varietal types include Zante Currant, Muscat, Monnuka, Sultana, and other Seedless. Raisins may be further processed into Raisin Paste and Raisin Juice Concentrate. Once dried, the raisins are brought from the vineyards, stored in wooden bins, and processed as needed by having their stems and capstems removed, then sorted by size, cleaned and washed in water to ensure a wholesome, safe final product.

Dried fruits have been grown and dried from fresh fruits for thousands of years. Originally used in place of fresh fruits when fresh was out-of-season, dried fruits were actively traded to those countries where growing and drying conditions made these products a rare and desired commodity, especially in northern Europe. Grapes have always been at the top of these fruits most suitable for drying, and raisins continue as the number one dried fruit today. All natural, no sugar-added dried fruits, such as California Raisins, have been proven to have the same nutrient value as fresh fruits as only the water is taken out in the drying process. California Raisins are gluten free and can be consumed by people who do not tolerate gluten. Gluten is a protein substance found in abundance in wheat flour and less abundantly in barley and oat flours. It is not found in raisins. In fact, raisins contain very few proteins of any kind.

Baklava is a layered phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey. Baklava of some form is made in many countries today. The origins of baklava are hazy, to say the least – a good handful of nations lay claim to the dessert we know today as far out as central Asia. It is generally accepted that the first form of baklava came from the Assyrian empire, around 800 BC, where layers of bread dough were stretched thinly and baked with chopped nuts and <> honey for special occasions.

In Armenian cuisine, pakhlava (Armenian: Փախլավա) is often spiced with cinnamon and cloves, and uses 40 sheets of dough to align with the 40 days of Lent. Many Armenians insist that the word itself reveals its Armenian origins as the word appears to be related to the Armenian word for bahk (Lent) and halvah (sweet). Greek-style baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ’s life. While the Greek version uses honey syrup, Armenians use a spice-infused sugar syrup to sweeten their recipes.

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In Lebanon, baklava is made of phyllo dough sheets filled with nuts (pistachios, walnut, cashews, pine nuts, almonds) and steeped in ‘Atir’ (ka-tr) syrup made of orange blossom water and rose water, sugar and water. It is cut into a variety of triangular rectangular, diamond or square shapes. The city of Tripoli in Lebanon is famous for its baklava products. In the Balkans, it is one of the most popular desserts; though, it is also a dessert made on special occasions (by Muslims, mostly during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid El-Fitr) and by Christians during Easter and Christmas.

Baklava is the perfect make-ahead dessert because it’s even better served the next day. This recipe for Chocolate Walnut-Raisin Baklava from California Raisins demonstrates a new way to add extra flavor and flair to this most iconic Middle Eastern dessert.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Simple Syrup:

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

2/8 teaspoon ground cloves



2 cups halved walnuts

1 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate pieces

1 cup California raisins

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 lightly beaten egg

11 sheets (16 x 24-inch) frozen phyllo dough (about 1/2 pound), thawed according to package directions

3/4 cup melted, unsalted butter

Lightly whipped cream, for garnish, optional

Makes 24 pieces.




In a small, heavy saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring until the sugars dissolve. Continue boiling the mixture for 1 minute, brushing the sides of the pan frequently with a wet pastry brush to keep the sugar from crystallizing. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the syrup completely. Cover and store at room temperature until ready to use.


In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, chocolate pieces, raisins, sugar and cinnamon until coarsely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl; mix in the egg. Set aside.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan.

Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface. Keep remainder covered with plastic and a damp towel to prevent drying. Brush the top of the phyllo sheet with butter. Top with a second phyllo sheet; brush with butter. Place sheets, buttered side up and lengthwise, in prepared pan, covering bottom, ends and sides of the pan. Brush another phyllo sheet with butter. Fold phyllo sheet in half, forming an 8 x 12-inch rectangle; brush the top with butter.

Repeat the buttering and folding with 2 more phyllo sheets. Stack the 3 folded phyllo sheets in bottom of pan, buttered side up. Sprinkle half of the filling over the phyllo. Butter another phyllo sheet, fold in half, butter the top and place on top of the filling. Sprinkle remaining filling over the phyllo. Repeat the buttering and folding with 3 more phyllo sheets. Stack on top of filling. Butter the last 2 phyllo sheets. Stack lengthwise in pan, tucking the sides and ends of the top and bottom sheets to enclose the filling completely. Carefully cut through the top layers of phyllo (do not cut through filling) 4 x 6 to mark 24 2-inch squares. Pour any remaining butter over top.

Place the baklava dish on the middle rack of your preheated oven. Bake until top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately spoon simple syrup over baklava. It will sizzle and crisp up the layers even more.

Cool baklava completely; cover and let it stand at room temperature overnight. When ready to serve, cut and drizzle lightly with whipped cream over the top, if desired.

Enjoy this recipe at:


Raisin Administrative Committee

2445 Capitol Street, Suite 200

Fresno, CA 93721-2236

Phone: (559) 225-0520

Fax: (559) 225-0652

The Raisin Administrative Committee (RAC) is a federal marketing order, led by 47 growers, packers, and a public member. The RAC is directly overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was created in 1949 as a result of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. The RAC meets regularly at their headquarters in downtown Fresno, collects and distributes delivery data weekly, shipment data monthly, publishes an annual report of industry statistics and policies, actively and directly markets into 19 foreign nations, and collaborates with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). California Raisins are inspected under the most rigid standards by both plant quality control technicians and USDA inspectors throughout the packaging process, thus assuring that California Raisins are the cleanest, highest quality in the world. After final inspections, raisins are automatically weighed and packed in a variety of bulk industrial and convenient retail sizes. California Raisins are then shipped throughout North America and the world for consumers to enjoy. For videos and more information, see:

For information about the California Raisin Marketing Board, see:

Connect at:


New Work Encyclopedia,

“Is Baklava Really Greek? Maybe,” Anastasia Miari, Fodor’s Travel, August 27, 2021,

Serena (Moroukian) D’Angelo, “Armenian Paklava,”

Great British Chefs, “Green and gold: the story of baklava,” October 7,

“The Art of Baklava,”

“The History of Paklava,”


“Armenian Settlers Come to Fresno County,”


Copyright © 2022 Raisin Administrative Committee. All Rights Reserved.



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