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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

Baklava – The Story and Recipe of the Turkish Delicacy

ByFranziska Dietz

Jan 11, 2022

It seems the world is divided into two kinds of people: The ones who prefer salty food and snacks like chips – kind of weird people you could say – and the ones with a massive sweet tooth. If you consider yourself part of the latter, you will probably fall in love with the star of this article. Baklava, the Turkish delicacy, does not only go more than well with black tea or coffee. It also roots back more than two thousand years in history. Want to find out more about the history of Baklava and how to make it yourself? Read on!

What is Baklava?

This sweet, sugary treat can best be described as a layered party dessert. Its base is a thin dough – filo pastry – chopped nuts, oil and sweet syrup or honey. Some people might say it’s not only sweet but even more than that, but having you read up to this point, this probably will not scare you away anymore.

There are different kinds of filling of Baklava and also regional and national preferences. The most common filling though are pistachios. But there are also Baklava filled with hazelnuts, walnuts, Baklava flavored with rose water, powdered with grounded nuts and many, many more variations.

First Traces of Baklava

As it happens so often with loved and traditional foods and dishes, there are also several nations claiming to be the true home and origin of Baklava. But today, the most common theory states that Baklava probably came from the Assyrian empire around 800 BC.

The Assyrians used layers of bread dough, stretched them out very thinly and baked them with chopped nuts and honey to serve it for special occasions. Later, when trade grew among the different empires at that time, the Greek discovered this sweet delicacy. And, they fell in love with it. So the Greeks took the idea and refined the recipe by developing an extremely thin dough called phyllo, meaning leaf. The name of the typical Baklava dough, filo, thus probably derives from the Greek equivalent.

The Final Touch From the Ottoman Empire

But, Baklava, as we know and love it today, came from the Ottoman Empire. From the Fifteenth’s empire onwards, this empire comprised many countries. Istanbul, former Constantinople, is considered the home of Baklava. But probably all the counties forming part of the huge empire influenced and contributed to the making of this sweet delicacy. According to the legend, the chefs of the Popkapi Palace kitchen perfected the Baklava recipe in the seventeenth century. The sweet treat quickly became a favorite of the ruling Sultan. He even loved his Baklava so much that he made a tradition of giving it to his soldiers every year on the fifteenth day of Ramadan. This became known as “The Baklava Parade”. This parade marked a show of strength and a sign of appreciation of the Sultan for his army.

Because of that, nowadays, most people might name Turkey as the home of Baklava. And it is true, the Turkish absolutely love Baklava and serve it in different forms, sizes and versions. But there are many countries of the Middle East that prepare and love this delicacy, like Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania and Bulgaria.

Istanbul, home of Baklava as we know it today

Baklava Today

Back in the days, until the 19th century, Baklava used to be really expensive. Because of this, it was considered an exclusive treat for special occasions. There even is a common Turkish expression saying “I am not rich anough to eat Baklava every day”, although nowadays, Baklava is affordable for probably every budget.

As already mentioned above, when Baklava as we know it today was created, a lot of nations and cultures put their influence into it. The Greek, as already mentioned, contributed to the project by creating and naming the dough. The Armenian were the first to add cinnamon and cloves to Baklava. The idea of putting rose-water and orange-blossom-water to Baklava came from the Arabs, and Persia influenced Baklava as introducing the diamond shaped form, of which some of them are made.

All of those influences shape the modern perception of Turkish Baklava. There are many different types of Baklava, to name some of the classics:

Ceviz dola is a round shaped Baklava, with a whole walnut on the inide. Dürüm is a single layer of filo pastry that is rolled around athick mixture of ground pistachios. And instead of or additionally to nuts, Vişneli  contain a sour cherry filling.

You see, there are lots o different types of Baklava for you to explore. And to get us started, we will provide you with an easy recipe to make yourself some delicious and classic Baklava at home.

Find out how to make yourself this delicious treat!

How To Make Turkish Baklava

To make yourself a batch of rich and delicious Baklava you will need the following ingredients:

  • 125 g of filo dough (try looking or for it in an Arabic supermarket, if you cannot find it, simply use puff pastry)
  • 70 ml water
  • 150 g sugar
  • 50 g honey
  • 400g chopped pistachios
  • 120 g chopped almonds
  • 120 g chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 125 g melted butter, and some more to
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios to garnish

How to Proceed

First, cover a square mould of about 20×20 cm with butter. Mix and finely ground all the nutsthe nuts along with the cinnamon, using a food processor if you have. Preheat the oven to 170 C.

Cut the filo dough according to the size of the mould, butter it and put it into the mould. Put 2 tablespoons of the nuts on top of it and repeat those steps until all the nuts and dough are used.

Put the water, sugar and honey into a small pot and slowly heat the mixture until the suga is dissolved. Then increase the heat to the maximum and cook for about 5 minutes until all the water is gone and you have a nice syrup consistency.

Pout the hot syrup oer the dough in the mould and cut it into small squares or diamond forms. Bake for about 35 minutes. And tada, your Baklava is done and ready to be eaten, once it is cold!

This recipe was taken from EinfachBacken.de. If you are looking for something to have along with your Baklava, check out our blog post on Chai Tea!