What is baklava?

Baklava is a dessert made of multiple layers of phyllo-pastry, stuffed with a wide variety of crushed nuts, and soaked in honey or syrup. This delightful dessert is gaining popularity these days because it has won the hearts and minds of many sweet-toothed eaters around the world. What makes this dessert special is that it has a crunchy outside with a delicious nutty and aromatic stuffing inside. To reach this level of perfection, baklava had been through a very long history that no one could actually tell its origin.

The History of Baklava

Until this day, we have known baklava as a traditional Turkish dessert or sweet treat. However, when it comes to baklava’s origin, the debate never really ends. The history of baklava is quite controversial since the recipe has been adopted and developed by so many different nations within the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Each nation contributed some adjustments into this dessert that resulted in its delicious taste we know today. These nations have one unique thing in common, however; they were once part of the Ottoman Empire. This somehow explained the reason Turkey claimed baklava to be their national dessert.

Developments of Baklava’s Recipe

In the fifteenth century, after the Ottomans invaded Constantinople, baklava became a delicacy among the rich. There is a common expression in Turkey say “I am not rich enough to eat baklava every day”. The phyllo-pastry that makes baklava’s outside is believed to be a creation of the Greeks. In its original form, baklava’s outside was bread-like. After the Greeks took the recipe back to Athens, they created a technique to roll the doll as thin as a leaf. The word “phyllo” means leaf. 

Other than the Greek, many other nations contributed to the recipe of baklava. When the Armenian discovered baklava while trading on the Spice and Silk routes east of the Ottoman Empire, they added cinnamon and clove to the texture. Further east, the Arabs were known for their creation of aromatic essences. By the time they discovered baklava, they added rose-water and orange blossom water into the recipe. Instead of soaking the baklava in honey, they used rose-water or orange blossom water infused syrup. This gave the dessert a new and delightful taste.

After the Arabs, there came the Persians. Persia was famous for jasmine flowers, and they took advantage of one of their country’s greatest resources. As the Persians discovered baklava, they added jasmine essence into the stuffing which gave it a floral note when eating. The Persians also cut the baklava into diamond shape which made it look more appealing. Among the big improvements, there were also many different changes and variations to the recipe in many Middle East nations. For instance, the Afghans cut baklava into triangles and garnished with crushed pistachio. Azerbaijanis garnished baklava with almond or walnut. As their national delicacy, the Turkish chefs have mastered the art of baklava over the years. Baklava in Turkey are made in all shapes and sizes, and have many different stuffing options. Very commonly in a Turkish bakery, we can find a fresh patch of baklava soaked in floral syrup and topped with a thick, green dust of crushed pistachios.

If you have not tried baklava before, try it some days. Be aware, these tasty little bite-size treats are very addictive. Once you felt in love with them, you would want to have them everyday. If you ever visit the Reno area in Northern Nevada, stop by Aladdin’s Market & Kitchen for some fresh and delicious baklava.

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