I am not very fond of sweets; a fact which has been a bone of contention in my house. Being a Bengali girl, this comes as a big surprise to many people when I refuse to have sweets. You see, Bengalis love their sweets; they prefer to have it during breakfast, as a snack and definitely after dinner. The reason why I am very selective when it comes to choosing my sweet/ dessert can be summarized in 2 points:
- The name of the dessert or sweet should be unique to catch my attention,
- There should be a balance of sweetness present in the dish to make it appetizing enough. Overtly sweet dishes are far from being palatable.
Baklavas were a fortunate discovery during my half-yearly jaunts to Middle East. Not only do they look cute and have a unique name, but this baked goodies is so appetizing that every time I return from home, I carry a huge box of this sweet (as you can see from the picture below)
Baklava is basically layers of crisp phyllo dough, alternated with a sugary spiced nut mixture comprising of walnuts, almonds and pistachios. The pastry is prepared on large trays, and melted shortening is poured on top. After baking, the whole thing is soaked in fragrant sweet syrup made with honey, lemon and cinnamon. It is served after cutting the pastry into small pieces and cooled.
There is a huge number of debate when it comes to the country of origin for a food which is this popular. Though the word baklava is of Turkish origin, people claim it to be the ingenious production of a Greek mind. The Greek’s major contribution to baklava was the creation of the dough technique that allowed it to be rolled as thin as a leaf, rather than the rougher, bread-like texture of the Assyrian dough. The name “phyllo” comes from Greek language, meaning “leaf.” One of the oldest known recipes for a sort of proto-baklava is found in a Chinese cookbook written in 1330 under the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty under the name güllach. “Güllaç” is also found in Turkish cuisine where layers of phyllo dough are put one-by-one in warmed up milk with sugar, and served with walnut and fresh pomegranate,
Due to the technicalities involved in making the dish, baklava was often referred to as a rich man’s appetite, and hence reserved for special occasions like Ramadan
In my dictionary, a colorful food history means more variations in the item.
- In Turkey, baklava is traditionally made by filling the dough layers with pistachios, walnuts, and almonds. In the Black Sea Region, hazelnuts are commonly used as a filling.
- In Greece, baklva is made with 33 dough layers, each representing the years of Christ’s life.
- In Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani pakhlava is prepared with walnuts or almonds and served during the spring holiday of Nowruz.
- In Armenia, paklava is made with cinnamon and cloves in 40 layers of dough to represent the 40 days of Lent
- In Iran, a more drier version of baklava is prepared and flavored with rose water and served in a small diamond shape.
- Persian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds and pistacchio spiced with cardamom and a rose-scented syrup.
With the entire Mediterranean belt involved in this debate, the option of selecting one particular kind of baklava will just feel like a moot point, don’t you think?
I hope one day I get to cook this dish on my own, until then try out the recipe here and share a link with me when you succeed 🙂
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