Baklava, Baklawa or Baclava is a traditional Turkish sweet layered pastry. Special phyllo dough is prepared to make this pastry that is quite rich due to the presence of nuts and other sweet ingredients.
Baklava recipe was a popular dish in Ottoman Empire and also well-liked in southwestern and central parts of Asia. Apart form these food cultures, various ethnic groups has also made this dish quite popular across the globe.
Large baking trays are used to prepare baclava and different shapes are given to the pastry while cutting with the knife. There are also multiple variations of this popular baclava recipe. Some of them are served with either sweet syrup or presented with whipped cream.
Though the actual origin of baclava is still mysterious but according to food researchers, it is believed to be originated in Turkey in Ottoman Empire. This thin phyllo dough pastry was first prepared in the royal kitchen of Topkapi palace. A ceremonial procession in the month of Ramadan called ‘Baklava Alayi’ was specially popular for the inclusion of authentic baclava dish.
In another claim, this pastry was originated in Mesopotamian region and was included in their cookbook under the category of walnut dishes. Though baclava recipe is quite old but the oldest recipes were found in 1330 in a Chinese cookbook with the name of ‘gullach’. Similar recipe called ‘Gullac’ is also present in Turkish cuisine. This traditional recipe was served during Ramadan.
Besides all these claims, the strongest and well-accepted place for the origin of baklava is Gaziantep city in Turkey.
The basic and traditional recipe of baclava includes phylo dough that is mixed with various nuts. For sweetening purpose, honey or sugar syrup is incorporated. Sesame seeds and fruits may also be added along with nuts to make variations in the recipe.
Among the nuts, walnuts are the most commonly used variety of nuts. Pistachios and almonds are also highly used. Some versions of baklava are also presented with warm milk and fresh pomegranate. Baklava has many versions popular in different parts of the world and all of them have different style of preparations with distinct ingredients. Rose water and cardamom powder are among the most popular flavoring agents. Sugar syrup is usually prepared with vanilla flavor.
Baklava is essentially a baked dish that is prepared with flaky pastry dough. A special nut and butter filling is stuffed in the dough before baking. Stuffing may be prepared with any ingredient according to the taste and the preference.
Usually, it is a moist dish, but in Iranian cuisine, a drier version is quite popular. Layering is the main process of making this special pastry and this process should be done with great perfection. Each layer is topped with butter, fruits and nut mixture. On average 8 layers are there in each baclava pastry.
As soon as pastry is baked a sugar or honey syrup is poured over it to provide a nice glaze to the pastry.
Baklava is served as a dessert and usually considered a traditional dish. It can either be served as a cold dish or at the room temperature. In few instances, it is served after being re-warmed. Different shapes are given to the baclava. Diamond and square shapes are most common. Honey or sugar syrup is poured over the pastry while serving. In some variations, the pastry is served with a topping of whipped cream and chopped nuts.
This popular pastry is served with different styles in different regions. Few variations are as follows:
- A dried baklava is served in Iranian cuisine flavored with rose water, cinnamon and chopped nuts mainly almonds and pistachios. It is a lighter version than Middle Eastern versions.
- In Azerbaijan meals, this pastry is served at the festival of Novruz. Diamond shaped pieces are served with a piece of either almond or walnut.
- In the cuisines of Afghanistan and Cyprus, it is cut in the shape of triangle and served with lightly pounded pistachios.
- Albanian cuisine showcases this popular cake as a New Year dessert and traditionally serves it after New Year eve’s main course meal.
- In many Middle Eastern countries, baklava recipe is traditionally prepared at Ramadan and Id.
Being a phylo dough pastry, baclava is a quite healthy dish. Fruits, nuts and other ingredients such as eggs milk and butter; all are beneficial ingredients. Honey is much more nutritious than sugar; hence honey should be used as a sweetening agent. Excess consumption is obviously not good for health, but occasional eating of baklava not harmful.