Let’s make Baklava
While we were dining at this prominent Italian Restaurant across from Rome’s Colloseum, we had a little chat with the waiter, who happened to be Romanian.
“Do you know what my favorite dessert is?” he asked me.
As he had just brought us plates full of delicious Tiramisu; I looked at him and confidently asked “Tiramisu?“. He said “No” and surprised me and my friends with his answer.
He said “My favorite dessert is Baklava“.
Some of us were shocked (especially our Anglo-saxon friends) and needless to say, the Turks in our group felt a little bit of pride.
“My mother” said the Romanian waiter “used to make baklava; dolma; sarma; bulgur; revani..” and the list went on..
Turkish cuisine and its hinterland
How did Baklava become the most favorite dessert of this Romanian and his mother? And the Greeks; Albanians; Persians; Lebanese; Syrians; Georgians; Armenians and Israelis.. They all exchanged the knowledge, technique and the flavours during the Ottoman era.
Although many nations claim it to be theirs, Baklava was one of the many recipes Turks brought with them from Central Asia. Refined over time, it took it’s final form in the imperial kitchen of the Ottomans, in Topkapi Palace.
C. Perry explains in his book “The taste for layered bread among the nomadic Turks and the Central Asian” that the tradition of making desserts by putting crushed nuts and sweets between thin layers of pastry went all the way back to early Turkic tribes living in Central Asia.
The most popular Baklava related event in Ottoman history was the Baklava ceremony of the Ottoman Army which started around 17th century. In the middle of Ramadan month, the Ottoman king would have a tray of baklava made for each group of 10 soldiers in the Army which would be served and consumed at this official ceremony.
It is called بقلاوة in arabic, باقلواin Persian, baqlawad in Somalian, baqlawa in Kurdish, bakllava in albanian, baclava in Romanian, baklava in Hungarian, баклава in Serbian and Bulgarian, baklava in Bosnian and Croatian, bakława in Polish, baklava in Czech, пахлава in Russian, баклава in Ukrainian, μπακλαβάς in Greek, փախլավա in Armenian, ფახლავა in Georgian, বাক্লাভা, in Bengali.
Different parts of Turkey use different nuts for home-made Baklava; In south-east pistachio, in black-sea hazelnut, in central anatolia wallnut, in aegean parts almond, in tracchia sesame would be used. Sometimes it would be served with cream (kaymak).
Here is a small recipe to show you how it can be baked at home.
- 3/4 Pound Butter (3 Quarter-Pound Sticks) Cut Into 1/4.Inch Bits
- 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 40 Sheets File Pastry;
- Each About 16 inches Long And 12 Inches Wide; Thoroughly Defrosted If Frozen
- 4 Cups Shelled Pistachio Pulverized In A Blender Or With A Nut Grinder
Melt the butter slowly over low heat without letting it get brown; skimming off the foam as it rises to the surface. Remove the pan from the heat; let it rest for 2 or 3 minutes; then spoon off the clear butter and discard the milky solids at the bottom of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degree and stir the vegetable oil into the clarified butter. Using a pastry brush coat the bottom and sides of a 13-by-9-by-2 1/2inch baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of the mixture.
Fold a sheet of filo in half crosswise; lift it up gently and unfold it into the prepared dish. Press the pastry flat; fold down the excess around the sides and flatten it against the bottom. Brush the entire surface of the pastry lightly with the butter and oil mixture; and lay another sheet of filo on top; folding it down and buttering it in similar fashion. Sprinkle the pastry evenly with about 3 tablespoons of pistachio.
Repeat the same procedure using two sheets of buttered file and 3 tablespoons of the pulverized pistachio each time to make 19 layers in all. Spread remaining 2 sheets of filo on top and brush the baklava with all of the remaining butter and oil mixture.
With a small; sharp knife score the top of the pastry with parallel diagonal lines about 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart; then cross them diagonally to form diamond shapes. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degree and bake for 45 minutes longer; or until the top is crisp and golden brown.
SYRUP : 1 1/2 cups sugar; 3/4 cup water; 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; 1 tablespoon honey. Meanwhile; make the syrup. Combine the sugar; water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and; stirring constantly; cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and; timing it from the moment the syrup boils; cook briskly; uncovered; for about 5 minutes; or until the syrup reaches a temperature of 220 degree on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey. Pour the syrup into a bowl or pitcher and set it aside. When the baklava is done; remove it from the oven and pour the syrup over it. Cool to room temperature; and just before serving; cut the baklava into diamond-shaped serving pieces