Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey.
Preparation is simple but needs a delicate hand because of the main ingredient in making Baklava or other Greek pastries: Filo.
Filo (or phyllo) (Greek: φύλλο "leaf") is a very thin unleavened dough. Filo-based pastries are made by layering many sheets of filo brushed with olive oil; the pastry is then baked.
Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of filo dough, separated with melted butter and vegetable oil, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, but hazelnuts are also sometimes used—is placed on top, then more layers of filo. Most recipes have multiple layers of filo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry.
Before baking (180 °C, 356 °F, 30 minutes), the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelograms (lozenge-shaped), triangles, diamonds or rectangles. After baking, a syrup, which may include honey, rosewater, or orange flower water is poured over the cooked baklava and allowed to soak in. Baklava is usually served at room temperature and garnished with ground nuts.
Like most items of antiquity, there is no ‘first edition’ of the Baklava recipe, however it is widely believed that the Assyrians around 8th century B.C. were the first people of developing the technique of layering thin bread dough, with chopped nuts in between those few layers. They then added some honey and baked it in their primitive wood burning ovens. Ironically, this rich food was originally baked on special occasions and historically baklava was considered a food only for the rich until mid-19th century.
Greek seamen and merchants discovered the delight and brought it home. Needing to put a stamp on their version of Baklava, the Greeks created a technique to roll the dough as thin as a leaf - Phyllo.
Leaf It To Dessert
When you’re seeking a happy ending, here are just a few of the other items made and enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean and the world made of Filo:
- Baklava - An Ottoman dessert with layers of filo with chopped nuts, sweetened and held together with syrup or honey.
- Banitsa - A Bulgarian dish consisting of eggs, cheese and filo baked in the oven.
- Börek - A savory filo pie originally from the Ottoman Empire.
- Bougatsa - A type of Greek breakfast pastry.
- Bülbül yuvası - A Turkish dessert with pistachios and syrup.
- Bundevara - A Serbian sweet pie filled with pumpkin.
- Galaktoboureko - A Greek dessert consisting of filo and semolina custard.
- Gibanica - A Serbian dish made from filo, white cheese, and eggs.
- Kasseropita - A Greek pie made from filo and kasseri cheese.
- Pastizz - A savory pastry from Malta filled with ricotta or mushy peas.
- Spanakopita - A Greek spinach pie.
- Tiropita - A Greek dish similar to Börek, filled with a cheese-egg mixture.
- Zelnik - A savory pie from the Balkans.