Hello My Feasting Friends!
Ask people from any Middle Eastern country where Baklava originated, and they will all claim to have invented this popular dessert. It is widely believed however, that the Assyrians at around 8th century B.C. were the first people who put together the concept of chopped nuts between layers of thin bread dough in layers, with honey added for sweetness. Historically baklava was considered a food for the rich until the mid-19th century. Later, Greek seamen and merchants traveling towards Mesopotamia soon discovered the delights of Baklava and brought the recipe to Athens. The Greeks’ major contribution to the development of this pastry is the creation of thin phyllo (or filo which means leaf in Greek) to replace the original bread-like dough. They called the dessert Baklava. The Armenians, who had access to spice routes, integrated cinnamon and cloves into the dessert. Then, the Arabs introduced the rose-water and cardamom, and called the dessert Baklawa. You can say this dessert is a beautiful and collaborative effort among many Middle Eastern cultures. My contribution is streamlining the method of making this treat so you can enjoy it more regularly! It literally takes me less that 30 minutes to assemble this confection you see below:
This version uses a combination of walnuts and pistachios, but you can use any kind of nut–cashews and peanuts also work particularly well, though they are usually ground into a finer meal. Brushing melted butter on every other sheet of phyllo dough not only reduces time in making baklava, but you also use about 1/3 cup less of butter. And feel free to douse this confection with only half of the syrup, while putting the rest into a small pitcher so that each person can add more if they wish, or none at all if they don’t like it cloyingly sweet. I had so much fun making this dessert for my mother in the video below. I would love to know…what is your favorite baklava filling? Let me know in the comments below!
Ingredients (Directions and method in video above)
- 3 cups chopped pistachios, walnuts or cashews coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup confectioners or icing sugar
- 1 tbs. melted butter
- 1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 2 pounds of phyllo dough (one package)
- 2 cups of melted butter that has been cooled slightly (or rendered butter if you have the time or some in stock)
- 13 by 9 casserole dish
- Lemon scented Attar (syrup)
- 2 C. sugar
- 2 c water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 cloves
- Combine water, cinnamon stick, cloves and lemon peel in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat slightly, add lemon juice. Stir with a spoon until the mixture coats the spoon. Let cool. Remove peels and cinnamon stick. Let cool at least 10 minutes before topping baklava.