Baklava! Turkish or Greek? It doesn’t matter, it’s just delicious!
What is Baklava?
Baklava (/bɑːkləˈvɑː, ˈbɑːkləvɑː/, or /bəˈklɑːvə/, Ottoman Turkish: باقلوا) is a layered pastry dessert made of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey. It was one of the most popular sweet pastries of Ottoman cuisine.
The pre-Ottoman origin of the dish is unknown, but, in modern times, it is a common dessert of Iranian, Turkish, and Arab cuisines, and other countries of the Levant and Maghreb, along with the South Caucasus, Balkans, and Central Asia.
Baklava Origin – Is Baklava Greek?
Although the history of baklava is not well documented, its current form was probably developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace in Constantinople (now known in English as Istanbul). The Sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı.
The three main proposals for the pre-Ottoman roots of baklava are the Ancient Roman placenta cake, the Central Asian Turkic tradition of layered desserts and the Persian lauzinaj. There are also claims attributing baklava to the Assyrians, according to which baklava was already prepared by them in the 8th century BC.
There are also some similarities between baklava and the Ancient Greek desserts gastris (γάστρις), kopte sesamis (κοπτὴ σησαμίς), and kopton (κοπτόν) found in book XIV of the Deipnosophistae. However, the recipe there is for a filling of nuts and honey, with a top and bottom layer of honey and ground sesame similar to modern pasteli or halva, and no dough, certainly not a flaky dough. Another recipe for a similar dessert is güllaç, a dessert found in the Turkish cuisine and considered by some as the origin of baklava.
The earliest known recipe from the 2nd century BC that resembles baklava is Ancient Roman placenta cake, a honey-covered baked layered-dough dessert which Patrick Faas identifies as the origin of baklava:
“The Greeks and the Turks still argue over which dishes were originally Greek and which Turkish. Baklava, for example, is claimed by both countries. Greek and Turkish cuisine both built upon the cookery of the Byzantine Empire, which was a continuation of the cooking of the Roman Empire. Roman cuisine had borrowed a great deal from the ancient Greeks, but placenta and hence baklava had a Latin, not a Greek, origin-please note that the conservative, anti-Greek Cato left us this recipe.”
According to a number of scholars koptoplakous (κοπτοπλακοῦς) was a precursor of modern baklava. Historian Speros Vryonis describes koptoplakous as a “Byzantine favorite” and “the same as the Turkish baklava”, as do other writers.
The name (Greek: πλατσέντα) is used today on the island of Lesbos for thin layered pastry leaves with crushed nuts, baked, and covered in syrup.
Preparation of Baklava
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 is often garnished with ground nuts.
What is Greek Baklava made of?
There are many regional variations of baklava. In Greece, walnuts are more common than pistachios, and the dessert is often flavored with cinnamon. The classic Greek baklava recipe consists of three main ingredients, filo dough, walnuts and honey syrup. Baklava is an extra syrup dessert which Greeks call ‘Siropiasta’. Syrup desserts (‘Siropiasta’) are very popular among Greek cuisine.
The Most Important Baklava Ingredients:
- Phyllo dough: 1 package of phyllo dough, which should contain around 40 sheets. Also known as filo or fillo dough, these tissue-thin sheets of dough will need to be thawed according to package directions before use. (Please note that phyllo dough is not puff pastry. They are often sold side by side in stores, but they are completely different products so be sure to choose phyllo!)
- Nuts: I used 50-50 of pistachios & walnuts for my recipe! It’s important to very finely chop the nuts so that the baklava will be easy to cut. I found it easier to just blitz the nuts in a food processor, but you can easily chop them by hand too. Feel free to use an equivalent amount of whatever varieties of nuts you prefer.
- Butter: The most important ingredient in this recipe is the butter! Baklava is often traditionally made with clarified butter (made by melting butter and separating out the extra water and butter solids, for better flavor and texture). It’s very important to pick up a really good quality of butter for Baklava recipe.
- Syrup: You will need four main ingredients to make the honey syrup — honey, water, white granulated sugar, freshly-squeezed orange juice (or lemon juice) and cinnamon sticks. These ingredients in this recipe add an irresistible depth of flavor.
A step-by-step guide (and video) for how to make the ultimate homemade baklava with perfectly crispy golden phyllo, pistachios, walnuts & lovely honey syrup.
1 & 1/2 Hour
2 & 1/2 Hours
Eleni Komnou | Foodenyo
- 1 package phyllo dough, thawed to room temperature
- 1 cup of pistachios & 1 cup of walnuts
- 1 tbsp of cinnamon powder
- 1 1/2 cups of white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups melted butter (preferably clarified butter)
For the syrup:
- 600g white sugar
- 500g water
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 3 tbsps freshly-squeezed orange juice (or lemon juice)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Thaw the phyllo dough. Transfer the package of phyllo dough to the refrigerator overnight. Then let it rest on the counter (still in its packaging) at room temperature for 1 hour before working with it.
- Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture nearly reaches a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Transfer the syrup to a heat-safe bowl and keep the syrup at room temperature until to use.
- Finely chop the nuts. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are finely-chopped. (Alternately, you can chop them by hand with a chef’s knife. Stir the nuts together with the cinnamon and sugar until combined and set aside.
- Butter the baking dish. Use a soft pastry brush to lightly brush the inside of the baking dish with butter.
- 1st layer. Lay 2 phyllo sheet in the baking dish and brush it lightly with butter. (No need for it to be perfectly brushed!) Sprinkle approximately 1/5 of the nut mixture evenly over the top layer of phyllo.
- 2nd layer. Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 3rd layer. Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 4th layer. Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture.
- 5th layer. Repeat with 4 more phyllo sheets, each lightly brushed with butter, followed by another 1/5 of the nut mixture, lightly brushed with the remaining butter.
- Cut the baklava. Using a very sharp paring knife, slice the baklava all the way through into your desired shapes/sizes.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top layers of the baklava are golden brown and crispy.
- Then immediately drizzle the cooled syrup evenly over the top of the hot baklava. (It will sizzle and crack, which is what we want!) Sprinkle some chopped pistachios on top of each piece of baklava as a topping.
- Let the baklava sit out uncovered for 3-4 hours until it has completely cooled to room temperature, then serve and enjoy!
Foodenyo | Feed Your Soul
- Layers: Here is an easier to read checklist for the baklava layers:
2 phyllos + butter + nuts
2 phyllos +butter + nuts
2 phyllos +butter + nuts
2 phyllos +butter + nuts
4 phyllos + butter
2. Clarified vs unclarified butter: The advantage to using clarified butter is that it will be more evenly browned and will last a bit longer. Or you just melt a few sticks of (unclarified) butter to use in this recipe, which will still work great. Just be sure to regularly whisk the butter while assembling the baklava so that it does not separate.
3. Syrup: Hot Baklava-Cold syrup! The best combination for the perfect Baklava is to pour the cold-room temperature syrup over the hot Baklava. Then, immediately drizzle the cooled syrup evenly over the top of the hot baklava. (It will sizzle and crack, which is what we want!)
4. Storage instructions: To keep the baklava as crispy as possible, it’s best to store it at room temperature in a lightly covered baking dish or food storage container. (I loosely cover mine with aluminum foil.) It will keep for between 8-10 days at room temperature, but will be crispiest the first 5 days.
Watch me make this Baklava recipe!
Don’t forget to tag us #foodenyo on Instagram, if you remake this one! We’d love to see your recreations!