Kitchen Turkish cuisine
Allergens Gluten-containing grains Nuts
Basis Dough / batter
Dish type Dessert
For who A sweet tooth
What is baklava?
Baklava (pronounced “BAK-lah-vah”) is a sweet Turkish delicacy consisting of alternating layers of finely chopped nuts and crispy filo pastry, topped with a sweet sugar syrup. The types of nuts vary from walnuts in the cooler north to almonds and pistachios in the south and east. The dish is eaten in Turkey as a pastry with the morning coffee, as a biscuit with tea and as a dessert. For Turks, it’s always a good time for a tasty piece of baklava.
This sweet treat is not only served in Turkey but is loved across the entire Middle East, while the dish is also popular in countries such as Albania, Azerbaijan and Greece.
The question of who first invented baklava depends on who you ask. It seems that baklava was conceived long before individual countries such as Turkey and Greece existed. However, it’s clear that the dish was refined in Ottoman times in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul into the airy, light and intensely sweet pastry that it is today. The word ‘baklava’ also seems to come from Turkish: ‘baklagi’ or ‘baklagu’ roughly means “piling up”.
Did you know...
Baklava filled with pistachio nuts is the greatest delicacy in Turkey. It’s understandable since pistachios have traditionally been – and still are – one of the most expensive nuts.
How to make baklava
Layer by layer, layers of filo pastry are generously brushed with melted butter and piled up. A thick layer of chopped nuts forms the middle – pistachio nuts, walnuts, almonds or a combination. The unbaked baklava is then cut into portions with a sharp knife: diamond-shaped, square or round, it does not really matter in Turkish cuisine. While the baklava is in the oven, a sugar syrup is made, which is poured over it while the cake cools down. It sinks down, adding flavour and sweetness.
In Turkey, people stick to the traditional flavours of nuts, filo pastry, butter and sugar, although sometimes lemon juice is added to the sugar syrup. In other Middle Eastern regions, subtle seasonings are also added: orange zest and cardamom, for example, or rose water or orange blossom water. A pinch of salt in the filling counterbalances all sweetness.
How to eat
Baklava is always eaten at room temperature. In fact, the cake shouldn’t even be refrigerated because then the butter solidifies and the crispy filo pastry becomes claggy.
Too sweet? Try it with strong tea or coffee to counterbalance its intense sweetness.
Equally sweet, but made with honey instead of sugar syrup, is Greek baklava. The Turkish dish kunefe is also topped with sugar syrup. In India, people fry dough balls and then dip them in a sugar syrup to make the dish gulab jamun.