Monday, 15 August 2011

Activity: Baking/The History of... Baklava.

Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'Baklava'...because I live dangerously...

Baklava (pronounced /ˈbɑkləvɑ/ or /bɑkləˈvɑ/), (Ottoman Turkish: باقلوا) is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and much of central and southwest Asia.


The history of baklava is not well documented. It has been claimed by many ethnic groups, but there is strong evidence that it is of Central Asian Turkic origin, with its current form being developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace.
Many Ottoman sweets are similar to Byzantine sweets, using dough, sesame, wheat, nuts and fruits, and some were similar to the Ottoman börek, halva, and so on. Indeed, Vryonis identifies the ancient Greek gastris (γάστρις), kopte (κοπτὴ σησαμίς), kopton (κοπτόν), or koptoplakous (κοπτοπλακοῦς), mentioned in the Deipnosophistae, as baklava, and calls it a "Byzantine favorite". But though gastris contained a filling of nuts and honey, its outer layers did not include any dough, but rather a honey and ground sesame mixture similar to modern pasteli or halva.
Perry assembles evidence to show that layered breads were created by Turkic peoples in Central Asia, and argues that the "missing link" between the Central Asian folded or layered breads (which did not include nuts) and modern phyllo-based pastries like baklava is the Azerbaijani dish Bakı pakhlavası, which involves layers of dough and nuts. The traditional Uzbek pakhlava, puskal or yupka and Tatar yoka, sweet and salty savories (boreks) prepared with 10-12 layers of dough, are other early examples of layered dough style in Turkic regions.
The thin phyllo dough as used today was probably developed in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace. Indeed, the sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı. Zibart claims that the Persians added the syrup and nuts.
Other claims about baklava's origins include: that it dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and was mentioned in a Mesopotamian cookbook on walnut dishes; that al-Baghdadi describes it in his 13th-century cookbook; that it was a popular Byzantine dessert. But Claudia Roden and Andrew Dalby find no evidence for it in Arab, Greek, or Byzantine sources before the Ottoman period.
One of the oldest known recipes for a sort of proto-baklava is found in a Chinese cookbook written in 1330 under the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty under the name güllach. "Güllaç" is found in Turkish cuisine. Layers of phyllo dough are put one by one in warmed up milk with sugar. It is served with walnut and fresh pomegranate and generally eaten during Ramadan.

Local versions

In Turkey, Gaziantep is famous for its pistachio baklava and regarded there as its native city, though it only appears to have been introduced to Gaziantep from Damascus in 1871. In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication certificate for Antep Baklava.
Baklava from Aleppo is made with the local pistachios and samna from Hama.
In the Balkans, it is generally only eaten on special occasions; by Muslims, mostly during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr. In Albania, baklava is very popular dessert. The dough may include egg yolks, and the filling uses walnuts.
In Iran, a drier version of baklava is cooked and presented in smaller diamond-shaped cuts flavored with rose water. The city of Yazd is famous for its baklava, which is widely distributed in Iran. Persian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds and pistachios spiced with cardamom and a rose water-scented syrup and is lighter than other Middle Eastern versions.
In Azerbaijan, pakhlava is mostly prepared during the Novruz festivity. After preparation the pakhlava is cut into diamond shapes and each piece is garnished with an almond or a walnut.
In Afghanistan and Cyprus, baklava is prepared into triangle-shaped pieces and is lightly covered in crushed pistachio nuts.
In Armenia, baklava is made with cinnamon and cloves.


The word baklava is first attested in English in 1653 and entered English from Turkish. The name baklava is used in many languages with minor phonetic and spelling variations.
The ultimate origin of the name is unclear.
Buell argues that the word "baklava" may come from the Mongolian root baγla- 'to tie, wrap up, pile up' composed with the Turkic verbal ending -v; baγla- itself in Mongolian is a Turkic loanword. The Turkish linguist Sevan Nişanyan traces the word to its Proto-Turkic forms of baklağı or baklağu, but offers no conjecture of how those words came to be associated with this dish.
Though the suffix -vā might suggest a Persian origin, the baqla- part does not appear be Persian. Another form of the word is also recorded in Persian, باقلبا (bāqlabā). The Arabic name is doubtless a borrowing from Turkish though a folk etymology, unsupported by Wehr's dictionary, connects it to Arabic بقلة /baqlah/ 'bean'.

*I'll be honest with you...I love baklava more than most people. Having first experienced REAL Baklava when my parents returned from a visit to Greece, my partner and I experienced some real Turkish Baklava this summer whilst on holiday in Ölüdeniz. I recommend it to everyone, it's beautifully unique and sweet.

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