The History and Origin of the Delightful Turkish Dessert: Baklava
Baklava is a delectable dessert with an interesting history. Known to be the dessert for royalty, Baklava is an exotic sweet dish which has undergone many transformations as its fame and spread over the world.
Baklava is usually prepared by of alternating layers of paper-thin sheets of phyllo dough and a mixture of spiced nuts with butter or shortening poured over it before it is baked in large trays. It is then left to soak in a fragrant honey, lemon and cinnamon syrup and served cool after being cut into small pieces.
It is a highly popular dessert all over the world and is easily available in bakeries everywhere and you can even order Baklava online from the comfort of your home.
Origin of Baklava
The point of origin of this famous traditional dessert is a controversial and largely undocumented subject. With the Turkish, Greeks and Middle Easterners all claiming it as their own and each following their own unique ways of preparing it with different flavors and ingredients, its ancestry may be traced back to the Assyrians who had been making this dessert as early as 8th century B.C. One thing all these regions have in common though, is that they were all a part of the Ottoman Empire.
When the Greek merchants traveling to Mesopotamia for trade, discovered this scrumptious confection, they took the recipe back to their homeland and modified the pastry by using a technique to make the dough as thin a leaf as opposed to the rougher texture of the Assyrian dough. This was one of the major contributions in the transition of the Baklava and is probably why its origin is frequently attributed to Greece.
Similarly, when the Armenians discovered Baklava, they made it their own by adding cinnamon and cloves to the original recipe, while the Arabs introduced the use of rose water and orange blossom water, Persians shaped them like diamonds and used nuts perfumed with jasmine. With its popularity reaching different countries and civilizations with different palates, the taste of Baklava underwent subtle changes over time.
History of Baklava
The Topkapi Palace kitchen records from Istanbul, Turkey are the earliest records found that bear references to Baklava being baked in the palace in 1473. It is believed that the Ottomans perfected the Baklava after invading Constantinople in the 15th century and turned it into an elaborate dish made from expensive ingredients requiring special culinary skills to be served at special occasions to please royalty, nobles as well as dignitaries and became synonymous with wealth and sophistication.
During the late 17th century, baklava was being made by the palace cooks as a special treat for the janissaries (elite corps in the standing army of the Ottoman Empire) in Ramadan which lead to the Baklava Parade with a procession of Baklava trays being carried to the army barracks, cheered along the way by the people of Istanbul.
Baklava was a special delicacy reserved for special occasions such as weddings, births and religious festivals. It was regarded as a luxury that only the rich could afford till the 19th century but by the end of the century, several small shops started making and selling the pastry in order to cater to the middle classes.
Variations of Baklava
The popularity of Baklava has spread far and wide and with so many cultures adopting the Baklava and adding their own spin to it, this sweet concoction is available in different varieties in different parts of the world.
- Turkish Baklava: Turkey has a wide variety of Baklavas, from ones made with pistachios or walnuts to unique ones like rice baklava and ones made with clotted cream that melts in your mouth and balances out the sweetness. They are also available in different shapes including squares, rectangles, circles and diamond shapes
- Greek Baklava: The Greek Baklava is made with pistachio nuts and is soaked in honey which makes it very sweet but delicious nonetheless. It is supposed to consist of 33 layers depicting the years of Christ’s life.
- Lebanese Baklava: The Lebanese Baklava is made with walnuts and sometimes even incorporates orange blossom water. It is a lighter version of the dessert with less syrup enabling one to eat more than a few small bites of it
Apart from these variations, with almost one-fifth of the world’s countries producing and selling this popular confection, there are innumerable varieties of Baklava available today with fillings made of hazelnuts, pine nuts, cheese and even fruit.
Correct way to eat Baklava
Baklava is a royal dessert and it is not surprising that there is a special technique to eating it. According to Baklava connoisseurs, it is recommended that when it eating a baklava, you should spear it on your fork in such a way that two thirds of it is facing you while one third is of the piece is behind the fork so as to avoid breaking the lozenge.
There should be a distinct crunch as the fork penetrates the layers of pastry. If that is not the case and there is no crunch even when you bite into it, it means that the Baklava is stale. The best Baklava should not be too sweet or syrupy and should melt in your mouth.
Baklava in Modern times
Gone are the days when Baklava was reserved explicitly for aristocracy or special occasions. Owing to its global appeal, growing demand and consequently growing supply of this delectable dessert means that it has now become widely and easily available for all and has become a popular gifting option for celebrations of all kinds.
Turkish Baklava in Dubai is a much sought after delicacy and can be enjoyed in any part of the city or from the comfort of your home. Finding a bakery or shop specializing in Baklava near you is now just a click away and Authentic Turkish Baklava U. A. E. is always there to cater to all your Baklava cravings.