When I tell people that I make and sell Baklava, the conversation goes something like this…EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Them: I don’t like Baklava
Me: What kind of Baklava have you had?
[Blink, Blink…blank stare ensues for a good 30 seconds]
Them: Um, what do you mean? Isn’t there only one kind of baklava?
Me: Do you have a minute? Let me tell you a story about the different types of baklava across the region. I make the Turkish variety. Bite sized so that you don’t get crumbles on your beard or boobs!
[I always get a chuckle with that answer and they sit and listen to my story]
Once upon a time, a long LONG LOOOOONG time ago, in a land far FAR Away, the people of Mesopotamia were nomads. They carried their food in dried parcels in the bags that hung off their horses. One of the easiest things to carry was a thin, rolled flatbread that was filled with nuts and dried fruit. History has sitings of baklava stemming all the way back to 180BC.
As we move forward in time to the Ancient Romans, they described the thin sheets of dough as thin as a placenta and these layers sweets were called “Placenta Cakes” (anyone for a box of Placenta Cakes for Christmas??!)
I think I much prefer the other desciption of the layers as being as thin as grasshopper wings. It feels a bit more magical that way!
Anyhoo! Back to the varieties..I digress…
- Turkish Baklava: about 26 layers of filo dough with finely chopped nuts sprinkled between every 4 layers. A simple syrup of Sugar Water and Lemon is drizzeled over it. The Nut vary by region-Black Sea Hazelnuts, Istanbul Walnuts, Southern Turkey Pistachios.
- Greek Baklava: The filo layers depend on the time of year. Normally, there are 33 layers of dough to signify the Christ’s life, but around Lent, the layers up to 40 to align with the 40 days of lent. Greeks use walnuts and a honey syrup.
- Armenian Baklava: Uses spices of Cinnamon and Clove and also uses 40 sheets of dough to align with the 40 days of Lent.
- Azerbaijani Baklava: Baklava is made around the spring holiday of Nowruz and cut in diamond shapes to represent the star of Azerbaijan, spiced with cinnamon, clove, cardamon, and saffron.
- Iranian Baklava: A combination of pistachios and almonds, Persian baklava is also cut in a diamond shape and has the essence of rose water in the simple syrup.
These are just a few of the many ways different countries make baklava. Some layer the nuts throughout the baklava, some just put a thick layer of nuts in the middle.
Back to my conversation with my new friend who has declared that they don’t like baklava…
Me: I bet I can change your mind about baklava in just one bite..Just try one small piece, you can totally spit it out if you don’t like it!
[As they pop a piece into their mouth, you can see the reaction on their face. Their head tilts to the side, their eyes widen, and they lick their fingers to get all the yum yums]
Them: OHMYGOODNESS! That was amazing: Not too heavy, Not too Sweet, Not Too big! I guess I DO like baklava!….Can I have another piece?