Baklava (BAHK-lah-vah), Glossary and Terms, Meat, Fish, Fruit, Grocery Food Stores

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"Baklava (BAHK-lah-vah)"

A popular middle eastern (especially Greece and Turkey) pastry that is made with buttered layers of phyllo dough. How it is traditionally made depends on the region. In some areas, it is made with walnuts; in other areas, it is made with pistachios or almonds. Sometimes dried fruit is added between the layers. Baklava consists of 30 or more sheets of phyllo dough brushed with lots of butter, and layered with finely chopped nuts. After baking, a syrup of honey, rose water and lemon juice (sometimes spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, etc) is poured over the pastry and allowed to soak in. This dessert is known as baglawa in Syrian and Lebanese.
History: Most historians agree that the first people, the Assyrians, in the 8th century B.C. were the first to put together thin layers of bread dough, with chopped nuts in between those layers, added some honey and baked it in their primitive wood burning ovens. This earliest known version of baklava was baked only on special occasions. Baklava was considered a food for the rich until mid-19th century. In Turkey the sheets of pastry for baklava are rolled out so thinly that when held up the person standing behind can be seen as if through a net curtain. In Turkey, to this day one can hear a common expression often used by the poor, or even by the middle class, saying: "I am not rich enough to eat baklava and boerek every day".
The Greek seamen and merchants traveling east to Mesopotamia soon discovered the delights of Baklava and brought the recipe to Athens. The Greeks' major contribution to the development of this pastry is the creation of a dough technique that made it possible to roll it as thin as a leaf, compared to the rough, bread-like texture of the Assyrian dough. Phyllo means "layer" or "leaf" in the Greek language.
The Armenians, located on ancient Spice and Silk Routes, integrated for the cinnamon and cloves into the baklava. The Arabs introduced the rose water and cardamom. The taste changed in subtle nuances as the recipe started crossing borders.

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