Honey in History: Baklava

Honey Variety 1

The holiday season is in full swing, and we can't help but get excited about all of the delicious treats the holidays have in store, like sweet and nutty Baklava. Did you know that this tasty treat actually has its own day? That's right, Baklava day is November 17! As we get ready to celebrate, we thought we would take a look into the history of one of the world's favorite pastries.

It is thought that the current form of Baklava enjoyed around the world today was perfected in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in current day Istanbul (then Constantinople) around the 15th century by the Ottoman Empire.1

Not much is known about where the recipe originated from, but it is hotly debated with both the Greeks and Turkish claiming to be the originators. Three possible roots are as follows2:

  • Roman placenta cake (Byzantine cuisine, 160 BC)
  • Central Asian Turkic (traditional layered breads, 1330)
  • Persian lauzinaq (1226)

Now, no matter where the recipe for Baklava comes from, there is no denying the many cultures throughout history that have had some sort of influence on the beloved treat. Here are just a few mentioned by Libanais Sweets:

  • Greek: crafted the technique for thin ("Phyllo") dough
  • Armenian: integrated cinnamon and clove into the texture of the dough
  • Arab: addition of rose and orange blossom water
  • Persian: served Baklava cut into diamond shape and perfumed nut stuffing with jasmine

Like many recipes, each culture likes to put their own spin on Baklava, whether it's by swapping out the nuts for something more regional, or adding additional flavors and spices, it truly is a versatile recipe. Today we are sharing our own recipe for Baklava.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. sheets filo dough, frozen
  • 2 cups blanched almonds, ground
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon rind, grated
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, ground
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Almonds, sliced, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 T rose water

Directions:
Thaw filo dough for 8 hours in refrigerator, if frozen. Unfold sheets of filo dough so they lie flat. Cover with waxed paper, then a damp towel, to prevent them from drying out.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a medium bowl combine almonds, sugar, lemon rind, and cinnamon. Generously butter an 8- to 9-inch-square pan.
Carefully fold 2 sheets of filo to fit pan; place in pan one at a time, brushing each with butter. Sprinkle about 3 T of the almond mixture over top sheet. Fold 1 sheet of filo to fit pan; brush with butter. Sprinkle evenly with another 3 T almond mixture.
Continue to add layers, using 1 folded sheet of filo, a generous brushing of butter, and 3 to 4 T almond mixture for each, until nut mixture is used up (there should be about 10 nut-filled layers).
Fold remaining 2 to 3 sheets of filo to fit pan. Place on top, brushing each, with butter before adding the next.
With a very sharp knife, carefully cut diagonally across pan to make small diamond shapes--about 1 1/2 inches on a side--cutting all the way to bottom of pan.
Pour on any remaining butter.
Bake until golden brown (about 45 minutes).
Pour warm Honey and Rose Water Syrup over top.
Decorate each piece with an almond slice. Cool before serving.

For Honey and Rose Water Syrup (last four ingredients):
Combine sugar and the water in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring. Mix in honey and cook until syrup boils again. Remove from heat; mix in rose water.

Have you tried Baklava? Do you have a variation that you enjoy? We'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!

                                                                               

Resources:

Baklava. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baklava 

The History of Baklava. Libanais Sweets: https://www.libanaissweets.com/about-us/the-history-of-baklava/ 

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