What Is Baklava and Where Does It Come From?

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Impossible-to-resist baklava is one of our favorite desserts of all time. Here’s what you need to know about the sweet treat: 

What Is Baklava? 

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Baklava is a traditional pastry dessert that is known for its sweet, rich flavor and flaky texture. 

Baklava Ingredients

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Baklava recipes can vary, but they always include these essentials: phyllo (or filo) sheets, sweet syrup (typically honey mixed with juices and spices), nuts (often pistachios), and butter. 

Like other phyllo-based pastries, baklava is made by brushing the thin, papery sheets with butter and layering them with nuts, sugars, and spices. Baklava is topped with a sweet honey-based syrup that is allowed to soak into the stacked layers. 

Get the recipes: 

  • Basic Baklava
  • Chocolate-Hazelnut Baklava
  • Bacon Baklava

Baklava Origin and History

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Though the dessert is most often associated with Greek restaurants and delis, its exact origins can’t be pinpointed to one particular country.

The act of layering unleavened flat bread with chopped nuts and honey can be traced back as far as the 8th century B.C.E. during the Assyrian Empire

Modern baklava may have been invented in Turkey during the Ottoman Empire, then modified in Greece. Many Meditteranean countries have their own versions of baklava, slightly tweaking the recipe to make it unique. 

We may never know exactly where or how baklava became a thing, but we do know that the delicious dessert remains popular all over the world. 

How to Make Baklava

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It’s not hard to make baklava, but it can be time consuming. As long as you’re cool with lots of layering, though, homemade baklava is perfectly attainable from the comfort of your own kitchen. 

You can get our top-rated baklava recipe here (seriously, this is one of our test kitchen’s favorite creations), but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: 

  1. Finely chop nuts, such as pistachios and walnuts, with a knife or in a food processor. Process with sugar, cinnamon, and other spices until the mixture is fully combined.
  2. Trim a phyllo sheet to fit on the bottom of a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Repeat this process several more times, lightly brushing with butter between layers. These bottom layers will provide a sturdy base for your baklava. 
  3. Pour one-third of the nut mixture over the top layer of phyllo. Top that with two more layers of phyllo (don’t forget to brush between layers!). Repeat this process two more times, until the nut mixture is gone. 
  4. Pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes to make it easier to cut. While your baklava is chilling, combine honey, lemon juice, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Boil then simmer to create a thick syrup. Leave the syrup on the counter so it can cool to room temperature. 
  5. Cut the chilled baklava in a diamond-shaped pattern and bake according to the recipe. 
  6. Drizzle the room temperature syrup over the baked baklava, cover with foil, and let the whole thing sit overnight to allow the syrup to penetrate the layers. 
  7. Enjoy! 

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