Each year on November 17th, National Baklava Day fills the kitchen with a sweet and flaky pastry that’s loved by many. Baklava is a sweet dessert that gives layers of texture and flavor between sheets of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and drizzled with syrup or honey.
Believed to have originated by the Turkic people in Central Asian nations, Baklava is a dessert in many countries and prepared in several ways. The word “Baklava” first appeared in English in 1650.
If you’ve never tried baklava, there are several varieties. Walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or almonds can be used. The filling can be composed of raisins, dates, prunes, and even figs. Most baklava recipes call for cinnamon, cardamom, or cloves – sometimes all three spices.
Preparing this dessert may be somewhat time-consuming. However, it is a treat worth the work and the wait.
NATIONAL BAKLAVA DAY ACTIVITIES
Experience the customs of baklava
Baklava, once a dish so special it was only considered fit for the rich, is popular around the world today. Many countries, including Lebanon, Armenia, Turkey, and Greece have their own regional variations of baklava, and prepare it for festivals and other special occasions. Choose a country whose baklava style you respond to, and adopt one of their festivals or customs for your own pleasure. For example, Muslims in the Balkan region typically prepare baklava during Ramadan, while Christians in the same area make it for Easter and Christmas; for the Easter version, baklava is made with 40 layers of dough to represent the 40 days of Lent.
Attend a Greek, Turkish, or Middle Eastern festival
During this time of the year, there is a multitude of cultural festivals to enjoy, including many where baklava can be found in abundance. A simple Internet search will quickly tell you when the next one is happening near you.
Learn baklava-eating etiquette
Think of the baklava experience in much the same way as tasting a fine wine. First, contemplate the beauty that is baklava on your plate, then pierce it with your fork so that one third of the piece is behind the fork and the other two thirds are facing you. (This should prevent the piece from breaking in half.) Take time to notice the aroma as you lift your baklava-filled fork, slowly take a bite, then savor the taste as it melts on your palate. Cardinal social sin: cutting through the layers of baklava.
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.
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.