The Tastebud Traveler
Always Learn, Always Travel
Week 7 - Pistachio Baklava - Turkey
Baklava is the story of migration, empires, individuality and sometimes collaboration. Baklava is almost as old as time. it can be traced as far back as the 8th centuries B.C. So there is no wonder that, with an individual twist from each country, it is the national dessert of many countries in the Mediterranean. To name a few: Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Bulgaria, Cyprus.
The earliest, likely Assyrian, versions of Baklava was layered flat bread and nuts with a honey topping baked. We can credit the Ottoman Empire for the spread and mass adoption of Baklava in all the regions under its domain. Each of the regions in the Empire contributed something. The Turks invented Phyllo dough, the Greeks tweaked Phyllo dough into the super thin dough it is today. The Balkan Peninsula added cinnamon and cloves, the Arabs added rose water. The Cyprians cut their Baklava into diamonds. Pistachios, walnuts, and almonds defined what country it was from. In Turkey they added ice cream or something similar.
I had often had Greek Baklava, which in my experience in the States is usually walnut filled and syrupy. While that is delicious, i had fond memories of a Lebanese run bakery in my hometown that had the best Turkish Pistachio Baklava. I found Swanky Recipes Turkish Baklava Recipe ( click for recipe) and i don't think i'll ever look back. So delicious.
I am sure there are hulled pistachios, but I didn't happen to see any, so three hours (sometimes i exaggerate) later they were cracked and ready. It's good they're so delicious and pretty. Grind them into a pretty green powder and you're ready to begin.
Once your ready to begin assembling, start with the syrup. Mix sugar water and a splash of lemon juice. Lemony simple syrup anyone? Get that simmering while you get you Baklava assembled.
Baklava is basically Phyllo, butter, Phyllo, butter, to infinity. Then you add pistachios, and repeat the Phyllo butter layering. It's not complicated, but working with Phyllo can be "fiddly", so get all you ingredients together before you open your Phyllo pack, and once you start work quickly. There are 18 layers before adding the pistachios, and another 18 layers after.
A Few Phyllo Notes:
A damp cloth layered over wax paper is essential to keep it from drying out as you work.
If using frozen Phyllo it must be completely thawed or it will be impossible to separate.
When your layering is complete you cut your Baklava. With the help from my detail oriented significant other the Baklava was cut into a diamond shape. It then bakes for 45 minutes.
It comes out golden and gorgeous! The final step is to pour the simple syrup mixture over the top. I found that i used a fraction of the syrup i made. Any more would have been soggy. Also, don't over bake your baklava like I did, or you'll find it hard to see the pretty green pistachios.
Baklava is sweet, flakey, crunchy and delicious. Try this recipe or some of the myriad variations when visiting the Eastern Mediterranean.