Baklava – The very word conjures up beautiful images in my mind.
– Delicate layers of flaky phyllo dough encasing a filling of sweetened nuts drizzled with a sugar/honey syrup flavored with cardamom or orange blossom
– The joy on people’s faces as they savor their first bite followed by the myriad of expressions that follow on discovering the filling and the melding of flavors.
– The little crumbs sticking over your lips and potentially clothing, making you a bit angry that you could not eat more neatly and yet you have no regrets over devouring something so sinful.
– The excuse to have yet another cup of your favorite beverage (coffee) to balance your palate
Ok…how’s that for waxing eloquence on one of my favorite desserts?
Since its debut in the 8th century BC in ancient Assyrian civilization, more people have fought over rights to creating Baklava than patent contests in the modern world. Regardless of its origin, we know that it is a dessert enjoyed with a cup of coffee in Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Armenia, Egypt and more.
Since my very first bite at Lebanese Taverna in the Washington DC area, discovering the varieties of Baklava around the world has been joyful. The phyllo has been a staple, while the fillings have varied from walnut and pistachios to caramelized milk and more modern versions with chocolate. I have had cab drivers from the Middle East argue the merits of their native Baklava, discrediting others as imitations and proving that the dish is worthy of national debate!
Favorite memories include savoring the dessert at Bacchus and Lebanese Taverna in the DC area, at Karakoy Gulluoglu in Istanbul, at a small unknown stall near Plaka in Athens, at a roadside eatery in Egypt….and the list goes on and on!
I am proud to claim that not only have I eaten my weight in Baklava during our global travels, but I have also experimented making it with success in my own kitchen. And to many a naysayer who calls making Baklava a laborious process that’s not worth the calories, I retort and say, it’s pretty simple and totally worth it.
If you’d like to ever overcome your fears to try making Baklava, the simple illustration beautifully created by the website www.theydrawandcook.com should be all you need to get started. Happy foraging for Baklava!