A Popular Arab Delicacy: November 17 is National Baklava Day!
By: Nisreen Eadeh/Arab America Contributing Writer
Get ready for tons of baklava photos because Sunday, November 17 is National Baklava Day. This unofficial holiday has grown over the years by social media users looking for a way to cherish this sweet dessert.
Baklava, which ib s called “baklawa” in Arabic, is a widely beloved dessert amongst Arabs, Turks, Persians, Greeks, Armenians, and Central Asians. The origins of baklava are not clear, but historians have cited recipes from Greece, Mongolia, Turkey, and Syria as the sources for the dessert’s first documentation. But regardless of where it comes from, baklava has evolved over the centuries to become a syrup-covered pastry no one can resist.
During the time of the Ottoman Empire, bakers in Damascus began making baklava as it is known today. In 1871, a recipe for baklava from a Damascus chef made its way to Gaziantep (also known as Antep) in Turkey, where it became known as a Turkish dessert. That famous recipe is responsible for the mass love baklava receives today.
The Damascus recipe includes filo dough, a pistachio confection, lemon juice, butter, and caster sugar. In the Levantine Arab countries, rosewater is often used instead of caster sugar. Baklava is normally prepared for large groups of people, making it a popular Ramadan and Christmas treat, and happy occasions such as engagement parties and weddings. Guests visiting Arab homes also give it as a gift. The flaky sweet is then cut into diamond or square shapes, giving it an unforgettable look.
Arab immigrants brought baklava to America, where it can now be found in stores and restaurants across the country. Try the recipe at home during the upcoming holiday season to make baklava a special dish for the family.
Recipe for Baklava
Makes 40 servings
- 500 g filo dough sheets, 24 sheets
- 3/4 cup melted butter for coating
- 3 cups walnuts or pistachios, finely ground
- 2 tsp. cloves
- 4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 cup sugar for mixing
- 2 tbsp. butter for mixing
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- To prepare the sugar syrup: put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Leave to boil then add the lemon juice and keep on medium heat for 10 minutes until the syrup thickens. Add the orange blossom water and rose water. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
- For the baklawa, butter a baking pan that has the same size as the filo sheets. Spread out 12 sheets, generously buttering each sheet layer.
- Combine walnuts/pistachios with sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cloves designated for mixing.
- Spread the walnut/pistachio mix evenly on the 12th sheet and top the walnut/pitachio with 12 other sheets; always brushing the layers with butter.
- Cut the dough in lozenges (diamonds). Make sure to cut all the way through the layers.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180˚C for around 30 min or until the top becomes golden and the dough is puffed up.
- Remove from the oven and pour the sugar syrup over it and leave it to completely absorb the syrup.
- Serve in lozenge (diamond) pieces.
Recipe source: Zahrat al Cham and The Art of Syrian cookery by Helen Corey
Watch this video on how to make baklava for a visual approach.