If you have a sweet tooth like me, you love everything chocolatey and nutty and delicious. However, what is that one dessert that you should try out when you’re somewhere in Central Asia? It’s a bit of both sweet and pastry – the baklava! Though the name is somehow off-putting, it is sure that those who have tried it can assure you that it’s delicious.
The baklava is a sweet pastry that is made from several layers of filo with a filling chopped and sweetened with honey or syrup. Filo dough is the thin and unleavened dough that is used to make pastries with, in the Middle East by brushing it with butter or oil, and then baked. It is made of flour and is used for making many other Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine items such as the baklava and the börek.
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Popular in the Caucasus, Maghreb, Balkan and Levant cuisine of Central and West Asia, the ‘baklava’ has Turkish origins and the spelling and phonetics vary with different languages. Some other linguists suggest that the term might have come from Mongolian, Persian or even Arabic terms as well.
This crispy sweet dessert is made with multiple layers of filo dough that are separated with melted butter and vegetable oil, with alternating fillings of chopped nuts. Though baklava recipes have alternate fillings of filo and nuts, variations are common as with any other dessert. After the basic preparation, the dough is cut into regular parallelograms, rectangles, diamonds or triangles and then baked.
Next, a sweet syrup prepared from rose water, honey and orange flower water (a clear distillation of fresh bitter-orange flowers, well-known for their aromatic and flavor-enhancing properties) and the baked baklavas are allowed to soak in it. The baklava can be served cold, at room temperature or even rewarmed complete with ground nuts.
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In Turkey, you can find baklava filled with almonds, pistachios, and walnuts while the Armenian ‘paklava’ is seasoned with cloves and cinnamon. The Azerbaijanis serve baklava with walnuts and almonds and cut the dough into a rhombus shape. In Greece, the baklava contains thirty-three leaves of dough, referring to the lifespan of Jesus Christ. The Persians use pistachios, chopped almonds, and cardamom with rose syrup for a lighter taste.
No matter where you go, the ‘baklava’ is a different treat in different countries. Take a trip to Central Asia to sample the tastes of this lip-smacking dessert, and let us know how you loved it!