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Where is Baklava from?

The history of baklava is debated amongst most people, but there is a clear connection to Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East. So where is baklava from originally? Different countries claim to have the original baklava recipe, contributing to the debate.

In the US, you’ll find baklava made in most Greek, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern restaurants. Some Lebanese restaurants also serve baklava on their menu. That covers a lot of different countries! Let’s take a look at the first place we see something like baklava and the recipes from the different countries.

Origin of Baklava

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The first time flattened bread was layered with nuts is generally accepted to be in the Assyrian Empire, around the 8th century BCE (before the common era). They doused the treat with honey before baking to serve at special occasions. This is one story, but it is more likely to be true than others. 

Other historians point towards the Ancient Roman Empire with their placenta cake, which layered pastry and cheese with honey poured over it in the 2nd century BCE. There are also some historians that believe Turkish nomads were some of the first people to layer bread with other ingredients to make pastries in the 11th century BCE.

There are a few other guesses to the first time the idea of baklava was created, but the first place we see the modern version of baklava is in the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century of the common era. 

Ottoman Empire’s Modern Baklava

The 15th century was a time of expansion for the Ottoman Empire, encompassing parts of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Most of the countries that were a part of the Ottoman Empire are the ones to claim the origins of baklava, which is why the original origin is so difficult to determine.

With the influences from the countries they conquered, it is thought that the Ottoman Empire’s baklava was perfected in the Topkapı Palace. It was made into a dessert for the rich or served at special occasions like weddings and religious holidays. It is believed that a few of the sultans presented baklava to soldiers during Ramadan. 

Variations from Country to Country

As the modern-day countries formed, there were many variations to baklava, even in the smallest of ways, that we see today. For example, Greek baklava is made with honey, while Turkey uses sugar syrup to sweeten the treat. There are many other countries that add their own element to baklava to make the most of what they have for ingredients.

  • Greece uses filo pastry, walnuts, and honey in most of their recipes. Filo, or phyllo, dough was made in Greece, and contributed to many baklava recipes. 
  • Turkey was granted a PGI, protected geographical indication, for their version of baklava in the city of Gaziantep in 2013. They use pistachio nuts in and on top of their baklava while using less of other ingredients, including spices and honey.
  • In Lebanon, baklava is spelled baklawa for their traditional language, Arabic. They use sugar syrup instead of honey and flavors the syrup with orange blossom or rose water for a pleasant, earthy taste.
  • Armenia uses cinnamon and cloves to make their filling in baklava, along with sugar syrup.
  • Israel and Palestine use halva, a paste-like sweet treat, in their baklava. Israel is also known to use a variety of nuts and spices to fill out the dessert.

There are many other known varieties of baklava, just waiting for you to try it out! Each one has their own unique taste that makes baklava an interesting dessert.

If you like baklava, then you’ll love our sweets! Check out our recipe for baklava or order your own as a dessert to share. Baklava has stood the test of time to be one of the most enjoyed desserts in the world. Try some today to see why!

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