Baklava, Turkey’s Favorite Sweet
Baklava begs to be shared: paired with a tulip-shaped glass of strong black Turkish tea (çay), it’s a sweet to be enjoyed with family and friends any time of the day. As a high school exchange student in Turkey, my family and I ate baklava almost every day; alongside my patient Turkish sisters I learned to make it as well, this Turkish delight with its dozens of layers of thin phyllo dough, melted butter and nuts, drenched in sugar syrup.
Each time I return to Turkey (eight times, so far) I’m offered baklava wherever I go; there’s always a place in my carry-on luggage for a kilo or two to take home, so I can share a Turkish culinary and social ritual with my American family and friends back in the States.
Start with a large round pan, gently adding many layers of paper-thin phyllo dough (yufka) brushed with melted butter in between each sheet. Depending on what part of Turkey your recipe comes from, spread a layer of nut filling – walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios – and then add more layers of phyllo sheets brushed with the butter. There’s no set number, but baklava with 30 to 36 layers is typical. Often almonds are added in the Aegean Sea region, hazelnuts in the Black Sea area, pistachios in southeastern Turkey, and walnuts in other parts of the country. Some recipes combine several types of nuts.
Again depending on the Turkish region, cut the baklava into small squares, diamonds, triangles, or rectangles before baking. (In my Turkish town we made a diamond pattern.) Variations abound, with some baklava shaped into rolls, while others have less phyllo dough and more nut filling. Bake the baklava until it’s golden and crispy; after it’s pulled from the oven immediately drench it with cooled sugar syrup, top with chopped nuts, and let the syrup soak in for 1-2 hours. When the baklava completely cools to room temperature, serve it with Turkish tea or thick Turkish coffee.
By the way, many Turks no longer spend time making baklava at home; it’s easily purchased at a sweet shop (pastanesi) or – in larger cities – at stores exclusively selling baklava.
- Handcrafted Private Journeys: MIR travelers often book several days in Istanbul at the beginning or end of their journeys, offering them the opportunity to deeply explore not only the historical and archaeological significance of Turkey, but the country’s culinary history as well.
- In major cities you can find cooking classes in Turkish cuisine, including how to make baklava. MIR experts can easily create a handcrafted, private journey focusing on your own favorite Turkish destinations, interests, and timeline – like baklava tasting!
- And remember: Gaziantep offers what’s considered the best pistachio baklava in the world – a “must-taste” on any traveler’s agenda.
- Travel to Turkey: Explore Istanbul and the Rest of Turkey: A brief overview of this country at the crossroads of East and West – in politics, religions, and in geography.
- Travel to Turkey: 6 Favorite Highlights in Istanbul: There’s so much to see and do in this city built on hills offering water views, from visiting the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, riding a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait, and of course enjoying delicious Turkish cuisine.
- Travel to Turkey: 6 Scenic Reasons to Visit Captivating Cappadocia: This moonscape of strangely shaped rock formations – dubbed “fairy chimneys” – is also one of the best places on the planet for hot-air balloon rides.
- Travel to Turkey: 6 Must-See Historic Highlights in Eastern Turkey: This eastern Anatolian area is Turkey at its most authentic: down-home hospitality; farmers, villages, and mountain towns; and ancient archeological sites from Nemrut Dağ to Kars.
- Travel to Turkey: 5 Favorite Western Turkey Highlights, From Ancient Ruins to the Aegean Coast: This is Turkey’s old soul, steeped in wars, history, and legends. All three are abundant, with civilizations traced back 4,000 years, and with more ancient ruins here than anywhere else in Turkey.
- Travel to Turkey: 5 Highlights in Southern Turkey, From Ankara to the Mediterranean Coast: It’s all about variety: Ankara’s mammoth Atatürk Mausoleum, Konya’s “Whirling Dervishes,” and laid-back fishing villages along the Mediterranean Coast.
(Top photo: One of many regional variations of delicious Turkish baklava. Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism)
PUBLISHED: February 26, 2015