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November 17: Happy National Baklava Day!

a plate of food and a cup of coffee

Baklava is the most common dessert across many Greek and Mediterranean communities. The earliest stages of Baklava were reported in Constantinople, now known as Istanbul. The modern-day baklava, and the variety of ways that it is consumed, has gone through numerous changes. The exact details of the history of baklava remain unknown, but we will dive into the influence that Greek cultures had on baklava. 


Greek merchants came across the delights of Baklava while traveling to Mesopotamia. So much so, that it encouraged them to bring the recipe back to Athens with them. The Greeks’ major contribution to the pastry is the creation of a dough technique that made it possible to roll it as thin as a leaf. The alternative would be the more rough, bread-like dough used in other regions. The name “Phyllo”, which is the name of the dough used for baklava, was coined by Greeks and means “leaf” in Greek. 


Origin of Baklava

The word Baklava entered the English language in the 1650s, and many claims that the root of the word originated in Turkey. Others debate that it may have originated from the Mongolian word meaning to tie or wrap. The word baklava itself is used in different variations, spellings, and pronunciations. 


The dessert and delicacy that we consume today were perfected during the Ottoman Empire after being brought to Constantinople. The kitchens throughout the Ottoman palace became a culinary hotspot for baklava recipes. Baklava grew from a simple pastry into a dessert to please the dignitaries and the rich people of these empires. Till the 19th century, baklava was seen as a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. It then grew into a dessert that people would bake for special occasions and family gatherings. The times have changed so much that now you can go to your local bakery or grocery store and stumble upon packed baklava. 


Baklava Influences From Around The World

Although the exact baklava origins remain vague, it is undeniable that baklava was impacted by the different migration patterns in the Middle East. The region has seen many of the world’s oldest civilizations come and go, with each of them modifying the baklava to match their personal and cultural preferences. 


More influences to the classic baklava recipe include the Armenian influence – when they integrated cinnamon and cloves into their baklava. Then Arab civilizations introduced the rose-water and orange blossom water. Lebanon is notably credited with contributing the most to baklava. Cooks and chefs who worked in the Ottoman palaces contributed greatly to the refinement of pastry-making. Due to the popularity of baklava among cooks and pastry chefs, pastry desserts became more accessible to the middle and lower classes towards the end of the 19th century. 


Try Our Baklava Crisps

At Saloniki Greek, we bring a unique twist to the traditional delicacy of Baklava. The Saloniki team wanted to go in a different direction than the traditional syrup-soaked dessert. Then came the Baklava Crisps, a flaky treat with layers of pistachio, walnut, and lemon. Visit us in Harvard, Fenway, or at our Central Square location today to try it out!