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Baklava

Baklava is a dessert made from filo dough layered with melted butter, chopped nuts, cinnamon, and sugar which is then baked before being soaked in a honey syrup. Up to the 19th century, baklava was considered to be a luxury where it was only served during weddings and special occasions. Today, baklava can be purchased almost anywhere with the advent of modern production methods and the availability of raw materials.

Baklava Trivia

  • Filo or phyllo dough is named after the Greek word meaning leaf since the pastry dough was as thin as a leaf.
  • There is a national baklava day, and it’s on November 17th.
  • In Greece, baklava is made with 33 layers of filo dough, which is supposed to represent the number of years in Christ’s life.
  • The baklava served as the inspiration for the strudel when Turkish invaders brought it to Hungary in the 16th

Baklava Buying Guide

While baklava is a very traditional dessert, a lot of producers who display on store shelves will use preservatives to extend the shelf life of the product. Not only that, instead of natural sugar syrup and honey, a lot of commercial baklava makers also use high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings to improve the flavor and cut down on costs. On top of those, artificial colorings are added to maintain the product’s color during the long storage periods.

Always check the labels of baklava to see if there are ingredients there that you wouldn’t usually use in your own kitchen.

The supermarket is no place to purchase baklava. If you want to get authentic baklava then you should check out farmers’ markets and local bakeries, you should be able to find a couple of producers that create specialty baklava without all of the additives that you see on store shelves.

Baklava Production & Farming in Texas

Baklava is traditionally made with walnuts, almonds, or pistachio nuts. In Texas, baklava has taken a local twist. Instead of the traditional nuts, Texas baklava uses locally grown pecans. Not only does this give a yummy twist to the dessert, but it also supports the local economy by adding value to the local crop.

Texas-style baklava is likened to that of the traditional pecan pie, but instead of a pie that is gooey and doughy, the baklava is light and buttery with the signature crispy crunch of pecans. Aside from gaining a local twist, Texas’ European and Mediterranean migrant roots have also allowed this dish to become locally accepted, meaning you can find good baklava in any farmers’ market.

Preservatives and Additives:

We’ve gone across some commercially available baklava that’s on display on supermarket shelves and we’ve compiled a list of all the ingredients that aren’t typically used in a traditional baklava preparation.

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup – This is the most common sweetener used and this has been linked to a lot of serious health issues like heart disease and obesity.
  • Caramel Color – We don’t really know why it’s called caramel color when it doesn’t really look like caramel. This coloring contains a potentially carcinogenic chemical called 4-Mel or 4-methylimidazole.
  • Modified Food Starch – Modified food starch is accepted as safe and has no impact on the nutritional value of food, this is added to improve the texture and stabilize the starches in the product.
  • Calcium Propionate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Propionate – These are preservatives that are added to extend the shelf life of the baklava. These are generally regarded as safe but may increase the levels of sodium in your diet.
  • Dextrose – Dextrose is another sweetener in the form of liquid sugar. This is absorbed faster than regular sugar.
  • Maltodextrin – This is added to improve the mouthfeel of the product while lowering the fat content. This is generally regarded as safe, but if we wanted a rich luxurious mouthfeel to our baklava, then we would prefer it to come from natural butter.
  • Vanilla (artificial flavor) / Imitation vanilla extract – To keep costs down, imitation vanilla extract is used. This is something we don’t get, commercial baklava is still marketed as a “premium” product yet it uses the cheapest available ingredients, even using artificial ingredients to cut on costs.
  • Natural Butter Flavor – The same case with other artificial flavors used, instead of using actual butter, butter flavor is used in tandem with maltodextrin to give it that rich and luxurious mouthfeel.

Packaging:

Commercial baklava is usually packed on a tray which is sealed in a plastic bag, before being packed in an elegant looking cardboard box, which is then sealed again with a thin plastic cover.

For small-batch baklava or from specialty bakeries, a small cardboard box is usually the packaging of choice.

Enjoying Baklava

Baklava is very rich and indulgent, so one or two slices is more than enough to take care of any sweet cravings.

Storage:

For commercially bought baklava, refer to packaging for storage instructions.

For home-made or baklava that is made by specialty shops that don’t use any preservatives, baklava can be stored for up to two weeks at room temperature or in the fridge as long as it is inside an airtight container.

Cooking:

Baklava may seem like a complicated dish to make but… well, it is complicated but doable. Here’s how you can make your Texas-style baklava.

Ingredients

Three-fourths cup sugar or honey
one cup of water
one half lemon
one orange slice
one cinnamon stick
one pound package filo dough (you can make your own, but it’s too time-consuming)
one and three fourth cup finely chopped pecan nuts
two and a half tablespoons sugar
one and a teaspoons ground cinnamon
one eighth teaspoon ground cloves
one pound unsalted butter, melted

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 2:

Combine the sugar/honey, water, lemon, cinnamon stick, and orange and simmer for fifteen minutes. The final consistency should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the mixture and set aside to cool.

Step 3:

Prepare the filling by combining pecan nuts, 2 ½ tablespoons of sugar, cloves, and ground cinnamon.

Step 4:

Assemble the baklava on a baking sheet that has a 1-inch lip on it. The pan should be at least 11”x17”. Brush the pan with melted butter and place the first layer of filo dough. Brush the dough with the melted butter and top with another sheet of filo dough and repeat until you’ve gone through half of the available dough. Spread the filling and then continue laying one piece of dough and brushing melted butter in between until you use up all of the available dough.

Step 5:

Once the assembly is complete, cut into squares or diamonds about 1 ½ inch apart.

Step 6:

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 350 F. After that, raise the temperature to 475 F and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the syrup mixture over the baklava.

Step 7:

Recut along the cuts you’ve made earlier.

Step 8:

Serve and Enjoy!

Nutrition

DV%

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 306
  • Carbs: 29g 10%
  • Sugar: 16g
  • Fiber: 1.8g 7%
  • Protein: 5.5g
  • Fat: 20g 31%
  • Saturated Fat: 7.1g 36%
  • Trans Fat 0.3g 0%
  • Cholesterol 21mg 7%
  • Sodium 213mg 9%
  • Vitamin C 0.2%
  • Vitamin A 5%
  • Calcium 2.3%
  • Iron 6.6%
  • Potassium 146mg 4%
  • Vitamin B12 1%
  • Vitamin B6 2.9%
  • Vitamin E 2.2%

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