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Baklava (pron.: /ˈbɑːkləvɑː/, /bɑːkləˈvɑː/,[1] or /bəˈklɑːvə/;[2] also Baklawa) is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and those of Central and Southwest Asia.


The word baklava is first attested in English in 1650,[3] a borrowing from Ottoman Turkish باقلوا /bɑːklɑvɑː/.[4][5] The name baklava is used in many languages with minor phonetic and spelling variations.

The origin of the name is unclear. Buell argues that the word "baklava" may come from the Mongolian root baγla- 'to tie, wrap up, pile up' composed with the Turkic verbal ending -v;[6] baγla- itself in Mongolian is a Turkic loanword.[7] The Armenian-Turkish linguist Sevan Nişanyan considers its oldest known forms (pre-1500) to be baklağı and baklağu, and labels it as being of Proto-Turkic origin, but without further documentation.[8]

Though the suffix -vā might suggest a Persian origin,[9][10] the baqla- part does not appear to be Persian.[11] Another form of the word is also recorded in Persian, باقلبا (bāqlabā).[12] The Arabic name is doubtless a borrowing from Turkish,[13] though a folk etymology, unsupported by Wehr's dictionary, connects it to Arabic بقلة /baqlah/ 'bean'.
Baklava in Aleppo, Syria
Pakhlava in Ganja, Azerbaijan
Baklava in Jerusalem

The history of baklava is not well documented. It has been claimed by many ethnic groups, but there is strong evidence that its current form was developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace based on a Central Asian Turkic tradition of layered breads.[14]

Many Ottoman sweets are similar to Byzantine sweets, using dough, sesame, wheat, nuts and fruits, and some were similar to the Ottoman börek, halva, and so on. There are some similarities between baklava and the Ancient Greek gastris (γάστρις),[15] kopte sesamis (κοπτὴ σησαμίς), kopton (κοπτόν), or koptoplakous (κοπτοπλακοῦς).[16] Gastris is mentioned in the Deipnosophistae[17] and Speros Vryonis called it a "Byzantine favorite".[18] But though gastris contained a filling of nuts and honey, its outer layers did not include any dough, but rather a honey and ground sesame mixture similar to modern pasteli or halva.[19]

On the other hand, there is some evidence that layered breads were created by Turkic peoples in Central Asia; the "missing link" between the Central Asian folded or layered breads (which did not include nuts) and modern phyllo-based pastries like baklava would be the Azerbaijani dish Bakı pakhlavası, which involves layers of dough and nuts. The Uzbek pakhlava, puskal or yupka, and Tatar yoka, sweet and salty savories (boreks) prepared with 10-12 layers of dough, are other early examples of layered dough style in Turkic regions.[13] The thin phyllo dough as used today was probably developed in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace.

The Sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı.[20]

Other claims about baklava's origins include: that it dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and was mentioned in a Mesopotamian cookbook on walnut dishes; that al-Baghdadi describes something similar to it in his 13th-century cookbook; that it was a popular Byzantine dessert.[21] Claudia Roden[22] finds no evidence for it in medieval Persian or Arab sources and suggests it arrived in the region during the Ottoman period.

One of the oldest known recipes for a sort of proto-baklava is found in a Chinese cookbook written in 1330 under the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty under the name güllach.[6] "Güllaç" is found in Turkish cuisine. Layers of phyllo dough are put one by one in warmed up milk with sugar. It is served with walnut and fresh pomegranate and generally eaten during Ramadan.
A typical baklava, sweetened with syrup
Baklava served with kaymak and pistachios, typical of Turkey

Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo dough, separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, but hazelnuts are also sometimes used—is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. Most recipes have multiple layers of phyllo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry.

Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelograms (lozenge-shaped), triangles, or rectangles.

A syrup, which may include honey, rosewater, or orange flower water is poured over the cooked baklava and allowed to soak in.

Baklava is usually served at room temperature, often garnished with ground nuts.
Regional variations

In Afghanistan and Cyprus, baklava is prepared into triangle-shaped pieces and is lightly covered in crushed pistachio nuts.

In Armenia, baklava is made with cinnamon and cloves.[23]

In Azerbaijan, bakhlava is mostly prepared during the Nowruz festivity. After preparation the pakhlava is cut into diamond shapes and each piece is garnished with an almond or a walnut.

In the Balkans, it is one of the most popular desserts; though, it is also a dessert made on special occasions (by Muslims, mostly during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr) and by Christians during Pascha and Christmas. In Albania, baklava is a very popular dessert. The dough may include egg yolks,[dubious – discuss] and the filling uses walnuts.

In Greece, baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life.[24]

In Iran, a drier version of baklava is cooked and presented in smaller diamond-shaped cuts flavored with rose water. The cities of Yazd and Qazvin are famous for their baklava, which is widely distributed in Iran.[25] Persian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds and pistachios spiced with cardamom and a rose water-scented syrup and is lighter than Middle Eastern versions.[9][26]

In Syria, baklava is prepared from phyllo dough sheets, butter, walnuts and sugar syrup. It is cut into lozenge pieces.[27]

Baklava from Aleppo is made with the local pistachios and samna from Hama.

In Turkey, baklava traditionally is made by filling between the layers of dough with pistachios, walnuts, almonds (parts of the Aegean Region) or a special preparation called "kaymak" (not to confuse with kaymak). In the Black Sea Region hazelnuts are commonly used as a filling for baklava.[28]

The city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey is famous for its pistachio baklava and regarded there as its native city, though it only appears to have been introduced to Gaziantep from Damascus in 1871.[29] In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication for Antep Baklava.[30]

In many parts of Turkey, baklava is often topped with kaymak or, in the summer, ice cream (milk cream flavour, called "kaymaklı dondurma").

A plate with one piece of baklava.

1 lb. Phyllo dough.
4 to 5 cups walnuts, chopped coarsely.
½ cup sugar.
¼ tsp. ground cloves.
1 tsp. cinnamon.
¾ lb. sweet butter.


2 ½ cups of water.
3 cups sugar.
3 tsp. lemon juice.
1 tsp. vanilla extract.


Combine nuts, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar. Melt butter in a saucepan.
Use a pastry brush to brush inside of a 14 X 10 ½ inch pan with melted butter.
Line bottom of pan with one piece of Phyllo dough. Fold under excess Phyllo.
Alternate sides with each piece of Phyllo, brushing the top of each layer with melted butter.
Repeat five (5) times, making five layers.
On the 6th sheet, sprinkle evenly with nut mixture.
Continue until all nut mixture is used and last six (6) buttered sheets of Phyllo form top crust.
Use a sharp knife to cut into diamond shapes.
Bake at 300 °F (150 °C) for about 1 ½ hours or until lightly brown.


Combine syrup ingredients. Boil syrup for about 10 minutes and then allow to cool.
Pour cooled syrup over hot pastry. Enjoy!


^ "Merriam-Webster". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
^ "Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition
^ "Merriam-Webster Online, ''s.v.'' Baklava". M-w.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
^ "Dictionary.com Unabridged, ''s.v.'' Baklava". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
^ a b Paul D. Buell, "Mongol Empire and Turkicization: The Evidence of Food and Foodways", p. 200ff, in Amitai-Preiss, 1999.
^ Sukhbaatar, O. (1997) (in Mongolian) (PDF). A Dictionary of Foreign Words in Mongolian. Ulaanbaatar. p. 25. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
^ Nişanyan, Sevan (2009) (in Turkish). Sözlerin Soyağacı - Çağdaş Türkçenin Etimolojik Sözlüğü [Words' Family Tree - An Etymological Dictionary of Contemporary Turkish]. İstanbul. http://nisanyansozluk.com/?k=baklava. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
^ a b Batmanglij, Najmieh, A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cooking, I.B.Tauris, 2007, ISBN 1-84511-437-X, 9781845114374; page 156.
^ Marks, Gil, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and Sons, 2010, ISBN 0-470-39130-8, ISBN 978-0-470-39130-3; page 38.
^ "a derivation from balg, a common dialect form of barg "leaf", or from Ar. baql "herb" is unlikely", W. Eilers, Encyclopædia Iranica, s.v. 'bāqlavā'
^ loghatnaameh.com. "Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary, باقلبا". Loghatnaameh.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
^ a b Akın and Lambraki, Turkish and Greek Cuisine/Türk ve Yunan Mutfağı p. 248-249, ISBN 975-458-484-2
^ Perry 1994, 87
^ γάστρις, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
^ κοπτός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
^ Deipnosophists 14:647, discussed by Charles Perry, "The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava", in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper), 1994. ISBN 1-86064-603-4. p. 88.
^ Speros Vryonis The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, 1971, p. 482
^ Charles Perry, "The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava", in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper), 1994. ISBN 1-86064-603-4.
^ Syed Tanvir Wasti, "The Ottoman Ceremony of the Royal Purse", Middle Eastern Studies 41:2:193–200 (March 2005)
^ John Ash, A Byzantine Journey, page 223
^ New Book of Middle Eastern Food, 2000, ISBN 0-375-40506-2
^ The flower of paradise and other Armenian tales by Bonnie C. Marshall, Virginia A. Tashjian, Libraries Unlimited, 2007, p. 179, ISBN 1-59158-367-5
^ Theodore Kyriakou and Charles Campion, The Real Greek at Home, London 2004
^ N. Ramazani, "BĀQLAVĀ", Encyclopaedia iranica, Volume 3, Issues 5-8, page 729.
^ Food and Booze: A Tin House Literary Feast, Michelle Wildgen, Nicole J. Georges, Tin House Books, 2007, ISBN 0-9773127-7-1, ISBN 978-0-9773127-7-1; page 200.
^ "Baklava recipe on Shahiya". Shahiya.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
^ http://www.wittistanbul.com/magazine/what-is-baklava-and-where-to-find-the-best-baklava-in-istanbul
^ Esther Brunner, "A sweet journey: Güllüoğlu baklava" Turkish Daily News, June 14, 2008.full text
^ "Bsanna News, February 21, 2008". Bsanna-news.ukrinform.ua. 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2012-04-22.


Reuven Amitai-Preiss and David O. Morgan, eds., The Mongol Empire and Its Legacy Brill, 1999. ISBN 90-04-11946-9.
Paul D. Buell, "Mongol Empire and Turkicization: The Evidence of Food and Foodways", p. 200ff, in Amitai-Preiss, 1999.
Christian, David. Review of Amitai-Preiss, 1999, in Journal of World History 12:2:476 (2001).
Perry, Charles. "The Taste for Layered Bread among the Nomadic Turks and the Central Asian Origins of Baklava", in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. Sami Zubaida, Richard Tapper), 1994. ISBN 1-86064-603-4.
Roden Claudia, "A New Book of Middle Eastern Food" ISBN 01-404658-8
Vryonis, Speros, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor, 1971. Quoted in Perry (1994).
Wasti, Syed Tanvir, "The Ottoman Ceremony of the Royal Purse", Middle Eastern Studies 41:2:193–200 (March 2005)

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