Of all the delicious desserts and sweet confections available in Turkey, baklava has to be the favorite, so if you have a sweet tooth, you’re sure to fill your sweet cravings.
The most mouth watering baklava comes from the city of Gazientep, and this location is recognized worldwide with the miraculous culinary culture that UNESCO has registered.
In every Turkish pastry shop or supermarket you will find a huge range of different varieties of baklava made with hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios and more. This tasty treat also comes in many different shapes and sizes including squares, rolls, diamonds and spirals. One of the most popular baklavas is made with pistachios from Gazientep, and is a vivid green color.
Baklava has been made in Anatolia for many centuries. The earliest record of baklava, as we know it today, locates in Damascus. It spread from here to Gaziantep and onto the rest of Turkey.
By the 17th century baklava spread to Istanbul and towards the end of the century baklava was being made by the palace cooks as a special treat for the janissaries in Ramazan.
The janissaries would carry the large trays of baklava out of the palace in what was known as the ‘Baklava Procession’.
Baklava is made with very thin layers of Filo pastry filled with various chopped nuts, it’s brushed with butter and drenched in rich sweet syrup that’s made from sugar, water and lemon juice.
This syrup makes Turkish baklava much lighter and crispier than most Greek or Middle Eastern style varieties.
In Turkey, the sheets of pastry used are rolled out so thinly that when held up, the person standing the other side can be seen clearly, much like a net curtain.
In other countries, the filo pastry is not rolled out as thinly giving a much coarser texture.
If baklava is well-made it should be crisp with a cracking sound as you stab it with a fork. It should smell of fresh butter. It should be sweet, but if it burns your throat while swallowing, it means the sugar-dough proportion is not well balanced. If you experience heartburn after consumption, it means the ingredients were not of good quality.
Today, baklava is no longer a dessert just for the rich. It’s a gift for every kind of celebration, like a birth, a visit, wedding, funeral or a grand opening. Normally a delightful box of baklava accompanies all these celebrations, and more.
Even though people may not think about it today, baklava does have strong religious purposes. In Greece, baklava is made with thirty three layers of filo, with each one representing one year of the life of Christ.
There are so many types of baklava available to try in Turkey, so it’s a great excuse to eat more. Here’s a look at a few.
Fistikli Baklava- Pistachio
This is the most common and popular type in Turkey. This baklava tastes deeply and richly of pistachio nuts and butter. It doesn’t contain spices, honey or aromatics found in other versions. It has a purity of flavor that, while still sweet, is never cloying.
Kuru Baklava- Dry
Kuru translated means dry, so basically this baklava is made without the syrup water. Rather than being cooked in the watery syrup, it’s instead, covered with a much thicker syrup. It can be made with any nuts but pistachio is the favorite.
Cevizli Baklava- Walnut
Walnuts have a much bitterer flavor than pistachios so this baklava is less sweet. It is still doused in watery syrup, but the flavor is definitely nuttier.
Bul Bul Yuvasi- Circular
The name of this type of baklava translated means ‘Nightingales nest’, due to the way it looks, circular in shape with a hollow interior.
The hollow part is stuffed with pistachios or walnuts and is soaked in the sweet syrup. The consistency of this baklava is different in a firmer way.
Sutlu Nuriye- Milky
This is the lightest, and has a moist texture of all the baklava varieties. It is topped with milk rather than the syrup which gives this baklava a lighter feel. The name translated means ‘milky radience’, so definitely one to try.
Fistik Sarma- Rolled pistachios
These are rolled baklava and perhaps the most decadent of them all. It is made of pistachio and sugar and doesn’t contain layers of filo pastry.
It’s less sweet than other varieties but the rich pistachio flavor is unmatchable. This type is a must try when in Turkey.