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Baklava: Layers of Flavor
Baklava is a no-brainer dessert choice, though its origins aren’t as clear. Read on for a slice of background on the sweet treat.
What is baklava and where did it come from? The first question is far easier to answer than the second. Though many people associate the sticky, layered nut-and-phyllo-dough dessert with Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, historians have yet to agree about where baklava originated. Some point to Mesopotamia, while others show evidence it originated in the Byzantine or Ottoman Empires. No matter which culture first put its dozens of flaky layers together, one thing is clear, that the pastry was admired enough to rapidly spread across the world, even appearing in a Chinese recipe by the 14th century.
Baklava is now a part of many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, with each culture—and possibly each cook within that culture—boasting its own variation. To wit: one Greek version is made with olive oil instead of butter, to be eaten during Lent; some bakers prefer walnuts, while others prefer pistachios or almonds; and the spices can range from cinnamon or nutmeg to orange-blossom water and lemon. Baklava can also be cut in a variety of ways, from square and rhombus-shaped bars to rolls, spheres, and tiny little crumbs that you can pretend are granola.
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