So many months ago, when I was planning this baking expedition through Europe, when I came to Turkey to decide what I should make for this country, I immediately thought “Baklava.” I just sort of assumed baklava was a Turkish thing. I knew baklava was common in many of these kind of south-eastern European countries, but I thought it originated in Turkey. But as I have recently learned, there are probably many Grecians who would be outraged by that assumption! As I heard from a Greek coworker, there is some dispute over who first came up with baklava, and I have decided to not pick a side, and instead, just eat baklava regardless of it’s origin. No discrimination here.
In my research of a recipe, I did however discover that Greek and Turkish baklava are made a bit differently (not sure if that’s common knowledge or not, but I only had baklava for the first time quite recently okay, I’m a baklava novice here). I think in general, the assembly and execution are more or less the same, but Greek baklava is sweetened with honey and are typically cut into diamonds or wedges. Whereas Turkish baklava is sweetened with a sugar syrup, and are cut into squares. But then, there are also many varieties of baklava in both places, coming in a wide variety of fillings, shapes, and sizes. I just stuck with a pretty basic recipe.
I’m not sure what the most common filling is for Turkish baklava, (I think walnut is pretty common) but I very adamantly decided to go with pistachios, because 1. I had some on hand, and 2. PISTACHIOS ARE AMAZING. And they’re green. Who doesn’t love colorful food?? Also, while I did have some pistachios on hand, I didn’t have quite enough, and when I went to the store, they were having a half off sale on bags of pistachios (and those things aren’t cheap!), so really, it was a sign that I made the right decision.
I spent a good amount of time shelling pistachios. I watched most of an old Disney Channel movie (for nostalgia) in the time it took me to shell all the nuts! I used a food processor to ground them all up. While the baklava was baking, I shelled and ground up some more pistachios, because I forgot to save some for the top, so I ended up using a bit more than the recipe called for. Oh darn. Extra pistachios.
So aside from the sugar syrup, and pistachios to make this treat delicious, there’s one more key ingredient in baklava that does not make it healthy, but does make it wonderful: Butter. This baklava is sooo butteryyyyy its the bessstttt. But it had to be clarified butter. I thought “Oh awesome, I have some ghee in the cupboard!” Nope. Don’t use ghee. Ghee is made a little differently, and has a bit of a different flavor. Best make your own. I did, and it was easy. What is clarified butter, you ask? It’s butter without all the milk solids. You gotta melt it down til it separates, as butter does when melted, then scoop off the opaque solidy stuff floating on the top, and what you have left, is clarified butter. It’s kinda like butter oil. And you can use it as oil too! If you’re not sure how to clarify butter, here’s a nice lil tutorial!
The recipe I followed calls for the use of a 14″x18″ pan, and lists ingredient amounts to fill a batch of baklava that size. I had zero need for that much baklava, so I halved the recipe and used a 9″x13″ cake pan. My package of filo dough had 18 sheets in it, about 13×17″ I think, so I just cut them straight in half, and made myself 36 sheets that were the right size! And that still gave me plenty of baklava. I ate some, my roommates ate some, and I took a bunch to work, and I still have some left over! So anyway, I halved most of the ingredients, except for the butter. I forgot to half the butter, but somehow I managed to still use it all up, and still need a little bit more. I think I was being a little too generous with the butter between the layers??? Oh well. It was good. #NoRegrets!
And now for some Turkish current events! (7/8/17) I looked up some Turkish news sites, and other headlines about Turkey, and everything was about war and terrorism and politics…and as important as that all is, I’m trying to keep at least a semi-positive view of the world (which I find hard to do sometimes) so I dug deeper to find news that’s a little more chipper!
-The Sultanhamet, also known as the Blue Mosque, is one of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul, and is about to go under an extensive restoration process. It is expected to take about four years to complete, and will operate off the the money brought in by tourists. The mosque was built in the early 1600’s, and will get everything from a good cleaning, to a strip down of it’s wooden surfaces, to strengthening of the interior stone and marble structures. Given the age of this architectural masterpiece, and the fact that the last restoration took place about 30 years ago, it’s due for a beauty treatment! But don’t worry, if you’re planning on visiting Istanbul anytime in the next four years, the mosque will remain open throughout the restoration process! Source
-Now here’s a thing I wish I could got to Turkey for! Uludağ AstroFest 2017! This is basically a big ol’ festival, happening in Bursa and Antalya dealing with everything astronomy related, happening later this month over the 28-30th. There are going to be a number of astro-scientists, other cool scientists, people who know a lot about space, people who work for NASA and JAXA, and other spacey things, who will be giving talks. There will be workshops on how to build a sundail, there will be workshops for kids, that may include 3D printing a rocket, AND (the part I wish I could go to!) there will be eight professional astronomy level telescopes that will be open for use in viewing the heavens, along side experts on space and our solar system. CAN I GO PLZ?!? Source
-So recently, Turkey’s president seems to be getting a little out of hand and power hungry (this is from my foreigner perspective), and many Turkish citizens are very not okay with how he’s running things. He’s restricted political opponents, arresting journalists, activists, and about a dozen opposition members of parliament, and in April he won a vote to basically expand his own powers and revamp the political system. In recent weeks, he’s ordered a crackdown that has caused a variety of political and non political people to be arrested. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, decided he’s had enough, and in protest to the president’s actions, he decided to walk from the nation’s capital, Ankara, to Istanbul, a 280 mile journey. And since the start, he has been joined by about 10,000 fellow protesters, marching for justice. As of the 7th, they still had about 30 miles to go. Read the full article about this here. Yeah, this is a political thing, but I included it because I like that people are coming out in large numbers to speak out against their government if they don’t like what’s going on. Let your voices be heard!!!
Recipe time! As always, highly encourage you to check out the original recipe HERE for some fun info on Turkish baklava and more extensive advice on making it!
**I’m posting with the ingredient amounts that I used. For more accurate measurements and stuff, check out the original post I linked**
Turkish Pistachio Baklava
For The Syrup:
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 T. lemon juice
For The Baklava:
- 36 leaves fresh or frozen packaged phyllo dough (about 9×13″)
- ½ pound/300 grams unsalted butter, clarified
- ½ pound/300 grams raw, hulled pistachio nuts, ground to a powder
- 2 tbsp. sugarMaterials:
- 9 x 13inch shallow metal baking pan
- pastry brush
- a pastry cutter or sharp knife
- Begin by making the syrup which you’ll pour over the hot baklava later on. Combine the water , sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer slowly uncovered while you prepare the rest of the baklava.
- The next important step is preparing your clarified butter. (Check out the link I included in the blog on how to clarify butter)
- Mix the ground pistachio nuts with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Brush the bottom of your baking pan with butter and sprinkle a few pinches of the ground pistachio nuts over the butter.
- Once you feel confident, take your first layer of phyllo and set it in place. Working quickly, brushes the entire piece of phyllo with the butter. Repeat in the same manner with 18 leaves of phyllo.
- Once you’ve buttered the 18th layer, (reserve maybe 1/4 cup of the pistachios) evenly sprinkle the ground pistachio mixture to make an even layer going all the way to the edges of the pan.
- Place another layer of phyllo over the nuts and butter it. Repeat until you finish the last layer. If you have extra butter left, set it aside.
- Using a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, gently cut the baklava into even squares or diamond shapes. If you’re using a round pan, you can cut it into large, narrow slivers, if you wish.
- Drizzle the leftover butter over the top. Place the pan in a preheated 395° F/200° C oven and set the timer for 45 minutes.
- Once the baklava is in the oven, remove the syrup from the heat and leave it to cool down.
- Bake the baklava until the layers puff up high and the top layers are golden, crispy and translucent. (I left mine for the full 45 minutes, but could probably done with a few minutes less.)
- When ready, remove the tray from the oven. While it’s still piping hot, immediately pour the cold syrup evenly over the baklava. Let it bubble up then settle. Generously sprinkle the reserved ground pistachios over the top. Leave your baklava to cool down to room temperature before serving.