The holiday season is upon us and sweets are everywhere. Whether it’s cookies, cupcakes or candy, everyone enjoys indulging his or her sweet tooth. This season, celebrate the past and stand out from the crowd with a delicious ancient recipe.
Baklava is a popular dish originally made in the former Ottoman Empire that can also be found in Central and Southwest Asia. While you may have enjoyed a slice of this sweet, rich pastry in a local Greek or Turkish restaurant, you probably haven’t tasted baklava made the ancient Greek way. This recipe is a version of baklava called gastrin, or γάστριν in Greek. It contains the mix of ingredients that distinguishes its layered flavor.
You may be interested to know that baklava in many cultures has not been a dessert, but rather a special treat reserved for occasions such as weddings and religious holidays. Through the centuries Christians have served baklava at Christmas and Easter, Muslims during Ramadan and Jews as a Rosh Hashannah and Purim treat. It is a delectable celebratory tradition around the world.
So surprise and impress your friends this season with a sweet treat that has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Bon appetite!
*This recipe has been adapted from Gastrin: Ancient Version of Baklava
For the dough:
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 1/2 ounces of toasted sesame seeds (a little over 2/3 cup), ground
For the filling:
- 2/3 pounds of chopped hazelnuts, unsalted
- 2/3 pounds of chopped almonds, unsalted
- 2/3 pounds of chopped walnuts
- 1/5 pound of sesame seeds
- 1/5 pound of poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup of honey
For the syrup:
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of petimezi *
- 3/4 cup of honey
* Petimezi: a syrup made from grapes (recipe).
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Combine the dough ingredients and knead to form the dough.
- Roll out into 3 equal-sized sheets about 1/8 inch thick, large enough to cover a medium baking pan.
- Combine all filling ingredients.
- Place one sheet of dough in the bottom of a lightly oiled baking pan.
- Cover with half the filling. Add the second sheet of dough and the remaining filling.
- Place the third sheet of dough on top.
- Cut into squares and then diagonally to form triangles. Sprinkle with a little water and sesame seeds.
- Bake on the rack just below the middle of the oven at 350°F (180°C) for about 30 minutes.
- When the pastry is cool, combine all syrup ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes
- Pour the hot syrup over the cooled pastry and let sit until syrup is absorbed (about 3-4 hours)