Greeks and Turks have been at each other’s throats for centuries over a variety of issues, but one feud that is rarely brought up concerns where baklava originated. This delicious treat’s history is, regrettably, not generally known and is rather contentious.
Many ethnic groups, including those from Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East, claim ownership to baklava and make it according to their respective traditions.
The “Baklava Conflict” has existed for millennia, but it only became a full-fledged conflict in 2006 when Greek Cypriots claimed ownership of baklava. The Turks consider it to be sacrilege!
Even Brussels heard about the issue from Turkey. The Turkish Gaziantep baklava eventually received the “protected status” honour from the EU in 2013, shattering the honeyed aspirations of Greeks everywhere. The first Turkish product to achieve the coveted title was the Gaziantep baklava, which is referred to as a “pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with semolina cream and Antep pistachio”.
The History of Baklava
Baklava’s history extends back to 8th century BC. People of the Assyrian Empire, which included portions of present-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey, piled unleavened flatbreads in layers for special occasions and placed chopped nuts in between. The filo was soaked in honey, and baked in prehistoric wood-burning ovens.
As the region’s history changed over the centuries, the contemporary baklava underwent a variety of changes The Ottoman Empire once encompassed the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, Caucasia, and the Turks, Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians, and Bulgarians of today who present the dessert as their national dessert.
It is said that Ancient Greek merchants and sailors who travelled to Mesopotamia quickly learned about the delights of baklava. They transported the recipe to Greece and made a few minor adjustments. In contrast to the Assyrian dough’s rough, bread-like feel, their significant contribution to the development of this pastry was the invention of a dough process that allowed them to roll the dough as thinly as a leaf (which means “filo” in Greek).
However, it’s others believe that the first form of baklava came from the Assyrian empire, around 800 BC, where layers of bread dough were stretched thinly and baked with chopped nuts and honey for special occasions.
Some historians continue to believe that the recipe for baklava originated in Ancient Greece, where people produced a treat called “gastrin” that is strikingly similar to modern baklava. Greek professor Speros Vryonis believes that the Byzantine era is when baklava first appeared. By drawing parallels between the Byzantine thesis and “kopton”, a traditional Greek dessert.
However, American journalist Charles Perry rejects this idea and claims that baklava is actually a mix of Persian fillings made from cooked, dried fruits (such as almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts) and Turkish flaky pastries from Central Asia.
Whatever the debates surrounding its historical origins, baklava is still a delightful traditional dessert comprised of layers of crisp, golden-brown phyllo, filled with chopped nuts, and topped with syrup. Simply sweet heaven!