I think that most of us who have tasted this exotic sweet nutty pastry can imagine it being served at the most opulent banquets hosted by the Sultans’. Although the origins of this sumptuous pastry dessert is said to predate the Ottoman Empire by about 400 – 500 years with its roots in Assyria.
Many countries of the Middle East and Mediterranean lay claim to the creation of this luxurious dessert. However, earliest Assyrian records spoke of thin layers of dough, filled with nuts and drenched in honey enjoyed by the wealthiest of the time. It was then thought to be taken to Athens by Greek sailors where their artisan bakers perfected rolling the dough in to thin sheets – phyllo (leaf) pastry. As early as the 3rd Century B.C. baklava was served in wealthy Greek households for all kinds of special occasions.
Neighbouring countries developed regional variations on the baklava. The Armenians added cloves and cinnamon, whereas the Arabs use cardamom and rosewater. By the 4th century AD Baklava had travelled through Persia and the Roman Empire reaching Byzantium/Constantinople.
During the 15th century with the Ottoman invasion of Constantinople and its expansion across Armenia and Assyrian territory the Turkish put their finest bakers and chefs to work on defining the baklava recipe which was served in the finest palaces and mansions across the region and mirror the baklava seen today.