What is notable is that every country in the Middle East region has a baklava for which it is known, and countries fight over who invented it. Baklava is a rich dessert popular around the holidays, traditionally made with buttered fillo dough, which is layered with nuts and glazed with a sweet syrup.
But how baklava is prepared, what kind of nuts, fillings and spices, which type of syrup, and how much to apply (and even the shape the pastry is cut) says a lot about one’s ethnic heritage. Assorted Baklava from Kontos Foods, which provides hand-stretched artisan flatbreads and traditional Mediterranean food, allows you to offer customers a cross-cultural plate of pastries.
Each package comes with pieces of pastries including classic baklava, Mediterranean nut rolls, bird’s nest pastries — all made with Kontos Foods’ signature fillo and kataifi doughs. The classic baklava comes with chopped walnuts and almonds, then glazed with rosewater and honey syrup. Nut rolls come with walnuts, almonds, and spices baked in buttered layers of fillo, topped with a honey syrup; then drizzled with chocolate and some slivered almonds. The bird’s nest pastries are also made with almonds and walnuts, and then topped with crumbled pistachios.
Here’s a regional guide:
Greece: Legend has it that baklava is made with 33 layers of fillo, referring to the years of Jesus Christ’s life, or 40 layers for the days of Lent. Flavorings range from cinnamon and cloves, and baklava filling is walnuts or almonds, or sesame and poppy seeds, depending which region of Greece you hail from. Overall, the dessert is classified as “extra-syrupy” to describe how it is made, and how much cold syrup is poured over the freshly baked buttered fillo.
Armenia & Azerbaijan: (‘pakhlava’ and ‘paklava’) are made with walnuts or almonds and contain cinnamon and cloves. In Azerbaijan, it is cut into a rhombus shape, and is served during Nowruz, a secular spring holiday.
Eastern Turkey: Baklava is traditionally made by filling between Ghee-brushed layers of dough with walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios. It usually doesn’t have the honey or spices like cinnamon or cloves of other baklavas, and is topped with a sweetened rose water.
Egypt: Buttered layers are filled with cashews.
South-Central Asia: Cardamom, and in some regions, orange water are used to flavor the sweet syrup.
Israel: Baklava is made with oil, rather than butter, and they use cashews or almonds for their Kosher Pareve dessert.