learning historical origins baklava

Learning About the Historical Origins of Baklava, Part 2

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the ancient historical roots present in the origination of baklava. This wonderful dessert, one that was once reserved primarily for royalty and other members of the ruling class, has lasted through centuries and now is a modern delicacy found around the globe.

At Street Sweets, baklava is just one of many wonderful items we offer at our pastry shop in Sterling Heights, from which you can also order online. In today’s blog, we’ll go over the origins of the name “baklava,” plus the modern iterations of the dessert found all over the globe – including in the US.

Name Origins

How did baklava get its name? Well, the answer is actually in dispute and may depend on who you ask. One thing most agree on: The word entered the English language for common use around the year 1650, coming from Ottoman Turkish initially.

If you ask Turkish experts, they’ll claim the word comes from a Turkish background. Others, however, might tell you that “baklava” actually comes from a Mongolian root word “bayla,” which means “to tie” or “to wrap up.” But even this word is technically loaned from Turkish, and the suffix even suggests Persian origins as well.

So really, there is no single answer here. Multiple cultures may claim responsibility for the name, even including Armenians.

Modern Baklava Around the World

Baklava today is wildly popular around the world, with roots in numerous countries:

  • Afghanistan: Often served in triangle shapes and covered with pistachio nuts
  • Armenia: Made with cloves and cinnamon
  • Azerbaijan: Often called paklava, mostly prepared during the Nowruz festival
  • Albania: An extremely popular dessert with a walnut filling often used
  • Balkans: A dessert for special occasions
  • Bulgaria: Usually made with walnuts and honey syrup, but also sometimes with pistachio
  • Greece: Meant to be made with 33 dough layers to reference the years of Christ’s life
  • Iran: A dry version is often cooked and cut into diamond shapes
  • Israel: Made using phyllo pastry sheets
  • Jordan: Made of dough layers filled with varying ingredients
  • Lebanon: Also using dough sheets filled with nuts
  • Syria: Cut into lozenge pieces in most cases
  • Turkey: Made by filling between layers with various nut formats

Baklava in the USA

As migrants from several cultures came to the United States in recent centuries, they brought various baklava recipes with them. What began as preparation only on special occasions quickly turned into regular production as migrants found baklava ingredients readily available for cheap prices in America. Today, you can find baklava throughout Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants and stores all over the country.

For more on the historical roots of baklava, or to learn about any of our café and bakery services, speak to the staff at Street Sweets today.