For my European Cultural Experience this month I made Baklava. Baklava is a Baklan desert that is very sweet and gooey. It is layered with nuts and drenched in a sweet syrup, traditionally it is scented with orange or rose-flower water. The recipe that I went by called for walnuts, but many variations like fruits or coconut can be used for the filling. Originally, Baklava was made in Greece for Easter; it was layered with 40 layers of phyllo dough to represent the 40 days of lent. Baklava is claimed by almost every Balkan State as its own invention. Typically when people think of Baklava they think of Greek food, but the truth is that the Turkish invented it. This is this the case for several other dishes that are thought to be Greek. It dates back to the fifteenth century. The Greek usually pronounce Baklava with an accent on the "ah" in the middle.
Making this dessert usually requires two people so my mom helped me out last weekend in the kitchen. First I carefully removed two sheets of Phyllo dough, phyllo is a very tearable sheet of pastry. I placed them on the bottom of the pan and brushed it with melted butter, followed by a layer of a nuts, sugar and cinnamon. I repeated this step until all of the sheets of dough were used. After the baklava was cooked we poured the sugary syrup over it and waited for it to cool. Though it sounds very simple, and it is, handling the phyllo without messing it up is tough. Making this delicious dessert was quite a production but was definitely worth it in the end. Traditional Turkish and Greek foods are much better than anything that originated in America. I had fun learning how to finally cook one of my favorite desserts and I learned a lot of background on it as well.