Baklava is found throughout the Mediterranean region. Like every country that makes baklava, Cypriot bakers claim that it originated with them. There is not a lot of documentation on the history of baklava, but historians believe that it probably originated in Assyria.
Baklava is associated mainly with Greek and Turkish cuisine; as Cypriot cuisine is heavily influenced by those two food cultures, it is reasonable that baklava is a staple in Cyprus as well.
The Greeks refined the Assyrian recipe by rolling the dough as thin as a leaf. In fact, the phyllo in phyllo dough actually means leaf. The baklava made in Cyprus is essentially the same as Greek baklava.
For a long time, baklava was considered the food of the rich, mainly because of the amount of labor required to make it. Even for the rich, it was made only on special occasions. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that it became available to everyone.
Baklava consists of layered sheets of filo dough and chopped nuts; the assembled pastry is drenched with syrup or honey.
- 1 pound (4 cups) blanched almonds or walnuts or a combination of both, finely chopped
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pound filo pastry
- 3 sticks (3/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted, for brushing filo
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- A 2-inch strip of lemon rind
- 3/4 cup honey
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Combine nuts, sugar, and cinnamon.
Keeping unused sheets covered with plastic wrap, place 8 sheets of filo pastry, one at a time, in the bottom of an 8 x 14 x 2-inch non-stick pan, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
Sprinkle top sheet generously with 1/4 cup nut mixture and cover with 2 buttered filo sheets. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup nut mixture.
Continue adding buttered filo sheets, sprinkling every second sheet with nut mixture, until all nut mixture is used. Place remaining filo sheets on top, buttering each sheet.
Cut Baklava into small diamond-shaped pieces with a sharp knife. Place a pan of water on the lowest shelf in oven. Place Baklava on the middle shelf above the water and bake for 2 to 2 and half hours, or until golden, making sure that the water pan is always full.
While Baklava is in the oven, prepare the syrup:
Combine in a saucepan water with all ingredients except the honey. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add honey, and simmer 5 minutes more. Remove lemon peel and cool.
Remove Baklava from oven and pour cool syrup over the hot pastry.
Makes 30 to 36 pieces.