Grabbing a long, thin wooden stick raised the amazement of security at Gaziantep Airport. On the plane to London, the flight attendants assumed one of us must be visually impaired until they decided it wasn’t a walking stick after all – just a standard broomstick, just over a meter long.
Had we asked, we would have made it clear that it wasn’t a broom stick, but a rolling pin for making thin sheets of filo paper for baklava.
We have spent days immersing ourselves in the culture of baklava in a city that has a good claim to being the baklava capital of the world. Gaziantep in Turkey is famous for its pistachio orchards and its streets are lined with baklava shops one after another. Homemade baklava, in a wonderful array of flavors and shapes. They don’t care about other nuts here – just pistachios.
We have tried to get into as many kitchens as possible to extract knowledge from BaklavaThe artisans who make this bijoux pastry with a long, thin stick, a flick of the wrist and clever fingers roll small balls of dough into huge, translucent sheets. . . They made it seem so easy that we were able to convince ourselves that all we needed was a little practice and the right stick.
This stick has been in our kitchen for over a year now. It was screwed in between the fridge and the wall, until our cleaner put it in the broom closet, where she lives today. The number of times it has been used is zero, and the file size made in this house is zero.
However, we still make delicious baklava from store-bought pastries. And we absorbed something in Gaziantep – the art of eating baklava right. Lift a piece with your finger and thumb – gently so you don’t crush the layers. Flip it with the crisp top facing down and the syrup-covered bottom facing up. Place it on your tongue and slowly let your mouth close, enjoying the feel, sound and sweetness as it melts in the mouth. It goes without saying that the art of eating baklava is much easier than making it, but what’s the harm in practicing it?
Baklava with pistachios and golden raisins
To make 7-inch round or rectangular baklava
To prepare sugar syrup
for stuffing pistachio
Put sugar, honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Peel, reduce heat, and cook for four minutes. Remove from the heat and add the orange blossom. Pour 150 ml of hot syrup over the golden raisins and set aside for 30 minutes.
Blend the pistachios until they are very coarse crumbs and set aside in a bowl. Add the spices to the raisins with all the liquid and blend until it becomes a rough paste. Mix with pistachio and set aside.
Spread melted butter all over the tray. Open the phyllo can and divide it in half. Spread butter between each layer of one stack and place on the bottom of the tin, folding to fit.
Pour the pistachio filling on top, followed by the second amount of filo, also greased with butter. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before using a small knife to cut the triangles to the bottom.
Bake in a hot oven at 200°C (fan assist) for 20 minutes. Rotate and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until golden. Pour the rest of the drink.
Baklava is best eaten warm or at room temperature. Sugar syrup will keep its moisture and flavor for a few days, so cover and keep any leftovers at room temperature.
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