For a week before Naw-Ruz, customers line up at confectionery stores to buy sweets and mixed nuts for Naw-Ruz tables. Customers walk out of the stores with stacked boxes and plenty of supplies for the twelve days of Naw-Ruz celebration visits.
Baklava (said and pronounced baghlava /baqlava in Farsi), is “Queen” of the sweets, star of festive tables, one item no one passes when offered and served, especially on Naw-Ruz!
In case you were a hermit, baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made with layers of filo (traditionally with homemade dough) filled with chopped/ground nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and those of the western part of the Middle East. In Iran, baklava is cut and presented in smaller diamond/lozenge-shaped cuts (the smaller the more elegant) flavored with rosewater syrup. The cities of Yazd and Qazvin are especially famous for their baklava, which is widely distributed in Iran. The most decadent baklavas in Iran are special order and use only pistachios. However, due to cost, almonds are more common; nonetheless, pistachios are always used for garnishing. Ground almonds (or pistachios) are mixed with sugar and spiced with cardamom, sandwiched in dough sheets, baked, and finished with rosewater scented syrup.
This was my first attempt to make baklava. To make sure I got it right, I read a few recipes in cookbooks and on the web and watched a few videos on Youtube. However, what most helpful was…
Almost three decades ago when I was visiting my cousin, her friend came over to teach her how to make baklava. I watched her due diligence while buttering each filo sheet. I did not pay attention to the ingredients’ ratio. I called my cousin for the recipe… bad news: my cousin had lost her notes… good news: my cousin gave me a new recipe, which is posted next!