5638 cahuenga blvd
north hollywood, ca 91601
baklava, that sweet flaky pastry made from layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, spices, and drenched in honey, has always confused me a little. which cuisine does it belong to, where did it come from, and why does it make people (particularly women) crazy?
Without getting into the sexy details of baklava's long history, let's just suffice it to say that there is a reason why the pastry made it to the top of the favorites list of turkish sultans with their very large harems. walnuts and honey, two major ingredients in baklava, are aphrodisiacs! and spices weren't just mixed in with the nuts for flavor, they were carefully added to boost the aphrodisiac-ness of baklava. supposedly cinnamon does it for the women, cardamom for the guys, and cloves for everyone! someone give me a chai tea with that baklava!
a tray of gorgeous phyllo pastries from nobel bakery in north hollywood turned the office into a veritable asylum today, though no one was quite stripping down in their cubicles. there were two kinds of triangular baklava, one made with walnuts, and the other made with pistachios. the other two kinds of pastries didn't have any kind of nut filling, just sprinkled with crushed pistachios, so i'm not sure that they are tehcnically considered baklava. everything was drenched in sweet syrup, though it didn't taste like honey. one non-nut-filled pastry was rolled like a little phyllo taquito, and the other was shaped like baby beggar's purses (with nothing inside). all were the perfect balance of flaky, crispy, crunchy and sticky; and yes, i did have one of each. i've only ever had pistachios in baklava, so the walnuts were a first for me, and i prefer the former.
So just for the sake of the little nerd inside me, a little research clears some of the confusion about baklava appearing in greek, armenian, turkish, and persian cuisines. way back in the day of what i think would be called the fertile crescent (how's that for 10th grade western civ?) the assyrians baked baklava's original ancestors, thin layers of bread filled with chopped nuts. greek sailors swiped the recipe, took it back to their homeland and re-interpreted baklava. they changed the pastry from bread to the thin, leaf-like layers we are accustomed to, the phyllo, which means "leaf" in greek. from 300 b.c. on, with all the trade and travel, baklava made its way across borders to other cultures. the armenians added cinnamon and cloves, and the persians added rose water and cardamom. and the rest, they say, is culinary history.