New twists on Baklava will change the way you view this classic dessert
Bars are just the beginning. Creative bakers are introducing the world to a new wave of baklava-inspired treats, including sundaes, cookies and cocktails.
No matter how full I am, there are desserts I can always make room for. My mom’s snickerdoodle cookies (preferably fresh from the oven). A slice of cream cheese glazed carrot cake. A soft serve ice cream cone, especially in hot weather. And a slice of sweet, nutty baklava.
This last dessert has become one of my favorite ways to end a meal since I first tried them at a local Lebanese restaurant about 10 years ago. I know and have been a fan of baklava bars ever since. But earlier this year, on a trip to New York, I was reminded of its awesomeness through some creative variations on the theme.
Just as 2023 looks set to be the year of the Hugo Spritz, it also seems like the perfect time for a baklava renaissance, especially since pistachio is the standout flavor of the year.
What is baklava?
The origins of this nutty, sweet, warmly spiced, layered phyllo dessert are a bit hazy; Baklava recipes have been passed down from generation to generation throughout the Middle East.
Turkish baklava is usually made with pistachios and walnuts and drizzled with a sugar syrup after baking. Lebanese baklava often contains nuts, honey syrup and sometimes a splash of orange blossom or rose water. Israeli baklava typically includes a mixture of pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds, along with citrus-infused syrup, cloves, and cinnamon. In Greece, the classic baklava is made with 31 layers of phyllo dough to represent the 31 years of Jesus’ life.
Since baklava is truly a labor of love to produce – thanks to all those layers of batter, nuts and spices – it’s often served on special religious occasions, including Eid ul-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) for Muslims and Christmas for Christians.
I love classic DIY baklava recipes like Greek Baklava Bars, Pistachio Cranberry Baklava, and Peanut Baklava, but I can’t just reserve them for the holidays. So to fill in the gaps, I often turned to shortcut recipes from the Better Homes & Gardens test kitchen, like Shortcut Baklava Tassies and Baklava Monkey Bread. Presenting similar flavors in a less time-consuming format inspired me to expand my definition of “baklava desserts.”
A new generation of Baklava desserts
On a recent trip to New York, I discovered two women-owned brands that are putting their decidedly modern spin on the baklava theme.
Einat Admony, chef/owner of Balaboosta in New York and co-author of Shuk: from the market to the table, the heart of Israeli home cooking, won me and my table mates over with his Baklava de Balaboosta, a fried baklava ice cream dessert. After swooning over this unique baklava recipe, I couldn’t resist reaching out to Admony to learn more about its origins. It turns out to be the latest in a long line of nutty delights at Israeli restaurant West Village.
“Balaboosta has been offering a variety of baklava-themed desserts for over 8 years now! I am absolutely obsessed with pistachios, and the baklava uses the ingredient so well. I love that there is a wide range of flavor and sweetness possibilities with baklava,” Admony told BHG.
Anyone can put their own stamp on the dessert if they wish, she continues: “Like everything in the kitchen, you can trace a great product back to its components. If you want to reinvent something, let the ingredients meet in a new way. Along with baklava, beautifully spiced nuts and quality honey will lead the way.
The idea for this fan-favorite Baklava ice cream was originally pitched as a joke. One of Balaboosta’s cooks suggested trying frying baklava, a concept Admony wasn’t immediately sold on. But after marinating the idea for a few years and discovering “a beautiful pistachio ice cream from the laboratorio de gelato”, I came up with the concept of fried ice cream: pistachio ice cream in filo pastry rolled in walnuts spices that is fried until golden brown and served in a honey-infused sauce,” says Admony.
Related: 13 tempting honey desserts that will have everyone asking for seconds
Later that weekend, I was blown away by the variety of baklava delights offered by Lena Derisavifard, chef and owner of BiBi Bakery in Brooklyn, especially a remix that was a savvy way to reduce food waste at her bakery. of a year which highlights Iranian Flavors and Culture. BiBi Bakery also takes online orders for pickup and delivery in the New York area, and appears at Smorgasbug in Williamsburg and Prospect Park each weekend. (I was first introduced to her brand at a table during the Cherry Bombe Jubilee conference.)
Derisavifard tells us that each recipe is a nod to the matriarchs of his Middle Eastern family. (In Persian cultures, BiBi is a term of respect used for older women, such as aunts, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers.)
“We are committed to sharing and celebrating my heritage through the food and storytelling of a single Middle Eastern story, one bite at a time,” she explains.
A modern take on baklava from Derisavifard’s great-grandmother (the woman she called “BiBi”) is the best seller. The bakery offers it in a rotating mix of flavors and styles, including Spiced Walnut, Vegan Cardamom Rose, Vegan Coconut Almond, Chocolate Hazelnut, Pecan Chip, PB&J, pistachio and date nut. BiBi Bakery also bakes bread, rolls, cakes, cookies and ice cream.
These last two items are the ones that caught my eye, because BiBi Bakery’s cookies and ice cream actually contain leftovers from the best-selling baklava.
“When I cut my baklava trays, I cut a small perimeter around the edges of the tray to get a clean slice. I do my best to avoid food waste, so I keep the edges that aren’t used,” says Derisavifard “My freezer was chock full of baklava rims, so I started testing a few recipes to incorporate the rims into other products. Our BiBi cookie has become a crowd favourite! »
Related: 27 Creative Food Mash-Ups You Wish You Had Tried Sooner
For this cookie, BiBi bakers take the edges of spiced nut baklava and turn it into cookie dough. The result is crispy on the edges and soft in the middle, specifies Derisavifard (which I confirm!).
For the baklava ice cream, Derisavifard and his team fold pieces of baklava into ice cream. Enjoy it on a spoon or inside two BiBi cookies for a next-level ice cream sandwich.
If you, too, are feeling inspired to freshen up your baklava routine, Derisavifard has offered a few more ideas for turning leftover baklava into something totally new. Crumble pieces to use as a topping for ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal or granola, or blend leftovers in a food processor to use as an alternative to graham cracker crust.
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