Baklava is a dessert with deep cultural significance in Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East. But did you know that it all started in the Assyrian Empire around the eighth century B.C.E.? They would make unraised flatbreads and sprinkle chopped nuts in between to be served during special events. This dish then spread to modern-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey. Afterward, the Ancient Greeks and Romans created the placenta cake, which is a dish that consists of layers and layers of dough with cheese and honey in between and bay leaves accompanying it.
As for the real origin of baklava, it was first introduced during the Ottoman Empire, and this took place 500 years ago. It was considered “almost sacred” because it was included as one of the dishes to be served during Ramadan in Islam. In 1520, the Ottoman Sultan would gift baklava to his most elite soldiers, known as the Janissaries. This became a tradition and was given the title ‘Baklava Procession’. But it wasn't just the Muslims who gave meaning to this dish, the Ottoman Christians and Jews also did. The Christians make 40 layers of phyllo dough to represent the 40 days of Lent and use 33 layers to represent the 33 years of Christ’s life. As for the Jews, they served the baklava dish during Rosh Hashanah and Purim.
Photo credit: Tara Omidvar
Saffron almond baklava is a delicious Middle Eastern dessert known for its layers of phyllo pastry filled with a mixture of saffron-infused almonds and sweet syrup. If that makes your mouth water like it does with us, follow the recipe below ✨
Photo credit: The Kitchen McCabe
For the Baklava:
- 1 package (16 oz) of phyllo dough, thawed
- 2 cups almonds, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed and soaked in 2 tablespoons of warm water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4-5 saffron threads
Photo credit: Mohammad Amiri
Preparing the Baklava Layers:
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with melted butter.
- Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.
- Place one sheet of phyllo dough into the baking dish and brush with melted butter. Repeat with 8-10 sheets for the bottom layer.
- Sprinkle a layer of saffron almond mixture evenly over the phyllo dough.
- Add another layer of phyllo dough and butter, then repeat the layering process until all almond mixture is used, reserving some phyllo sheets for the top.
- Finish with a final layer of phyllo sheets, generously brushing each one with melted butter.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into diamond or square shapes, cutting all the way through to the bottom.
Baking and Preparing the Syrup:
- Bake the baklava in the preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
- While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup. In a saucepan, combine sugar, water, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, and saffron threads.
- Bring the syrup mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it thickens slightly.
Finishing and Serving:
- Once the baklava is done baking, remove it from the oven and immediately pour the hot syrup evenly over the hot baklava. Be cautious, as it will sizzle.
- Allow the baklava to cool completely in the pan, letting the syrup soak into the layers and make it sweet and sticky.
- After cooling, re-cut the baklava along the lines you previously made.
- Serve and enjoy your saffron almond baklava! Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.
This saffron almond baklava is a sweet and nutty treat with a subtle saffron flavour that adds an exotic touch to the traditional dessert.
You can also shop two of the ingredients on our website!