It’s not too often you’ll come across a food pyramid (unless you’re at a suspect buffet of course) but when I was recently on a short trip in Istanbul, I saw a glorious pyramid in the window of a bakery and knew that I’d just found my new favourite treat. It is called Baklava and it is one of the tastiest pastries you’ll ever come across. On the blog today I’m going to tell you how I found out about it, what it tastes like and where other folk can find it here in the UK.
— İktm34 (@iktm34) May 11, 2016
It was this tweet while I was there that made my taste buds go “What is this???” and then walking to a local bakery near Taskim Square and seeing a big pyramid of Baklava in all its glory told me that
Obviously the baked treat doesn’t have the same pyramid goodness that a cream horn or Cornetto will have when held upside down, but I would mistaken if I didn’t let you know all about this unique treat that has its roots right in the heart of Turkey.
Baklava is a bit like one of those maple & pecan pastries you’d buy in a supermarket, but roughly 100 times better. Traditionally it is baked at home like a big sweet lasagne looking pie, but in the city where people want a snack when on the move, baklava is baked is prepared like a big roll (something akin to a Swiss roll or cinnamon bun) and cut it in pieces that are perfect to grab and go.
The filling in most is generally made of nuts which have been blitzed or finely chopped, and thick honey to bind together. It is usually applied as layers as you can see above, but in the bakeries I was in, it was stuffed in to the puff pastry horn. Some will drip melted chocolate over the top while others will dip the top of the horn in to chocolate so it dries to look something like an ice cream cone.
In the summer you’ll commonly be offered a coffee with your Baklava, but if you’re travelling in the winter months look for somewhere that sells a traditional drink called Salep. It’s a very sweet hot drink that has the creaminess of a hot chocolate but contains a more complicated flavour that is hard to describe but is a really great complimentary taste to any baked good. I’d recommend visiting a Sütiş Sütiş if you come across one. They’re a small chain with a number of locations around the European side of the city that specialise in milk based drinks; essentially serving a better version of Starbucks frappuccinos in the summer.
Since coming back to Bristol I’ve found that there is a Turkish bakery called Bristanbul that serves baklava and I highly recommend it for local if you want to try it for yourself. And if you fancy giving it a go at home, this YouTube video is the best I’ve found for breaking it down step by step:
I’ve been to a few supermarkets to see if they sell their own versions but haven’t been very successful yet; although a quick Google Search tells me that Tesco sometimes do Baklava as part of their Finest range around Christmas. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make my own by then though.
I was staying at Fraser Place Istanbul in the European side of town and visited a different bakery (or two or three let’s not lie) every day. I’ve made a little map of nearby bakeries to the hotel if you want to see a Baklava Pyramid and try out some of this amazing stuff yourself: