Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Making Baklava

When I was 14, my parents put me on a Greyhound Bus to travel 200 miles away to spend a weekend with my sister in college.  To this day, I don't know WHAT they were thinking.  There was no precedence in my family for trips on Greyhound buses.. or for them allowing their precious baby (of 6 kids) to travel alone. Much less to travel straight into a den of sin! Once arrived, I found myself immersed in the college party culture.

Frat parties, drinking beer at the local hole in the wall, staying up late.. these are the things I can mention.  There was one highlight of the trip that has stayed with me all these years.  A trip to a local drive in, The Spice.  The girls at Marjorie's college were forbidden from going there for some reason... so even this adventure was illicit.  I don't remember what we ate for lunch that day.  I do remember when we paid there was a glass domed cake stand filled with the most intriguing dessert.  My sister told me it was baklava and we HAD to share a piece.  It was the closest to heaven I had ever been.  Sweet with honey, filled with nuts, cinnamon, cloves and that pastry... what was it?

I asked the gentleman behind the counter if he could tell me how to make it.  "No, it's a family recipe."  Where could I get the unusual dough, I asked. "Family sends it from New York," I was told.  I was heartbroken to learn that making this dessert would be beyond my grasp. Baklava must have been gaining in popularity at that time, because soon afterwards there was a recipe for it in the Charleston News and Courier.  There was also a note that you could purchase the Filo dough at the Piggly Wiggly on Meeting Street.  Fortunately, my brother was in Med school in Charleston and drove by the Pig on his way home.  He became my hero when he presented me with a package of  Filo (which means leaves).

 My first attempt had filo and butter from one end of the kitchen to the other.  There are definitely some tricks to assembling it.  Cutting the filo pan size was once the biggest obstacle, but it is now pre-packaged in sheets cut to fit a 13X9X2 pan.   Through the years, I have made more pans of baklava than I can count.  With practice my technique has improved.  I enjoy layering the sugared, spiced pecans with filo.  Brushing each leaf with butter along the way.  More than making and eating baklava, is the pleasure I derive from sharing it with friends.


  1. Is some of that on it's way to get snowed in with me?!

  2. LOL! That baklava is long gone! Are you snowed in?