Baklava is of Turkish origin and is the world's favourite Turkish Dessert. It's extremely delicious. You can find the history of Baklava at Wikipedia.
1 1/4 cup water
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
454 gr (1 lb) Phyllo Pastry (~20-22 sheets)
1/2 cup (125 ml or 1 stick) + 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup pistachios, ground (use a mixer but do not grind finely), the measurement is after grinding
6 tbsp cream 35%
3L (13x9x2") Pyrex casserole dish
To prepare the Baklava syrup place the water and sugar in a medium sized pot. First bring to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Then simmer for 15 minutes and turn the heat off. Add lemon juice and place the syrup in another bowl so that it cools down quickly.
Place the block of Phyllo sheets on the counter. Cut the sheets in half (8x12 inches) (picture). Now there are two blocks of approximately 40 sheets. After cutting in half, the size of the sheets should the same as the size of the Pyrex dish. Keep the blocks separate as half the sheets will go below the Baklava filling, and the rest above.
Brush the inside of the pyrex dish with the butter. Then lay down 2 sheets. Spread more butter on top (picture), and then place two more sheets on top and butter again. Continue until you finish the first block of the phyllo sheets. Then brush on the cream evenly on top (picture).
Spread the pistachios on the cream evenly (picture). Then finish second block of the sheets the same way. Don't forget to brush the very top with butter.
Dip a big, sharp knife into hot water to cut the Baklava in rectangles. Cut 4 vertically and 6 horizontally to get 24 piece of Baklava. However, don't cut all the way down, only cut halfway until you reach the pistachio (picture). This will ensure only the top parts will rise when you bake it.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the pyrex dish on the middle rack. Bake for 25 minutes. At this point turn the heat down to 325 F while the dish is still in the oven. Bake for 30 more minutes and take the Baklava out. Leave it at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Then using the same knife, re-cut the Baklava all the way down. This part may be a little bit hard but is worth it:)
With a tablespoon pour the lukewarm syrup evenly along the cut lines. Make sure not to pour it all over, only between the lines, otherwise Baklava won't turn out well (picture).
Sprinkle some pistachios on top of each Baklava. Let it rest at least 4 hours before serving. The syrup should be completely absorbed. You don't need to refrigerate it. Cover Baklava loosely with aluminum foil.
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History of Baklava
The history of baklava, like that of many other foods, is not well documented. Though it has been claimed by many ethnic groups, the best evidence is that it is of Central Asian Turkic origin, but its current form was developed in the imperial kitchens (Ottoman Empire) of the Topkapı Palace (located in Istanbul).
Other claims about its origins include: that it is of Assyrian origin, dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and was mentioned in a Mesopotamian cookbook on walnut dishes; that al-Baghdadi describes it in his 13th-century cookbook; that it was a popular Byzantine dish; and so on. But Claudia Roden and Andrew Dalby find no evidence for it in Arab, Greek, or Byzantine sources before the Ottoman period.
Vryonis (1971) identified the ancient Greek gastris, kopte, kopton, or koptoplakous, mentioned in the Deipnosophistae, as baklava, and calls it a "Byzantine favorite". However, Perry (1994) shows that though gastris contained a filling of nuts and honey, it did not include any dough; instead, it involved a honey and ground sesame mixture.
Perry then assembles evidence to show that layered breads were created by Turks in Central Asia and argues that the "missing link" between the Central Asian folded or layered breads (which did not include nuts) and modern phyllo-based pastries like baklava is the Azerbaijani dish Bakı pakhlavası, which involves layers of dough and nuts, but not thin phyllo dough, which probably was developed in the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace. Indeed, the sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries* every 15th of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı.
* The Janissaries comprised infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's household troops and bodyguard. The force originated in the 14th century; it was abolished by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 in The Auspicious Incident. The name janissary or janizary derives from the Ottoman Turkish:"yeniçeri" meaning "new soldier".