For a person who likes her desserts, there’s a stereotypical image that I had of baklava — of it being this multi-layered puff pastry loaded with nuts and soaked in sugar syrup that made it excruciatingly sweet. That is the general dictionary description of this sweet too — a layered pastry dessert made of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. So it took a box filled with seven different types of baklava to make one realize that here was a dessert as versatile as our Indian curry — it changes shape and taste depending on the country and why, even the hands, it was made by. A sweet that was believed to have been created during the reign of the Ottomon Empire, baklava’s popularity over the ages has managed to sweep through Greece, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Dubai finally touching the shores of India.
From as far as he can remember, Aasim Shah, founder of premium baklava brand Klava has had multiple kinds of baklava from places as varied as Damascus, Aleppo, Cairo and Amman. But it was when he tasted baklava from Gaziantep in Turkey that Shah had an almost eureka-kind of moment to bring it to India.
Kolkata-based Vatsal Agarwal started his venture, The Baklava Box, in October 2020 for a simple reason. “I always relished the Turkish baklava during my travels abroad and I craved for it when I came back. But there were no good options if you wanted to have it in India two to three years ago. That’s how I decided to start The Baklava Box,” says Agarwal who then flew in chefs from Turkey, set up a factory and eventually, a store that primarily serves an assortment of middle-eastern and Turkish baklavas along with a few other Mediterranean desserts.
“We make around 50 varieties,” says Agarwal rattling off options that include traditional favourites and experimental ones. “The bestsellers include finger baklava, pyramid baklava, cashew baklava and the Arabic Tart. Along with that we’ve also made coffee baklava, coconut baklava, chocolate baklava, the Biscoff baklava and Nutella baklava.” At The Baklava Box, a 250 gm box is priced at ₹825 while a 1kg box is priced at ₹3300.
Sticking to its position as a boutique baklava brand, the Klava store in Bengaluru serves close to ten varieties that includes the Pistachio Classic, Cashew Saray, Pistachio Saray, the Şöbiyet Pistachio, Chocolate Pistachio the Signature Pistachio Midye, and limited edition varieties of Walnut Padishah and Coconut Soğuk. At Klava, a half-kg box of assorted baklava is ₹1749.
While baklava may be gaining ground here, those in the business admit that one of the key challenges is of getting the Indian customer to try the sweet. “There is a limited perception that people here have of the sweet and so trying to get them to taste it is the main task,” says Shah. At Klava, the staff is trained to educate people on how to eat baklava right—no cutting it with a fork is not the way to go. “You are meant to hold the sweet with your thumb on top and index finger on the bottom. You then bring the sweet closer to you and flip it over to eat it,” Shah explains.
Bülbül Yuvası (Nightingale Nest): Unlike other baklava varieties, here, the filo dough is rolled around a stick and has a hollow centre which is stuffed with pistachios or walnuts and soaked in sugar water. The baklava resembles a nest hence the name.
Havuç Dilim Baklava (Carrot Slice Baklava): Made from 30-layer filo, Havuç Dilim baklava is stuffed with pistachios but unlike the classic square, here, the sweet is cut into wedges that resemble the shape of a carrot from which it gets the name.
Midye (Mussel Baklava): A creation from times of the Ottomon empire, this pistachio-stuffed baklava resembles a mussel and has striations on the surface from gently folding the filo dough.
Soğuk Baklava: A recent innovation by pastry chef Yılmaz Elaldı of Diyarbakir, Soğuk baklava is cold baklava where the sheets of filo are soaked in milk, hazelnut and chocolate powder.
Şöbiyet Pistachio: A layered puff pastry stuffed with pistachios and soaked in sherbet, this triangular baklava resembles a samosa.
Baklava Fingers: A variation where the filo pastry is cut and baked into finger-width rolls and stuffed with pistachio or walnut paste. Once again, this variety derives its name from its appearance.
Bukaj Baklava (Pyramid Baklava): A layered puff pastry where the four of the filo dough are raised to resemble a parcel or appear like a pyramid. The centre of the pastry is filled with chopped nuts.
There are a few features that differentiate the two regional varieties. Arabic baklava tends to be drier and crispier and has a longer shelf life of 20-30 days. Turkish baklava on the other hand is soaked in sherbet, is juicier and has a shelf life of 3-5 days.