My first taste of baklava came in the kitchen of a friend's Russian grandmother. She spoke little English, but the message she sent through those infinite layers of sweet, sticky pastry was one of true love.
Numerous peoples claim title to the inception of baklava, but it is believed to be of Central Asian Turkic origin, and perfected by the chefs of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul. The dessert, popular throughout Greece, Eastern Europe and the Middle East is made by individually buttering micro-thin sheets of dough called phyllo, the Greek word for leaf, which are alternately layered with nuts and spices. After baking they are doused with honey.
My own attempts to prepare what has become my kids' favorite dessert have produced barely edible results. To the rescue comes Scotts Valley's Eva Marie Vaniotis-Tordoff who launched her line of baklava this past summer at select retail establishments. I found packages with two browned and shimmering squares of Eva's Baklava ($2.89) at Shopper's Corner on a baked goods rack back by the kitchen utensils.
Vaniotis-Tordoff, whose grandparents emigrated from Greece, uses organic butter on the many layers of phyllo and fills them with coarsely chopped Santa Clara walnuts sweetened with cinnamon and organic sugar. The flaky, locally handmade squares were soaked in Santa Cruz wildflower honey from Pacific Crest Apiaries and organic lemon juice-infused sugar syrup.
Eva's Baklava can also be found at New Leaf Markets, Shoppers Corner, Food Bin, Capitola Produce, Scotts Valley Market, Aptos Natural Foods, Staff of Life (new store) and Santa Cruz Local Foods. The company also offers party trays.
written by Jason Boudreault, October 07, 2010
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