The al-Baghdadi cookbook was written in the 13th century, by Muḥammad bin al-Ḥasan bin Muḥammad bin al-Karīm al-Baghdadi.
As filo pastry was invented in the 17th century, very thin bread or even crepes were used in layers with sugar (or honey) with nuts and spices. It was replaced with filo in the 17th century where baklava grew to such popularity that there was even the “Baklava Parade” a gift from the Topkapi Palace to their Janissary guards.
I used David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook’s work on the Internet, known as Cariadoc’s Miscellany as a base to work from. The recipe can be found here. However, there are some differences which is easy to explain.
Take fine white flour, and with every ratl mix three uqiya of sesame-oil, kneading into a firm paste. Leave to rise; then make into long loaves. Put into the middle of each loaf a suitable quantity of ground almonds and scented sugar mixed with rose water, using half as much almonds as sugar. Press together as usual, bake in the oven, remove.
Cariadoc’s recipe is 2 c white +1 c whole wheat flour, 1/2 c sesame oil (from untoasted sesame!!!), 6 oz almonds (1 c before chopping), 12 oz (1& 1/2 c) sugar, 1 T rose water, 3/4 to 7/8 c cold water or 1/2 c water, 1/2 c sour-dough starter and additional flour for rolling out dough. I used 2 cups sour-dough bread mix, 1 cup plain white flour, 1/2 cup sesame oil, a full cup of warm water, 1& 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast and 1 tablespoon raw sugar. I then cheated by putting all this in my bread maker and turning on the pizza dough setting. I made two batches of this dough. I then covered them & placed them in the fridge overnight. This is known as retarding the bread dough.
I also made two different types of filling. One was almond, the other pistachio. The almond mix had 1 cup almond flour with some course almonds mixed in, 1 tablespoon rose water, 1 cup raw caster sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. The pistachio mix was one cup pistachios coarsely pulverised, 1 cup raw caster sugar, 1 tablespoon orange blossom water and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. I used raw sugar as that is the sugar I usually bake with. While there was no mention of spices in the original recipe, I chose to put in cardamom for two reasons. No-one knows what “scented sugar” was, as rose water was mentioned separately in the recipe and cardamom was thought to aid digestion.I thought that I would try to make the almond mix by layering it like baklava, or like the popular Armenian bread dish. The almond cooked at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes. I did find that it was still a little raw in the middle so these pieces were cooked again. I did the pistachio mix according to the recipe, into little loaves. I took both to the Krae Glas Ottoman Twilight Tourney where both types were finished off. I found the pistachio rolls were very bread-y when I cut them up. I got the impression that many preferred the almond, as a more subtle flavour but the pistachio was also liked. Everyone who tried it is welcome to leave a comment!
Recommended reading on Baklava
Baklava on the Turkish Cultural Foundation.
Baklava on the New World Encyclopaedia.
Repast: Quarterly Publication of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor: Vol XXIV, #4, Fall 2008. Via Google Docs.
Baklava– Stefan’s Florilegium.