Yaya’s Baklava

Baklava has a special place in my childhood memories. My maternal grandmother, Lusia, would make hand rolled baklava for Easter.  Yaya and mama would start early in the morning with special flour and farm fresh eggs mixed by hand.  Yaya would start rolling the seventy five paper-thin sheets by hand, and then pass it on to her daughter one by one using endearing words. Then, mama would lay each sheet of dough on 25 inch in diameter, round, copper, baklava tray and brush it with home made butter.


This mesmerizing labor of love would last for hours. After every twenty five layers, it was time for freshly shelled walnuts to be laid. My dad would buy the fresh walnuts from local growers. I would sit around the big pile of walnuts with my two sisters and grandpa Misak to shell them. I still remember the taste of freshly cracked walnuts to this day.


Cutting the baklava to small diamonds with a long ruler was mama’s job. She would always say ”measure ten times and cut once” She would measure each line and mark it with small cuts, to have even lines. After meticulously cutting the baklava into beautiful diamonds, hot sizzling butter would be poured gently over the whole tray.


It would take both yaya and mama to carry the tray of baklava to a local wood burning brick oven bakery, few blocks away. There, the baklava would bake in tender crispiness. Home ovens were too small for traditional baklava trays and would not have created the same taste as the bakery’s oven.


Yaya and mama would not trust the bakery boys with their pride and joy, so they would just wait there for the baklava to bake into perfection. Enjoying the amazing smell of the baklava, while carrying it back home, was most gratifying for them. 


My sisters and I would be waiting by the window impatiently for baklava’s return, then we’d all gather around the long wooden kitchen table to watch Yaya pour cold sugar syrup over the hot baklava. We would sigh with happiness that tasting it while it is hot would be next.


At Yaranush, I keep the same tradition of making baklava with the same love and joy.



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