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Tunisian Plant-Based Dessert Recipes That Are Packed With History

Food goes beyond what we fill our stomachs with. Food even goes beyond art and health.

Food is history and culture, especially in Tunisia.

With each Tunisian meal or dessert that goes into our mouths, there’s a story to be told. Stories that are almost more delicious than the meals themselves.

We don’t want you to miss out on these tales or delicacies, so we’ve brought you

  • Step-by-step recipes of two Tunisian vegan snacks, 
  • Vegan filo recipe, and
  • The tales surrounding each recipe.

Whether you’re preparing or enjoying these treats, each story will be in your head, increasing the complexity and depth of their flavors. 

“The Samsa arrived super quick and once I had that first bite, it took me straight home. It had the right consistency and crunchiness that I was looking for. Will definitely order it again.”
— Anis Attallah, Los Angeles

Table of Contents

Baklava Pistachio: The True Origin and Simple Recipe

The Roots of Baklava
How to Bake Baklava Pistachio at Home

Let’s Talk About Almonds and Almond Fingers
How to Make Filo at Home
History in a Box

Baklava Pistachio: The True Origin and Simple Recipe 

Layla’s Baklava Pistachio on a serving plate
BAKLAVA PISTACHIO

Also called Fistikli Baklava, Baklava Pistachio is the most traditional form of Baklava. It gained popularity in Gaziantep, Turkey in the 17th century. The sultan loved it so much that he offered it to his soldiers on the 15th day of Ramadan. This became a tradition known as “The Baklava Parade.”

But did the snack originate in Turkey?

The Roots of Baklava 

Nancy Gotdon

A shadow of Baklava was first seen around 800 BC in the Assyrian empire. At the time, bakers used bread dough as the filo. They would stretch the dough until it became light, then bake it with ground nuts and honey.

People believe that Greeks were the first bakers of filo as we know it today.

So how did the pastry reach Tunisia?

Between the 14th and 20th centuries, the Ottoman Empire conquered most Southeast European states, Asia, and North Africa, including Tunisia. During the conquest, they introduced Baklava.

These regions now have their own unique versions of the snack. For instance, the idea of adding syrup to Baklava came from Mediterranean states.

How to Bake Baklava Pistachio at Home 

Our simple vegan recipe maintains the original ingredients of baklava. We also use a syrup that is 100% plant-based.

Ingredients Quantities
Filo 1 pound
Whole Pistachios 300–350 g
Water 500 ml
Sugar 100–300 g
Lemon Juice 100 ml
Salt 1.42 g (¼ tsp)
Cinnamon 2 g
Almond butter 400 g

Method

  1. Make the sugar syrup by boiling sugar, water and ¼ tsp of salt. Stir while boiling. It should take 10–20 minutes to thicken.
  2. When the mixture is thick, remove it from the heat and add lemon juice. If you don’t have lemon juice, squeeze ½ of a big lemon into a cup of water, then pour 100 ml from the cup.
  3. Leave the syrup to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to about 350°F.
  5. Melt almond butter using a microwave or heater. Grease your baking pan by brushing it with the melted butter.
  6. Cut the pound of filo to the exact size of your baking pan.
  7. Spread 8–10 layers of filo in the pan, brushing each layer with melted butter as you spread. Make sure you reach the corners of each layer.
  8. For the filling, chop 200 g of pistachios. Add almonds if you want.
  9. Grind the remaining pistachios into a fine powdery dust for the topping. You can use a food processor for this.
  10. Mix the chopped nuts with almond butter, cinnamon, and ¼ tsp of salt (no heat). Mix until well blended and thick. At Layla’s, we also add ground pistachios to this mixture.
  11. Spread the mix on the filo to your desired density.
  12. Top it with more layers of filo, brushing with melted butter between each sheet.
  13. Brush the last layer. 
  14. You can refrigerate it for 10–12 minutes. This makes the cutting easier
  15. Cut into your preferred shapes. 
  16. Pop into the oven for about 30 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, you can cover it with foil if it’s getting too brown. 
  17. When it’s baked, drizzle the syrup over the baklava while it’s still hot. 
  18. Sprinkle the ground pistachios on the snack.
  19. You can cover it with foil again and leave it overnight for the syrup to penetrate the whole desser.
  20. Serve with Turkish coffee or mint tea.

Did You Know? The pistachio tree has its roots in Western Asia. Pistachios are also the only nuts that contain all of the essential amino acids.

Let’s Talk Almonds and Almond Fingers

Layla’s Almond fingers on a plate
ALMOND FINGER

The Moors brought Almonds into Tunisia and her surroundings. This was after they were exiled from European states. While searching for another home like their former, they made their way across the Mediterranean. They grew nuts, crops, and recipes that are now a part of Tunisian heritage. 

Tunisian celebrations are almost incomplete without a form of nuts. Even Northern Tunisia now cultivates almonds in large quantities. 

You don’t need to bake nor fry almond fingers. They are one of the easiest Tunisian desserts to make at home. 

Here’s what you need to indulge in 8–10 pieces:

Ingredients Quantities
Filo 1 pound
Sugar 130 g
Water 500 ml
Whole Almonds 260 g
Whole Hazelnuts 260 g

Method

  1. Steam one layer of filo until it’s malleable. Careful not to overheat it, though. If you do, it will become too hard and lose its crispiness.
  2. Next, cut the filo into 8-10 rectangle shapes. 
  3. Chop the hazelnuts and almonds.
  4. Mix the nuts with sugar syrup till it thickens. Don’t heat the mix.
  5. Lay the nut and syrup mix onto each filo, to your desired density.
  6. Roll the mixture. The syrup gives everything a nice hold, but leave it to cool for 10–15 minutes to fully solidify and take shape.
  7. You can sprinkle ground almonds on the snack for extra crunch.
  8. Serve with Turkish coffee.

Did You Know? Hazelnut trees don’t start producing nuts until 4–5 years after planting. These nuts are rich in thiamin, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin E and a host of other nutrients. Perhaps it’s why they take so much time to develop!

How to Make Filo at Home

Sometimes you’ll prefer to make your own malsouka rather than buy it at the grocery store. Who says you can’t? 

Ingredients Quantities
Flour 300 g
Olive or canola oil 4.4 g
Salt (optional) 2.8 g or ½ tsp
White Vinegar 2 tsp
Warm Water 500 ml
Cornstarch (optional) 60 g

Method

  • Pour 272 g (2 U.S. cups) of flour into a bowl.
  • In the center, add 230 ml water, then the vinegar. Drizzle the olive oil and salt overtop. Some recipes also include lemon juice.
  • Mix until you have a malleable dough. 
  • Sprinkle some of the leftover flour on a flat surface and place the dough there.
  • Knead until it’s smooth. Constantly rub flour on your hands or the table surface to prevent the dough from sticking.
  • When the dough becomes elastic, wrap it in cling film/saran wrap and store it at room temperature for 2–3 hours. Some people also refrigerate it overnight. This is useful if you use a pasta machine rather than a rolling pin to flatten the dough balls
  • Cut the whole dough ball into bits of 20 g each. Roll each bit into a ball.
  • Cover the balls with cling film to keep them from drying out.
  • When you are done rolling the dough into balls, flatten each to razor-thin thickness. Use a rolling pin for this process.
  • Repeat until you roll out all the dough balls.
  • Your filo is ready! To preserve, keep them frozen.

If you want to use cornstarch during the flattening process, here's how to go about it:

  • Mix cornstarch with 15 g flour. No water or any liquid, just a dry mixture.
  • Sprinkle the mixture on a table surface and roll out each ball on the surface.

Did You Know? During Ramadan, we recommend a Mediterranean diet to break your fast. Mediterranean dishes are rich in vegetables, plant proteins, olive oil, fruits, and nuts. These are all essential to keep you strong and healthy during the holy season.

History in a Box 

Layla’s box of vegan bite-sized treats

Imagine the time you’d spend baking these pastries. And ohhh, the dirty dishes that come after. The money you would spend shopping for ingredients. And the ingredients may not be as fresh as you expected.

What if you could avoid all that stress? Place an order at Layla’s Delicacies, and viola! Your cravings will be satisfied without stress.

We deliver these Tunisian bites in beautiful boxes and wrappings. Almost too beautiful to eat!

The best part is, you can get up to five different treat types if you order our:

  • 22-piece Vegan Box 
  • 30-piece Limited Edition Vegan Box

We ship our pistachios from Gaziantep, where they are produced at their finest. From quality nuts to expert artisans and traditional recipes, there are so many delightful reasons to order your vegan treats from Layla’s Delicacies.

“Thanks for providing vegan options for people with food sensitivities and ethical convictions. The treats are fresh, attractive, and satisfying. Thank you!”

— Lisa Oliner

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