For the Love of Baklava; Historical Recreation

My name is Channon Mondoux, I am a chef and food history buff, and I love recreating historical cuisine, especially baklava!

Baklava is the quintessential Turkish dessert, legendary for its luscious flavor, delicate pastry, and indulgent use of honey, butter, and perfumes. My love for baklava led me to delve deep into its history. I have been independently researching and recreating food history for 30 years.

Culinary Anthropology
Teaching, writing and preparing and serving the dishes I've reincarnated (with the help of others) to thousands of guests (below is an image from one of my banquets in 2007), includes baklava. Loads and loads of baklava of every kind (and there are many)! Baklava has been shrouded in mystery and lore for over a thousand years, but I've set out to unearth how it began, how it was made then and how we can recreate it now with historical accuracy. I want you to taste what Sultan Suleiman and his wife, Hurrem Sultan, would have shared with their guests. I want to keep the traditions and knowledge of how we eat, cook, and enjoy food alive- and baklava is no exception

Most people don't realize that baklava and its iterations originate deep in ancient Central Asian, Turkic and Mongolian cuisine and are influenced by the royal courts of the Ottomans, Persians, Byzantines and Arabs. At these cultural crossroads, I begin peeling back the layers of this sumptuous dish.

The image you see below is Baklava ve Qaraman of the 16th century. First mentioned in a poem by Sufi Kaygusuz Abdal in the 1400s, it was thought to be a satirical commentary about the excesses of baklava. But a manuscript that contained not just one but several recipes, as he described, was unearthed.

This 16th Century recipe consists of hand-rolled yufka (paper thin) dough made with lamb tail fat, baked in clarified butter, steeped in artisanal honey and perfumed with musk (flavoring from the gland of a rare deer) and rosewater, filled with organic green lentils, and garnished with pistachio! Yes, tail fat, lentils, musk and rose! This recipe has been untapped for centuries, and after months of work, I developed the recipe and techniques used to make it as it was done —and it is DELICIOUS.

It turns out that some families in Central Turkey still make this green lentil baklava, and it is just one of my goals to find them when traveling to Turkey. I want to meet with people in their kitchens and learn how they construct this dish firsthand, recording with video and images and working with my hands to learn their knowledge of baklava. Bringing food to life is what I do, but it must be informed—and this is yet another ingredient of the answer.

By being a hands-on chef, I have unraveled culinary mysteries that scholars don't have the experience of execution to understand. As a chef, I am elbows deep in the medium—not just translating ancient texts but taking the ingredients and applying culinary skills and historical knowledge to recreate delicious food.

Dr. Sami Hassibi, author and translator of A Persian Cookbook: The Manual by Bavarchi, a 16th C Persian culinary text, acknowledged that I solved a puzzle she faced regarding an entry in the manuscript using a piece of equipment she couldn't identify. Having read and recreated many historical baklava recipes, I could see the connection between the word "exlaw" with "oklava," the thin rolling pin used to construct yufka for baklava. Also, by working with difficult-to-locate ingredients like tail fat, I was able to produce baklava that had an incredible unctuousness to it, unmatched by that made with clarified butter. These discoveries moved the needle forward on how we can concretely say baklava was made then—and informs us of how to make it now in the most delectable way possible.

Teasing apart the origins of a dish are complex, so I've gone to great lengths to illustrate and explain how I have come to my conclusions. My research and reconstruction were presented in a recent historical society competition. An example can be viewed in this Youtube video: . However, this video is only part of the documentation I've done on this topic; a 20-page paper complements this video with the history of baklava's ingredients and construction methods. The research highlighted here is only a small example of my work.

At the Topkapi Palace in 2009

In 2009, as a guest of the Turkish Cultural Foundation (, I traveled to Turkey. Folks at the Turkish American Association of Washington and Chicago had shared what I was doing and they were very interested in my work on Ottoman Cusine. Shortly before this, I had compiled my research at that time into Celebration at the Sarayi: A Feast in the Palace of Suleyman the Magnificent, a multimedia eBook. This book is now inaccessible, as the publisher has passed away and everything is in probate; the files may never be recovered. Some copies exist, but it wasn't commercially successful, and the publisher and I never recovered our expenses; it was a work of love. However, it received critical acclaim, winning a silver medal in the Living Now Book Awards 2009. Such is the life of a food historian.

Lecturing at the Middle Eastern Institute on Ottoman Cuisine in the spring of 2009. I must have really liked that top because I wore it to Turkey!

This time, however, I am asking for your help to continue. I have no support or funding from any source other than my own. And now, this effort through go fund me.

Recently, I was invited to accompany a small group to Turkey in February 2023. This trip will allow me to pursue further research into the origins and development of baklava in Anatolia and build on our knowledge of the authentic recreation of this iconic Ottoman pastry. I am so excited.

I have taken my research as far as I can go from a distance.

Now it's time for me to go back to Turkey and gain an even deeper understanding—and to tangibly connect the theoretical knowledge I have with the expression of it in the culture. As you may see in my updates, I have been invited to study and collaborate with the chefs at Gulluoglu in Istanbul. This is an incredible and amazing opportunity. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude and excitement at the possibility of what I will learn.

I am arranging even more visits with chefs, home cooks, food historians, commercial baklava purveyors, museums, and many other sources of knowledge in Turkey to build on what I know so far. Being able to learn hands-on with people for whom this world-renowned dish is innately a part of their heritage is paramount to the authenticity of my work.

Below is the video of the invitation to study with the Master Chefs at Gulluoglu, a 5th generation baklava company in Istanbul, it's pretty emotional so bear with me.

The funds from this GoFundMe will be used for the following;

Phase 1- Research and Information Gathering in Turkey - $5,000
• Travel expenses both to and from Turkey, as well as within Turkey
  • expenses to travel to Sanilurfa (aka Urfa) in South Eastern Turkey for 4 days to study and visit the museums and historical sites that are the home to one of the largest baklava companies in Turkey
  • Travel to meet with food historians and study in their homes
• Cost of a camera person to record the process when I am collaborating with the baklava masters
  • Accommodations, food, and living expenses for 3 weeks while in Turkey
• Fees for a visa and entrance to museums and historical sites
• Financial support to conduct the work in Turkey, and blog the process on my website and share the work in real time

  • A CAMERA! It has become increasingly obvious that my old Canon SureShot is not going to cut it. With only 10 megapixels the images and video will terrible- the current estimate of a worthwhile camera is $1800-$2000 for a reasonable one that will do the job. I am meeting with a local camera company to assess my options

Phase 2- Execution, Producing and Sharing - $5-$7,000
• Funds to create a public program to share the work in person, on-line
  • Recreate and build cooking equipment, such as a reproduction cob oven and other methods for authentically baking the baklava
• Record the process to be able to widely share this knowledge
• The production of a shareable document with full-color photos
• When able to share, both recorded live, video and in-person classes, presentations, and workshops will be offered to keep this tradition alive

What I'm contributing;
  • $2,000
  • 30 years of research
  • Website Construction and maintenance, equipment and facilities construction
  • Sweat Equity to make this happen

So what will you get for your contribution?

FREE LIVE CLASS- JANUARY 2023 (date/time tbd) via Zoom! A Zoom Class will be recorded LIVE- you will get to enjoy the recipe notes in advance (in case you want to cook alongside me!), experience the history, creation and multiple historical and modern baklava recipes, tips, hints and techniques (learn to make a tray of baklava in less than 20 minutes)
ALSO: TOP CONTRIBUTORS WILL BE INVITED TO ATTEND the class IN PERSON! I will reach out to those folks and make arrangements privately to come and join me in my kitchen and sample the baklava warm out of the oven, served with Turkish coffee!

MEDIEVAL OTTOMAN DINNER EVENT -Plans are in the works for an authentic Ottoman dinner event in the spring of 2023 after I return from Turkey. Top contributors (over $500 contribution) will be offered 2 tickets to attend (others will be able to purchase tickets at that time)

• The research, demonstration, and samples of these 16th-century recipes will be presented at the upcoming International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan,of%20thousands%20of%20scholars%20interested%20in%20medieval%20studies.

This hybrid session will be live and broadcast to congress participants on Zoom. If you would like to, anyone in the world with an internet connection can join the presentation (the link for the session will be publicized by the Medieval Congress in the coming months). During the session, I'll teach the technique and technology, history and histrionics, and taste and temptation of baklava. And if you're present, you'll enjoy samples of at least 3 styles of medieval baklava.

• The research, demonstration, hands-on class, and samples of these 16th century recipes will be offered at the Pennsic War in August of 2023 (as I have done many years in the past).
• I am offering a 3-hour class in January 27, 2023 via Zoom that anyone who supports the efforts in any way can attend by simply going to my website (, currently under construction) for the link. I will also post the link in updates.

  • A second class will be offered when I return from Turkey, likely in June 2023 to share the experience and the techniques to create the recipes.

• I will offer samples of baklava wherever and whenever I can.

Thank you for supporting my endeavor to keep these ancient recipes' history, art, and taste alive. I can't wait to sit with you and savor the past together.

Donations (45)

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  • Linda M. Finne
    • $75 
    • 8 mos
  • Jonathon Cornell
    • $50 
    • 8 mos
  • Susan Fox-Davis
    • $25 
    • 8 mos
  • Lynne Wathen
    • $25 
    • 8 mos
  • Anonymous
    • $10 
    • 8 mos
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Channon Russette-Mondoux
Portage, MI

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