The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Katerina Georgallas explores her Greek heritage through Baklava Couture

Baklava Couture’s karidopita cake is made from a family recipe that’s four generations old. Photo by Violetta Markelou (VM Photography & Makeup)

When she was growing up in Rockville, Katerina Georgallas, a Greek-American, wasn’t a fan of baklava. (For shame!) Her family’s version of the classic dessert with layers of phyllo and nuts soaked in syrup always seemed too sweet to enjoy, she says.

But a job layoff in 2009 and a desire to start her own food business gave the Silver Spring resident the chance to revisit baklava and ask: What if the syrup could be lightened? Georgallas, who has an interior design degree, began experimenting with different types of honey and added rosemary and lavender plucked from her parents’ garden. Two years later, she launched Baklava Couture and began selling her pastries at local FreshFarm Markets.

Today, Georgallas offers two flavors of baklava — walnut cinnamon and pistachio — plus an additional flavor that rotates weekly. The dairy- and egg-free treats are made with organic vegan phyllo dough and honey sourced from Maryland. She also expanded her offerings to include Greek cookies and cakes based on family recipes, such as kourabiedes (powered sugar cookies), karidopita (a syrup-soaked semolina cake) and koulourakia (tender butter cookies).

For Greek Orthodox Easter on Sunday, Georgallas is debuting a new recipe: tsoureki, a brioche-style bread traditionally displayed with a crimson-dyed egg on top. (Georgallas uses yellow onion skins to achieve the egg’s color naturally.)

“After my generation, a lot of Greek-Americans won’t know how to do this,” Georgallas says. “If you don’t have an aunt or grandma who makes them, it’s not something that’s readily available.”