Angela Papadis loved baking baklava so much that she named her business after the Greek dessert.
Every time a customer orders one of her sweet treats, Papadis thinks back to learning the recipe from her grandmother, who taught her how to make baklava when she was 12 years old.
Papadis named her business The Baklava Box, and is one of the many vendors at Market on Main located at 156 E. Main St. in downtown Spartanburg. She is selling her Greek-style baklava, a layered filo pastry with walnuts and honey, throughout Spartanburg.
“For years, people have been asking me to open up a bakery, and it always seemed like a huge feat. Greek food and baking are very involved — there isn’t really a dish that is under three hours — so it’s very time-consuming,” Papadis said.
But she said every Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, people would ask her about making baklava. So she decided to give it a try and opened her business.
Papadis opened her business in October 2020, but her journey started at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Everybody seemed so down, and it was hard on everybody, I think, to be in,” Papadis said of the first months of the pandemic. “I didn’t know how long it was going to last, but I thought, let me try out delivering to family and friends and do contactless delivery because I was just going crazy at home.”
She settled on making baklava, a near-universal favorite of Greek cuisine that is also able to be left on porches and not be ruined if it’s not brought in right away.
Her business took off after she started selling at vendor events in Inman and Spartanburg during the summer of 2021. Papadis now delivers around 20 orders in a typical week and usually has two flavors of baklava available. Everything is made in small batches, from the syrup down to the chopped nuts.
Customers place their orders by email to email@example.com by Friday evening; Papadis makes the syrup on Sunday, bakes the baklava on Monday and lets it rest until Tuesday night when she cuts and boxes it for Wednesday deliveries.
"I've gotten the actual ordering and the things in (Market on Main) down to where I've got zero waste; I don't have any leftover. That's why if somebody wants something last minute, I just can’t get it to them,” Papadis said.
Her recent shift to selling at Market on Main in addition to her home deliveries has made it easier for her customers to satisfy their baklava cravings whenever they want.
The Baklava Box has been well-received as a new vendor at the downtown shop. Market on Main co-owner and store stylist Stacey Johnson said baklava was a great fit for the store, due to its long shelf-life.
“She has taught me a lot about baklava, and her baklava, of course, is one of the best I’ve ever tasted so it was a perfect union,” Johnson said.
Sharing her grandmother’s legacy
Papadis inherited her love of baking from her grandmother, Afendia “Frances” Stalikas. Stalikas was a cake decorator in her 20s at a bakery in Boston and retained her passion for baking for decades after.
She was widowed at 40, when her husband Nicholas died, and she lived with her daughter, Papadis’ mother, and her husband and children from the time Papadis was born. Papadis was always at her grandmother's side in the kitchen.
"She had me, starting at 8-years-old, making eggs, scrambling them with a fork. Then, I graduated to Greek cookies, and then to baklava, and then the cooking. She had me all the time in the kitchen, under her wing, so I really get my inspiration from her," Papadis said. "My grandmother and I would sit and roll hundreds of (koulourakia) for church, and it was a great bonding time for us because we'd be rolling them and talking about all kinds of things."
Papadis continued the tradition in her own home and before starting her business, would often make batches of cookies and baklava for friends in addition to family. Now, she's found yet another way to share her passion for the beauty and deliciousness of Greek baking with others.
In addition to selling her baklava at Market on Main, Papadis will also teach classes in the shop’s kitchen. The first class, a "Mommy and Me" parent-child class, is Jan. 22 from 2-3:30 p.m. The $30 class includes a lesson in making koulourakia cookies with their distinctive traditional twist, as well as holiday variations for Easter and Christmas. Families will also receive a recipe for the cookies and dough to take home.
"They're crunchy on the outside and tender in the middle. They have a very subtle flavor; a lot of people enjoy them with their Greek coffee," Papadis said. "We thought it'd be fun to have people come out and learn a little bit about them and we're going to do some funny shapes for Easter, so if they want to recreate it at home they can do the traditional shape or something for Easter like bunnies or crosses."
Papadis recommended the class for children ages 5-14. The class can be registered for on Market on Main's website, marketonmainspartanburg.com.
Looking to the future
While Papadis loves traditional Greek baking, that’s not all customers have to expect when they order from the Baklava Box.
Papadis has been experimenting with new baklava flavors and serving them up alongside the traditional.
“I’ve made traditional, a million times? I can’t even count how many. So I decided to make chocolate baklava when I did an event,” Papadis said. “I’m trying to do some different things to keep people interested in it and add something to it, something different.”
In addition to chocolate, she's made a pumpkin spice variation of traditional, layered baklava and a baklava topping, and this month, she rolled out baklava-flavored protein balls. She plans to try strawberry baklava in the summer and is working on a gluten-free version.
Her family are her best taste testers. She said the new flavors are always met with a mixed reaction.
"Once a month, they're eating different pans of whatever I'm coming up with,” Papadis said. “Anytime anybody comes into tow, any family, I’m like, ‘You have to try this. Tell me what you think.’ So they’re all my taste testers.”
She’s not sure what her grandmother would think of the new flavors, but she knows running her business makes her feel even closer to her.
“I was a widow at 40 also, just like my YiaYia. In so many ways, I’m leading a parallel life to hers, right down to the baking,” Papadis said.
Samantha Swann covers food and restaurants in Spartanburg County. She is a University of South Carolina Upstate and Greenville Technical College alumna. Contact her with your burning restaurant questions, recipes, and new dinner specials at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @sameatsspartanburg.
This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Baker shares family recipe at the Baklava Box at Market on Main