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Archive for May, 2011


 

a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!

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This is a great recipe to use up the cup of discarded starter from when you feed your sourdough.  It’s a very easy recipe that does not call for boiling soda water.  I like that very much because last time I made pretzels I found out that the bubbles that form on top of the boiling soda water can burn your hands when you are dropping the pretzels into the boiling soda water.  Which made me very sad and made dropping the rest of the pretzels into the boiling soda water extremely very not fun!  So, if you are a diehard pretzel fan and insist on dropping them into boiling soda water (or lye water), you may not like this recipe.  But some of you might enjoy it even more.  Like I do.  And I suppose that if you really really want to, you can go ahead and drop them into boiling soda water.  I really don’t mind.

Sourdough Pretzel Recipe

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp yeast

1 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp honey

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

3/4 cup lukewarm water

1 cup unfed sourdough starter (can come straight out of the fridge)

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Topping Pretzels

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp hot water

pretzel salt, sea salt, or kosher salt

2 Tbsp melted butter

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Mix all ingredients and knead until you get a dough that is fairly smooth, but slightly sticky.  Cover the dough and let it rise for about 45 minutes.  It is not going to rise very much so don’t get worried when it doesn’t.

Punch the dough down to deflate it and turn it out onto a lightly greased (not floured) work surface.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long and fold and twist into the classic pretzel shape.  Or any other shape that happens to catch your fancy.  Place the pretzels on a buttered or parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Dissolve the sugar into the hot water and brush over the tops of the pretzels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Here’s the best part:  the pretzels don’t have to rise and they don’t take a dip in the boiling soda water!  Yay!

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until they are lightly browned.  Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush with the melted butter.  The butter will keep them from getting hard.

So tell me, what is your favorite pretzel shape?

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