Baklava…

Holy smokes it lives! I have been slacking major with the blog. After moving, I started working and was too pooped to do anything.  The commute is long and I get home at 630 too tired to do anything worthy of a blog.  So basically my weekends have been my real cooking days.  I have a few recipes to share now because of that.  First off is baklava.

I’ve always wondered whether baklava was Greek or middle eastern. After some research, it turns out that it originates from the Ottoman empire, which was quite massive at its peak.  That’s why I see it in restaurants with cuisine from Greece to Jerusalem to the Middle East, even to India. The one thing we can all agree on is it’s damn tasty.

I find that some I eat from different locations are too sweet.  As I like to say, it’s “icky-icky” sweet.  So I decided to make a batch after seeing filo dough (aka phyllo) at the store recently. You technically can make filo dough yourself.  I wouldn’t want to though.  It’s like making puff pastry, but thinner….much thinner.  Make it once and you will swear, quite profusely, to never do it again.

 

You may have to trim the dough to your pan.  I used a pizza wheel.  With the extras, I threw it in between the layers.  Packages typically contain 1 lb of dough.  After making a baked brie last week, I was left 20 sheets.  It worked fine for me as I put 8 on the bottom and top with 2 between nut layers.

Making this involves lots of repetition.  Just make sure to keep track of how many layers you’ve done.

Check out my sweet nuts.  No really, look at them.  I used a blend of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. I would have used pistachio too but that’ll have to wait until next time.

 

The syrup is the key to this recipe.  Most places are “icky-icky” sweet as stated before, but I don’t want to skimp on flavor either. So to compromise, I used a 1:1:1 ratio of water to honey to sugar.  Then I discovered Truvia baking blend, which is Truvia mixed with a bit of sugar.  Stevia products are the only artificial sweeteners I endorse because they’re not really artificial.  Stevia plants produce the sweet compound in their leaves, so it’s very natural.  It cuts down on the calories from sugar and wasn’t cloyingly sweet either, just perfect.

Also, most places just use sugary syrup.  I flavored mine with cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom.  It was mind-blowing. And to cap off the awesomeness, I found a real copper pot at goodwill for $6. It’s thin-walled copper and it’s a steal.  A pot this size from a store like Williams & Sonoma would be over $300! It boiled the syrup in 3 minutes.

 

Ok enough celebrating over copper.

 

After baking, drizzle the syrup over the pastry, which has been pre-cut so syrup can ooze into every crevice.

 

Lastly, the most important step.  Eat the delicious baklava you’ve just made.

Baklava

Filling:

1 lb dough
1 lb nuts
1 cinnamon stick
15 allspice berries, whole
2/3 c sugar
8 oz butter, melted

Put the cinnamon stick and allspice berries in a spice grinder and pulse down to a fine powder.  Ground spices are allowable if they’re fresh. Place nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse to chop the nuts small, but not powdery.

Trim dough sheets to pan size and brush pan with butter. Layer dough sheets and butter to total 8 sheets for the bottom crust.

Place 1/3 of the nut mixture onto the sheet, then layer with two sheets of dough.  Brush butter between every sheet. Repeat twice.

Top it off with 8 sheets of layered dough. Brush the top liberally.

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.  Remove and slice into squares.  Bake another 30 minutes.  Cool for at least two hours before adding syrup.

Syrup:

1 c honey
1 c water
1/2 c Truvia baking blend (equal to 1 c sugar)
1 cinnamon stick
2″ orange peel
1 T lemon juice
pinch of ground cloves
1 cardamom pod, cracked open

In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil. Meanwhile as it’s heating, stir until all sugar is dissolved.  Boil on medium for 10 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and discard peel and spices.

Once the squares are cool,  syrup on and rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Then gorge on it like no one’s looking.

 

 

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