Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Baklava

Be still my butter-honey-nut loving saccharined soul. Said my overjoyed mind to the thumpingoutofchest heart, as I experienced the generous slice of a handmade and quite overwhelming phyllostacked marvel. It is rich. Flaky. Crisp. Nutty. Sweet. Sticky. Juicy. What else is there to say? This is baklava.

Taken in from ancient Ottoman/ Turkish roots, it's the Farsi translation, many leaves, that visually guides us to understand this luxurious and extravagant treat, thus making an almost endless dough blanketing process more meaningful. A multilayered pastry perfected, once upon a time in Istanbul's palace kitchens, carrying present day variations that touch in from all parts of Western and Central Asia. 

Wonderment at its finest, a vertical compilation of stacked paperthin edible sheets, with nuts to fill middles and sugar syrup to hold the show in. And in case you don't  know, whenever you put mountainous piles of crisp, feathery dough with properly accentuating elements, it shall never ever be an unwelcome thing. Almost has you question why it couldn't be considered the 8th wonder of the world. Or is that spot already filled?

Further, it will knock flat those misguided notions of having one-too-many watereddown, perhaps dryflavorless versions of whatshouldbe utterly astounding. Take heart, for much of that can be overcome and nixed, once you are armed with knowledge, master  the skill and aspire to do just what I say so you too can see how devastatingly easy baklava can be. 

I have a newfound love for phyllo, beautifully tissuelike and possessing such right demeanor for what's in store, a dough that unfortunately bears the notorious reputation of being tricky and fragile beyond words. Though I tell you, in proper care and handling, you will become friends with these very laminated sheets, setting in to almost reverence with each successive contact. And no worries if that strip tears or goes slightly askew, here will be more than enough opportunity for a smooth coverup, reaching you to your flawless finale, and beyond par presentation .

I will mention the absolute need to have at your ready, copious amounts of melted butter. Just so that brush of layers happen. To soften, crisp, separate and make the whole thing insanely awesome.

A generous mosaic of nuts, kissed in warmth, spread throughout strategically, gives it substance, makes it posh and thus brings in the structure and resemblance of classic baklava. Herein, my  sidenote: the pistachio/almond/pecan/walnut composite and its accompanying Christmasreminiscent spice merge I've used  may not be your thing. Sole showing of walnuts and cinnamon may do. Why not pistachios/cashews/cloves? For yall out there that speak only pee-cans, may the force be with you, but bear in mind, this is where you sing your own tune, adapting variables of The Listed, things that are distinct to your pantry and palate.

Finally, fair warning, as you settle your assembled dessert into oven heat, sugar syrup boiled and waiting, acknowledge the gentle tug of pride, later to ascend to goosebump shivers. Your insides may swell with a sense of accomplishment. The Oh My!Did I? experience is exhilarating and does not fade. Because you just nailed one of the most celebrated, highly popular pastries and reputably "difficult"desserts on the planet. 

I think I've said enough. 



Crediting my baklava recipe to a single source would not only be difficult, but unjust. While Pioneer Woman humored it from the get-go, and had me pondering in Ree Drummond-ish ways as I set upon the methodical layering of my very breakaful components, Allrecipes Baklava1 sold me on its 5 solid stars and rather simple ingredient list, PLUS a very helpful 1400 commenter community with loads of advice to help achieve a muchbeyond favorable outcome. Of course, standing ovation to Alton Brown, with the Recipe of Recipes, Master of the labroom-like tutorial, exacting truetoform precision, start to finish. 



Things begin looking up when you reach this far into writing (chug-a-chug-chug). I had a set mind that I would call it a wrap and publish today, since it's been lingering for a while on my draft page for a little over 3 weeks. Hurrah for lazy! Shame on me, right? 

(Inspirations and Sources: Allrecipes.com, Pioneer Woman's baklava, Baklava:Alton Brown)
Ingredients:
  • 1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough
  • 1 lb chopped nuts(divided between chopped pistachios/almonds/walnuts and pecans)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ginger powder
  • 1 ½ cups butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cups honey
  • 1 clove
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions:
  • Bring phyllo dough to room temperature either by thawing frozen dough in the refrigerator for upto a few hours before starting baklava assembly.
  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with butter
  • Toss chopped nuts with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger powder. Set aside.
  • Trim the sheets of phyllo(I use scissors) to fit the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. 
  • Set aside phyllo over the sheet it was packed in. Cover it with plastic wrap and a damp, well-wrung kitchen towel. Phyllo dries out and gets brittle very fast. Keep with you only what is needed for the moment.
  • Grab hold of two sheets of phyllo and lay down and press gently into the pan. Lightly brush the topmost sheet with butter. Repeat this step 4 more times, every 2 sheets buttered, for a total of 8 sheets of phyllo
  • Spoon 3 tbsps of nut filling or enough to make a single layer over the top of this 8th sheet.
  • Place over this four sheets of phyllo, butter in between every two,  then nuts. Repeat four sheets, butter between every two, nuts. Do this with until you have used up the nut mixture.
  • Once you have placed in the last installment of nuts, lay over it a final 8 sheets of dough, buttering between each two. Finish off with a liberal brushing of butter on the topmost layer.
  • Using a sharp knife cut through the top layers, stopping within half an inch to the bottom of the pan, making 5-6 diagonal rows, lengthwise and then cut across to form 2"-3" individual diamond shaped cuts.
  • Spritz with a light spray of water to avoid any curling of the dough.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until top is golden brown and crisp.
  • Make syrup by boiling sugar and water. Add honey, clove and stir through. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes.
  • Take off heat, add vanilla.
  • Remove baklava from oven. Strain out clove.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Carefully pour cooled syrup over hot baklava, waiting for layers to absorb the syrup.
  • Score through the cuts all the way to the bottom layer.
  • Wait a few hours for the syrup to absorb and serve once baklava is room temperature.

In Greece, baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life. Source: wiki) Pretty neat, huh?


Right said Ree~"Baklava is yummy, but it's yummiest when you make it at home." Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman

Notes~
For the crisp to stay crisp and pieces that don't sog and slosh, pour cold syrup over hot baklava or wait till baklava cools and reheat syrup to pour it hot over the cooled baklava.

Cutting the slants just short of half an inch from the bottom of the pan before baking allows the sauce to seep into every layer of the baklava, without it sitting and condensing at the bottom of the dish. You can cut all the way through once it has completely cooled.

A 9x 11 pan yields roughly 30 even sized pieces.

A broken lens and a set of 100 pictures( the real good ones) swallowed in edit made me long pause before starting up on a nextbatch. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement.
******
 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” 2 Samuel 22:17 and 29

4 comments:

  1. I am one sucker for baklava... but somehow some outlets here make it so badly that you wouldn't want to eat it! :( Have been wanting to make this at home but can't push myself thanks to the sugar content, hehe... I wish I could just sit back and pull out a couple of peices right into my mouth... :)

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    1. Oh goodness, I've made it twice since Rafeeda..the homemade kind is too good to pass up. Believe me;-D

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  2. Lovely to hear from you again! Baklava is my absolute favourite though, that sweet sticky beauty :P
    Delicious photos!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Thank you G. Uru! Always nice to hear from you.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!