From the first bite, I've always loved Baklava. It's a simple dessert with complex contrasts of flavor and texture - honeyed citrus and cinnamon, layers of papery-thin, buttery crust, and finely chopped nuts.
Years ago on a memorable date, my companion wanted to introduce me to the wonders of Mediterranean cooking. He was so earnest and so completely charming, that I hadn't the heart to tell him I'd eaten already at the restaurant he proposed or that I was familiar with the cuisine.
Never one to disappoint someone, especially someone of the male persuasion, who is trying to make me happy, I never let on and my Prince Charming proceeded to wow me with his Greek restaurant, ordering all his favorites and finishing with the classic dessert.
I loved the way he seemed delighted to delight me, and I loved the honey-syrup drenched Baklava.
Although the love affair lasted only a brief moment, my passion for Greek food and the deceptively simple Baklava has lasted a lifetime. Still, I'd never considered making Baklava. I always thought it would be too hard, having heard horror stories of phyllo's difficulty.
The good news is that the dessert, while time-consuming, is not difficult at all and the results are sensational. Make some for your next gathering and your reputation as a domestic goddess will be firmly established.
This recipe is easily halved as well.
from Gourmet June 2004
Adapted from Eleni Theos Stelter
Resist the urge to chop the nuts in a food processor — it makes them release more oil, resulting in a heavier baklava.
Active time: 1 1/2 hr Start to finish: 12 hr (includes chilling and standing)
Yield: Makes 32 pieces
Combine sugar and water in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart saucepan. Squeeze juice from lemon and orange into sugar mixture. Add fruit halves and cinnamon sticks. Bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, then simmer 10 minutes. Stir in honey and return to a boil. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Pour through a sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl, pressing hard on, then discarding, solids. Chill, uncovered, until cold, about 1 hour.Assemble and bake baklava:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together almonds, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt until combined well.
Generously brush a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish with melted butter. Halve phyllo sheets crosswise and stack sheets. Keep stack covered with 2 overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and then a dampened clean kitchen towel.
Lay 2 sheets of phyllo in bottom of baking dish and brush top sheet generously with butter. Continue to layer 2 sheets at a time, staggering sheets in each double layer slightly to cover bottom of dish, then brushing every second sheet generously with butter, until you have used 10 sheets of phyllo total.
After brushing top layer of phyllo with butter, spread a rounded 1 1/2 cups of nut mixture over it. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons butter.
Repeat layering 3 more times. Top with 10 more sheets of phyllo. (You will use 50 sheets of phyllo total.) Butter top and let baklava stand at room temperature to harden slightly (to facilitate cutting), 10 to 15 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, cut baklava into 16 equal rectangles, then cut each piece in half diagonally. (Be sure to cut all the way through.)
Bake baklava until golden, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If your oven runs hot like mine does, the baklava will be ready in 30 minutes.
Transfer dish to a rack to cool, then slowly pour cold syrup around edges of hot baklava, in between all cuts, and over top. Let stand at room temperature at least 8 hours. (Cover once baklava is at room temperature.) Do not chill.Cooks' notes:
Tired of the same old, same old pumpkins pie? Me, too!
That's why I love this great recipe from Zabar's - Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake. The gingersnap crust is a deliciously different touch. You can use canned pumpkin or puree your own.
If you want to make your own pumpkin pie filling, AllRecipes.com has tips for picking, baking or boiling fresh pumpkin for your harvest baking.
It's easy as pie!
Fruits other than grapes (seedless, please and thank you) rarely pass through the lips of my 10-year-old.
Imagine my delight when he agreed to an impromptu apple tasting at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket.
We tried Honeycrisps, Sonatas, Suncrisps, Mutsus or Crsipins, Fuji, Gala, and Asian Pears, which technically speaking are a cross between an apple and a pear. And this really only represented a portion of the selection available for purchase.
I could barely contain my delight - both with the flavor, quality and variety of fruits as well as my son's interest in eating said fruits.
We decided to buy Honeycrisps, Suncrisps and Mutsus.True to their name, the Honeycrisps went straight into individual tarts. The Suncrisps, while not lovely to look at, are juicy, crisp and a little spicy - good for cooking. A Japanese variety, the Mutsus had a firm flesh and the most interesting flavor - hints of herb and spice - good for eating with a sharp cheddar.
I was in the mood for something sweet when I got back form the market (when am I not). But since I've got the boy in the mood for apples, I think it might be a good idea to try tempting him with something savory.
Anyone for an apple, sweet sausage, and goat cheese tart?