NATIONAL BAKLAVA DAY!

 

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Today is National Baklava Day! I didn’t know there was such a day until recently. There seems to be a day for everything, so why shouldn’t this delicious, traditional Greek pastry be honored with its own day?

Many people are intimidated by the thought of attempting to make baklava, mainly because they’re not familiar with working with phyllo. It’s actually one of the easiest pastries to make and I often whip up a tray when I want to make something without too much fuss.

Baklava is so special it’s even mentioned in my novel, Evanthia’s Gift. Here is an excerpt:

           As the weeks went by, the change in Sophia could not be suppressed. She was lighter, happier and her eyes had a more dreamy quality to them. Whatever her task, it reflected the love that was bursting from the depths of her soul. Her bouquets at the flower shop were the most beautiful and creative work she’d ever fashioned. For Valentine’s Day she baked a delicious batch of baklava, while daydreaming how Dean would lick the sticky phyllo and walnuts off her fingertips, and she would kiss the rest of the honey off his irresistible lips. At the dance studio, she lost herself in romantic love songs, staying after class to choreograph pieces to the music that expressed her love for him. But it still bothered her that Dean wanted to keep their relationship a secret.

~ Baklava ~

 Filling

1 pound finely chopped walnuts

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Pastry

1 package phyllo dough

1½ cups melted unsalted butter

Syrup

1½ cups honey

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Orange rind and 2 tablespoons juice from orange

2 cinnamon sticks

*Don’t be intimidated by the phyllo. It does dry fast so you need to work quickly. Most bakers like to cover it with a damp towel. That method doesn’t work for me. I find the sheets of phyllo get stuck together. I just keep some Saran wrap on top to keep it from drying. The regular long size phyllo is great when I double the recipe and make a large pan. (The size of a full size sterno pan) If you find the shorter phyllo sheets, a 9x 13 pan works perfectly. I use a Pyrex baking dish and it works beautifully.

Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Brush the inside of the pan with some melted butter to coat. Lay two phyllo sheets in the pan. Brush the phyllo with butter using a pastry brush. Repeat three times. The bottom layer will have eight sheets in all. Spread one third of the filling onto the phyllo. Lay two sheets on top of the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat two more times. Spread another third of the filling on the phyllo. Lay two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat two times. Spread the last third of filling on the phyllo and cover with two sheets of phyllo. Repeat three more times. The top and bottom layers should have eight sheets. The layers in between the filling should have six sheets and there should be three layers of filling.

Carefully cut the baklava into squares, and then cut each square diagonally to form two triangles. This must be done before baking or the top layers will crumble if you try to cut them after baking. If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over the top before baking. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 300° and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The top layer should be golden brown.

While the Baklava is baking, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. When it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.

The syrup should be cooled if you are pouring it over hot pastry, or the pastry should be cooled if the syrup is hot. I prefer to have both slightly warm when I pour the syrup. Let the syrup absorb into the baklava for a day before serving.

 

 

BAKLAVA – CHRISTMAS BAKING MARATHON CONTINUES…

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Yesterday, I began to assemble trays and boxes of my cookies and pastries to hand out to neighbors, friends and others that I am in contact with during the course of the year.

In the past, I filled each tray or box exactly the same, but this year, each package was just a little different. About a month ago, I began to get little reminders from my friends as to which cookie was their favorite. None of my “Xeno” friends could pronounce any of the treats I’ve gifted to them, so they describe them to me instead. Richie told me he wants plenty of the ones with the sesame seeds – (koulourakia). Jo at work said she’s waiting for the revani. Maureen, the doctor I work with said the ones with the clove in the middle and drenched in syrup is her favorite – (melamakarona). And Ron down the block wants baklava — all the time. Every time he sees me — not just for Christmas.

Baklava is one of my quick and easy desserts to make. Most people think it’s difficult to make, but it’s quite simple, especially when you buy the packaged phyllo. I rarely make anything that is not completely from scratch, but rolling out dough as thin as paper would take all day.

My friend, a very talented chef, Krystina Kalapothakos, recently told me she was making her own phyllo. Youth and patience – that’s all it takes! Krystina’s blog is kouzounaskitchen.com. She has some amazing recipes on it. And if that isn’t enough, she just finished writing her first cookbook, Back To My Roots.

There’s plenty more trays to be assembled, so you’ll have to wait and see what else I’ve baked this season.

~ Baklava ~

 

Filling

1 pound finely chopped walnuts

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Pastry

1 package phyllo dough

1½ cups unsalted butter, melted

Syrup

1½ cups honey

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Orange rind and 2 tablespoons juice from orange

2 cinnamon sticks

*Don’t be intimidated by the phyllo. It does dry fast so you need to work quickly. Most people like to cover it with a damp towel. This doesn’t work for me. I find it gets mushy and the leaves stick together. I just keep some Saran wrap on top of it. The regular long size phyllo is great when I double the recipe and make a large pan. (The size of a full size sterno pan) If you find the shorter phyllo sheets, a 9x 13 pan works perfectly. I use a Pyrex baking dish and it works beautifully.

Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Brush the inside of the pan with some melted butter to coat. Lay two phyllo sheets in the pan. Brush the phyllo with butter using a pastry brush. Repeat three times. The bottom layer will have eight sheets in all. Spread one third of the filling onto the phyllo. Lay two sheets on top of the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat two more times. Spread another third of the filling on the phyllo. Lay two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat two times. Spread the last third of filling on the phyllo and cover with two sheets of phyllo. Repeat three more times. The top and bottom layers should have eight sheets. The layers in between the filling should have six sheets and there should be three layers of filling.

Carefully score the baklava into squares, and then cut each square into two triangles. This must be done before baking or the top layers will crumble if you try to cut them after baking. If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over the top before baking. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 300° and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The top layer should be golden brown.

While the Baklava is baking, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. When it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.

The syrup should be cooled if you are pouring it over hot pastry, or the pastry should be cooled if the syrup is hot. I prefer to have both slightly warm when I pour the syrup. Let the syrup absorb into the baklava for a day before serving.

 

 

 

Baklava & The Release of EVANTHIA’S GIFT

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With the release of my debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, I will be reposting recipes that are mentioned in the story. Food always plays an important role in the lives of the Greek people, and for this reason, I’ve included a few recipes within the novel. Below is an excerpt where baklava is mentioned in one of the chapters.

“For Valentine’s Day she baked a delicious batch of baklava, while daydreaming how Dean would lick the sticky phyllo and walnuts off her fingertips, and she would kiss the rest of the honey off his irresistible lips.”

EVANTHIA’S GIFT is available on Amazon in print or on kindle.

Baklava

Filling

1 pound finely chopped walnuts

½ cup sugar

1tablespoon cinnamon

Pastry

1 package phyllo dough

1-½ cups melted unsalted butter

Syrup

1-½ cups honey

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Orange rind and 2 tablespoons juice from orange

2 cinnamon sticks

First, don’t be intimidated by the phyllo. It does dry fast so you need to work quickly. I’ve seen it suggested that covering the phyllo with a damp towel would keep it from drying or flaking. This doesn’t work for me—it makes the dough mushy. I keep Saran wrap on top of the sheets I am not working with. The regular long size phyllo is great when I double the recipe and make a large pan. (The size of a full size sterno pan). If you find the shorter phyllo sheets the smaller pan fits perfectly with the sheet size. I use a Pyrex baking dish and it works beautifully.

Method

Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Brush the inside of the pan with some melted butter to coat. Lay two phyllo sheets in the pan. Brush the phyllo with butter using a pastry brush. Repeat three more times. The bottom layer will have eight sheets in all. Spread 1/3 of the filling onto the phyllo. Lay two sheets on top of the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat two more times. Spread another 1/3 of the filling on the phyllo. Lay two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat two times. Spread the last 1/3 of filling on the phyllo and cover with two sheets of phyllo. Repeat three more times. The top and bottom layers should have eight sheets. The layers in between the filling should have six sheets and there should be three layers of filling.

Carefully, cut the baklava into squares and then cut each square diagonally to form two triangles. This must be done before baking or the top layers will crumble if you try to cut them after baking. If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over the top before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Check the color after the first 30 minutes. If the top is golden, and the color is where it should be, lay foil on top to keep it from getting too dark. Do not wrap; just lay it on top.

While the Baklava is baking, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. When it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.

The syrup should be cooled if you are pouring over hot pastry, or the pastry should be cooled and the syrup can be hot. I prefer the have both slightly warm when I pour the syrup. I like to let the syrup absorb into the baklava for a day before I serve or wrap for gift platters.

This is actually one of the easiest pastries to make. Once you get a feel for handling the phyllo it’s a breeze.

Baklava

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Tonight I finished the last of my holiday baking. It’s been quite a week or so trying to fit the baking in between my job, gift shopping and wrapping and all the other obligations that consume my day. But It’s done! I spent the better part of the evening making baklava and revani. Tomorrow, I’ll begin to put the many platters of pastries together.

I do wish for each of you for your holidays to be filled with laughter and the makings of happy memories with family and friends. For me, the next two weeks will be busy visiting and entertaining cherished friends and my wonderful extended family—and that is truly what makes this season special.

Baklava

Filling

1 pound finely chopped walnuts

½ cup sugar

1tablespoon cinnamon

Pastry

1 package phyllo dough

1-½ cups melted unsalted butter

Syrup

1-½ cups honey

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Orange rind and 2 tablespoons juice from orange

2 cinnamon sticks

First, don’t be intimidated by the phyllo. It does dry fast so you need to work quickly. I’ve seen it suggested that covering the phyllo with a damp towel would keep it from drying or flaking. This doesn’t work for me—it makes the dough mushy. I keep Saran wrap on top of the sheets I am not working with. The regular long size phyllo is great when I double the recipe and make a large pan. (The size of a full size sterno pan). If you find the shorter phyllo sheets the smaller pan fits perfectly with the sheet size. I use a Pyrex baking dish and it works beautifully.

Method

Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Brush the inside of the pan with some melted butter to coat. Lay two phyllo sheets in the pan. Brush the phyllo with butter using a pastry brush. Repeat three more times. The bottom layer will have eight sheets in all. Spread 1/3 of the filling onto the phyllo. Lay two sheets on top of the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat two more times. Spread another 1/3 of the filling on the phyllo. Lay two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat two times. Spread the last 1/3 of filling on the phyllo and cover with two sheets of phyllo. Repeat three more times. The top and bottom layers should have eight sheets. The layers in between the filling should have six sheets and there should be three layers of filling.

Carefully, cut the baklava into squares and then cut each square diagonally to form two triangles. This must be done before baking or the top layers will crumble if you try to cut them after baking. If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over the top before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Check the color after the first 30 minutes. If the top is golden, and the color is where it should be, lay foil on top to keep it from getting too dark. Do not wrap; just lay it on top.

While the Baklava is baking, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. When it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.

The syrup should be cooled if you are pouring over hot pastry, or the pastry should be cooled and the syrup can be hot. I prefer the have both slightly warm when I pour the syrup. I like to let the syrup absorb into the baklava for a day before I serve or wrap for gift platters.

This is actually one of the easiest pastries to make. Once you get a feel for handling the phyllo it’s a breeze.

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