Baklava Boast

Ambition is the essential ingredient for executing this recipe. Lucky for me, I’m F******ambitious. Are you? Never too ambitious, I don’t think that exists, yet I do have a nasty habit of blaming ambition when a finished product doesn’t reflect the original image or idea in my minds eye. In reality we should just castaway expectations, but remain rooted in the process of creation, enjoying those fleeting moments themselves. Easier said than done, but we’ll practice! So with this one, do whatever you gotta do to tear down the dam of doubt built up in your mind, which may constrain your ability to coax thin layers of delicate pastry out of a lump of dough. Unlock the floodgates, lead the rebellion, so that you may find creative liberation abreast a mighty wave of ambition coursing on through this project.

layers of crispy pastry and nuts in hand, a single piece of baklava
layers of crispy pastry and nuts = baklava

This baklava really tastes delicious, as delicious as fallen leaves in the forest smell to me this time of year. It bakes up super crispy and one bite is like jumping into the biggest pile of raked, crunchy leaves; they are equally harmonic, rippling experiences. I intentionally made the final 3 layers of phyllo dough extra thick so that you feel a real rustic crunch in your mouth.

The flavor even has me recalling the taste of apple pies, although there is no fruit in this recipe. I think the fruity essence comes from the special honey I use; rather than using sugar to make a syrup, as it is done traditionally, I choose to substitute Killer Bees Sourwood Honey for sweetness, and you should use some quality local honey too, if you are fortunate enough to have a jar around.

four arranged pieces of baklava with honey drizzled on top
honey drizzle

Clear a large work space for all of your rolling, slicing, and assembling. Then take a deep breath. At the top of your breath consider the image of your exalted expectations, if there is any, and then knock over the pedestal, let go of your breath, exhaling completely, as the image of your perfect baklava crashes onto the floor in a million crispy pieces. Take another deep breath, feel the soothing capability running through your hands up to your fingertips, exhale, and GO!

a measuring tape, rectangle of phyllo dough and pizza cutter
a piece of dough measuring 18″ by 13″
slicing phyllo dough with a pizza cutter on top of a cloth and table
slicing the rectangle in half to make 2 layers of phyllo pastry
holding up dough to see its depth of transparency
see-through, super thin phyllo dough
assembling the layers of baklava with phyllo dough being carefully place on top
layering phyllo on top of the nut filling to create layers
single piece of baklava nex to arranged fall leaves
Fall phyllo pastry
a close up of baklava layers, dripping in honey
brilliant layers of nuts, pastry and honey
the crispy cooked bottom of a baklava
a caramelized underside

The phyllo dough recipe has been adapted from Serious Eats’ Austrian Apple Strudel recipe. Although people generally use store bought phyllo dough instead,  I choose to make it because I had fantastic results recreating the magical strudel made in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them with this recipe.

Please let me know if you are baking along! I would love know about your trials and triumphs in pastry land, so that we can learn together.

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Baklava

Course Dessert
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 30 pieces
Author Chrystina

Ingredients

For the phyllo dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10-12 tablespoons lukewarm water

For the filling:

  • 1 pound mixed nuts, I used walnuts and almonds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter

For the finishing syrup:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Mix the flour and salt together, on low speed in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Drizzle all of the olive oil and almost all of the water into the mixing bowl while it is on low speed. If your dough is not coming together and seems too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you get a shaggy dough that wants to stick together. Once the dough becomes a shaggy mass, turn off the mixer and switch from using the paddle to the dough hook attachment. Knead your dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until it feels and looks soft, smooth and elastic. If your dough is too sticky and wet, add a bit more flour and continue kneading until your dough feels right. Shape the dough into a ball, coat it with a bit more olive oil and place covered in a bowl in your refrigerator to rest for at least one hour.

  2. In a small sauce pot combine lemon juice, water, honey and a cinnamon stick. Cook over medium heat until *almost* boiling, then reduce the heat to medium/low and continue cooking for  5 minutes. Remove your syrup from the heat and let it cool completely.

  3. Chop the nuts into very small bits and place in a medium bowl with cinnamon, clove and sugar; mix everything together and then divide it into 5 even-ish portions. Melt your butter in a separate bowl.

  4. After resting the phyllo for an hour, weigh the entire dough ball and then divide it into 10 even portions. Lightly flour your counter top. You may also want to lightly flour your rolling pin or the top of the dough if it is too sticky.

  5. Begin rolling out the first portion of dough into the biggest rectangle you can muster. Once you can't take it any farther with your pin, begin stretching the dough from the center with both hands as your fingertips gently pull outwards towards the edges on the underside of the dough. Continue the motion of stretching the dough with your fingertips, while maintaining a rectangular shape until your single piece of dough is 18" X 13". With a pizza slicer or a large, sharp knife divide your rectangle in half so that you end up with two 9" X 13" rectangles.
  6. Generously butter your baking tray and place one phyllo rectangle down in it, lining up the edges of the dough to meet the edges and corners of the rectangle pan as closely as you are able. Use a basting brush to generously butter the exposed side of your first phyllo layer. Top it with the second 9" X 13" layer of phyllo, lining it up with the edges and corners again, as well as generously buttering the exposed upper-side of the dough. Repeat this process with the next 2 portions of dough: rolling out, stretching, dividing, laying down and lining up, and finally buttering.

  7. Now you have used 3 out of 10 of your dough portions and created 6 thin layers of phyllo dough as your base to begin topping with your nut filling. Evenly distribute the first portion of nut filling (1/5 of the total amount) in a layer topping your phyllo base.
  8. Repeat the directions in steps 5, 6, and 7 working with one portion of dough at a time. You should build on your base of 6 phyllo layers and nut filling with 2 phyllo layers topped with another 1/5 portion of nut filling. Repeat this pattern 3 additional times. By the end of this step you should end up with:

    6 layer phyllo base, nut filling,

    2 layers of phyllo, nut filling,

    2 layers of phyllo, nut filling,

    2 layers of phyllo, nut filling,

    2 layers of phyllo, nut filling. 

  9. The remaining 3 portions of dough must now be extended as you did in step 5, however, you only need to stretch each portion into a single 9" X 13" rectangle; you do not need to divide your rectangle into 2 pieces and you do not have to stretch it as far in the first place. Work with one portion of dough at a time: rolling out, stretching to 9" X 13" rectangle, laying down and lining up and finally buttering.Repeat this process twice more, until you are out of phyllo dough. In totality you will have made 17 layers of phyllo dough and 5 layers of nut filling to complete your baklava.

  10. Preheat the oven to 350. Be sure to generously butter the top layer of phyllo. Using a sharp chefs knife, make 4-6 vertical cuts from the top to bottom, orienting the tray so that the lines run parallel to the longest sides of the tray. Be sure to make clean cuts all the way through to the last, bottom layer of phyllo dough. Make another set of 4-6 diagonal lines, cutting all the way through, in order to create a tray of diamond shaped pieces.
  11. Place on the middle rack in your oven and bake for about an hour, or until crisp and golden brown. After removing your baklava from the oven, immediately pour your cooled syrup over top of the entire tray as evenly as possible. You can top it with more chopped nuts at this point if you wish. Let your baklava sit to cool and congeal for at least 4 hours.

A special thanks to my love, Christian, for capturing photos of the phyllo dough layering process :*

 

 

 

Cherry Cobbler Over Coals

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. In response, I am acting on a desire to create simple recipes. I’m thinking simple as in a smaller ingredient list, fewer steps in the method, and reducing reliance on specific appliances or tools. I don’t know if baking could ever really be described as simple, since there’s always loads of dirty dishes to be washed, but we can try. I want to make baking more accessible to us, so that we can all share in the practice more often.

Cherries are on sale at the grocery, holla!, I’m grabbing a couple of pounds…it’s that simple. But now, what to do with them? The obvious handfuls for snacking, but we’ve got pounds of ’em. Cherry pie would be a nice classic, however, pie crust seems daunting to the sleepyhead. My fiance eagerly suggests cobbler; probably the only sweet thing he knows how to make, and is the delicious treat he made for me the day he got down on one knee. My mind strolls to that Sunday, just a few summer months ago, and suddenly it’s settled; We’re having cobbler tonight.

This recipe is made extra special by the deeply delicious Killer Bees Honey , which I generously drizzled over my bowl full of cherries, deepening the burgundy shade of their blushing skin. The distinctive Sourwood Honey bursts upon the palate with a pleasant spiciness, until sweet floral notes and warming clove-like flavors soothe the tongue with a light, lingering sourness. Your heart will be won over by this charismatic honey; please do order a bottle of your own and join me in praise of Killer Bees.

Ingredients

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tablespoons white sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling the top

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup buttermilk

4 tablespoons butter, browned and melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 pounds sweet cherries, pitted

1 tablespoon corn flour

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions

Preheat your grill or oven to about 400°F. I used a charcoal grill so that I could enjoy the warm evening outdoors.  It was a fun new experiment too, because I’ve never baked on a grill, and now I’ve got a good dose of confidence and curiosity to continue on.

Butter your cast-iron skillet. Whisk the all purpose and almond flours with sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, in a medium bowl. Fold in the buttermilk, brown butter and vanilla until everything is just combined.

In a separate bowl, toss the pitted cherries with corn flour and honey. Pour the fruit into your cast-iron in a somewhat even layer.

Spoon big, rough dough dumplings on top of the cherries, spacing sorta evenly. Sprinkle the entire dish with sugar and sliced almonds. Cover your dish with aluminum foil and place in the heated grill for 15 minutes. Check on your cobbler by removing the foil and then continue baking for an additional 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the dough is golden brown and the cherry juices are bubbling.

Let the cobbler cool for a few minutes before serving. It’s super tasty alone, and even more indulgent with a scoop of ice cream. Luckily, I had a pint of homemade peach cream waiting in the freezer.

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Cherry Cobbler

A quick dessert made using seasonal fruit and baked outdoors on a charcoal grill.

Course Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6 people
Author Chrystina

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons butter browned and melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds pitted sweet cherries
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill or oven to about 400°F. I used a charcoal grill so that I could enjoy the warm evening outdoors. It was a fun new experiment too, because I've never baked on a grill, and now I've got a good dose of confidence and curiosity to continue on.

  2. Butter your cast-iron skillet. Whisk the all purpose and almond flours with sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt, in a medium bowl. Fold in the buttermilk, brown butter and vanilla until everything is just combined.

  3. In a separate bowl, toss the pitted cherries with corn flour and honey. Pour the fruit into your cast-iron in a somewhat even layer.

  4. Spoon big, rough dough dumplings on top of the cherries, spacing sorta evenly. Sprinkle the entire dish with sugar and sliced almonds. Cover your dish with aluminum foil and place in the heated grill for 15 minutes. Check on your cobbler by removing the foil and then continue baking for an additional 15 minutes. You'll know it's ready when the dough is golden brown and the cherry juices are bubbling.Let the cobbler cool for a few minutes before serving. It's super tasty alone, and even more indulgent with a scoop of ice cream. Luckily, I had a pint of homemade peach cream waiting in the freezer.