Monday, June 16, 2008

In other news Sunday

I taught myself how to make Baklava. Honestly, the most difficult part was getting the sheets of phyllo apart. The recipe was pretty easy - not a lot of technical stuff or weird ingredients. For a pastry brush, I use a three-inch wooden-handled paintbrush I got for 69 cents at the hardware store. It works fine.

Wicked Easy Baklava
1 16-ounce package of phyllo dough (the sheets are usually about 9 by 13 inches - imagine that!)
1 cup butter, unsalted (that's two sticks)

1 16-ounce bag walnuts, chopped pretty fine
dash or two of cinnamon

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
splash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350

Make sure they phyllo is completely thawed and unroll both packages that come in the box. Cover them with a damp, lint-free towel or cloth in between using sheets. It's fussy stuff. If it gets too wet, it'll stick together. If it gets dry, it will get brittle and break apart in a million pieces. (Place a piece of paper on top of the bottom six sheets so you will know when you are getting near the end.)

Chop the nuts and toss with the cinnamon. (I used quite a bit of cinnamon - maybe two tablespoons or so.)

Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and place over low heat. You don't want it to boil just yet - just melt the sugar.

butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13 baking pan.
Lay in two sheets of the phyllo and brush the top with butter. Don't soak it, but make sure you get it all. Put in two more sheets, brush with butter, two more sheets, and repeat until you've got a base of about 8 sheets.

Sprinkle about 1/8 cup of the nuts over the phyllo.

Two more sheets, brush with butter, sprinkle more nuts, and keep going like this until you hit that paper marker you put in the pile when you started.

By then you should be about out of nuts. If not, use 'em up.

use up the last six pieces of dough like you have been - two pieces, butter, two pieces, butter, etc. until you get to the end of the sheets. I used a little exra butter on the top to make it nice and crispy.

Make four cuts lengthwise in the pan, then make cuts the short way to make squares. Now make cuts on the diagonal from corner to corner so that you end up with a bunch of triangles.

Try not to cut all the way through to the bottom or the syrup won't fill in the upper layers later. You'll see, trust me.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until top is golden brown.

While that's in the oven, take another look at the pot of syrup. Bring it to a boil, add the honey and vanilla, and let it boil gently for about 20 minutes. Then turn the heat off, but you can leave it on the stove and it will be fine.

When the pan comes out of the oven, spoon the syrup over the pieces. It will make the coolest sizzle sound as it hits the hot metal and bubbles into the layers of dough. Try to get it over all the pieces as evenly as you can.

After it cools about 20 minutes, use a sharp knife to cut the rest of the way through the bottom layers of dough so the pieces will separate later.

Don't try to eat it until you can pick up the pan and put your bare hand flat on the bottom without discomfort. The syrup can burn like hell.

Sunday was not spent in a complete depression. Sometimes cooking can be therapy for me. This was one of those days.

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