Blast from the Past

Hi all! While we’re on our little siesta, we thought we’d share a few of our older posts that some of you may not have seen or may have forgotten. I also thought it would be a good time to share with our new subscribers and readers what we’re all about here at Eat, Play, Love. Basically, our journey started out as a way to teach Mr. N and Miss A (our kiddos) about various cultures and traditions around the world while opening all of us up to new foods and cooking techniques. It’s always a whole family affair. We take turns picking a country our U.S. state and then we find traditional or popular local recipes to try. Often times the kids will be involved in the cooking which gives us a chance to share some facts about the particular country or culture, and have some fun along the way. logo-final

We don’t claim to be experts either in culture or in cooking, but we do put forth our best efforts to make the recipes authentic and to review them honestly. You can read more about our spoon rating system here. You’ll notice as we go along that Miss A’s spoon ratings tend to be the most subjective ranging from 0 to 514 at times. We really don’t mind as long as she’s giving the different foods a chance, which is something both kids have been amazing at doing. From time to time, we’ll also share special occasion recipes, travel adventures and random recipes we just happen to love, but the majority of what you’ll see here is all about cooking around the world.

So here’s an old post from back in May 2011, shortly after we started the blog. This recipe just happens to be one of our favorites and has been made more than once. Enjoy!

Ever since last month when Dawn over at First Look, Then Cook posted her recipe for baklava, it’s been on my mind. I instantly thought of an ice wine we have that would match this dessert perfectly. Not to mention I’ve never worked with phyllo before and it sounded like a challenge I needed to tackle. So when we were looking for Egyptian desserts and came across the recipe for Baklawa, the Egyptian version of the dessert, I knew it was time to get to work.

The main differences between Greek baklava and Egyptian baklawa are that the Greek version uses honey in the syrup and almonds in the pastry. The Egyptian form of the dessert uses sugar and orange blossom in the syrup and omits the almonds. Either way, the dessert sounds intriguing to Mike and I, and one that we thought even Mr. N and Miss A would enjoy.

Miss A helped me out early in the process. She was very excited to see the mallet coming out again and was eager to crush the walnuts.

Next we melted the ghee, which as we learned is clarified butter oil. We were planning to just use butter, which would work as well, but we were surprised and excited when we saw ghee at the store so figured we’d go authentic.

Next it was time to make the nut mixture. We combined the walnuts with a 1/4 cup of the ghee, sugar, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Miss A mixed up all the ingredients and then we set it aside. (I had a vague recollection of seeing orange blossom water while in the Middle Eastern aisle at the grocery store which is what ultimately led to our ghee discovery.) 

It was then time to work with the phyllo. I emptied the kitchen for this part of the process. I’ve never worked with phyllo and I read all sorts of warnings about how delicate it is and how quickly it dries out. So I knew that I needed to have every ounce of my patience available. I began by folding one sheet of the phyllo in half and placing it in a greased 9″x13″ baking dish. I then brushed it with melted ghee and repeated this process until half of the phyllo sheets were used.

This was a tricky process. The phyllo truly is very thin and delicate (think single ply bathroom tissue), and you have to make sure to keep a damp towel on the unused sheets so they don’t dry out.  Once I was halfway through the phyllo, I covered the it with the nut mixture and spread it out evenly. Make sure to sample a little – it’s yummy! 

It was then time to finish up with the phyllo. Again, I folded the sheets in half and brushed with the melted ghee until I used all the phyllo sheets. Finally I took a sharp knife and made diagonal slices from the left corner to the right and then flipped the dish to slice rows – making little diamond pieces.

The baklawa was then put in the oven at 400F for 5 minutes at which point the heat was turned down to 300F. The baklawa bakes for about 50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

But wait, there’s more. As soon as the baklawa goes in the oven it’s time to begin the sharbat (syrup). I combined the sugar and water in a sauce pan and stirred constantly for 10 minutes. Next I incorporated lemon juice and orange blossom water and set the sharbat aside to cool while the baklawa finished baking.

Once the baklawa was done, I removed it from the oven and spooned the sharbat over the dish evenly. It made some nice bubbles and pops which I wish Mr. N could have seen if he wasn’t at school. He would have loved that action!

After the baklawa cooled, I recut the original slices and it was ready to serve.  Mr. N said he didn’t really like it, but then he asked for more. It either grew on him or he was hungry. Miss A enjoyed her first serving, but the true test will be if she comes back for more tomorrow. I definitely enjoyed it. The buttery cinnamon flavor is outstanding with the subtle hints of orange blossom. Mike was at work this evening, so his slice is waiting for him. The ice wine will have to wait for another night.

I was very pleased with the results of this recipe even though I don’t have anything with which to compare it. I have to say though, I’m darn proud I pulled it off. This was an intimidating recipe and one that had all the makings of a disaster given my typical lack of patience. I think I now have to revisit Greece and try a traditional Greek Baklava as well.

UPDATE: This recipe now gets 4 spoons all around. It’s become a family favorite.

Print this recipe: Baklawa

32 comments on “Blast from the Past

  1. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Hope your family is enjoying the siesta! :) Wow, your baklava looks so authentic! Very pretty too. And I was always curious how Ghee is sold, and now I know it’s in a jar! :)

  2. Charles says:

    Hi Kristy, I hope you’re all enjoying your time off! I don’t think I’d stumbled upon your blog way back then (although soon after undoubtedly!). Can you believe I never made baklava, and yet I freaking love the stuff. I think it would be hellishly dangerous for me – I’d eat the lot in no time. Luckily I can take it to work and fatten my coworkers up though, lol!

    If you ever make it out to Paris I’ll show you guys a Tunisian bakery and cake shop I found here. It’s insane – the sheer quantity and variety of cakes and breads they have stuffed into that tiny store… it’s mind boggling! They have things like this, and then other varieties – rolled, different pastries, such sweet, sweet goodness.

  3. Hi there….Just discovered your blog and love it! We try to name a “country of the month” in our home and do projects and eat foods related to the culture. I’ve nominated your blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award … http://majellahomecooking.com/2013/03/07/inspired-thanks/ … All the best, Michelle

    • Kristy says:

      Michelle,
      Thank you so much for stopping by and for the award. We are so humbled. I’ll make sure to stop by your blog after our little break this month. :) Looking forward to it.
      Kristy

  4. YUM! You will love this with a pistachio filling inside! I have a recipe for it on my blog, but essentially, it’s just the same everything, only with some pistachio instead of walnuts! :) If you try it out, do let me know :)

  5. Karen says:

    I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love baklava.

  6. Purely.. Kay says:

    I remember this post Kristy :). An oldie but goodie :). I saved this in my recipe book but never tried it. I think it’s time for me to make this

  7. rsmacaalay says:

    I remember those early days!

  8. YUM!! Macedonian Baklava (which is the best baklava hehehe) is with a lemon simple syrup and walnuts, or you can use poppy seeds instead of the walnuts. :-D

  9. This is one of my favorite desserts and I had no idea that there were two types of baklava! I’m looking forward to trying this one day! It’s great reading how you began since I missed following you at the beginning:)

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    Great post, Kristy. Glad you pulled it from the archives. Love the photo of the helping hands. If that one’s not on your kitchen wall, it should be. :)

  11. Good to see you Kristy! I think it’s utterly cool that you made your own baklava/baklawa. I have never been brave enough to attempt such a culinary feat but boy does it look good! Wishing you all a great day – I suspect that the kiddos’ spring break must be coming up… fun!

  12. hotlyspiced says:

    I hope the siesta is going well. I love the look of your baklava – it’s one of my most favourite Middle Eastern desserts – such great flavours xx

  13. I totally understand what you mean about needing patience with both the phyllo dough and the kids and really quite a feat that you let them help with such a tedious and delicate task. Kudos to you mom!. Gorgeous and look forward to trying this in our home too.I like Miss A have also rated this recipe as a 514 stars. How adorable.

  14. We started blogging at just the same time, Kristy! So it’s nice for me read some of your beginnings. And look at how tiny Miss A’s little hands are! It’s just precious to see how young the children were and the intent of the blog to teach them and spur their curiosity. And now they’re little foodies! LOL! I enjoyed learning the difference between the two baklavas. I definitely think this would be a recipe worth making, and perhaps breaking it out often for company. It’s always a treat, and even a small piece of it is always very expensive. Keep the “repeats” coming! :-)

  15. it looks wonderful! Just simply delicious and totally my kind of dessert. Who can resist puff pastry right?

  16. We made baklava once for a daring bakers challenge, it was fun to try:)
    Great to see a blast from the past Kristy

  17. A_Boleyn says:

    Congratulations on using phyllo for the first time. The world of sweet and savoury dishes has now expanded even further for you … spanakopita, galactoboureko. All great dishes to make using it. :)

    Your baklava looks wonderful and, of course, there are variations in nuts used for the filling as well as shapes that you can explore. My mom never used orange blossom water etc, just sugar and a bit of lemon juice in her syrups but I’m sure the floral notes were appealing. I’ve used cracked cardamom pods in my syrup.

  18. Eva Taylor says:

    I adore baklava, it’s just such a wonderful combo of flavours and textures. I made a hazelnut and pistachio version a few years ago that was really tasty. Hope you’re enjoying your time away.

  19. sallybr says:

    Time flies…. time flies… I cannot believe it is MARCH already (sigh)

    Great to see a blast from the past!

  20. What a wonderfully made baklava my friend, I can see why it was 4 spoons :D

    Cheers
    CCU

  21. Dawn says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how long ago that was, it seems like just yesterday :).

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