Saturday, July 10, 2010
The weather this past week in Seattle has been the best it's been this whole summer. Up until now, we've had cloudy skies, rain and chilly weather. In all my life I've lived here in Seattle, never has the weather been so bad during this season. But finally this week, it all changed. It even reached 95 degrees F!! Talk about HOT!! Now that's what I call summer! It's times like this where the day time is equally as great as the night time. In addition to the great weather, I was approached by CSN to do a review and/or giveaway!! WOOT WOOT!! Can this week get any better? I took a look at the site and they have so many great products from bakeware, clothing, to even outdoor and indoor lighting. Especially in these kinds of hot summer nights, there's nothing like being outside at night. Now, what screams summer nights than FIRE PITS!! CSN has a variety of Fire Pits or different lighting options to really set off the night. But, Fire Pits are great because you are able to make S'mores (YUM!), tell stories, talk with friends and just be in awe of the wonder of fire. Remember to be careful though! You can find a variety of different outdoor lighting options, especially fire pits, here!! Definitely check out everything CSN has to offer!! For their main site, go here.
This whole notion of summer and heat brings up this weeks food creation. You may think that the creation is S'mores but nope, it's Baklava. Weird right? I'll tell you why. When I think of Baklava, I think of the Mediterranean. I picture, clear blue oceans, great landscape and the same exact sunny weather we had this week in Seattle. Making Baklava is the perfect way to "transport" myself to the Mediterranean without paying thousands of dollars. Plus, it's a great sticky treat to eat around that fire pit. It's something different from the regular old S'mores but has the same aspects of S'mores as well. It has that crunchiness from the phyllo like graham crackers, it is sticky and sweet just like marshmallows and instead of chocolate, it uses nuts. A bit different but the same in a way.
I first had Baklava almost a year ago at an event at UW. Then, I had Baklava a second time around Christmas. From then on, I've learned that there is good Baklava and bad Baklava. The one I ate at UW was good but it was overly sweet and was candy-like because of how chewy it was due to the abundance of syrup. The other Baklava from Costco was sweet without being overpowering, not as chewy and still had a nice flakiness to the phyllo dough. This is my first time making Baklava and first time working with Phyllo dough as well. The recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse and it seemed simple enough.
When I made the Baklava, it was pretty simple. The only thing that might give difficulty was the phyllo dough because of how delicate it is. After a couple of layers, I began to get the hang of it. This dessert is so simple to make but it definitely has that "WOW!" factor. Now, don't we all need that "WOW!" factor every now and then? Well, maybe we need it every time we make something.....haha. Overall, this Baklava was good, not great. The syrup wasn't a winner for me. It was overbearingly sweet and thick. In addition there was just TOO MUCH of it!! I had about 3 cups of syrup and I thought that was too much so I only put 1 1/2 cups into the Baklava and they were still soggy on the bottom. Other than that, it was good. Just need to change the syrup. Here's my tips for Baklava and the recipe!!
-Don't layer the phyllo dough one at a time into the baking pan. I found it easier to layer them on the counter, then as a stack, put them into the baking pan. It prevents the phyllo from tearing. Talk about strength in numbers!!
-Once all the layering is done, and are ready to cut, DON'T!! Place in the refrigerator for 30 mins first!! It makes cutting easier and makes the cuts look 10 times better!! :D
-If the Baklava begins to brown too much in the oven, tent it with foil. No one wants burnt food!! haha.
-Don't use all the syrup!! I would say, start with 1 cup of syrup and go from there. 1 1/2 cups of syrup was still too much for my Baklava.
For the Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (1-inch) strip lemon zest
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground cardamom
For the filling and dough
1 pound walnuts, or a combination of walnuts, pistachios and almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 pound phyllo, thawed according to package instructions
To make the syrup: Combine the sugar, honey, water, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest, cloves and cardamom in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the syrup is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and lemon zest and set syrup aside to cool.
Using a Chef's knife, finely chop the nuts. (Alternatively, if you have a food processor, pulse the nuts until finely chopped.) In a medium mixing bowl, combine the nuts, cinnamon, and salt and stir well to combine.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan.
Using a pastry brush, lightly coat a 13 by 9-inch or 15 by 10-inch baking dish with some of the melted butter.
Open the package of thawed phyllo and lay the thin sheets on a clean work surface. Measure the phyllo sheets; if the type you have purchased measures approximately the same size as the baking dish you are using, then proceed from here. If they are larger than your baking dish, use a sharp knife to cut the phyllo sheets approximately the same size as your baking dish. Discard any scraps. Cover the sheets with a piece of plastic wrap and a lightly damp kitchen towel, as the sheets of phyllo dry out very quickly if left uncovered.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place 1 of the sheets of phyllo in the bottom of the buttered baking dish and lightly brush with some of the melted butter. Repeat this procedure with 6 more sheets of phyllo, for a total of 7 layers. Measure about 3/4 cup of the nut mixture and spread the nut mixture evenly over the buttered phyllo sheets. Repeat with 7 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each layer as before, and top these sheets with another 3/4 cup of the nut mixture. Continue this layering process, buttering 7 sheets of phyllo and topping each 7 sheets with 3/4 cup of the nuts, until you have used all of the nut mixture. Layer any remaining sheets of phyllo on top, buttering between each layer, until all of the phyllo sheets have been used.
Use a sharp knife to make 4 cuts lengthwise through the layered phyllo at 1 1/2 inch intervals. (You should end up with 5 lengthwise strips 1 1/2 inches wide.) Now use your knife to cut diagonally across the strips at 1 1/2-inch intervals to form diamond shapes. You should end up with approximately 36 diamond-shaped pieces of baklava in the baking dish.
Bake the baklava until golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Using oven mitts or pot holders, remove the baklava from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Using a ladle or small measuring cup, slowly drizzle the cooled syrup over the warm baklava. Allow to stand several hours before serving.
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