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.

Homemade Baklava on Foodista
-Aaron John
My Food Outings: AJ's Food Adventure
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  1. You make me wanna go build my own firepit right now.
    Your baklava looks great! Good tips. I think I might have to try my hand at this.

  2. Yum! The baklava looks delicious :)

  3. it's been really hot here in the north-east of England as well.
    I never made baklava before but now I'm very tempted to try it. Yours looks delicious.
    Have a great weekend.

  4. oh my gosh! Baklava's one of my faves! I can't believe you make them! I wouldn't have the patience I dont think. LOL

    This looks yummy as, well done!

  5. yours look so perfect! well done! (:

  6. Mmm..baklava. Your diamonds are so perfect!
    I love baklava but don't make it often because I dont' really want to know how much butter and sugar is in it :P

  7. Wow, you're a brave guy making baklava in July, A.J.! Even though it didn't taste exactly as you'd hoped, it's really beautiful. You did a great job putting it together!

  8. Jess: Thanks!! And fire pits are definitely fun. haha

    Jordan: Thank you!!

    Michael Toa: Thanks!! Baklava def. was easier to make than I expected. It is time consuming though.

    Le: Haha. Yeah, these took a decent amount of time to make. maybe 2 hrs? lol. Then you have to wait at least a whole day for the syrup to be absorbed!

    Hannah: Thank you!! :D

    Shaz: Thanks!! Yeah, you really don't want to know how much butter is in it. I even saw a recipe that used 1 lb of butter!! 1 1/2 sticks was more than enough for these!! haha.

    Jane: I know right?! Using the oven in the summer! haha. I actually found that the edges that didn't have that much syrup tasted sooo much better than the center where most of the syrup was poured!! So much better!!

  9. Found your blog on DDD..very nice! Please follow mine or see mine on FB -ACCRO

  10. I absolutely love my firepit, perfect gathering place for hot toddies and conversation. I haven't attempted baklava and yet you make it seem so easy. They look perfect and your cuts are perfect too. Thanks for the tips. I'm going to have to try this.

  11. oh my gosh i LOVE baklava! your pictures look amazing! :)

  12. Nice! I recall overloading on these sweeties in Istanbul. Yours look lovely!

  13. Way cool, just saw your post on Dessert Stalking! Hope you're submitting to Food Gawker and Tastespotting!

  14. Astheroshe: What's DDD? haha. Thanks for stopping by!

    Cyncy: Thanks!! Baklava is actually fairly simple. I was surprised. And yes! I've actually been submitting on Foodgawker and Tastespotting but I guess my photos aren't good enough for it....Always rejected....haha

    How to eat a cupcake: Thank you!! :D

    Gracie: Thanks!! I think I overloaded with these. haha!!

  15. I love baklava! I've never made it myself, but I may have to give it a try.

  16. Baklava looks really good, but..everyone can put in it an ingredient of his choice, but I am from Croatia, the heart of the Mediterranean and certainly I know that does not put the baklava pistacio or almonds, just pure walnuts...but the picture attracted me, it seems perfectly...Greetings, Nada!

  17. Wow! Baklava in that like Christmas in July? My first time having babklava was in May, 2002 in South Carolina. was that good that I remembered it. Yours looks super delicious! :)

  18. Hi AJ,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm so glad I checked yours out, although I did just eat dinner and you're making me hungry again! It's been a long time since I've had really good Baklava... Yum.
    Good luck in your endeavors for Food Network fame!
    ~Anne (

  19. Hi AJ! What a great blog you have here! I have perused several posts and loved each recipe, photo and comment.

    Happy Belated 19th birthday! The Red Velvet cupcake looks perfect :) I also like your honest remark about the Ina brownies. I just have to tell you that, I too, love boxed brownies. I find them rich and delicious.

    I am glad you stopped by my blog and left a comment so I could come to visit with you. It was a pleasure.

    Kindly, ldh

  20. Danelle: Def. give it a try. It's super easy when you get the hang of it!

    Nada: Thanks!! I actually used almost all walnuts. haha. I did use a bit of almonds because I was short on walnuts but it tasted great!

    Erika Beth: Thanks and I know right?! Def. not Christmas. haha. The baklava you had must've been really good then!! :)

    Anne: Thanks for visiting!! Baklava has become one of my favs!! And thanks for the luck! :D

    LDH: Thank you for the compliments!! You can never fail with boxed brownies!! They're cheap and always taste great!!

  21. Thanks for visiting my blog. Your baklava looks delicious! It's my favorite dessert!!

  22. Mm this looks great, AJ. I love baklava and appreciate you providing tips along with the recipe.

  23. Cherine: Thanks for stopping by as well! :DD

    Xiaolu: Thank you! The tips section is new now. I'm liking explaining how to do these things because I always look for tips everywhere.

  24. I never thought to make baklava before, but you make it sound great and i love the way you cut them!

  25. Debbie: Thanks!! Baklava is well worth the effort!:)

  26. Your Baklava looks very good for a first time! Not everyone thinks to cut it the way you did(I applaud you for doing so, I've been doing that for years). I've been making this for so long, like many of my other Mediterranean based meals, that I had forgotten that it wasn't a staple food to other people. In my house, we always have a plate of baklava sitting around, or some fresh hummus in the fridge, and forget white bread all we have is pita! So thanks for spreading out the ability to make your own baklava, and trust me there are many variations. I'm glad that you didn't make yours drenched in syrup. Yuck. Hahaha.

    P.S. Baklava, in my Arabic is not pronounce Buck-lava, it's bak-law-uh. :]

  27. Rana: Thank you!! I was surprised at how they came out as well! :) It sounds like you have yummy food at your house!! I love pita and hummus! This first trial was definitely a learning experience. I now know not to put a lot of syrup.
    I watched a video on youtube about baklava and she said it as the "bak-law-uh" It's more fun to say it that way I think. haha

  28. I love Baklava, ever since a vacation to Crete introduced me to it. I've never attempted to make it at home though, your's looks great! Thanks for visiting my blog :)


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! :)

-Aaron John


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