Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Baklawa or Baklava, whichever way you say it, it's delicious!

BAKLAWA is here!! The long overdue recipe. I promised to post it last Ramadan and then Eid came and I planned to make it on the big Eid when we just had too many sweets that I dropped it from the baking list.

Now that we're in Ramadan again I hope you guys will enjoy this recipe either during the fasting month or for the upcoming Eid festivals at the end of the month !

Baklawa (or Baklava) may look intimidating but it's really VERY easy to do.

It requires three parts to the recipe so once you have all these parts ready it's just assembly.

PART 1: Clarified butter - If you choose to use something like desi ghee which is already purchased in a jar then that cuts down this step. Just need to melt it into a liquid state and let it cool slightly and it's ready to use.  If you're using butter then simply melt down an entire  pound of unsalted butter in a small saucepan and let it boil on medium high until it foams, remove the foamy part and keep cooking until crispy white bits form on the top, keep skimming all of the white bits off and make sure they don't brown so you can set the temperature lower if you need to.  The objective is to remove all the milk solids until all you're left with is a golden fat.  Cool it and have a pastry brush on hand to use.

PART 2: Syrup - It's super simple, in a saucepan add 2 cups white sugar and 1 cup water, bring to a boil until all the sugar dissolves and boil on medium high for 10 minutes, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and boil for another minute. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp orange blossom water. Set aside.

Part 3: NUTS or filling - The classic fillings are pistachio and walnut.

Pistachio - Soak raw pistachios (removed from shells, better to buy them this way already) in water for an hour - At this point you can rub them between your hands to remove the skins. I hope you have better luck with this step because it took me an hour to seperate the skins and then actually fish out the pistachio between the skins in the bowl of soaking water, the nuts nor the skins really float so if there is a better way to do this I'd love to hear it!  If you prefer to keep the skins on your pistachios I understand and you can just skip this step entirely.
Once you removed skins dry them well with a paper towel and then bake them on 300 F for 10-15 minutes without actually toasting them, just let them dry out.

Pistachio filling can either be ground down into a paste or used in a chunky form so you do what you like, I chopped them coarsely here in the blender on "pulse" but you're better off cutting them with a knife by hand if you're unsure how reliable your blender/food processor is. If you want a paste just grind it down.

In either case add 2 tbsp of the premade sugar syrup and 3/4 tbsp of the clarified butter to the nuts and mix well.

WALNUTS: This is a much easier filling, and my absolute favourite! Chop or pulse the walnuts into small bits (like the size of toffee bits) and then mix 2 tbsp sugar syrup and 3/4 tbsp clarified butter. (in my case instead of the clarified butter I used a roasted walnut oil that I had in my pantry from Olive That!)

With both pistachio and walnut I started out with about 1 3/4 - 2 cups of nuts and then chopped or pulsed them down.

The final ingredient is your phyllo, you can purchase this from your local supermarket in the freezer section or it's easily found at Middle eastern, Arabic, Turkish or Greek stores.  Thaw in the fridge the night before.

From this point on it's very simple. I advise you to follow the photos here on Taste of Beirut's website so you don't get confused.
Simply cut the phyllo pieces into the size of the pan by laying the pan over and cutting to size.  Keep the phyllo under a damp (not soaked!) towel or paper towel to prevent drying out, this is important!

Butter the bottom of the pan and lay 2 sheets down, then drizzle a bit more clarified butter and brush it evenly with a pastry brush. another 2, repeat the process until 10 sheets are done.

Now I crumple up a couple of pieces that I had cut away from the phyllo (the excess) and lay them on top of the buttered sheet, drizzling lightly with more clarified butter and laying one more sheet overtop. 

Now add your nuts and really spread them out nice, dense and evenly inside the pan. 

Begin layering more sheets and clarified butter... 2 sheets phyllo, clarified butter, another 2 sheets, clarified butter, another 2 sheets... etc. about 10 minimum or go up to 16.

Finally a layer of butter and tuck the edges in lightly if needed. Score the whole pan by cutting through straight to the bottom in a desired pattern with a very sharp knife. This part is tricky so do it very carefully as not to mess up the layers. It may be easier if you had a pizza roller or a bench scraper with a sharp edge to simply chop down in one go. I have to experiment with this further to see what really works.

Bake in a 350 F preheated oven for 45 minutes then remove from the oven and drizzle with about 3/4 to 1 cup of the premade sugar syrup.  It may be easier if you resliced it again with a sharp knife then spread the syrup over to get it really absorbed into the cracks.

Let it cool down and store in an air tight container for up to 3 weeks! 

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