Welcome back! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’s celebration as well. Though it was certainly busy in our neck of the woods, and though we also managed to pick up a wicked cold (which turned into bronchitis for me) we had a lovely holiday. I also enjoyed my ‘blog break’ and feel like I am now back, with so much to tell you guys. Plus I’m all prepped for 2015! I have my new calendar and everything! Did you guys get a new calendar too?
It took me forever to pick one out this year. I’ve gotta admit I’m kind of
weird and, ok, totally, insanely particular and weird, about my calendars (and notebooks, sketchbooks, and other office supplies). Yeah. I’m one of those people (at least I assume there are others out there like me) who gets stressed out about how a notebook, or planner feels. Yes, feels, with the italics and everything. The texture of the the cover has to be right, the lines need to be spaced just so, the page must be formatted to match the order in which I think… and I could go on and on.
Plus, if I’ve already started working in a notebook , even if it started out perfect, and I mess it up, I totally have to rip out the offending pages. Or maybe trash the notebook and start completely over (I try really hard not to do the second one cause it’s wasteful). It seems kind of compulsive but otherwise I get this “wrong feeling” nagging in the back of my brain. I wish I didn’t do this because it’s annoying and stupid. My husband once bought me a “Wreck This Journal” to help get over it. It totally didn’t work. I stared petrified at the journal for weeks before Aiden finally decided he was going to do the thing. (I did end up helping… but it was tricky and felt strange.) Ah, the quirks of being human, right?
So yeah! All this was to say, I’ve got a calendar, though it was rather tricky to pick out. And since I have a calendar I totally know it’s 2015 now, and we’re all supposed to trying hard to eat healthier as part of our New Year’s resolutions… But… I still have a few goodie recipes that I made during the holidays that I didn’t get to share with you pre-blog-break, and they’re awesome so I’m totally going to work them in there now and again in between healthier fair, ok? (I know, I know, I’m working on the healthy eating too, which I’ll tell you more about in another post this week since I’ve already gone on and on about calendars, but we all need a treat now and again. Balance and all that.) Which brings us to today’s recipe. Baklava!
For anyone who hasn’t ever had Baklava, its a wonderful little Greek treat, made up of layers and layers of phyllo dough (super thin pastry dough), and nuts. There’s usually some sugar, cinnamon, and plenty of butter in there, and the whole darn thing is topped with (a lot of) honey when it finishes baking. (Or simple syrup in some traditional recipes.) It’s sweet and pretty rich so it’s often serves in small truffle sized bites. One or two pieces probably does the job for most people. I personally can eat way more then that, especially if the recipe calls for a little less honey. But you know I’ve got a sweet tooth. Fortunately I’ve found Baklava actually freezes rather well so I can eat a little bit and put the rest in the freezer to stop the eating of an entire pan in one sitting.
I actually ended up making Baklava with my mother in law, Kathy for an after dinner Christmas treat. She’s been making Baklava for as long as I’ve known her, and I’ve always been mad impressed. Baklava not only happens to be one of my favorite treats, but I think it seems super fancy (all those thin little layers!), and have always figured it was super tricky to make. Kathy always swears to me it is in fact super easy, but she’s a rather accomplished cook herself, so I’m always mildly suspicious when she says that. But this this year I decided I’d give it a whirl, and jumped in on the prep, plus took pictures so I could share here too. I actually found her claims of ease to be true, though you do have to work fast because phyllo dough dries out quickly, but otherwise it really is fairly easy stuff.
Recipe courtesy of Kathy, my MIL. Yields one 9X13 pan.
- 4 cups minced pecans (This is about five cups before the mincing. I recommend tossing the pecans in the food processor to mince.)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 sticks butter, melted*
- 30 sheets of phyllo dough cut into 9×13 rectangles (store bought or homemade is fine)
- 16 oz of honey*
Note: It’s a good idea to prep the nut/sugar/cinnamon mixture, and melt the butter, and have everything placed together before beginning assembly. It is important to work quickly once the phyllo dough is opened because it will dry out quickly.
1. Grease a 9×13 baking pan with a little bit of the melted butter or with spray oil. Preheat the oven to 300*F. Mix together the minced pecans, sugar, and cinnamon. Divide the mixture into three even portions.
2. Begin by placing a single sheet of phyllo dough in the grease baking pan. Use a pastry brush to brush evenly with butter. Place the next sheet of phyllo dough on top of the butter. Butter this sheet as well. Repeat until there are 6 alternating sheets of phyllo dough brushed with butter layered on top of each other.
3. Scatter 1/3 of the nut/sugar mixture (this will be about 1 and 1/2 cup) evenly across the 6th layer of phyllo dough. Top the nuts with another sheet of phyllo dough and brush with butter. Repeat step two layering phyllo dough and butter until 6 layers have been placed on top of the nut/sugar layer.
4. Repeat step three twice, alternating between the six sheets of phyllo dough brushed with butter (placed on top of each other) and the nut/sugar mixture. End with the last 6 sheets of phyllo dough on top.
5. Using a sharp knife cut a diamond pattern in the baklava, however do not cut through the bottom six layers on the phyllo dough. The easiest way to cut the diamond pattern is to cut diagonal lines all in one direction spaced about an inch apart. Then turn the pan around and cut diagonal lines from the opposite direction. The top layers of phyllo dough will try to move while you cut. Cut slowly and hold the top layer with a single finger, gently, to prevent it from moving off the top.
6. Bake at 300* F for 1 hour and 25 minutes. When the time is up remove the pan from the oven and pour the honey evenly over the baklava. Allow the baklava to cool all the way, then cut through the bottom layer of the phyllo dough; and serve.
Note: *If you’re pretty liberal with the butter brushing you may find yourself using up to an additional stick of butter. This is ok. The butter flavor will just be more pronounced in the final product. (I personally think this is delish!) Also, some honey may be particularly sweet, or if you find the flavor of honey on the cloying side, you may want to reduce the honey to 12-14 oz.