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Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup

Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup


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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups plus 8 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 12 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 30 14x9-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (from one 16-ounce package)
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Recipe Preparation

  • Simmer 1 3/4 cups sugar and orange juice in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Add cardamom. Cool syrup.

  • Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet over nuts; brush lightly with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts; brush with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

  • Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

  • Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Recut baklava along lines all the way through layers. DO AHEAD Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

  • Sift powdered sugar over, if desired.

Recipe by Molly Wizenberg,

Nutritional Content

One serving (1 piece) contains the following: Calories (kcal) 222.0 %Calories from Fat 50.4 Fat (g) 12.4 Saturated Fat (g) 4.6 Cholesterol (mg) 16.0 Carbohydrates (g) 25.0 Dietary Fiber (g) 1.7 Total Sugars (g) 14.4 Net Carbs (g) 23.4 Protein (g) 3.7Reviews SectionFar too sweet! Begging for a bit of lemon juice. I would use 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice instead of orange juice (and maybe even reduce the total amount of syrup) and add only a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the pistachio filling as well. I do like the idea of adding orange flavour; I might try adding orange zest to the pistachio filling.AnonymousSaskatoon, SK11/24/19

Preparation

Simmer 2 cups sugar, honey, water and cinnamon sticks in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to approximately 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Cool syrup.

Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet folded over on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet (folded over) over nuts brush lightly with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts folded in half brush with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Recut baklava along lines all the way through layers.

For a printer-friendly verison of this recipe, please click here: Pistachio Baklava with Cinnamon Honey Syrup

DO AHEAD Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


Pistachio Baklava with Orange Blossom Simple Syrup

I have had baklava on the bucket list for years and it wasn’t until our trip last year to Istanbul that we really understood the true way to enjoy the popular sweet. Apparently, Americans have been doing it all wrong. There is an art to the way you eat baklava. The way it looks and sounds as you press your fork into the top layer. That’s right, your fork.

That is the baklava we enjoyed on a food tour in Istanbul. We toured with a lovely food blogger, Olga from Delicious Istanbul. Olga explained to us that there is a certain way to enjoy baklava and that Turks can spot a tourist just by the way they eat it. To properly enjoy baklava, you’re supposed to stab your piece with your fork. Then promptly pick up your baklava with the end facing up and take a bite of it. As the fork enters the top layer of phyllo dough (or yufka, which is handmade all throughout the City), you are supposed to hear a ‘crunch” sound of the fork breaking through the crispy layers. The simple sweet syrup should be even throughout the piece, with every bite a textural sweet masterpiece.

Thanks to my wonderful friend Ashley who spontaneously became our generous hand model. My oh-so talented food blogging friend, Karla who runs Foodologie came over on Labor Day as well and we enlisted ourselves to bake as much as we can. Salted caramel eclairs were her idea (coming later!) and this pistachio baklava with orange blossom simple syrup was my crave.

I wanted to add as much floral and exotic flavor as I could, without going overboard of course. The ground pistachios inside the baklava have lemon zest and a touch of bright cardamom. The simple syrup that was generously poured all over has the slightest amount of orange blossom water, thick lemon peels and warm cinnamon.

And the technique is not hard at all and very similar to borek. The main important rule of thumb is to know how to work with phyllo dough. Defrost properly and work fast, yet diligently. As you are layering the baklava layers, keep the rest covered because it dries out very quickly and once it dries out there’s not much recovering.

Have you ever made baklava?

1) First make the simple syrup. Add all the ingredients to a small pot and bring to a gentle simmer until all the sugar is dissolved and it thickens slightly. When done, set aside to cool.


2) In a food processor, add the pistachios, cardamom, cinnamon and lemon zest. Pule until the pistachios are finely ground but not too powdery. Set aside.

3) Next, get a 9 x 13 baking pan ready and brush the pan all over with melted butter.

4) Unroll the phyllo dough and keep under a damp towel as you work with it. Layer 2 layers into the pan and brush the top with more melted butter. Then layer 2 more and brush with butter. Continue until you use about half of your dough.

5) Then pour over the pistachio mixture, leaving behind a few tablespoons to garnish the top. Spread out the pistachios in an even layer.

6) Add 2 more layers of phyllo and butter between ever 2 layers until you used up all the phyllo.

7) Brush the top with the rest of the melted butter and use a sharp knife to cut into desired shape.


8) Bake baklava at 350 degrees F for about 15-18 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

9) When done, remove from oven and pour simple syrup all over the top. It is best to do this while the baklava is hot so it can soak up the syrup.

10) Allow to rest for at least 2-3 hours then garnish with remaining ground pistachios.


Contents

The word baklava is first attested in English in 1650, [4] a borrowing from Ottoman Turkish: باقلاوه ‎ /bɑːklɑvɑː/ . [5] [6] The name baklava is used in many languages with minor phonetic and spelling variations.

Historian Paul D. Buell argues that the word "baklava" may come from the Mongolian root baγla- 'to tie, wrap up, pile up' composed with the Turkic verbal ending -v [7] baγla- itself in Mongolian is a Turkic loanword. [8] Sevan Nişanyan considers its oldest known forms (pre-1500) to be baklağı and baklağu, and labels it as being of Proto-Turkic origin. [9] Another form of the word is also recorded in Persian, باقلبا (bāqlabā). [10] Though the suffix -vā might suggest a Persian origin, [11] [12] the baqla- part does not appear to be Persian and remains of unknown origin. [13] Linguist Tuncer Gülensoy states that the origin of baklava is bakl-ı (feed) in proto-Turkish and suffixes -la-ğı are added. The word changes as bakılağı > bakılavı > baklava. [14]

Although the history of baklava is not well documented, its current form was probably developed in the imperial kitchens of the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. [15] The Sultan presented trays of baklava to the Janissaries every 15th of the month of Ramadan in a ceremonial procession called the Baklava Alayı. [16] [17]

The three main proposals for the pre-Ottoman roots of baklava are the Ancient Roman placenta cake, [18] the Central Asian Turkic tradition of layered desserts, [19] and the Persian lauzinaj. [16] There are also claims attributing baklava to the Assyrians, according to which baklava was already prepared by them in the 8th century BC. [20] [21]

There are also some similarities between baklava and the Ancient Greek desserts gastris ( γάστρις ), [22] kopte sesamis ( κοπτὴ σησαμίς ), and kopton ( κοπτόν ) found in book XIV of the Deipnosophistae. [23] [24] However, the recipe there is for a filling of nuts and honey, with a top and bottom layer of honey and ground sesame similar to modern pasteli or halva, and no dough, certainly not a flaky dough. [25]

Another recipe for a similar dessert is güllaç, a dessert found in the Turkish cuisine and considered by some as the origin of baklava. [26] It consists of layers of filo dough that are put one by one in warmed up milk with sugar. It is served with walnut and fresh pomegranate and generally eaten during Ramadan. The first known documentation of güllaç is attested in a food and health manual, written in 1330 that documents Mongol foods called Yinshan Zhengyao ( 飮膳正要 , Important Principles of Food and Drink), written by Hu Sihui, an ethnic Mongol court dietitian of the Yuan dynasty. [7]

The placenta theory

The word placenta originally comes from the Greek language plakous ( πλακοῦς ), which means something "flat and broad". [27] Although there are no surviving recipes for Greek plakous, the term is known from the work of comic poet Antiphanes, quoted by Athenaeus:

"The streams of the tawny bee, mixed with the curdled river of bleating she-goats, placed upon a flat receptacle of the virgin daughter of Demeter [honey, cheese, flour], delighting in ten thousand delicate toppings – or shall I simply say plakous?" "I'm for plakous"' (Antiphanes quoted by Athenaeus 449c). [28] [29]

The earliest known recipe from the 2nd century BC that resembles baklava is Ancient Roman placenta cake, a honey-covered baked layered-dough dessert which Patrick Faas identifies as the origin of baklava:

"The Greeks and the Turks still argue over which dishes were originally Greek and which Turkish. Baklava, for example, is claimed by both countries. Greek and Turkish cuisine both built upon the cookery of the Byzantine Empire, which was a continuation of the cooking of the Roman Empire. Roman cuisine had borrowed a great deal from the ancient Greeks, but placenta (and hence baklava) had a Latin, not a Greek, origin—please note that the conservative, anti-Greek Cato left us this recipe." [18] [30]

Cato's original recipe for placenta follows:

Shape the placenta as follows: place a single row of tracta [31] along the whole length of the base dough. This is then covered with the mixture [cheese and honey] from the mortar. Place another row of tracta on top and go on doing so until all the cheese and honey have been used up. Finish with a layer of tracta. . place the placenta in the oven and put a preheated lid on top of it . When ready, honey is poured over the placenta.

Dalby speculates as to why Cato's section on bread and cakes, which he describes as "recipes in a Greek tradition", are included in De Agricultura: [32]

We cannot be so sure why there is a section of recipes for bread and cakes (74-87), recipes in a Greek tradition and perhaps drawing on a Greek cookbook. Possibly Cato included them so that the owner and guests might be entertained when visiting the farm possibly so that proper offerings might be made to the gods more likely, I believe, so that profitable sales might be made at a neighbouring market.

According to a number of scholars koptoplakous ( κοπτοπλακοῦς ) was a precursor of modern baklava. [18] [33] [34] Historian Speros Vryonis describes koptoplakous as a "Byzantine favorite" and "the same as the Turkish baklava", [35] as do other writers. [27] The name (Greek: πλατσέντα ) is used today on the island of Lesbos for thin layered pastry leaves with crushed nuts, baked, and covered in syrup. [36] [37]

Persian lauzinaj

Baklava is a common dessert in modern Arab cuisines, but the Arabic language cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh, compiled by Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq in the 10th-century, does not contain any recipe for baklava. [38] Its recipe for lauzinaj refers to small pieces of almond paste wrapped in very thin pastry ("as thin as grasshoppers' wings") and drenched in syrup. [39] Some writers say this is dessert that most closely resembles the modern baklava. [40] Charles Perry, however, has written that "it was not much like baklava". [41]

There are similar recipes for lauzinaj in the 13th-century Kitab al-Tabikh by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi. Written in 1226 in today's Iraq, the cookbook was based on an earlier collection of 9th century Persian-inspired recipes. [16] According to Gil Marks, Middle Eastern pastry makers later developed the process of layering the ingredients. [16]

Central Asian layered desserts

Uzbek cuisine has pakhlava, puskal or yupka or in Tatar yoka, which are sweet and salty savories (börekler) prepared with 10–12 layers of dough. [42]

Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of filo dough, [43] separated with melted butter and vegetable oil, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts—typically walnuts or pistachios, but hazelnuts are also sometimes used—is placed on top, then more layers of filo. Most recipes have multiple layers of filo and nuts, though some have only top and bottom pastry.

Before baking (180 °C, 356 °F, 30 minutes), the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelograms (lozenge-shaped), triangles, diamonds or rectangles. After baking, a syrup, which may include honey, rosewater, or orange flower water is poured over the cooked baklava and allowed to soak in.

Baklava is usually served at room temperature, and is often garnished with ground nuts.

There are many regional variations of baklava. In Greece, walnuts are more common than pistachios, and the dessert is often flavored with cinnamon. In Iran, fragrant cardamom is added to a sweetened walnut filling. In Azerbaijani cuisine Azərbaycan Paxlavası, made with walnuts or almonds, is usually cut in a rhombus shape and is traditionally served during the spring holiday of Nowruz. [44] [45] [46] In Gaziantep, locally grown pistachios are used, and the dessert is often served with kaymak cream. [47]

Armenia

In Armenian cuisine, pakhlava (Armenian: Փախլավա ) is spiced with cinnamon and cloves. [48] Greek-style baklava is supposed to be made with 33 dough layers, referring to the years of Christ's life. [49]

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani pakhlava (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan paxlavası), or simply Pakhlava (Azerbaijani: Paxlava), are a type of baklavas made in Azerbaijan [50] [51] for Nowruz holiday, although not baked only for holidays. Yeasty pastry, hazelnuts or Circassian walnut, milled clove, cardamom, and saffron are used for the preparation of pakhlava. Milled nuts and sugar are used for stuffing. [52]

The diamond shape of pakhlava is commonly associated with a star or fire in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani pakhlava is multilayered and commonly prepared with walnuts or almonds and flavored with saffron. It is generally made in a big baking tray. Pakhlava has some variations in different regions of Azerbaijan based on the ingredients and baking techniques. [53] [54]

A layer is rolled out from the pastry with thickness of not less than 2 mm, put into baking tray, oiled and lavishly filled with stuffing. This process is continued, until 9–10 layers are made. Another version uses 14 layers. [55] The last layer is greased with yolk, mixed up with saffron. Then pakhlava is cut into two rhombus, then either hazelnut or half of the kernel of Circassian walnut is placed on each piece. Then it is baked with 180–200 °C temperature pending 30–40 minutes. [56] [57]

  • Baku pakhlava. Baku pakhlava can be made of peeled almonds or walnuts. It consists of 8–10 layers. Its top layer is coated with saffron mixed with yolk. A half walnut or pistachio is placed on the center of the top layer of each diamond-shaped piece. Syrup or honey is poured on the surface of pakhlava 15 minutes before it is ready. [58]
  • Ganja pakhlava. Ganja pakhlava is characterized by its stuffing prepared of almond, sugar and cinnamon, baking on a copper tray over a campfire and consisting of 18 layers of pastry. 8 layers of almond stuffing are spread on every 3 buttered layers of pastry. The surface is coated with egg. Syrup is added to Ganja pakhlava 15–20 minutes before it is ready. [58] Infusion of rose petals (gulab) can also be added to the dough, and cardamom is added to the stuffing. [59][60]
  • Rishta pakhlava. This kind of pakhlava differs from the other types with its top layer which is covered with rishta. Rishta is made from wheat starch or rice flour. Grid-shaped rishta made by pouring knead liquid dough on hot griddle through a special funnel with 11 holes and baking it in a minute. [58]
  • Guba pakhlava. This type of pakhlava is characterized especially by its colour. The covering layer of Guba pakhlava is coated with a mixture of saffron and a red colour additive. Guba pakhlava consists of approximately 50 rishta layers. [61][62]
  • Sheki pakhlava. It is also called Sheki halva. It is made from rishta, stuffing (hazelnut, cardamom and coriander seeds) and syrup. [58][59]

Balkans

In Bosnian cuisine, Ružice is the name of the regional variant of baklava. [63]

Baklava also exists in Romanian cuisine, being known as baclava in Romanian. It is one of the most preferred desserts among Romanians together with the Kanafeh (cataif) and the sarailia. In Romania, some Turkish pastry shops that sell baklava have notable popularity. They are common in the south and southeast of the country, but some also exist in its east. [64]

Iranian

In Iranian cuisine, a drier version of baklava is cooked and presented in smaller diamond-shaped cuts flavored with rose water. The cities of Yazd and Qazvin are famous for their baklava, which is widely distributed in Iran. [65] Persian baklava uses a combination of chopped almonds and pistachios spiced with cardamom and a rose water-scented syrup and is lighter than other Middle Eastern versions. [11] [66]

Turkey

In Turkish cuisine, baklava is traditionally made by filling between the layers of dough with pistachios, walnuts or almonds (in some parts of the Aegean Region). In many parts of Turkey, baklava is often topped with kaymak or ice cream.

In the Black Sea Region hazelnuts are commonly used as a filling for baklava. [67] Hazelnuts are also used as a filling for the Turkish dessert Sütlü Nuriye, a lighter version of the dessert which substitutes milk for the simple syrup used in traditional baklava recipes. [68] Şöbiyet is a variation that includes fresh cream in the filling, in addition to the traditional nuts. [69]

The city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey is famous for its pistachio baklava. The dessert was introduced to Gaziantep in 1871 by Çelebi Güllü, who had learned the recipe from a chef in Damascus. [70] In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication for Antep Baklava, [71] and in 2013, Antep Baklavası or Gaziantep Baklavası was registered as a Protected Geographical Indication by the European Commission. [72] Gaziantep baklava is the first Turkish product to receive a protected designation from the European Commission. [73]

Other

In Crimean Tatar cuisine, the pakhlava is their variant of baklava. [74] There are many variants in Maghrebi cuisine as well (from Algeria east). [75]


Kitchen Bitch

Forget about going out on Valentine’s Day. Who wants to sit elbow to elbow and eat a crummy prix fixe anyway? Not us. This year, we’re staying in, and I’m cooking, of course. Dessert, though, is already made, and you’re looking at it.

This Citrus Pie with Chocolate-Pistachio Crust (which I’ve already made twice this week) actually came about by accident. I was all set to make Key Lime Pie for my father-in-law, but I ran out of limes as I was making the filling. Rather than run to the store to buy more, I decided to juice the blood oranges and lemons I had picked up at the farmer’s market to finish the filling. The resulting pie was incredibly delicious—if not very beautiful in color—and what I thought might sit in my fridge for a week was gone in two nights.

With another family gathering coming up, I made the pie again, this time purposefully using a variety of citrus, including my beloved blood oranges, which made the color much more palatable. Look at that gorgeous color! (more…)

The Best Salad You’ve Never Heard Of January 16, 2011

Fennel-Orange Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

My mom had been talking about taking me to Virgil’s Café for weeks before we finally made it to the small restaurant. “The salad is to die for!” she kept chanting. Now, of all things to rave about on a menu, a salad is probably the last thing in the world anyone would dream of trekking 20 miles to eat at a restaurant, so naturally I was intrigued. Furthermore, Virgil’s is located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Bellevue, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, and my mom and I wanted to scout it out as a possible place for Doug and I to live whenever we move back home.

As I expected from my mom’s descriptions, Bellevue was a charmingly eclectic neighborhood, with a variety of independent stores and restaurants that exuded that artsy-but-elegant, hip-but-not-trendy, playful-but-polished vibe you can spot in blossoming art and entrepreneurial communities around the country. I immediately fell in love—I am, of course, the sort of person this area is playing to, and I think it might just be the area where I open my own storefront some day.

Virgil’s sits in the middle of this neighborhood, and most of its cozy dining room overlooks Fairfield Avenue. My mom, sister Annie and I came for brunch, but I can’t even remember what I ordered, just that I didn’t really care for it. Instead, I spent my time eating my sister’s Cubano and the salad my mom couldn’t stop raving about. And she was right: The salad was to die for.

OOPA! Making Sticky-Sweet Greek Baklava June 16, 2010

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Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup

I was first exposed to Greek food many years ago when my best friend, Laura, and her parents, the Brokamps, took me to the Panegyri Greek Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Greeks have always known how to throw a party, and the festival is a barrage of fun activities: music, dancing, amusement rides, raffles, games, and, of course, food.

The succulent smell of lamb wafts through the air at Greek festivals, but it’s the sweet and sticky Greek pastries that really win me over. There’s usually a host of Greek moms and grandmas selling these honeyed, flaky treats, and I can’t leave the party without at least buying an assorted box of them. That first festival year, Laura and I even took a cooking class where we learned to make that much loved Greek treat: baklava.

There’s a real art to making baklava. The delicate, papery sheets (phyllo) that make the baklava so tender and flakey can easily dry out if you’re not careful. Preparation is half the battle here, so make sure and have everything ready before you put the phyllo dough out on the counter. Also, put the phyllo sheets on a piece of wax paper and cover with a damp towel to keep them from drying out in between use.

But what is baklava exactly? It’s layers of the aforementioned phyllo dough bathed in butter, sugar, and crushed nuts, and then baked. When it comes out of the oven, a spicy-sweet glaze gets poured over that oozes into the layers as the baklava cools. The result is the most amazingly moist, chewy and multifaceted little dessert triangle you’ve ever had. The homemade version blows every dry restaurant riff completely out of the water.

After our cooking class, Laura and I went home to conquer the baklava on our own, and I think the one we made turned out to be the best baklava I’ve ever had. We used a mixture of walnuts and pecans in our filling and dumped the glaze over the pastry instead of slowly drizzling it on as the instructions had called for. The result was a baklava revelation. This week I’m bringing you the more gourmet version of that baklava, one studded with beautiful green and purple pistachios and slathered in a orange-cardamom glaze. Only one thing’s for sure: It’ll make you want to yell, “OOPA!”

Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup
This gorgeous pastry balances crunch with chew, sweet with savory. This recipe is adapted from Molly Wizenburg, and originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of
Bon Appetit. Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature. Makes about 30 pieces 222 calories, 12.4 g fat, 1.7 g fiber per serving. For a print copy of this recipe, click here.

1¾ c. plus 8 tablespoons sugar, divided
1¼ c. fresh orange juice
1½ tsp. ground cardamom
12 oz. shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
30 14࡯-in. sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed (from one 16-oz. package)
Powdered sugar (optional)

Make syrup. Simmer 1¾ cups sugar and orange juice in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1 ½ cups, about 8 minutes. Add cardamom. Cool syrup.

Prepare nut mixture. Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Baklava prep station with bowls for chopped nut mixture, melted butter, and phyllo covered with a wet towel to keep it from drying out.

Layer baklava. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet over nuts brush lightly with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts brush with butter. Repeat 9 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2¼ inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

Bake, cut, and serve. Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 40 to 50 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Re-cut baklava along lines all the way through layers. Sift powdered sugar over, if desired.


Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup - Recipes

Reading over all of your comments on the butter post, I can’t even express how good it is to hear your thoughts on this–on bodies, and food, and joy. I know I say this every time (and I mean it every time!), but if you haven’t read through those comments, take a few minutes to, if you can. So, so beautiful. Thank you. You inspire me every day.

All this talk about joy and food and eating and making got me thinking in the last few days. I had a meeting, months ago now, and the conversation from that meeting came back to me and just hung out in my head, mixing with all your comments. I met with someone who wanted to write about The Homemade Pantry for a magazine, but wanted to make sure that the content was right for the magazine’s readers. And so, this person, a woman (who admittedly and apologetically said she didn’t cook, to which my response was “you don’t cook yet!”), asked me to talk about the book and how I came to write it.

I told her the story, about how I had always loved food but wasn’t much of a cook. How I worked at the farmers’ market, and how, in the midst of everything else I was doing, I loved talking about food most of all. How I got such a thrill from learning how to make basic and nourishing meals, and even more of a thrill from sharing what I learned, and from helping people to get into their own kitchens without fear of failure. And mostly, how making these basic staples that I usually bought from the store, cheese and granola bars and bread and yogurt, how these homemade treasures made me feel like if I could do anything. Making these basic foods empowered me, not just in my kitchen, but in my life. The work itself, the culturing, the churning, the kneading–these actions inspired me away from apathy, into action. And of course, along the way, there was money saved, health gained, wrappers reduced, and new tastes discovered. And how, although I don’t make all of these foods all of the time, the knowledge that I can changed my life, and continues to do so.

I seem to remember that there was a pause, and there might even have been a sigh from my publicist who was sitting next to me at the table.

“Okay,” the woman responded. “But is it fast? Is it easy?”

I looked at my publicist, and she nodded me on.

“Well… most of it. Most of these foods are far easier than you would ever imagine.”

“So easy! Fast, and they just come together in a snap!”

Then there was a sigh of relief around the table, and the conversation picked up, turning to the ease and speedy nature of making butter, the surprise of low-maintenance ricotta prep, and the mayonnaise that comes together quicker than you can find a jar of Hellman’s in the back of your fridge.

I get it. I know that we are busy. I, too, find myself sprinting through my day more often than not, and I sure as hell don’t have time to make homemade twinkies on an average Tuesday afternoon. I search for meals that can be created in 30 minutes, because often, 30 minutes is all I’ve got. I get it.

But I don’t make food at home because it’s easy. Really, honestly, it’s easier and faster to buy all your food, ready made and pre-packaged, at the grocery store.

I make food at home because I can make it better. I can make it taste better. I can make it without preservatives and strange ingredients that might make my children sick. I can put my money where I want to, spending less on packaged foods, and more on local meat and eggs. And as easy as most of these foods are? I love putting work into my food. So many of you said that so well, about the muscle and hard work that you put into your food, and about the joy that brings you.

Food is like soil. If we put our hands into it with love and care, it will reward us over and over. The work makes it good.

Last week, I made baklava for the first time. (I didn’t make the phyllo from scratch- that will be next time, I promise!) I love baklava, but I’d always had a bit of fear of phyllo dough. I thought the whole process would be so hard, so temperamental. A few years ago, Molly Wizenberg wrote about this pistachio baklava with orange cardamom syrup for her Bon Appetit column, about how she, too, had a fear of phyllo. I filed that one away in the big pile of recipes in my mind, and when it came time to make dessert for my Salon Challenge dinner party, I bought my first box of phyllo dough. And, yes, like so many foods, it was easier than I thought it would be. It came together smoothly, and didn’t fight me at all. But my favorite part of the recipe (besides the taste, which was so SO good), was the time that it took me, and the slow care that I was able to give to it. I had a crazy day ahead of me, and I was late for everything that came after, but still I loved being in my kitchen for the time it took to create the baklava. I turned on the radio, and I got to work shelling pistachios. I made the orange syrup. And then I layered those sheets, one by one, painting them each with melted butter.

Essentially, this baklava goes like this:

There are ten sheets of phyllo dough, each with a layer of melted butter between them. Then there is a layer of nuts and cinnamon and sugar. Then ten more sheets of phyllo, each with butter. Another layer of nuts. Then ten more sheets. Just the top layer is cut, then the whole thing goes into the oven, and then the moment it comes out, you pour the syrup over the hot pan, and so it bubbles and spurts and coats the whole thing in sweetness.

It is all very forgiving and agreeable, not “fast and quick and snappy!” necessarily, but simple, wonderful, and rewarding. And I’ve got to say, making my own baklava made me feel so good- like I was creating something new and real and delicious. Of course, eating my own baklava was pretty nice, too.

I’m going to direct you over to Molly’s recipe, as I followed it pretty closely. My only changes were that I reduced the sugar in the syrup from 1 3/4 cup t0 1 1/2 cups, and I added a pinch of saffron to the syrup. I also reduced the baking time to 45 minutes, which was perfect in my oven. This recipe produces a baklava with a strong cardamom flavor, which I LOVE, but if you don’t love cardamom as much, you can reduce that a bit.

And of course, I’ve got the winner of this last drawing for The Homemade Pantry, Emily Wight. I’ve been reading Emily’s blog for ages now, and now she’s a new mama too. She’s quite good at finding excellent uses for butter, if you’re at a loss for ideas. Emily, send me your address, and the book is on its way!

Happy Tuesday, friends. I’m off to make a birthday cake for Joey, so wish me luck. Hope the day is a grand one for you.


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Preparation

Simmer 2 cups sugar, honey, water and cinnamon sticks in saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil over medium heat until reduced to approximately 2 cups, about 15 minutes. Cool syrup.

Place nuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor. Using on/off turns, process until most of nuts are finely ground (the largest pieces should be the size of small peas). Mix nuts, 6 tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet folded over on bottom of dish. Brush lightly with melted butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo and melted butter. Sprinkle half of pistachio mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over phyllo. Place 1 phyllo sheet (folded over) over nuts brush lightly with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter. Sprinkle remaining pistachio mixture evenly over. Place 1 phyllo sheet atop nuts folded in half brush with butter. Repeat 5 more times with phyllo sheets and melted butter.

Using sharp knife, cut diagonally through top phyllo layer from top left corner to bottom right corner. Cut top layer of phyllo into 1-inch-wide rows parallel to both sides of first cut. Turn pan and cut rows about 2 1/4 inches wide, forming diamond pattern.

Bake baklava until golden brown and crisp, 50 to 55 minutes. Drizzle syrup evenly over hot baklava. Cool in pan on rack. Recut baklava along lines all the way through layers.

For a printer-friendly verison of this recipe, please click here: Pistachio Baklava with Cinnamon Honey Syrup

DO AHEAD Baklava can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


BAKLAVA CUSTARD SLICE

The difference between a custard slice and a Napoleon or mille feuille is the lack of a middle slab of puff pastry. (The latter two can also be made with alternate fillings, but custard or pastry cream are traditional options.) Australian custard slices are firmer than their European counterparts, oftentimes stabilized with a combination of gelatin and custard powder for filling with an enthusiastic bounce rather than a cushy wobble. Both styles are iconically decorated with white poured fondant icing, most notably with feathered chocolate stripes, but I find those icings often achingly sweet and too heavy against the pastry and custard. A dusting of confectioner’s sugar is enough prettiness for me, and cuts down on the preparation time as well.

A close friend makes a fantastic baklava, reminiscent of the ones she had in Turkey. It is bathed with a sugar syrup instead of honey, and somehow that switch makes the sweet feel surprisingly vivacious, and preserves the delicacy of the pistachio and cardamom filling. The other day, reading about galaktoboureko—a Greek cousin to my beloved custard slices made with phyllo and semolina custard—I was reminded of that baklava it as the starting point for my weeknd dessert. The method is standard with the tiniest of changes. Pressing pistachios into the puff pastry grants a robust crunch, and steeping the cream with orange, cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla grants a subtly perfumed custard.



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