Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baklava ... and Hello!

SURPRISE!!!!

Greetings, my poppets! How has everyone been? Missed me? :) Yes, I am still alive and very much kickin'. I may have been silent in the virtual world but I have certainly been living life in the real one ... like spending all my time on things and people that matter (including myself).

Whoa ... I just realised it has been over 2 months since I last posted ... the longest break I have ever taken in 2 years of blogging. But you know what? I didn't miss it one bit! I actually found it liberating - empowering, even - not having to think about what to blog about next. At one point, I even contemplated calling it quits because it felt so good to skip the styling/shooting and go straight to the eating! Tee hee!

And, to add to my inertia, my readership did not drop. *jaw drops* Not one bit! Woohoo, I could get used to this! ;) So, a HUGE thanks to all you nice people who continued coming back during my absence. I am extremely touched. *wipes tear*

Whatever the case, I am glad I went on this hiatus ... it showed me that my blog does not define me, and that I am bigger than The Little Teochew. Life is precious, and I want to make the conscious effort to spend less time in virtual reality. That said, I'll still keep this blog going, even though it could well become a once-in-a-while affair? Let's see how things pan out (pun not intended).

Now, on to the recipe ...

Since the beginning of this year, I have been making gradual changes to my diet and lifestyle. I now hit the gym at least 6 times a week, gone 90% vegetarian, and cut out sugar, fat and carbs whenever possible. So it's a crazy irony that I'm blogging about sugary squares of sin today. Yup, I am talking about baklava - "a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey."
(Source: Wikipedia)


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I would never have made this if not for my expiring filo sheets. I knew I had to make something which required using up the entire batch all at once, and baklava instantly came to mind. I showed my family videos of baklava-making on Youtube and they were suitably intrigued. :)

Now, the thing is, baklava is not diet food. It is also not for the faint-hearted. We're talkin' about a dessert SO SWEET, you practically get a cavity just by looking at it. I guess that's the reason why they are typically served in small squares or diamonds ... because that's all one can humanly stomach. Really, really. After eating one teensy serving - my entire body in shock because my last encounter with sugar was 3 months ago - I headed straight to the gym and spent an entire hour on the treadmill as payback. *cross my heart and swear it's true*

Don't say I didn't warn ya!

Recipe
(Adapted from all over the Internet! Seriously, I watched a few videos on Youtube and guesstimated my way around.)

I used a 9" x 6" pan and it was enough for 12 small servings.

For the pastry
- Filo pastry (I used 32 sheets in total)
- 110g butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups (226g) finely chopped nuts of your choice (I used almonds and pistachios)
- 110g sugar (I would seriously omit this because the syrup alone can kill!)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg


Almonds and pistachios! ♥♥♥

For the syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey*
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 tsp rosewater
* Some people discourage the addition of honey, claiming that it spoils the taste of the syrup. They say it's better to use just sugar and water. Hmmm ... I don't know about that, but I clearly remember the fantastic baklava I ate in Turkey, and it definitely had honey in it. So, I decided to add it into my syrup. Also, I love the honey I have at home ... it's Winter Honey from China, and it has a subtle floral taste and fragrance to it. It's your call, though. If you don't want to use honey, then add 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water.

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C.

2. Mix nuts, nutmeg, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar (if using) in a bowl. Melt butter (I did it in the microwave).

3. Trim your filo sheets to fit the tray. Butter your baking dish/tray. Add a layer of filo and brush on butter. Use 10 sheets for the base, buttering every layer.

4. Add the first layer of nuts. Sprinkle as evenly as possible. Add 3 sheets of filo, brushing on butter after every sheet. Then sprinkle nuts again. Repeat until you have no more nuts left. Finish up the top with 10 layers of buttered filo.

This was what I did for mine:
- 10 sheets filo (bottom)
- Nuts
- 3 sheets filo
- Nuts
- 3 sheets filo
- Nuts
- 3 sheets filo
- Nuts
- 10 sheets filo (top)
.
.
.
and you go on and on, as many layers as you like. Eat at your own peril, though. A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. Hee hee!

5. Butter the top layer generously with butter and score gently with a sharp knife. Score the top into squares or diamonds, but do not cut all the way to the bottom*.
* Some recipes say cut all the way, but I have come across more that say not to. I am not sure why, but I decided to err on the side of caution and score without cutting all the way through.

6. Bake for about 30mins. I checked at the 20min mark and noticed that it had already browned, so I covered with a sheet of foil and continued baking.

7. In the meantime, prepare the syrup. Just bring all the ingredients onto a gentle simmer for 8mins.


Before and after: (Left) Fresh from the oven; (Centre) Bubbling syrup; (Right) Drenched!

8. Take the baklava out of the oven and using a sharp knife, cut through each piece to the bottom of the pan/tray. Then drizzle the baklava with the simple syrup and hear it sizzzzzzzle! Yeah, baby!

9. Allow the baklava to soak up the syrup and cool completely before serving. Add ground or whole pistachios as garnish. Enjoy your sweet, sweet treat!



10. NOW, go to the gym, pool, track, field, whatever ... and repent. Repent, you hear?

Till my next post ... whenever that may be ... keep well, everyone! Love, hugs and kisses to all!