filo pastry

baklava

13th April 2013

The end of our first winter in Portugal.  Just beautiful.  I wish I could express the loveliness that surrounded us this morning.  The light was awe-inspiring, golden and clear, clean and divine.

There are two magnolia trees right outside the entrance door, so I see them every time I come and go.  In Winter, they are both completely uninhibitedly bare.  Standing together side by side, in all of their euphoric natural beauty.  They are lovely, with their knobbly tendrils and smooth, graceful limbs.  There are small buds. Lots and lots of them getting bigger and bigger, almost bursting with their divine essence. The other morning there was a splash of color, just a little at first, and now, soft blushes of the loveliest pink.

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Traditionally, baklava is made with honey, however in Ayurveda honey should never be cooked, boiled or baked.  In high temperatures, honey becomes nonhomogenized and gluelike. As a result, it increases the toxicity of the body. I replace the honey with maple syrup with wonderful results!

 

baklava

This is a recipe from Kristin, which she made on more than one occasion when we had our house overflowing with special guests for our teacher’s workshop in Israel.  We make it for very special occasions in her honour.

ingredients 

1 packet phyllo dough (18 sheets)

450 grams chopped small nuts – walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds (I use 350g walnuts and 100g pistachios)

1 cup butter or ghee, melted 

3 tsp cinnamon powder

generous pinch rock salt

for the syrup 

cup water

cup raw brown sugar

6 cardamom pods

cup maple  syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

preparation 

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F.

2.  Make the syrup  place the water, sugar and cardamom pods in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, remove from heat, add maple syrup and vanilla, and stir until well blended. Set aside and allow to cool.

3.  Grind the nuts – in a food processor – process using the on/off pulsing action until the nuts are roughly chopped.  I like them quite chunky and not too powdery fine, then place in a bowl with the cinnamon powder and salt – mix well.

4.  Unroll the phylo dough and with scissors, cut to the size of your tray.  I use an approximately 23 x 32 cm tray.  Cover with a damp cloth so it does not dry out.

5.  Assemble the baklava   with a pastry brush, brush the surface of the tray with melted butter, then place one phylo sheet in the bottom of the dish, brush with butter.  Continue with seven more sheets, brushing each individually.

6.  Spread half the nut mixture over the phylo sheets, then layer two more sheets of phyllo pastry, brushing each individually, then spread the rest of the nut mixture, then layer 8 more sheets on top – butter each layer.

7.  Brush the top with butter.  Using a sharp knife cut all the baklava into diamonds by slicing straight across in one direction, then diagonally in the other direction.  Make sure you cut all the way through the layers.  (This is done before baking as it will be very fragile after it’s been baked.)

8.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and remove the baklava from the oven.

9.  Remove the cardamom pods from the syrup and pour evenly over the already cut baklava.  Let it sit until it comes to room temperature,  at least an hour.  Cut through the same lines before serving.

variations

  • For a vegan version, replace the butter with mild-tasting olive oil.
  • Instead of brushing each individual layer, after slicing the baklava, pour the melted butter over the top and then bake.  The butter seeps all the way through each layer, making its way to the centre of each piece as it bakes and resulting in perfectly cooked baklava without the tedious layering.

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