Saturday, September 8
Food: The Best Baklava I've Ever Had
Whenever my sisters and I talk about Mediterranean cuisine, the first thing that pops into my head is baklava. I'm sure you've heard about this dessert somewhere. They are made from layers upon layers of phyllo dough with pistachio and walnut fillings, topped with some kind of honey.
I first had my taste of baklava in this quaint little restaurant in Atlanta called Cafe Agora. The place reminds me of a tiny cafeteria.
Here is my sister and her boyfriend having gyros.
This one's a photo of us having our all-time favorite, no-need-to-think-about-ordering-something-else, Agora Mixed Grill. It's a combination of all their kebabs -- sooo meaty. Perfect for carnivores like us.
And this -- this is the star of the show. I can eat a dozen of these in one sitting. But just thinking about what it would do to my thighs always stop me from doing it. Haha. I've tried other baklavas, but nothing compares to Cafe Agora's.
I have been scared to try making it myself. Baklavas look so intimidating to prepare. I don't even know where to look for phyllo dough here in Metro Manila. What the heck, find me a store that sells phyllo dough and I promise, I will make some.
Look, I even found a recipe from the Orgasmic Chef!
1 cup sugar
⅛ tsp ground cloves
⅛ tsp ground cardamom
1 cup honey
¾ cup water
1 tbs lemon juice – fresh squeezed
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (1-inch) strip lemon zest – use a peeler to get this
Filling and Phyllo Dough:
¾ lb walnuts
¼ lb pistachios
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz)
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
 Combine sugar, water, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest, cloves and cardamom in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved and begins to boil.
 Reduce the heat to medium-low or low and cook until the syrup is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes or so.
 Remove the cinnamon sticks and lemon zest and pour syrup into a large glass measuring cup to cool.
 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place an oven rack in the center of your oven.
 Place walnuts and pistachios into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
 In a medium mixing bowl, combine the nuts, cinnamon, and salt and stir well to combine.
 In a small saucepan over low heat melt the butter. Now you’re ready to assemble everything.
 Using a pastry brush, lightly coat a 13 by 9-inch or 15 by 10-inch baking dish with some of the melted butter.
 Open the package of thawed phyllo dough and lay the thin sheets on a clean work surface. Using a sharp knife (or kitchen shears) cut the phyllo sheets approximately the same size as your baking dish. Discard any scraps because it will be a mess in the kitchen if you don’t. Cover the sheets with a piece of plastic wrap and a lightly damp kitchen towel – not too wet or you’ll make your dough stick together but the sheets of phyllo dough dry out quickly if left in the air.
 Place the first sheet of phyllo dough in the bottom of the buttered baking dish and lightly brush with some of the melted butter. It’s okay if the dough has holes or breaks, nobody’s going to see it and you’ll have lots of other layers without holes.
 Repeat this procedure with 5 more sheets of phyllo, for a total of 6 layers.
 Measure about ¾ cup of the nut mixture and spread the nut mixture evenly over the buttered phyllo dough.
 Repeat with 6 more sheets of phyllo, buttering each layer as before, and then add another ¾ cup of the nut mixture. Continue this layering process, buttering 6 sheets of phyllo and topping each 6 sheets with ¾ cup of the nuts, until you have used all of the nut mixture.
 Layer the remaining sheets of phyllo on top, buttering each layer until all of the phyllo dough has been used. That wasn’t so difficult, was it? I heard you say no. All the hard work is done – nearly.
 Use a sharp knife to make 4 cuts lengthwise partially through the layered phyllo at 1½ inch intervals. You want to cut a diamond pattern in your dough. If you do it right you should end up with approximately 36 diamond-shaped pieces of baklava in the baking pan.
 Bake the baklava until golden brown, about 40 minutes depending upon how your oven cooks. You want to take it out when the top layer is golden brown. Remove the baklava from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.
 Now for the yummy honey syrup! Slowly drizzle the syrup over all the baklava which will still be warm. Let the baklava stand in the pan for a few hours before cutting all the way through. It will do a dance in your mouth from the first bite.
Oh wow. That's a lot. But I am not backing out. :P