Monday, June 27, 2011

Chocolate Baklava Laced With Tequila ~ Rolling Phyllo with Daring Bakers to get compliments

Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. I just have to make some departures and add a twist. This month's twist was Cocoa, Raisin n Apricots in the filling with the nuts. In the soaking syrup I used Golden syrup instead of Honey for extra warmth. The high twist came from a few capfuls of Tequila in the syrup :)

Baklava is characteristic of the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and much of central and southwest Asia.
In Turkey, Gaziantep is famous for its baklava and regarded there as its native city, though it only appears to have been introduced to Gaziantep from Damascus in 1871. In 2008, the Turkish patent office registered a geographical indication certificate for Antep Baklava.
Baklava from Aleppo is made with the local pistachios and samna from Hama.
In Iran, a drier version of baklava is cooked and presented in smaller diamond-shaped cuts flavored with rose water. The city of Yazd is famous for its baklava, which is widely distributed in Iran. 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.
In Azerbaijan, pakhlava is mostly prepared during the Novruz festivity. After preparation the pakhlava is cut into diamond shapes and each piece is garnished with an almond or a walnut.
In Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina baklava is generally rich in nuts and filling.
In Afghanistan and Cyprus, baklava is prepared into triangle-shaped pieces and is lightly covered in crushed pistachio nuts.
In Albania - baklava is the most popular dessert. Homemade dough is sometimes used. The typical traditional ingredients are flour and egg yolks for the dough, and walnuts and butter for the filling. The syrup is prepared by boiling water, sugar and, optionally, vanilla powder.
In Armenia, baklava is made with cinnamon and cloves. [Source:]
If you’re thinking baklava is easy, just layering phyllo, you’re right, but not so fast. We will be making our own homemade phyllo; we are, after all, the Daring Bakers. Phyllo, which means, "leaf" in Greek, is tissue paper-thin like sheets of dough. Homemade phyllo is a lot of work to roll out but is worth it, its delicious! Baklava is quite simple to make but is a little time consuming.

Blog-checking lines: Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)
4 This is the texture you are looking for, sticks together:
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.

6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Baklava Recipe
Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
Ingredients ~ 30 servings
For the syrup:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey [I used Golden syrup as it's lesser sweet and has a warm flavour to it]
1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
1 capful of Tequila [this was my twist and bless my soul it really was :)]

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.

Rolling your Phyllo
** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**
Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.

1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Ingredients for the Filling:
1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I left these out)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar ( I left this out)
2 tbsp Cocoa (Optional, I loved the depth they bought to the filling)
2 tbsp chopped dry Apricots
2 tbsp chopped Raisins
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half and you can use clarified butter ie Ghee instead**

1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it's not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature

Making Baklava was quite an exercise for me as I have never made rolled n layered pastry ever... Using a regular rolling pin wasn't a bright idea, it's not wide enough... Then I moved to using the cardboard on which cling film comes wrapped.... Worked like magic, gave me nice n thinly rolled phyllo, giving super light flaky pastry on top despite the syrup being soaked in :)))

Ergo Chef are giving away a fabulous 13 Piece Guy Fieri “Battle Station” 13 piece block set. If you’d like to win it, do stop by soon as the contest ends 4th of July.

Aren't you in love with this layered delight of flaky goodness..... Don't count your calories in this one..... You'll be happy to hit the cycle like my neighbour did after he had it.... yet came back for seconds.... So folks, cycle, run, jog, work out all you want but don't miss out on this delight....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Extract

Imagine baking without vanilla.
Vanilla extract isn't something you get in regular stores in delhi. What you get is vanilla essense, nothing against it... have been using it for the last 2-3 years but then I found these vanilla beans in INA market and just had to pick them up. Vanilla was once so rare and expensive that only royalty had access to it. I feel like royalty now. So how do I treat a princess..... make her some Vanilla Sugar so that all my desserts now become royal.....

I had seen a vanilla plant for the first time in Goa at a herbariam while holidaying. During that season they were ripe and green while hanging from the plant. Their aroma was divine even while it wasn't fully ripe. The word "vanilla" comes from the Spanish word "vainilla" which means little sheath, referring to the pod's long thin shape.[Source:]
Vanilla is sold in different forms like extract and essence, pods (beans), powdered, and vanilla sugar.

Three most common types of vanilla pods(beans)are:
1) Madagascar or Bourbon- Madagascar vanilla pods
2) Mexican vanilla pods
3) Tahitian vanilla pods has the an awesome variety of vanilla beans like Bourbon Vanilla, India Vanilla, Indonesian Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla, Mexican Vanilla, Tahitian Vanilla, Tonga Vanilla
They also have Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Paste, Vanilla Powder, Vanilla Fleur de Sel, Vanilla Sugar, Vanilla Ground has a detailed article about how to find the best Vanilla Extract around.

Vanilla sugar can make a fun gift when paired with a homemade hot chocolate recipe and/or a homemade hot chocolate mix. A cute container, a ribbon, and a label or nicely decorated recipe card is perfect for a simple holiday gift. Diabetics should be upset after reading their post... There's SugarFree Vanilla possible. Check it out here. You can use it exactly like you would Vanilla sugar.

Vanilla Sugar (Homemade)

2 cups granular Sugar (or baking Splenda for Sugarfree)
3 whole Vanilla Bean
An airtight container to store

1. Scrape out the vanilla seeds(caviar) from the pod and add it the sugar.
2. Cut the scrapped vanilla bean into smaller pcs and add to the sugar
3. Run the sugar in the food processor till it's finely ground.
4. Incase you have uneven grinding, just run the mix thru a sieve and process the course bits again.
5. Store in airtight container for at least two weeks before using.

I've sprinkled Vanilla Sugar on fruit, cookies, cakes and even added to teas, coffee, desserts and it works like magic. Use it to top anything you would usually use powdered sugar for even in icings, glazes etc. (if you don't mind the specks of vanilla in it)

Vanilla Extract (homemade)
Soak 2 vanilla beans in 180 ml of Vodka and leave it to mature for 6-8 weeks, shake it every few days. For quick action, scrape out the vanilla seeds(caviar) from the pod and then soak the beans
As the homemade extract ages the liquid will darken n pieces of the vanilla will settle at the bottom of the jar.

Why Vodka and not some other alcohol?
The answer can be found here. Essentially, higher proof of alcohol = stronger extract. Vodka has an alcohol content of 40 to 50%. Cheap cooking wine or rice wine, on the other hand, have an alcohol content of about 15 to 25%.
* In order to get the strongest extract possible, use a high proof of alcohol and scrape the seeds from the pod (or split the pod open).
* To get a weaker extract, use a lesser proof of alcohol and soak whole pods intact.
* In addition, corn syrup or sugar helps extract and develop the flavor from the vanilla pods (corn syrup dissolves more easily).
* Occasionally, spoon out some of the mass of vanilla pods that settle to the bottom of the jar for when you want a very intense vanilla flavor (such as homemade vanilla ice cream or butter/vanilla pretzel cookies).
All the above useful tips and more, can be found at this site

Storing Vanilla
Keep vanilla extract in a cool, dark place, with the bottle tightly closed, to prevent evaporation and loss of flavor. Vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life.

Starter brew bottles make great gifts for friends who bake. Include the basic instructions and a few extra vanilla pods in case they want to make an even stronger extract or wish to make some vanilla sugar on the side.