Baklava: No Fear

In Alton Brown’s  Good Eats: Baklava episode he shows a food gallery of most feared foods to make:  Baked Alaska, Tarte Tatin and Baklava. I laughed when I saw this episode since Baklava was the recipe to tackle this month.

When I talk about the Fearless Cooking Club and the premise of tackling our cooking fears, I will hear someone say, “Oh that’s easy to make, why would you say that is hard?” It’s all about perspective, that’s why we have our cooking club. It’s easier to accomplish difficult tasks in a group, fear loves company. We have members of our club who call me the gourmet cook and I laugh. I am just stubborn and determined. All of our members have varying skills and we get along because we are all learn from each other.

Cindy was our hostess for April’s cooking and dining meeting and the theme was Greek cuisine. Cindy has made Pastitio which is a wonderful Greek comfort dish. So when I arrived I assumed that she had experience in making baklava. She announced that she was going to learn right along with us.

Phyllo dough, butter, sugar and nuts are the basis of baklava. The phyllo is the trickiest part of baklava. It is thin and tears easily, taking patience and technique and it dries out quickly.

1) Butter a 9×13 inch pan. Pull up the phyllo sheets and place two sheets into the pan like making a bed.

2) With a pastry brush “paint” the top sheet with melted butter.

3) Sprinkle 2-3 TBSP of chopped walnuts across the sheet. Then repeat the steps: 2 sheets of phyllo, melted butter and chopped nuts.

4) As you near the end of the layers keep 6 sheets to put on the very top of the pan. Cut the sheets in the serving sizes prior to baking.

5) Bake at 350 degree F oven for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. After you pull it out of the oven have a pre-mixed combination of 1C granulated sugar, 1C water, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 C honey that was heated over a stove-top until it becomes a golden syrup.

Patty’s Points

1) Phyllo dough is found in the freezer section of the store. Put it in the refrigerator overnight for it to thaw. Alton Brown suggests you pick the box in the back of the freezer section as it is the freshest.

2) Phyllo dough can dry out quickly so when you are ready to use it, focus on the task of completing the assembly of the baklava. A damp towel or a water spray bottle can be use to keep is moist if necessary. We tried a towel but it was too damp and the first phyllo dough adhered to the towel so we skipped that and just worked quickly.

3) Have all the ingredients ready before assembly. Have a really sharp knife for cutting the phyllo dough shapes. We actually pulled out a ruler to measure the size of our cuts and triangles.

4) The phyllo sheets sucked up every bit of that syrup mixture and made the baklava very moist. Cindy bought some baklava from a local Greek restaurant and we thought ours was better 🙂 Just think, two triangles of baklava cost $4.00 so our entire pan was worth $72.00!

The rest of our Greek menu was Pastitio, Moussaka, Spanakopita, Sliced lamb, Pita bread, Greek salad, Loukoumathes (honey puffs) and of course Baklava. We received copies of the recipes to all the dishes which were delicious and delectable.

After some ouzo and wine we learned of Cindy’s first trip to Greece and traveling adventures as a young new college graduate. She decided to go to Europe because she got several driving ticket violations and couldn’t drive for three months. She was a free spirit and much bolder than I at that age.

OPA! Greek for party down which we did!

Rocky Mountain Cookie Cutter Club

I was invited to the meeting of the Rocky Mountain Cutups, a bi-annual gathering of people interested in the collection, history and making of cookie cutters and molds. My good friend, Joy, has belonged to this group almost 20 years and I finally took the time to attend as her guest. The theme was toy or miniature cookie cutters. The hostess, Cassandra made a presentation on company brands that produce miniature cutters. It is absolutely amazing how many cookie cutters that are out there. Celebrity chefs are even getting in on the market making cutters for pie crusts, cookies and holiday baking.

Rocky Mountain Cutups have a blog site profiling their past meetings with pictures.

The fun part of the meeting was Show and Tell. Two members had a picture scrapbook of a road trip they made to Illinois to see a former member. This member, Gary, has 19,000+ cookies cutters he has collected from all over the world. One of his most recent finds was this Abraham Lincoln cutter below.

Mae, who is a cute 80-something, brought the tiniest cookie cutter of a gingerbread man.

Arlene, shared that she was featured in a national article on her cookie cutter collections. Joy brought her collection of child-size kitchen tools and accompanying cutters. Joy and Char both brought cutters that were shaped so that the cookie sat on the lip of a cup for tea. Here are the wing cookies on a cup.

Elena is the tinsmith in the group and makes the cookie cutters that the club takes to the national convention. Here is one of her creations.

My show and tell was my describing my food blog and the February posting on macarons. I stayed up until 1:30 am making macarons to share with the group!

Cassandra showed her displays of cookie cutters and molds. The two pictures below are just a couple of walls in this big room.

I didn’t stay for the whole day but I found out I’ll be helping out with the next meeting in August. The theme will be Mad Hatters! All about hats!