Nathan recently went to Saudi Arabia for work and, though he was stuck in the hotel for most of the time, he did come back with some ideas of middle eastern food that we needed to make for the blog. One of them was Baklava, the rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with a sugar/honey syrup. Baklava is originally Turkish and most likely began to evolve during the Ottoman Empire. It’s no wonder that the recipe has endured for centuries…it is an amazing and decadent combination of textured and flavors. It’s so sweet and gooey that a pan goes a long way…a little piece is all you need!
Katryn’s Wine Pairing: Borgo Maragliano, La Caliera Moscato D’Asti
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
If you’ve been following Rampant Cuisine for awhile you know we don’t like sweet wines and rarely feature them. However, with something like baklava, sweet should be paired with sweet so we were obliged to choose a Moscato for this pairing. Surprisingly, it was amazing. Next to the rich baklava the wine was refreshing and bright. It is medium sweet and lightly effervescent…a wonderful after dinner wine!
This nut brown ale had just the right amount of sweetness from the malt to compliment the richness of the Baklava and just the right amount of roasted flavors to help wash everything down. While the beer is malt heavy there is still a nice hop bite that cuts in at the same time as the roasted flavors. Overall I think the flavors are there but the beer lacks body and comes off watery.
Makes about 36 small diamond-shaped pastries
2 cups sugar and 1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 to 6 whole cloves
1 pound blanched almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or any combination, finely chopped or coarsely ground (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cardamom (optional)
1 pound (about 24 sheets) phyllo dough
About 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter or vegetable oil
1. To make the syrup: Stir the sugar, honey, water, lemon juice, and cloves over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy and registers 225 degrees on a candy thermometer. This may take up to 20 minutes or so. Discard the cloves. Let cool completely.
2. To make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Cut phyllo so it will fit in the pan.
4. Place a sheet of phyllo in the prepared pan and lightly brush with butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets. Spread with half of the filling. Top with 8 more sheets, brushing each with butter. Use any torn sheets in the middle layer. Spread with the remaining nut mixture and end with a top layer of 8 sheets, continuing to brush each with butter. Trim any overhanging edges.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 equal lengthwise strips (about 1 3/4 inches wide) through the top layer of pastry. Make 1 1/2-inch-wide diagonal cuts across the strips to form diamond shapes.
6. Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 20 additional minutes. Set broiler to low for 2-3 minutes so that the top will get nice and golden.
7. Cut through the scored lines. Drizzle the cooled syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Depending on your taste, you may not need all the syrup…if you want your baklava a little less sweet and gooey, just pour about ¾ of the syrup over the baklava. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.