Month: January 2015

A.B.’s Baklava

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Hello Friends.  It is Thursday so we are back again!  A little later in the day, but better than never! This week I give to you: a rendition of Alton Brown’s Baklava.  Don’t be scared away by this exotic treat–it’s really not hard, it’s just LONG. Thirty layers of phyllo go into this buttery hunk of nuts.

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This would have been an exact replica of A.B.’s version…alas, rosewater is not something I was going to search especially hard for–not when it would probably only be used for this recipe.  Never having made baklava before, I was not sure if the rosewater solution was key to something besides just the flavor, so I simply substituted triple sec for the rosewater, since orange was already part of the flavor profile.  I imagine that orange extract would be an excellent substitute as well.  The ratio of nuts is the way that it is simply because of how things came packaged at my grocery store… with that in mind, Note to Self and anyone else: pistachios lose about half of their weight once they’re out of their shells.

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One bright green pistachio amongst gooey layers of phyllo and other nuts.

Everyone enjoyed this baklava.  It was one of my first times eating it, too, and I daresay it tastes like a concentrated pecan roll.  I would make them again–but next time, not so late in the evening!  Like I said, these take a WHILE.  But they’re worth it.

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A.B.’s Baklava

Yield: One 13×9″ pan, about 30 pieces

Ingredients:

1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed

8 oz. clarified butter (I used Emeril’s recipe to some success)

For filling:

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

¾ tsp. ground allspice

8 oz. blanched almonds

4 oz. walnuts

2 oz. pecans

4 oz. pistachios

2/3 c. sugar

For essence water:

1/4 c. water

1 tsp. triple sec

For syrup:

1 1/4 c. honey

1 1/4 c. water

1 1/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse together until nuts resemble a coarse sand (not dust).  Prepare essence water by combining the ingredients in a sanitary spray bottle if you have one.  Otherwise mix them in a small bowl and find a pastry brush to sprinkle it with.  Lay the phyllo dough next to your work space, keeping a slightly damp cloth over it to keep it from drying out and cracking.

With another pastry brush, brush the clarified butter over the bottom and sides of a 13×9″ pan.  Grab one sheet of phyllo and layer it on the bottom of the pan (it should theoretically be sized just right out of the package–trim it down if not).  Brush butter on top, and add another sheet.  Brush butter on top, and continue buttering and adding sheets until you reach 10 sheets.

Add 1/3 of the filling mixture on top of the phyllo layers and spread it evenly.  Spray or sprinkle the essence water on top.  Add 6 more layers of butter and phyllo, followed by another 1/3 of the filling mixture, and more essence water.  After that, add 6 more layers of butter and phyllo and the last installment of filling, followed by the last installment of essence water (it is okay if you do not use all the essence water).  Finish with 8 layers of phyllo and butter, brushing the top “generously with butter”, as Mr. Brown says.

Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, take out of the oven and cut into 28-30 pieces.  Do not worry if the top few layers crack badly.  Place back in oven for anther 30 minutes.

Here is where the timing gets interesting on Mr. Brown’s recipe: after removing the pan from the oven, set it on a cooling rack to cool for 2 hours.  Within the last 30 minutes of cooling, begin to make the syrup.  There must be a reason for this specific timing, so I do not ask questions.

Therefore, within the last 30 minutes of cooling, assemble the syrup ingredients in a small pot.  Bring to a boil so that the sugar dissolves, and let boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the orange peel (and cool it and eat it!  Chef’s treat).  When it has reached 2 hours of cooling, re-cut the baklava on the same lines as before (it will have melded back together slightly in the oven), and gently pour the syrup over the whole pan, making sure it gets in all the cut lines and cracks.

Allow to completely cool and then cover and store at room temperature.

Enjoy–with a BIG glass o’ milk, because this thing is SWEET.

Taco Pecans

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Hello again, friends.  The school year has started back up and I am already plenty busy.  Thankfully I made many lovely things over my break–and documented them to share with you!  Last weekend, my parents hosted their annual Friends+Drinks appetizer party (and now being 21 I was happy to really take part). Being home as I still was, I wanted to make spiced nuts for the party.

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This past year I’ve become enamored with the idea of spiced nuts–sweet, slightly spicy, small enough to graze constantly, and simple enough to be a crowd-pleaser.  Last time I made these buggers, they were simply sugar and cinnamon.  This time, I wanted to explore the savory-sweet balance…

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It should be mentioned that these particular ones are not my favorite.  As a couple people at the party mentioned, they taste kind of like taco seasoning–thus I now call them Taco Pecans.  So, they were a little more on the savory side than the sweet side–the “balance” needs more work.  BUT, just because I didn’t achieve the balance I wanted doesn’t mean that people didn’t like them, so they’re still going up here!  They definitely got better the more they sat to let the flavors come together, too (a few days).  This recipe was adapted from the Saveur Spiced Pecans recipe.  They put two whole tablespoons of smoked paprika in theirs–and I thought mine were spicy!  I also increased the amount of sugar and “sweet spices” in the hopes it would be savory-sweet.  Alas, nothing can compete with smoked paprika, cayenne, and cumin.  Don’t shy away from these, though… As Alton Brown would say, they can still be good eats, as long as you know what to expect!

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Taco Pecans

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients:

6 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar

2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. granulated garlic

½ tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

10 grinds black pepper

1 beaten egg white

4 cups pecan halves

Method:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the first ten ingredients (sugar and seasonings) in a bowl and mix until fully combined.  This should resemble damp sand in texture.

Beat the egg white in a medium-to-large bowl until slightly frothy–just enough that it has a liquid-like consistency instead of the original gel-like consistency.  Add the pecans and toss until the egg has coated them evenly.  To this, add the seasoning mixture and toss again to coat.

Spread into one even layer over two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  As the Saveur recipe says, “bake until browned and crisp”–they suggest 25-30 minutes.  I say it may take even longer.

Let cool, gently break apart any that have stuck together, and store in an airtight container.  They should keep for quite a while.

Enjoy–possibly with a glass of milk!

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Maple Hot “Chocolate”

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Hey friends, how’s it hanging?  I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and baking this week, so I’ve got plenty of post ideas ready to go.  I’ve never been on top of this blogging thing (you know that)…so this is a miracle!  Today I’ve got something maple-y, creamy, and warm–something that says “January in the North” in a cup (I was going to say “in Wisconsin”, but our Canada Friends have us outnumbered in the maple department).  This is Maple Hot “Chocolate”.  Quotation marks are in place because this doesn’t actually contain any chocolate.  It’s more like a steamer, if you will.

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This all started when my dearest friend and I made White Hot Chocolate a few weeks ago.  I know that you chocolate purists wish that there were quotation marks around “chocolate” in that sentence too–and usually I agree, but my love for steamers (who doesn’t love hot sweet milk?!) deems it acceptable this time.  Sometimes I just don’t like to drink my chocolate, especially when Hot Chocolate from public places is more often than not that silly white packet with some water thrown in.  WHERE IS THE MILK?  Ahem.  Anyway, I wanted a fancy hot drink with neither coffee nor chocolate, so I set out to make another White Hot Chocolate.  Then I passed by the fridge that holds our opened maple syrup, and thought “Yum.”

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I debated simply adding some syrup to the White Hot Chocolate mix, but white chocolate has a strong enough flavor of its own that I didn’t want competing with the maple.  Plus, both of these flavorings come with excessive amounts of sugar, and I didn’t want this to be a death drink more suited for that theoretical 8-year-old’s birthday party where they eat Rainbow Safari Cake.  So I dreamed up a steamer-like beverage flavored and sweetened entirely by maple syrup, and it’s pretty great.  Need recommendations for syrup?  Like Alton says: don’t let me catch you trying to pass off any of that artificial table syrup, and Grade B Maple Syrup is better than Grade A.  Less refined=purer maple flavor=more flavor for less sugar.  And let me tell you, even when using Grade B, it is still super sweet.  Thus the pinch of salt in the recipe to round out the flavor–don’t let me catch you skipping out on that either.

So, without further ado…

Maple Hot “Chocolate”

Yield: 8 ounces

Ingredients:

3/4 c. Milk (I used 1%)

1/4 c. Heavy Cream

1 1/2 – 2 T. Maple Syrup, plus more for optional Whipped Cream

Pinch Salt

Whipped Cream (optional)

Method:

Mix the milk, cream, maple syrup, and salt into a small pot.  Place over medium-low heat and cook until desired temperature is reached–do NOT let the mixture boil.  Once hot, pour into a mug and serve.  If desired, mix a few tablespoons of cold heavy whipping cream with a teaspoon of maple syrup and beat with a whisk until soft peaks form; spoon on top of drink.

Enjoy!

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Rainbow Safari Cake (Million Dollar Pound Cake)

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It started with me wanting to try a leopard print cake in case anyone ever wanted me to make them one.  And then I wanted to try a frosting technique.  And we had new food colors.  And then an excuse to make a tiger print cake.  So this experimental safari cake was born for the new year with my cousin as accomplice.

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I wish I could make this post into a tutorial about how we did everything, but there aren’t enough pictures from this process-heavy adventure.  Another day.

But here's a peek at our process.

But here’s a peek at our process.

Instead, I shall take this opportunity to share one of my family’s recipes.  Mother found this recipe somewhere a long time ago, and we’ve used it ever since: the “Million Dollar Pound Cake”.  Even though this cake was made in 9-inch rounds instead of the traditional bundt pan, we chose it for its thick batter that would hold up when we piped it into designs.

Be very skeptical about the 300 degree baking temperature.  Say, “That’s not high enough for the sugars to caramelize.”  But then accept it, because this cake is moist and gooey and quite perfect just the way it is.

“Million Dollar Pound Cake”

Yield: 1 bundt or two 9-inch rounds

Ingredients:

1 lb Butter, softened

3 c. Sugar

6 Eggs

4 c. Flour

3/4 c. Milk

2 tsp.  your favorite extract(s)

Method:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan or two 9-inch rounds.

Cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.  Alternate adding flour and milk, starting with flour, and beating after each addition.  Mix in vanilla.

Divide evenly throughout pan(s).  Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes for a bundt (for the 9-inch pans, bake at least 1 hour) or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let sit in pan(s) for about 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack.

Dust with powdered sugar or frost.

Enjoy!