Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baklava with just regular honey cuz I'm not buying expensive fancy honey

I made this yesterday! Oh yes, that's right. I actually got phyllo dough and made something with it! Can you believe it? I could barely believe it myself. I've always seen desserts made with it and I've also tasted desserts made with it (duh), but I've never actually used it. So when I saw this recipe, coupled with the fact that I have a Greek husband with an affinity for honey (especially when things are drenched in honey), and not to mention the oodles of time on my hands (which actually makes less sense, because yesterday was a Monday. The one day I particularly like to use to do as many household chores as possible), I figured what the hell! Let's do this! (you have to kind of hiss the S of "this" and then do some arm pumping to read that correctly).

Anyhoo, here's what I learned (in no particular order):

1. Read the phyllo dough package ahead of time. Like, so ahead of time, you've actually travelled back in time to a day or so before you planned on making it. When I saw that it was kept in the freezer, I kinda just assumed it was ready like, right out of the freezer. Freezer ready. Then, I was reading the recipe which kindly stated:
24 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
And I thought, oh. Mine's still in the freezer and I kinda want to make this right now. So I took it out and left it on the counter. Then I went back to the recipe (after doing a bunch of stuff on my way there) and read the comments again (I always read the comments to recipes. Sometimes I don't even make a recipe if there aren't any comments about it. Even if it's got 5 stars or mitts or whatever. Why couldn't you have said something like, "this worked out perfectly for me! But I reduced the heat!" -- screaming in exclamation points, naturally -- while you were clicking on the stars and mitts? Does it really take that much more of your time?), and I read this:
...When working with the dough, follow the thawing instructions that are on the box exactly! It makes things easier if the dough behaves.
Ok. So I went and read the box, and you know what it said? Unthaw in the fridge OVERNIGHT or FIVE HOURS before using! FIVE HOURS? I couldn't remember when I'd taken it out. Like an hour ago? Half? And my oven was on already! I have no idea how long it took to unthaw, but I removed the dough from the box, placed it on a cutting board and put the cutting board on top of the oven (mine's kinda crap so it gets like frying-an-egg hot on top) to warm.

2. Hi, um, I know I've already chosen a time-consuming recipe, basically admitting, HEY! I have time to make this already time consuming recipe! But does getting the raw ingredients for it have to be time consuming as well? Seriously. The recipe seems to think that finding unsalted pistachios will cause trouble. They are so wrong. If anyone knows were to buy unshelled pistachios, that would be an awesome alternative, because all I could find were shelled pistachios (I really like saying, pistachio). Admittedly, they're pretty easy to unshell but it's still time consuming. Time I would rather spend on crafting some seriously awesome layers of phyllo dough. So if I made it again, I'd probably just take the pistachio amount and use walnuts and almonds instead (mostly because I didn't find that the pistachios really added any layer of flavour. They just stand out cuz they're a pretty green and I didn't chop them as coarsely as the others so they're chunkier).

3. Even though all the syrup ingredients fit nicely into my small pot, use the biggest pot available. As I was heating the syrup, it started bubbling up and up and up and ohmygoditjustaboutwentoverthetop! So I transferred it to my largest pot and it still bubbled all the way to the top, just without the intention of going over.

4. Maybe I needed to cook my syrup longer. No, I definitely did. I think it's a bit too runny. Here's what happened, because I was fiddling with the pot situation, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees in the repotting, so when I was finally ready to let it get to where it needed to be without disturbing it a bunch of times (the recipe said it should take about 10 minutes), it never did. And quite honestly, I was tired of waiting. It had probably only been like 5 minutes, but it felt like 20 to me, and it would never go past 220. It was just hovering there so close to where it needed to be, but not even giving me 5 degrees of movement over a 5 second time period (come on!). Finally it inched up to 225 and I decided I'd had enough waiting and turned off the heat.

5. I didn't have troubles with the phyllo dough tearing or drying or anything else commonly associated with phyllo. Actually, it did tear, but I decided not to concern myself with it because it was just a few tiny tears in amongst 5 other sheets of dough. I  had a cloth to put over it to help keep it from drying out, but it was kinda hard to take the cloth off, take out a delicate sheet of dough, put the cloth back, then arrange the dough in the pan, and then repeat all that 24 times. I ended up just putting it on while I was sprinkling on the nut layer. What I did have troubles with was this part:
place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing end of sheet to extend over edges of dish;
Which I did, dutifully. But then, you get to the end of all the sheets of dough and layers of filling and you've squished it down in the pan as far as it goes, and you're left with all these thick layers extending over the edges of the dish. Waste not, want not, I folded them into the pan, but now the sides and corners of the baklava are really thick on dough. And it's not very flavourful dough. It's kinda like eating super thin pieces of paper (no wonder they've drenched it in honey). If I make it again, I think I'd fold in every 6 layers or every piece or something. Something to get it more even and uniform. Not that I'm anal like that and I need to have every portion equal to the next, but you know, I feel like someone getting a corner piece is going to be gypped out of filling cuz it's mostly all dough on top with a honey drenched bottom and a few nuts. It's unfair.

After that, cooking was easy. The precutting instructions were interesting, but I guess it made it easier afterwards and helped the honey to really get into everything.

Most importantly, it's delicious and IH thinks it tastes like the real deal. There were some comments about it being too sweet. Well, fyi, others, you don't know what sweet is until you've actually been to Greece and sampled most of their sweets. This is tame in comparison, so I don't find it overly sugary or as sugary as other baklavas I've had. It's just right for me, but you know, taste is all in your mouth. It's also kinda light on calories -- or at least light enough for me to not feel totally guilty. And, because I want to try out my phyllo folding ideas, I'll probably make it again. It's a really great end to a Greek supper night (IH isn't the one craving Greek, it's me. I'll admit it).

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