Thursday, January 01, 2009
Baklava Small Batch Recipe
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a chance to cook some great food for the holidays. If you want a traditional and healthy meal to celebrate New Year's Day, you have plenty of time to make Hoppin' John, the easy stew made with black-eyed peas. The peas will bring you luck all year.
You don't have to soak them overnight--just bring to a boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat, cover and soak 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans and go on with the recipe. This is called the quick-soak method and may be used for any kind of bean. If you can't find ham hocks for the stew, you can always add bacon or chunks of cooked ham at the end.
If you're still in party mode, then make baklava (all those nuts are good for you, by the way). I did it for the first time last week, and it was so much easier than I imagined when I thought about making it all those times. Phyllo is easy to work with, and everything else is a snap. It looks really impressive and tastes incredible--I love the crunch of phyllo dough. I made a small batch and decided to post it that way because I couldn't find a small recipe anywhere.
You can use any combination of walnuts, almonds and pistachios (others would be okay, I think, but those 3 are the traditional choices). You can also use just one. I used walnuts and almonds, which Mike loved, but I think I'd like it with just walnuts.
Did you guys cook anything special for New Year's Eve? We took a little trip to Chicago where much eating and drinking was done, so we had a very low-key night. Do you typically cook a special dish for New Year's Day? I'm looking forward to my black-eyed peas.
And finally, thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this blog throughout the year. I really appreciate every one of you, even if I don't say it all the time! I hope the year brings great things to you and your families!
This recipe makes a small batch of this sweet, nut-filled phyllo pastry. If you would like to use a 9 x 13 pan, double the recipe and do not cut the raw phyllo dough in half. You will need a pastry brush to butter the delicate phyllo sheets.
8 oz. raw, whole almonds
8 oz. raw walnut halves
3 Tbs. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. cloves
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
8 oz. phyllo dough (such as Athens brand), at room temperature
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2-inch strip orange peel
1-inch strip lemon peel
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 tsp. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and roast until nuts are lightly browned in the center, tossing once, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until chopped. Be careful to avoid grinding nuts to a paste. Transfer to a large bowl.
Spread walnuts on the same baking sheet you used for the almonds and roast until lightly browned, turning once, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to food processor and chop. Add to bowl with almonds. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, salt, cardamom and cloves. Raise oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Add butter to a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Unroll the phyllo and place on a cutting board. Cut crosswise through the rectangular phyllo to form two smaller rectangles; cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Phyllo dough dries out quick when exposed to air. With a pastry brush, butter the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 inch square baking dish.
Lift towel and add one piece of phyllo to dish; replace towel (keep the phyllo covered in this manner as you work). Lightly coat phyllo sheet with butter. Top with another piece of phyllo, turning it 90 degrees so the sheets are overlapping; coat with butter. Repeat until you’ve layered 8 sheets of phyllo, coating each one with butter. Top with one-third of the nut mixture. Cover with 8 more sheets of phyllo and one-third of the nuts. Repeat with 8 more sheets of phyllo and the remaining nuts. Finish with 8 more sheets of phyllo (you’ll have some left over). It goes like this:
1) 8 sheets phyllo
3) 8 sheets phyllo
5) 8 sheets phyllo
7) 8 sheets phyllo
With a sharp serrated knife, cut into 12 pieces. Be sure to cut all the way through to the bottom of the dish. Once baked, phyllo will shatter when cut. Bake 30 minutes or until phyllo is golden brown.
When baklava is nearly done baking, make the syrup: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until thickened slightly, 7 minutes. Remove peels and cinnamon stick.
When baklava is finished, cool on a rack 5 minutes. Pour syrup over baklava, allowing it to run between the cut pieces. Cool completely, several hours. May be made up to one day ahead. Baklava keeps 7 days at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.