Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers June 2011 - Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

My baklava was a disaster! Except that I had fun making it, it tasted yummy and we loved eating it. So not that much of a disaster.

I was thrilled when this challenge was revealed because (a) I love baklava and (b) I knew home-made filo pastry would be very challenging. I was right about that. After hours of rolling and holey dough and even some tears of frustration, I learned one very important lesson – never, ever try to make your own filo! In all seriousness, I am glad I tried it and I would urge all the more talented cooks out there to give it a go, but next time I will go back to store-bought pastry.

Where do I start with my problems? Not with the dough – that was great. My beloved mixer made light work of the kneading and the dough looked perfect. But when it came to rolling, things went rapidly down hill. I didn't use a dowel and I am sure that would have helped. I tried both my rolling pins and I used a lot of flour, but it just wouldn't go thin enough. Before it got anywhere near translucent it would tear. And every time I tried to pick it up it would also tear. And after it had been rolled out once, it turned hard and refused to be rolled again. And then the leaves started sticking together. And even though I doubled the recipe and rolled for hours, I only ended up with 10 useable pieces. Sigh.

The end result probably shouldn't even be called baklava. My pastry layers were not light or crisp or flaky. More like dense and hard and chewy. But hey, how wrong can you go with all those nuts and all that butter and honey? The flavour was still lovely, we ate the whole tray and I will happily use this recipe again. With store-bought filo.

Thank you Erica for the excellent challenge, a really great choice.

Filo pastry dough:

185 gm plain flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
105 ml water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water
5. Change to the dough hook and knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead by hand for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 90 minutes

Rolling the Filo

1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger than a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network

For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups honey
· 1 1/4 cups water
· 1 1/4 cups sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

For the Filling:
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
A pinch of allspice
170 gm blanched almonds
155 gm raw or roasted walnuts
140 gm roasted pistachios
2/3 cup sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
125g melted butter

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside.
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter.
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife score your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge

14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes.
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature

Monday, June 13, 2011

Healthy Potato Salads - Daring Cook Challenge June 2011

To be honest, I was disappointed when this months challenge was revealed. Potato salad?!? What is so daring about that? Also it was a competition to come up with a recipe, which I am not very good at. Oh well, I thought, I'll make a couple of potato salads, we'll eat them, I'll post and then we can move onto next month. So I turned to some of my favorite cookbooks for healthy potato salad inspiration.

The first was Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday. I am one of the legion of fans of Heidi's natural food-focused blog 101 Cookbooks and in her new book I found a recipe for Broccoli Gribiche. Her description in the head-note - Think French-dressed egg salad, meets potato salad, punctuated by plenty of broccoli - had my mouth watering and the end result was terrific. The dressing is a gribiche sauce - hard-boiled egg, vinegar, mustard, capers, shallots and herbs. So its healthier than mayo, but with that nice vinegar tang you expect from potato salad.

So far so good. The second recipe I tried was from Karen Martini's Where the Heart Is. Karen Martini is not known for healthy cooking. Even I have been known to gasp at the amount of fat and sugar in some of her recipes, but I cook them a lot and they are always super tasty. We had some dill left over so I was drawn to the Warm potato, Dill, Caper and Mustard salad. The vinegar, mustard and lemon juice dressing is added to well-boiled potato when they are still hot. The end result was a lovely creamy texture, once again without mayo. Win.

So after two successes, I deciding to get daring and come up with my own healthy potato salad. I loved the texture of the baked potato in the first salad I made. And I have been mad for this tahini salad dressing the past few weeks, so I knew I would use that. Then I just brainstormed for other ingredients that are healthy but totally delicious, and came up with avocado, edaname and beetroot.

I gotta say, for someone who doesn't make up her own recipes very often, I killed it. This was a seriously yummy salad and it is about as healthy as they come. I actually proud to submit my baby to the competition and I hope someone out there will try it and like it as much as we did.

4 medium potatoes, skin on, cut into 2cm cubes
1 Tsp olive oil
2 beetroots
1 avocado
1 cup frozen edaname (soy beans)
2 Tbs tahini
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp soy sauce


Heat oven to 180
Wrap beetroot together in foil and seal well. Place on a tray and roast in oven for 1 hour.
Combine potatoes with olive oil in a baking tray and season well with salt and pepper.
Roast potatoes in oven with beetroot for around 45 minutes, stirring several times.
Cook edaname in boiling water or microwave for around 2 minutes and drain well.
To make dressing, combine tahini, lemon juice, dijon and soy sauce in a jar with a lid and shake until creamy. You may want to thin it a little with hot water and shake again.
Peel and dice the cooled beetroot and the avocado. Combine the cooled potatoes, diced beetroot, edaname and avocado in a bowl and drizzle over a generous amount of tahini dressing.
You can stir the salad at the point if you like, but the bossy beetroot will turn everything pink.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fish Cake

My brother loves fishing and I like making silly cakes. He was only turning 41 but I have ever made him a cake before, so it was a good excuse. Here he is blowing out the candles with his daughter. Dad in the background also capturing the moment as ever.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mesquite Brownies

I hope that this is the mesquite brownie recipe you have been looking for.

Last year I found myself with most of a box of mesquite flour and no idea what to do with it. I had gone to some trouble to source the mesquite flour because I wanted to make the chocolate chip cookies in Heidi Swanson's book Super Natural Cooking. The cookies were great, but then I had a box of expensive native American super-food to use up. As mesquite flour is somewhat cocoa-like and I love brownies, I searched for a mesquite brownie recipe. I found a couple and even made one, but it wasn't memorable.

I took to using the mesquite flour a tablespoon at a time in smoothies and in this wonderful banana soft-serve. But when I came across Alice Medrich's recipe for cocoa brownies on a blog I had an idea to try it with the mesquite flour. It was a good idea! This is a fantastic recipe that makes delicious, moist, fudgey, moreish brownies and it happily accommodated the mesquite flour.

So if there is anyone else out there like me, with half a box of mesquite flour and no where to use it, I strongly recommend you give these a whirl. I think you'll be glad you did.

Mesquite Brownies
Adapted from a recipe in Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
140g butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup mesquite flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour

Preheat the oven to 162′C. Line the bottom and sides of a medium square baking pan with baking paper.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Melt over hot water or in the microwave in short bursts. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla.. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.

Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a skewer poked into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the baking paper and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16.