Thursday, July 7, 2011

Daring Bakers June: From Phyllo to Baklava

Ok so I'm a little late posting this.. The month of June ended up really busy, plus a vacation at the end of the month pushed us to make this challenge late!  We made it over the long 4th of July weekend.

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.

Since I'm posting this so late I'm going to copy the recipe as given below and quickly just tell you what we did differently.  First I used a very small casserole dish, I only wanted enough for D and I to share and for it to be gone!  I love Baklava and knew I would eat it all myself!  I cut the phyllo dough recipe in half for the little dish and we ended up using almost all of it. 

Getting the dough thin enough was very difficult and required patience, something I did not have the day I made this.  (It is definitely worth getting it as thin as possible).  I also winged quite a bit of the rest of it, I just used spray Parkay between the layers, I pressed down quite a bit on the layers to get it to fit in the dish (I think this resulted in the dough not tasting flaky and layered.  (It was still good, just not correctly made!)  The filling I used some coco almonds and cinnamon pecans along with cinnamon and sugar.  For the syrup I cut way back on the amounts listed since I was using such a small dish, I used 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup mixture of what honey I had left and agave nectar.  It looks like a ton of syrup when you first pour it on, but it really does soak up a ton of it,  I probably still had a little too much. 

I'm not sure if I overcooked the baklava, or my winging it and pushing down on the layers to get it to fit in the pan were what made the phyllo layers taste like one big layer instead of the thin layers that I love.  Don't get me wrong it was still really good, but I think if I make it again I'll just go with store bought phyllo to save some time!  (I will edit this later to add my photos!)

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)


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 (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead 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 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo

** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**
Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then 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 (there are videos on the web)

6. 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.
phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
8. 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.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· 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, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
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

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high 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. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it's not needed)
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 cut 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. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
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

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Easter Babka

Babka is an item I used to love having from the bakery by my Grandma’s house as a kid.  I remembered the cherry flavor and every once and awhile a chocolate chip, but cherry was always my favorite.  So the Babka went on the “to make list!”  Little did I know that when I started the search for “THE” Babka I’d like to make, they would be nothing like I remembered as a kid!  I consulted my mom to confirm these recipes and was informed there is also a Jewish style Babka that is often chocolate and that she remembered a yeast Babka that my Grandma would make with raisins. 

When I realized we would be making the trip home to Michigan for Easter I knew I needed to make a Babka, because in my babka research I found out it was typical a Polish Easter bread!  After much deliberation on the all the recipes to try I decided on this chocolate and cheese babka, even if it is much different than my childhood memory!

I made a few mistakes in making this Babka, I started too late in the evening!  After making the dough and letting it rise the bread didn’t go into the oven until way too late! Make sure you plan enough time, because this is a time consuming process, but well worth it!  Also, if I were to make it again I’d use much more of the cheese filling, the filling got lost (you can barely see it in the picture!).

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 package yeast (2 tsp)
3 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup warm milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
4-5 cups flour
For chocolate filling:
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs cream
1/2 brick cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
For cheese filling:
1/2 brick cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
1 egg
zest from 1 lemon

1. Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in warm water. Add yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. The mixture should bubble up and look doughy.
2. Beat the eggs and yolks until light and fluffy. Add remaining sugar, and beat for another minute. Stir in the butter, milk, salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture.
3. Mix in 4 cups of the flour, and then add additional flour 1/4 up at a time, until smooth dough is formed.
4. Knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.  I used the dough hook on my mixer for most of this and then only did it by hand for just a few minutes.
5.  Place in a bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let rise a second time.
6. Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the cream and keep warm.
7. In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, egg, and lemon zest.
8. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into a large rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick.
9. Spread the rectangle with the chocolate mixture, then roll jelly roll style, starting with the long edge.
10. Repeat with the remaining dough, filling with the cheese mixture.
11. Twist the two rolls around each other like a braid, and arrange in a bundt or tube pan. The dough should fill the pan about 3/4 of the way.
12. Cover and let rise for one hour.
13. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap on it.
Serves 20.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

S'more Bars

These bars were made for a Memorial Day party.  When I saw them I knew they would be perfect for a cook out.  We decided to leave out the nuts because we weren’t sure that everyone liked peanuts.  Also peanuts didn’t seem like they have a place in a s’more bar.  However, I do think the saltiness and the crunch would bring a lot to these bars so try it and let me know! 

2¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
7½ ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped (More or less just make sure chocolate is 5 oz total)
7½ ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped More or less just make sure chocolate is 5 oz total)
1½ teaspoons light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
10 marshmallows, cut into quarters
½ cup lightly salted whole peanuts  (OPTIONAL)
½ cup chopped lightly salted peanuts (OPTIONAL)

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.  (With all the butter in the crust I’m not sure this is totally necessary)
2. In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar. Add the butter. Combine the mixture and turn it out into the prepared pan. Press the crust into an even layer along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
3. Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  (I had to bake it for about 20-25 minutes because the crust was still very soft).
4. In a large heatproof bowl, toss the chocolates together. Drizzle the corn syrup over the chocolate and set aside.
5. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate mixture. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Starting in the center of the bowl and working your way out to the edges, whisk the chocolate mixture in a circle until completely smooth. Fold in the marshmallows and the whole peanuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the top with the chopped peanuts.
6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until set. Cut into squares and serve. The bars will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
(Recipe adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cookie Dough Dip

Eating cookie dough is the best part of making cookies!  I was waiting for some type of event to make this dip, because I knew if I made it just because I’d eat it all.  I have a weakness for cookie dough.  Be prepared to love it and want to eat all of it.  It is not identical to cookie dough because of the slight cream cheese flavor, but it’s similar enough.  I served this dip with graham crackers and pretzel sticks.    

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups chocolate chips

Melt butter on medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to slowly bubble. Set aside to cool, and whisk in vanilla.
Using a mixer cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth (make sure its not lumpy or you will have lumps in your final mixture). With mixer on low speed, add in brown sugar and butter mixture. Mix until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Chill until ready to serve!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie

I’m really behind on posts!  I made this way back in May for a special family birthday.  It was a special request from my mother-in-law.  I had never made a peanut butter pie, so when I found this recipe I had to try it because it was garnished with peanut butter cups!  Who can pass up peanut butter and chocolate?  Not me! 

9 oz chocolate wafer cookies (I used some chocolate animal crackers)
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled to room temp
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325.
In a food processor, finely grind the cookies and bittersweet chocolate.
Add the butter and pulse until well incorporated and moist clumps form
Transfer to a 9-inch tart pan (or pie tin) with a removable bottom. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the side.
Bake until set, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.
Beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
In another bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until combined.
Spoon the peanut butter mixture into the cooled crust. Place the tart in the fridge to set while making the topping.
Place the semisweet chocolate, 1 Tbsp butter, and remaining cream in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts until hot. Whisk until smooth.
Pour the chocolate evenly over the tart. Garnish with chopped peanut butter cups.
Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Adapted from Simply Suppers, by Jennifer Chandler

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June Daring Cooks Challenge: Healthy Potato Salad

We have had a busy the last few months and haven't participated in the last few Daring Cooks or Daring Baker challenges.  This months challenge was something I wanted to make sure we were able to participate in. When I saw the Daring Cooks challenge was a healthier potato salad and we were allowed to be creative and do our own thing, I knew it was time to challenge D.  We were going to have a potato salad throw down or Iron Chef.. POTATO SALAD.... either challenge would do!

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

My potato salad was going to feature sweet potatoes and a vinegar based dressing.  Here is what I used.

2 Medium Sweet Potatoes
4 green onions- white and green parts
3 oz colored peppers
Some Agave nectar
2 TBS Chili pepper paste
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Onion powder
¼ cup vinegar
Zest of lime, orange, lemon
Juice of lime, half orange, half lemon

First I cut up the sweet potatoes and placed on a baking sheet to roast in a 450 deg oven. I'm too lazy to peel a sweet potato when roasting it, so go ahead save some time and leave the peel on (Thanks Sara for notifying me that it was ok to leave the peel on!).  

While the potatoes were roasting I cut the green onions, peppers, zested the citrus, and mixed up the sauce with the spices.

As soon as the potatoes came out of the oven I poured over the sauce.  It is best when making a vinegar based potato salad to dress the potatoes when they are hot so they absorb the vinegar.  I then put the salad in the fridge until it was chilled and ready to eat!

Now for the calorie count.. mine was a total of 630 calories for the whole batch!!

Derek’s potato salad was going to be a creamy dill sauce.  Here is what he used:

Bag of small red potatoes
5 Green onions
1 container Greek yogurt
A ton of fresh dill
½ packet ranch dressing seasoning

First D cut his potatoes and decided since the smoker was on he was going to smoke his potatoes to cook them.  He sprayed them with some olive oil and added some minced garlic.

Meanwhile, he mixed together the Greek yogurt, ranch mix, and fresh dill.

Once the potatoes came out he chilled them before dressing the potatoes and mixing in the green onion. D's potato salad had a total calorie count of 765.

Both of these potato salads served a bunch!  So the calorie counts turned out great!  Now for the taste test..  D and I both agreed mine were better.  The smoked taste of D's potatoes would have been great served warm, but it slightly overpowered the potato salad and it also prevented the dressing from soaking into the potatoes. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Whole Wheat English Muffins

English muffins are on our to make list.  Yay another item marked off!  I eat English muffins almost every morning.  Either with an egg and no fat cheese or with peanut butter (of course PB& Co) and a banana.  These don't have as many nooks and crannies as the store bought kind, but they are taste great!  Making these takes a little time because the dough must rise, but I mixed it together after work, went to the gym, formed my muffins, started dinner and then cooked these while dinner was in the oven.  

Whole Wheat English Muffins  (straight from Recipe Tips)
1/4 c. warm water
1 package dry yeast (or 1 Tbsp.)
2 c. whole wheat flour, plus more as needed during kneading
1 c. all-purpose flour (you may use all whole wheat flour, but you will have a denser muffin)
1 c. milk
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 egg
cornmeal, as needed

Sprinkle yeast over warm water (105 degrees is ideal) and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix flours and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix milk, oil, and honey.  Add egg and stir until well blended.  Stir in yeast mixture.
Add liquid to half of the dry ingredients and mix well, with a mixer or by hand.  Mix in remaining dry ingredients.  Dough will be soft and sticky.  Turn dough out onto a work surface and knead for several minutes.  If dough is too sticky to knead, add flour one tablespoon at a time.  (I used my mixer with the bread hook, I had to add more flour about 3-4 TBS.)
Put dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. 
Turn risen dough out onto a work surface that has been liberally dusted with cornmeal and pat or roll to about 1/2″ thickness.  Cut into approximately 3″ rounds.  If you wish, combine the scraps of dough into more muffins, handling as little as possible.  (I decided it would be easier to cut the dough and shape them, this may have resulted in not as many nooks and crannies as store bought English muffins.  However, this resulted in no scraps.  I made 18, recipe said 12.)
 Cover muffins with a towel and let rise for 20-30 minutes.
Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat.  Sprinkle with corn meal.  Using a spatula, carefully transfer muffins to hot griddle.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side, then turn and cook 2 minutes more on each side.  Outsides will get golden brown and crusty, insides should be soft but not gooey. (I think it took longer than 5 mins on the first side to get these cooked properly.)
Remove to cooling rack.   English muffins can be fork split or cut with a knife.