Monday, June 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers Make 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.

This month's challenge was a lot of fun, and I was really excited to give it a try. Any baklava that I have had before has been flaky, super sticky, sickeningly sweet, and, well, just not that impressive. But I knew that anything we would do for the Daring Bakers would be down right awesome, so I was ready to give it a shot!

I cheated just a wee bit on this challenge. I didn't make my own phyllo dough. I know, I know, that was kind of...the point...but, things have been a little hectic lately, and since I just did move 800 miles away, and then fly back to the midwest for my best friend's wedding, and then fly home to spend 2 days with my husband before he starts residency on Tuesday (!!!), if there was any way that I was going to participate at all this month, it was going to require a little store-bought magic. And I'm actually quite glad that I did - there was no ridiculous rolling and rolling and rolling, no tearing, everything was super thin and perfect to handle. 

I am really pleased with the end result. While it is still the sweet, sticky, flaky pastry that I remember, it has much better flavor of anything that I have tried before. In fact, I only made half of the given recipe, and I'm having a really hard time not keeping my hands out of the pan! It's so good, I can't stop eating it!! We are going to have to make some new friends here, and quick, or we are going to end up eating way too many Daring Bakers challenges all by ourselves!

I'll go ahead and post the recipe for the Phyllo, even though I didn't use it. I suggest you give it a try!  There seems to be some disagreement as how to add the syrup to the baklava after it bakes. Some people swear that the baklava should be hot and the syrup at room temperature. Others swear that the baklava should be at room temperature and the syrup should be hot. Having no thoughts on this at all, I just followed the recipe as written and placed the room temperature syrup on the hot baklava. Give them both a try if you wish! 

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 (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
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.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cherry Pie Pecan Bars


There were three days left until we moved. Our deep freeze was still stocked with food - food we would not be able to take with us. We either had to eat it, throw it away, or give it away. In the end, we did a bit of each (don't worry, the only things we ended up throwing away were really freezer burned popsicles, and a few fish fillets we found at the bottom of the freezer that we weren't even sure where they came from or how old they were because we don't eat fish). As I was sorting through what was left in the freezer I came upon two bags of frozen cherries and some cool whip. Remembering that I had found a few boxes of corn muffin mix earlier, an idea started to form!

I made a crust of corn muffin mix, topped it with cherry pie-like filling, and then crumbled an oat-brown sugar-pecan mixture on top to form a kind of cherry pie bar. Topped with a dollop of cool whip, it was just perfect, especially as a snack between the frantic box packing party that was going on!

Growing up, we never ate cool whip. We were a strictly made from scratch real whip cream family (which I am thankful for!) but I have recently discovered that I do, in fact, like cool whip! There are definitely times where real whipped cream are called for (not from an aerosol can, either), but sometimes, cool whip reigns.

Think of this recipe more as a guideline than a hard and fast rule. I made this purely by winging it, so feel free to play with ingredients and amounts and make this your own!

Cherry Pie Pecan Bars
2 boxes corn muffin mix
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
cool whip

Preheat oven to 350.
Dump the corn muffin mix in a bowl. Using your finger, rub the pieces of frozen butter into the cornmeal, until it looks like sand.
Press into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.
Bake for 10 minutes.
While baking, dump 2 bags of frozen cherries (without pits) and sugars into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil.
Simmer until the syrup is reduced, and whisk in some cornstarch to thicken.
When thick like cherry pie filling, pour over the corn muffin mixture.
Bake an additional 10 minutes.
Mix together the oats, brown sugar, butter, pecans and cinnamon until it forms a coarse meal. Sprinkle this over the top of the cherry mixture and bake until golden brown and the cherries are set, about 10 minutes more.
Cool, serve with coolwhip.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting Settled In

Yes, that shirt does say "The Coolest Thing That Happens in Parkersburg!" LOL
No recipes today, but I wanted to let you know that we are all settled in here! My Mom and Brother helped us move in, and we spent a whirl-wind week of unpacking. Then as soon as they left my in-laws came in for a visit for the rest of the week. I am so happy to report that we have ONE box left to unpack!! (It's all my stuff, that one box of "what the heck do I do with this?")

That being said, I think I need to say a proper goodbye to the old place.

Goodbye old kitchen. Good bye ugly avocado green counters. Goodbye stupid dust collecting shingle roof (although I will miss decorating you for the holidays in the most ridiculous ways I could think of). Goodbye mismatched fruit tiles and your nicotine stained grout. I've cooked a lot of great things in you, and I hope you treat your next inhabitants well! I'll miss you, gas burners!

Hello expansive granite countertops, matching appliances, real hardwood floors, and mile high cabinets that I can't even reach standing on a chair! Hello tons and tons and tons of natural lighting! Hello glass cooktop, which I have NO idea how to use... I'm looking forward to many fun Daring Kitchen challenges in you!

I have been cooking! We went to the farmers market the other day (they have it twice a week!). It's definitely a far far cry from the Des Moines Farmers Market, or the City Market in Kansas City's River Market... but it's all I've got, and I'm going to utilize the crap out of it! AND I got 2 zucchini for $1!!! I ate one for dinner and turned the other into zucchini bread!

By the way, check out the cleanliness of my oven! Holy Cow!! It SHINES in there!

We've done a bit of exploring around. There is a really cool historical district a block away from us, and a downtown area that has so much potential (you can tell they are really trying to turn it around. It has a few great cafes and shops in there, and so much room for more!) There is a church about a block away, and it beautifully rings in the hour all day. I love it! We also found a really cool park that overlooks the city:

If you can climb the stairs of death to get there.

Man, a trip up there everyday and I'm going to have buns of STEEL! It's like a whole mile of stairs! Really!

Just to let you know, my Daring Bakers Challenge (which is going to be a good one, I can feel it!) is going to be a few days late. Tomorrow I'm flying up to Wisconsin for one of my best friend's wedding this weekend, and I won't get back until too late to post it. As soon as I get back Joel starts his residency, and then it will just be the little lady and I, but I'm going to work it in between nap times (since every second of awake time is being spent learning how to WALK!), and I promise to have it done soon!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Daring Cooks Make German Potato Salad,


When I saw this months challenge I was super excited. First, it was easy-peasy. I was really worried that it as going to be a complicated multiple hour extravaganza that I would have no hope of completing as I loaded a moving truck, moved to my mother in laws house and then as flew to my new home of (and it's accompanying mountain of boxes waiting to be unpacked. But no, it was potato salad! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!! I actually made this while staying at my mother in laws. Cooking in someone else's kitchen is always somewhat of a challenge, given that you don't know what their pantry and cupboards are stocked with, or where anything is. It turned out great, except for one small hiccup. When the potatoes were cooked perfectly, I discovered that I had no idea where a colander was! By the time I found it, the potatoes were a little on the soft side. So, my potato salad turned more into Slightly Smashed Potato Salad!

Even though this was more mashed potatoes than potato salad, I was really pleased with how my "mashed potatoes" turned out - onions and bacon oh my! I did cheat a little, and I used regular bacon instead of turkey bacon. But it was sooo worth it! :)

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!

German Potato Salad

Servings: 15
10 medium potatoes (about 3 pounds/1⅓ kg)
10 slices turkey bacon (about 5 oz/150 gm)
1 cup (240 gm) (100 gm) chopped onions
4 tablespoons (45 ml) (32 gm) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (35 gm) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (14 gm) salt
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2 gm) pepper
1 cup (240 ml) water
½ cup (120 ml) vinegar
1. Peel and boil potatoes until fork tender. You want them soft but not mushy.
2. Cut into large bite size pieces
3. Fry bacon until done. Drain. Set aside.
4. Fry onion in a little bacon grease till tender.
5. Add sugar, flour, salt, pepper, water and vinegar to cooked onions.
6. Add to potatoes.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chicken Salad


Sometimes, you just need to spice things up a bit. Plain old-boring can get just that, boring. So throw in some spices, some exotic ingredients. Channel your inner “Daring Cook” or “Iron Chef” and let the muses speak to you. Be your own little Emeril and “BAM” your way into awesomeness.

But sometimes, every once in a while, tried and true is best. Perfection is sometimes best in simplest form and shouldn’t be messed with.

Take my Mom’s chicken salad, for instance. It’s simple. Its perfect. It has 5 ingredients, and its beautiful.

Don’t even think of jazzing it up. At all. Keep your tarragon and curry in your cupboard where they belong. Grapes and carrots belong on the side of the plate, not in the sandwich. Back away from the dried cranberries. And heaven forbid, don’t even think about putting some artichoke hearts in there.

Enjoy simplicity at its perfection!

Chicken Salad – My Mom! :)

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled and shredded
2 stalks celery, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough MAYONAISE (no miracle whip here, people, and no “Light” stuff, either. Get the real thing!) to combine.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and allow to chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, to allow the flavors to meld together.
Serve on bread, toast, triscuit crackers, inside little puff sandwiches, or however else you can think to eat it!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chipotle Pork Tacos


Moving is in full swing, now. Boxes are being backed, cupboards are being emptied. Giant piles of dog hair, slumbering hidden for four years under couches and behind tvs are being unearthed. We're trying to not go to the grocery store very often, using up the supplies we already have on hand.

These were fairly easy to prepare, and gave me a little bit of a respit from cleaning and packing. They turned out great - delicious and fairly spicy! They weren't so hot that I couldn't handle it (and I'm kind of a spice wuss) but they were warm enough that I was sniffing by the end.

Chipotle Pork Tacos

  • 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime rind
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)
Place pork tenderloin between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Remove plastic wrap.
Cut pork into thin strips.
Combine pork, lime rind, and next 6 ingredients (through salt).
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.
Add shallots to pan; sauté for 8 minutes or until just starting to carmelize.
Place shallots in a bowl.
Add oil to pan. Add pork; sauté for 3 minutes or until no longer pink.
Warm tortillas according to the package directions.
Spoon 1/3 cup pork mixture onto each tortilla, and top each tortilla with carmelized shallots, 1 1/2 teaspoons sour cream and cilantro.
Fold in half.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes


I am definitely a pancakes girl. My brother and I grew up with a tradition – Satruday morning consisted of cartoons, and then pancakes and cooking shows on PBS (or This Old House). My dad can make a mean pancake. The best, if I can be so bold. Nothing anyone can make, even myself, can come close to my dad’s pancakes. And they are nothing fancy, its bisquick all the way, but it’s the way he makes them. Somehow, with extra love and a sprinkling of magic, he turns them into the thinnest, lightest pancakes I’ve ever seen, and they are completely gorge worthy!

A few days ago I was standing in the kitchen, trying to decide what I wanted for breakfast that morning (so many options when I have the time in the morning to COOK something besides an instant oatmeal packet!). My eyes fell upon blueberries in the freezer. Then the package of cornmeal in the fridge. And an idea struck. Blueberry cornmeal…something? I had been thinking towards something muffin-ey, but after a quick internet search I found Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes! Genius!! And so I made my first ever homemade, from scratch, no Bisquick involved, Pancakes.

I underestimated how much cornmeal I had, however, and so I substituted half with polenta. Same thing, right? Apparently not quite the same, as the pancakes turned out a little grittier than they were supposed to be, but they were still good. It took me a little bit to get used to cooking them, they seemed to darken really fast, and I had trouble flipping them to begin with. But eventually I got it down, and ended up with a good stack of pancakes!  I think this was due to the fact that while the recipe states that you should let the batter rest for 20 minutes before starting to cook, I scoffed at this idea, got impatient after 5, and started. However, once I spent a good 10 minutes dealing with pancakes that were burning, sticking to the pan, and falling apart, I let the batter sit for a few more minutes, and started over again. Then the pancakes turned out much much better! So don’t be like me. Follow the recipe! They totally sucked up every ounce of syrup, but overall, I liked them. And a lot more filling than traditional pancakes, too.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes (Eat Live Travel Write)

1.5 cups cornmeal
¾ cup flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tso coarse kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
¼ cup canola oil
Melted Butter
1 cup fresh blueberries
Maple syrup for serving

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs, and oil.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, whisk to blend, and let stand for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees, and place a baking sheet in the oven to warm.
Preheat griddle/cast iron skillet over medium heat and brush with some melted butter.
Working in batches, spoon ¼ - ½ cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.
Sprinkle each pancake with a tablespoon of blueberries.
Cook until golden brown and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
Transfer to the baking sheet in the oven to keep warm until you are finished cooking all the pancakes.
Serve with maple syrup.


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