Sunday, September 22, 2013

"Bake-lava!" (aka Baklava)

I love Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food: gyros, falafel, hummus, you name it.

But currently, I have been obsessed with baklava. For those who do not know what it is, it is a pastry dish filled with grounded nut mixture and some spices, interspaced between layers upon layers of heavily-buttered phyllo dough. It is topped off with a honey syrup that gets soaked up into the pastry for an uber sweet treat. I love it.

It is a time-consuming process, especially with the layers, but the end product is worth it. Enjoy!

Baklava heaven!
(adapted from "Titli's Busy Kitchen")

makes 32 squares

1 packet phyllo pastry (or 20 sheets)
1-1/2 to 2 sticks melted butter

1 cup pistachios
1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice

1 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup water 
juice of 1 lemon

1. Process about 1/4 cup of the pistachios in a food processor until finely grounded. Reserve; this will serve as the garnish.
2. Prepare the filling: combine the rest of the nuts, the sugar, and spices and process until coarsely grounded.
3. Prepare the syrup: add the honey, sugar, water, and lemon juice to a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let it cool. (the syrup can be made a day in advance. Just store at room temperature.)
4. Prepare the pastry: coat a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Layer on the first phyllo dough and brush liberally with the melted butter. Layer another phyllo on top and repeat the process until there is a total of 8 layers.
5. Take half of the nut mixture and spread over the top. Use the back of a spoon to press it into the phyllo.
6. Layer on another 8 layers of phyllo dough, remembering to brush each layer with butter.
7. Add the remaining nut mixture to the top.
8. Top the nut mixture with the remaining 4 sheets of phyllo dough. Give the top an extra coat of butter.
9. With a sharp knife, score the top of the baklava. You do not need to cut all of the way through; this is just to make sure that the servings are divided evenly.
10. At this point, you can either bake it in the oven, or, if not planning to serve immediately, stick it in the freezer until ready to bake.
11. Bake at 360ºF for 30 minutes. (if it's coming out straight from the freezer, put the baklava in the oven as it is preheating to let it thaw)
12. Cover the baklava with aluminum foil, then bake for an additional 20 minutes.
13. Take it out of the oven, and immediately pour the honey syrup on top.
14. Let the honey syrup soak into the baklava for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle the top with the remaining pistachios before serving.

Because I am oh-so-"clever," I am terming this dish my "bake-lava." Ah, puns...

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

AT&C: Avocado, Toffee, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a problem: I love avocados. Well, that's not the main issue, but the fact that I buy more than is necessary (4 for $5! Curse you, Ralph's) leaves me scrambling to use them up before they go bad. And they go bad fast.

I've used avocados in as many recipes as I can: guacamole, sandwiches, quesadillas, pasta, and...


Yes, it works! Because of their neutral flavor and natural fats, avocados are a wonderful substitute for butter in baked goods. Although I did use some butter in this recipe, the addition of the avocado reduced my need for the ingredient by 50 percent. No funky tastes- just pure and wholesome cookies.

AT&C all the way, baby!

(adapted from "The Kitchen Enthusiast")
makes about 40 cookies

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup toffee, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, avocado, brown and granulated sugar until smooth.
2. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and mix well.
3. Mix in the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
4. Use a spatula to mix in the toffee and chocolate chips.
5. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Use two spoons to scoop out and place the cookie dough on a parchment-lined baking tray. Use your fingertips to flatten the cookie dough slightly. (If the dough still feels sticky, roll the dough in some flour)
7. Bake for 14 minutes. Remove and let cool before serving.

So don't be a testicle: get baking! :D

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blueberry Cobbler, Y'all

I'm goin' Southern, y'all.
The U.S. South is notorious for its decadent and buttery desserts: red velvet cake, pecan pie, Mississippi mud anything. It's so good, it's naughty.

So I decided to pay homage to the wonderful South with my take on the classic cobbler. You can make it with any fruit- fresh or frozen- but I chose to use blueberries. So whip out that apron, take that butter out, and flex your baking biceps. 'Cause we're makin' some blueberry cobbler, y'all.

(adapted from
Serves: 6

1 box fresh or frozen blueberries (I frozen fresh blueberries, then let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice of 1 small lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon flour
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1-3/4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter, cold
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
pinch of ground cinnamon

1. Grease a baking dish with cooking spray, then place blueberries inside. Add vanilla and lemon juice, and mix together. Add in the 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of flour, and melted butter.

2. In a separate bowl, stir the 1-3/4 cups of flour, baking powder, and the 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Use your hands to rub in the cold butter into the flour, until the mixture forms a crumbly dough. 

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture (basically, make a hole in the center of the bowl) and add in the milk. Use a spatula to stir until moistened, the batter resembling that of pancake mix. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow for it to rest for 10 minutes to thicken.

4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Spoon the batter over the blueberries, allowing the blueberries to peek out. Mix together cinnamon and turbinado sugar, then sprinkle on top.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the dough comes out clean. Serve warm or cold.

Happy Baking! :)