The War of the Grandmas' Baklava

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Scent of Cedar *, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Hello, Everybody. Hope your Christmas and Hannukas were steller, and that everyone is well and happy this morning.

    So here is a funny story. At the end, there will be a request for baklava recipes, which I need ASAP, please.

    ***

    Remember my posting about trying to find Italian cookies and baklava to send husband Italian mom for Christmas? And then the online bakeries stopped taking orders? And then we found delicious Italian cookies right here in our own town.

    And beautifully packaged baklava at, of all places, Sam's Club?

    So, there was extra baklava after we shipped the mom's package. We had some, and shipped the rest off to granddaughter with her Christmas package ~ almost as an afterthought, we did this.

    She loved the baklava, of course.

    Her Greek boyfriend is at his family Christmas this week.

    Does anyone see where this is going?

    So, because granddaughter really does believe I am like, Mary Poppins with a bullet in the grandmothering department, and because the baklava had come wrapped in foil and not in a commercial package...she told the boyfriend, who was so happy to be having his grandma's homemade baklava at his family's Christmas celebration, that she was very sure her grandmother's baklava, which she was currently consuming, was better than his grandma's baklava.

    So they decided to have an ugly sweater party when he returns, the highlight of which will be the Battle of the Grandmothers' Baklava.

    Granddaughter was horrified to discover I had not made the baklava we sent. She was more horrified still to realize I have never made baklava in my life, and that, being Italian and not Serbian, her great-grandmother (husband mom) had no family recipe to give me, as she has never made baklava, either.

    So I am going to give it a shot. I am going to find a recipe, and make and send her some baklava. And from this Christmas on, I will make and send baklava to our granddaughters, along with the recipe, and the story of how and why the tradition was begun.

    I love the idea of doing this, and of creating that story and tradition for our family.

    The thing is, from what I have heard, baklava is more an art form than just the cooking of something. It is layers and layers of paper thin pastry, walnuts or pecans, honey. I don't know what else.

    The baklava needs to go out this week.

    ***

    Here is another funny story about this same granddaughter.

    Also having to do with food.

    So, one day about two years ago, she asked me to send her some banana bread.

    We bought the bananas and, as they ripened and ripened, took pictures of them. husband was holding the ripening bananas in one picture. In another, the bananas are sitting beside the dog. In another, they are being held by a spooky, Hallowe'en decoration skeleton's bony fingers. Then, we took pics of the cooking of the bread. Then, of the packaging.

    Finally, we sent the bread.

    And received so many pictures back of the things those slices of banana bread got to do!!!

    One picture was of a slice of banana bread silhouetted against the rising sun.

    One was of a slice of banana bread at the top of some wilderness area she and her boyfriend had hiked up to.

    One was the banana bread, riding in the car.

    :O)

    Isn't it sweet and funny, the things we get into with our grands?

    Cedar


    Has anyone made baklava?
     
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  2. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    "My Italian grandma makes better baklava than your Greek grandma?" Words to regret. LOL

    I've never made it myself...though I am a connoisseur. When needing a recipe for anything, I turn to allrecipes.com. Always read the reviews, starting with the most helpful...you end up with great "tweaks" there.

    This particular recipe has five stars after 1418 reviews...so it has to be pretty darn good. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Baklava/
     
  3. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    Words to regret is right! I am Italian and Greek. Holy cow!

    And yet, I've never attempted to make Baklava. And I would never mess with my ethnic great grandparents from those countries.

    I'm crossing myself and lighting a candle on your behalf.
     
  4. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Thank you, Lil! I read through a number of the recipes on the site you posted for me and you are right. This one seemed to be the one most liked. I read through the reviews too and learned so many tips for just how to construct and add the sauce and to toast the nuts ahead of time, and just how to handle the phyllo. Thank you a thousand times!

    I am planning to bake Sunday, and will post back on my success. There was even a baklava video on the site. In one of the reviews? A Turkish lady wrote in telling all about how baklava was Turkish and pistachio was the only acceptable nut and the sauce needed lemon juice. She was quite in a huff about it.

    NOMAD, YOU WERE RIGHT!

    ***

    I am learning all about baklava! I think I am going to be making this every year. I told difficult child daughter about the thing with the baklava and the Greek grandma and she loved it, too.

    You know, somehow I thought you had to roll it out and fold it a million times. That must have been before commercial phyllo dough.

    :O)

    Cedar

    I will share the sauce recipe I decide to use. That's where the magic happens, apparently. You pour it over the baked baklava and let it soak in for 8 hours.
     
  5. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    I'm excited you are trying it! I LOVE baklava. In fact, one of the reasons I've never tried to make it is I love it SO much I figure I'd get sick eating so much of it! There's a middle-eastern market in a town 30 miles away and every single time we're there we stop to get baklava. :) So I am really looking forward to your review.

    allrecipes.com is just one of the best websites out there in my opinion. You can even search by ingredient to find a dish if you can't think of what to cook.
     
  6. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    I'm really fortunate that there is a Middle Eastern restaurant/take out place in my immediate neighborhood that makes very good baklava.
    To me, it seems difficult to make, and the fact that I can get it fresh easily, kind of discourages me from trying. Cedar, I have a feeling you are going to do a great job; Yum! We had someone in our family that would make this and it was a very big treat!!!!

    Lil, I used the allrecipes.com recently and yes, it is fantastic! I have started eating healthier, but I want to do even more this year and I just looked through their healthy recipes and I was very impressed (and excited!)
     
  7. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I haven't ever made baklava. There is an incredible place that makes middle eastern treats that I go to when I need some. Thankfully it is over an hour away!!! I have friend from several different countries and at a dinner one night a debate over the best store bought baklava started. I cracked up after a few min of listening to seven people go on and on about how their baklava bakery was absolutely the best and MUST be tried. They were ALL arguing that the same bakery was the best!

    That is about the extent of my baklava info. I did see a lot of youtube videos about it though. The newer recipes seem to use phyllo dough, which will save a TON of time, mess and aggravation!

    Good Luck!
     
  8. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    We have found the phyllo sheets. They are thawing on the counter as we speak.

    I have read everything I can about just how to create a crispy, delicious baklava.

    This morning is the test, the creation of this Grandma's Baklava.

    :O)

    Oh boy, I hope it's not crummy!!!

    They say that if you don't get your temps just right when you pour your sauce into the baked baklava the whole thing turns to mush.

    Cedar

    P.S. I took a picture of the phyllo dough sitting in the Christmas tree last night.

    I don't even mind really if the baklava is crummy. (Though I hope it is really, really good.) The story has been so fine! However good or bad it is?

    This is the family recipe for baklava that will go down the family line, right along with this very cool story about how it was all begun.

    :O)

    .
     
  9. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I am using Lil's recipe with a smattering of things learned from the other recipes and the reviews.

    Sauce:

    1 1/4 c half orange juice, half water
    1 1/4 c sugar
    3/4 c honey
    1 t cinnamon
    1 t lemon extract
    1 t almond extract

    You bring this to a boil and then, simmer for 20 minutes. That part is done. Tastes very nice, with the lemon in the background. (husband suggested that, and some recipes do include lemon, so I used the extract.) They say the sauce should be cool, the baklava hot after baking, to make the phyllo crispy.

    I did the nuts already, too. About 2 1/2 c pecans, toasted in just enough real butter to bring out the flavor of the pecans without adding more fat.

    Next, we pour the pecans into a freezer bag and pound them very small with the smooth side of a meat tenderizing mallet.

    Ha! It smells so great in our house. I think this is going to work!

    Oprah Super Soul is on: True genius is radical humility. That's from Stephan Hawkins.

    More later.

    Now comes the phyllo part.

    Melt butter. Brush thin, thin layer over two sheets of phyllo times 4 to 6 times.

    Then, 2 to 3 T of pecans (mixing mine with 1/4 c brown sugar and 1/4 each cinnamon and nutmeg). For as many layers as it takes until nuts are gone. Then, two phyllo sheets and butter, two phyllo and butter until gone.

    More later.

    So far, so good.

    :O)

    Cedar
     
  10. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    It's in the oven. Due to come out in about five minutes. I will put the sauce on and then, we just have to wait and see. It was actually very easy to make. husband found the phyllo sheets at WalMart. The most demanding part of the process was cutting the baklava before baking. It was suggested that the baklava be frozen for twenty minutes before using a very sharp knife to cut it.

    That worked well.

    So if you are going to make it, plan to freeze it for twenty minutes.

    Cedar

    .
     
  11. Estherfromjerusalem

    Estherfromjerusalem Well-Known Member

    Cedar, you are brave . . . .

    I can't wait to hear how it turns out.

    Love, Esther
     
  12. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    The baklava seems very good to husband and I. It has to absorb juices for another six hours, but was dry enough for each of us to try a little piece.

    I sent the pics of the phyllo in the Christmas tree and on the lanai table to granddaughter. Then, sent pics of completed baklava cooling in that same spot on the lanai table.

    Sent one of grandpa helping me by sitting on the lanai just sitting.

    She loved that!

    Now, we mail it tomorrow and see.

    :O)

    Cedar
     
  13. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    THE BAKLAVA IS DELICIOUS!

    :O)

    All the juice absorbed into the pastry overnight and yet, the pastry is still feathery light and with just the right amount of crisp, right down to the bottom of the pan.

    I used a 9 x 13 glass pan. This made 27 pieces of baklava. It was suggested that glass be used so that you can see whether the bottom of the baklava is browning or burning or what, so that's what I did.

    As was suggested on one of the reviews, I baked at 325 for one hour instead of 350 for forty minutes.

    I can taste the honey pretty strongly at this 3/4 c dose. I am glad I did not use the sauce recipe calling for more honey.

    I might use like, 1/8 t cloves next time. Some of the recipes used twice the cinnamon I used, plus cloves, and added extra honey in the middle. I am glad I did not do any of those things ~ especially the honey. It has such a strong taste. Maybe a real Greek or Turkish person would like that. I used pecans instead of pistachio, and I would do that, again. There is that dark, underlying richness of toasted pecan once you make it through the taste of the spices and crisp of the pastry.

    The half orange juice, half water worked well in the sauce. Next time, I will use a curl or two of lemon rind in it, too. That lemon in-the-background taste cuts the sweetness and added a subtle little citrus undertone.

    Lil, you were right. You are a baklava connoisseur! Thank you so much, Lil. The recipe you posted here for me is basically the one I used, and you were right about reading the reviews. I learned all the little tricks everyone has been perfecting over the years, and it made a difference in the finished product.

    It really is tasty baklava.

    :O)

    Cedar

    Also, for anyone who is going to make it, layering the phyllo was not difficult. It is paper-thin and I tore through it numerous times but, just as was mentioned in one of the reviews, none of that mattered. It really does dry out as fast as they say. I put a piece of saran wrap on the counter and fit a double layer of paper towels over it. Then, I sprinkled water on the paper towels to moisten. When I opened the phyllo, I covered the part I was not using with the paper towel covered saran, and it worked beautifully.

    I used both packages of phyllo in the 16 oz size to make one 9 x 13 pan of baklava.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
  14. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I used 1 1/4 c melted butter in constructing the baklava. That was exactly the right amount. Brush it on with a pastry brush. I read that too much butter makes for soggy texture, and too little, for dry texture. This seems perfect.

    Now we know.

    :O)
     
  15. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    That is just how those Greek or Turkish ladies sounded in the baklava reviews! An American person would come along and (like me) think the baklava she'd made was delicious. And then, a Greek or Turkish lady would barrel in with the REAL low down on the recipe, the kind of nuts, the amount of lemon, the quality of the sauce, even when the baklava should be eaten. (Breakfast!)

    It was fun.

    Thanks, everyone, for participating.

    :O)

    Cedar
     
  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Let us know what the "ratings" are when the baklava is received...
     
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  17. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    Oh I'm so glad it turned out!!! :hi5: I've never made it...but I've come to rely on allrecipes.com pretty heavily over the years and I've learned if you find a five star recipe with over a thousand reviews, it's usually a keeper. (The exception being an apple pie recipe that's on there. Mine is better! :biggrin:) The reviews are priceless.

    I can't imagine how many recipes are on there. I have one published myself! But you know, when my mom passed in 1987, her cookbooks disappeared. I searched for something like 15 years for a recipe she used to make. I finally found it doing an ingredient search on that website. I've been a fan ever since and keep thinking about becoming a paid member. I'm just too cheap to get around to it!

    You know, Jabber will insist I make this now if he sees this thread. He loves baklava even more than I do. lol
     
  18. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I had baklava with hot, fresh coffee with cream for breakfast. I woke up thinking about baklava.

    The flavors are changing. It is buttery, crispy. The taste of citrus is coming up in it. It tastes very different than it did, the first day.

    Better.

    I am loving this! A very great recipe.

    Three pieces left.

    Yum.

    :O)
     
  19. 1905

    1905 Well-Known Member

    That's wonderful! I'm sure your granddaughter will love it! I feel like having some, I went to Sam's to get some, but had no luck. I love the funny story of her taking pictures of the bread in the car etc...(I wonder if it's just a seasonal item at Sam"s)
     
  20. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Might have to make some more...
     
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