Wednesday, April 25, 2012

BAKE 52: Week 17


I'm excited to host again and this time I choose a recipe that's about as opposite as light baking as you can get!  But, first, here's the scoop on me.
I was born in Utah, grew up in Utah, and now I'm growing my own family in Utah.  I live in a fun little town called Eagle Mountain where neighbors get together for potlucks and kids play outside till dusk.  A girl (12 ) and three boys (10, 5, and 3) call me Mom, and my best friend calls me Wife (Ahh, I know, but it's true!).  I'm the type that loves to start projects but rarely finishes them.  I love to be outside, I like trying different exercise programs, and reading is a must.
I dabble a bit in writing children's literature, bake cookies on rainy days, and nap whenever I can.  My wonderful friend, Michelle, who lives just a few houses away, invited me to be in this baking group and I'm so glad she did!  I love trying all these new recipes and I'm learning so much!
And now for the good stuff!  Baklava.  It's another fun word to say (like Babka).  It's a Greek pastry and the last time I had it I was in labor with my oldest boy, who will be 11 this summer.  WAY past time to have it again!  It was even better than I remembered and the funny thing is, I'm not a nut fan but this is loaded with walnuts and almonds.  It's nutty and buttery and syrupy and flaky.  And yummy.  I ate it for dinner.  And dessert.  Here's the recipe (page 435 from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book):


Sugar Syrup

1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
1 (4-inch) strip fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
18/ teaspoon salt

Nut Filling

2 cups (8 ounces) blanched slivered almonds
1 cup (4 ounces) walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt


3 sticks unsalted butter, clarified
30 (14 by 9-inch) sheets phyllo dough, thawed

1. For the sugar syrup:  

Bring all of the syrup ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Transfer the syrup to a small liquid measuring cup and let cool; when cool, discard the spices and zest. 

2. For the nut filling:

Pulse the almonds and walnuts together in a food processor until very finely chopped, about 25 pulses.  Measure out and reserve 1 tablespoon of the ground nuts for garnish.  Toss the remaining ground nuts with the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt (you should have about 3 cups).

3.  For the pastry:

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.  Brush a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with clarified butter.

4.  Place 1 sheet of phyllo in the bottom of the prepared pan and brush with the clarified butter until completely coated.  Layer 7 more sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each sheet with more butter.  Sprinkle 1 cup of the nut filling evenly into the pan.

5.  Layer 6 more sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each layer with more butter, then sprinkle with 1 cup more nut filling.  Repeat with 6 more sheets of phyllo, more butter, and the remaining cup of nut filling.

6.  Layer the remaining 10 sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each layer, except the final layer, with more butter.  Working from the center outward, use the palms of your hands to compress the layers and press out any air pockets.  Spoon 4 tablespoons of the butter on the top layer and brush to cover the surface.

7.  Use a serrated knife with a pointed tip to cut the baklava into diamonds.  Bake the baklava until golden and crisp, about 1 1/2 hours, rotating the baking pan halfway through baking.

8.  Immediately pour all but 2 tablespoons of the cooled syrup over the cut lines (the syrup will sizzle when it hits the hot pan).  Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons syrup over the surface.  Garnish the center of each piece with a pinch of the reserved ground nuts.  Let the baklava cool completely in the pan, about 3 hours, then cover with foil and let sit at room temperature for about 8 hours before serving.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bake 52: Week 16

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!
My parents grew awesome rhubarb, so every summer Mom baked rhubarb pie, rhubarb jam, rhubarb syrup, and us kids would run around with stalks of rhubarb to gnaw on (my pucker reflexes just turned on).  Needless to say, I love rhubarb pie.  I love strawberry rhubarb pie.  And now I know I love just strawberry pie because that's what I ended up baking.  I baked with the lovely Michelle this week and we couldn't find any rhubarb, so strawberry it was.  I definitely missed that sweet sour taste the rhubarb adds (not to mention the nostalgia), but I must say, a plain strawberry pie is mighty good too!  Valerie hosted this week and you can get the recipe at her blog HERE.  There are great tips on how to make a super yummy crust and beautiful pie edges (something I've never been able to do until now!).  And check out Michelle's BLOG to see our gorgeous pie pictures!  Then go make some pie!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bake 52: Week 15

Chocolate Blackout Cake!
Chocolate.  Cake.  More chocolate.  More cake.  Layers.  What else is there to say?  Except, Holy Mmmh!  Even after all the Easter candy, I found a way to eat more than my share of this cake.  A big thanks to Courtney for hosting!  You can get the recipe HERE at her blog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bake 52: Week 14


 I was excited to try this week's recipe because I have an Americanized version of this cake which is a chocolate bunt cake with these three milks: sweetened condensed, evaporated, and whole.  This Tres Leches cake used heavy cream instead of whole milk, and the batter is completely different from my chocolate version.  But not in a bad way at all.  In a sooho good different way!  I wanted a straw, but a spoon worked great!  My kids were a little disappointed when they heard tres leches and saw this.  But once they tried it, all I heard was, "yummm!".  And it was yum.  I loved the cinnamon touch to this cake.  Usually, I like my tres leches caked chilled to the max, but this one was super yummy just a little cold and the inside with just a hint of warmth.  I tried to eat only one piece.  I failed.  You can get the recipe HERE at Amanda's blog. 

April Fools and Spring Flowers

I love making April Fool's dinners for my family every year.  Some of my favorites have been the meatloaf cupcakes, ice cream potatoes and gravy, and individual real sponge cakes.  This year I pinned some fun ideas and then just plain forgot about April 1st until my 10-year-old presented his first prank.  Ahh!  I couldn't believe that I forgot and I knew my kids were expecting something from me even when I told them that I honestly had forgotten.  So I said I would make some fun Spring cupcakes instead.  Which I did, at the same time I made their prank because it involved eggs and cake batter and they didn't look twice at what I was doing.  My flower cupcakes turned out so cute, and my prank too.

 I filled empty (and clean) egg shells with cake batter and baked them.  Then I served the "hard-boiled eggs" with a spaghetti dinner, which none of the kids thought was weird.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the kids cracking the eggs and the cake inside, but I didn't want to be obvious hovering with my camera and they ate them so fast that I'm pretty sure half the shells were ingested as well.  Oh well, it was fun!

Book Club Sweets

Book Club Night is always one of my favorite nights of the month.  We get to talk about books (plus a whole lot of other stuff) and eat delicious treats.  Last week was my week to host and we discussed Georgette Heyer's books.  I wanted it to have a British feel so I served scones and strawberry Napoleons.  Napoleons are a puff pastry filled with pudding and fruit.  They are a bit messy to eat, but worth it!  The recipe here is from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book under Shortcut Baking.


1 (9 1/2 by 9-inch sheet frozen puff thawed)
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for brushing
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting.

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Unfold puff pastry and cut into 6 rectangles.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper and place the rectangles on paper.  Brush with the egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

2.  Whip the cream on low until frothy, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to high and continue to while the cream forms soft peaks, about 3 minutes.  Add the pudding and vanilla and continue to whip until incorporated.

3.  Split cooled rectangles in half using a serrated knife.  Spread 1/4 cup of pudding mixture over bottom half and top with strawberries.  Spoon another 1/4 cup over the strawberries and lightly press the rectangle tops on top.  Dust with powdered sugar.