Monday, April 21, 2008

Baklava - cheating slightly

So, I will be moving to a new job soon. I don't yet know what it will be, but one of the possibilities would be working with a Turkish lady, whom I shall call "H" here. Now, I think Turkey, I think...baklava. Luckily, H and I seem to have a lot in common, including a love of cooking, baking and tea drinking, and when we got chatting over email on Friday, and she mentioned her homeland, I said "So you must know how to make baklava?". And she sent me instructions on how to make what she called "fake baklava". The only thing "fake" about it, from my understanding, is that we use puff pastry rather than many layers of filo pastry [aka phyllo]. You make a simple sugar syrup, flavoured with lemon juice and rosewater (H tells me the latter is optional), roll out some pastry, grind some nuts, layer it all and bake, and that's basically it! I made it at the weekend, and boy, it's good...

To fill one 9in square cake tin - about 30-35 full pieces
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater (optional)
  • 1 packet puff pastry
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 370g walnuts or pistachios (never both together, I am instructed)

  • First make the syrup: put the water and sugar and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Keep it boiling for 7 minutes to get a reasonably thick but still definitely pour-able syrup. It should not start to colour. Remove from the heat, add the rosewater and stir to combine. Let it cool slightly in the pan, then decant to a jug to finish cooling.

    Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line the base and sides of the cake tin with greaseproof or baking parchment. Grind the walnuts to a coarse, nubbly powder. It shouldn't be so far gone that it is flour, and definitely not becoming at all greasy.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to an oblong 9 inches wide and 18 inches long, i.e. twice the area of the cake tin. Cut in half. Lay one piece of pastry in the bottom of the tin. Brush liberally with melted butter. Tip the ground nuts over this base and spread out evenly. Pat down fairly firmly. Lay the remaining sheet of pastry on top and brush again with butter. (You will probably have some left over.) Cut diagonal lines about 3cm apart to make even diamonds, making sure to cut all the way through the base layer. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 - 15 minutes, until the top is an even golden brown. When you remove it from the oven, pour over half of the syrup and let it sink in, then add the rest. Once completely cold, slice through again following your original pattern, remove from the tin and enjoy!

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