Baklava – Layers of Sweetness and Delicacy

Baklava has been a part of the Mediterranean dessert table for many centuries. Originated in Ottoman Turkey around 1650, and spread wide and far ever since.

The basis of Baklava is phyllo dough – thin sheets of dough layered with butter in between, with nuts and honey in between.

photo 1(5)

Many fear working with phyllo, mostly because it is believed that you should place a wet towel over the dough sheets and be careful they do not dry. I believe that staying away from phyllo, is a mistake. Phyllo is great to work with and opens a whole world of options, sweet and savory. The secret of successfully using phyllo is one – work fast. Prepare everything you need ahead of time, lay it close and conveniently around your work space and enjoy the journey.

Phyllo dough can be bought in most supermarkets in the frozen food aisle. Once you have bought a package, leave in the freezer until you are ready to make your Baklava. Thaw the phyllo in the fridge or on the counter a few hours before needed.

Start by preparing the nut mix:

2 cups raw or roasted walnuts

2 cups raw or roasted almonds

2 cups raw or roasted pistachio

If you use raw nuts, roast them in the oven at 300F, 160C for about 30 minutes. You can use roasted, unsalted nuts and then you can chop them in a food processor with no need to oven-roast them. Chop all nuts finely, but do not turn it into paste.

If you prefer another kind of nut, or do not like one of these suggested nuts, replace them for what you prefer.

Add 2 tsp. cinnamon, half tsp. clover, and half tsp. cardamom (optional).

Add 2/3 cups sugar and mix well.

Melt 8 oz unsalted butter (1 cup), and set next to the nut mixture. Pick a wide brush and take the phyllo sheets out of the box. For a Pareve, non-dairy option, it is possible to use Margarine although I prefer to use coconut oil. It adds a nice taste and is much healthier than margarine. I make many Pareve or Gluten free recipes and using coconut oil, like I did here, kept the crispness, gave no after taste and was absolute delicious.

Take a 9X13 inch (20 cm by 30 cm) pan and butter the bottom and sides well.

You might cut the sheets to fit your baking pan, or fold back the left over dough to get an extra crispy Baklava.

photo 1(3)

 

 

Lay the first phyllo sheet gently in the pan, brush it with butter and lay another sheet on top.

Lay a total of 8-10 sheets of phyllo sheets with butter in between.

Spread a 3rd of the nut mix over the sheets.photo 2(3)

Place another phyllo sheet on top of the nut mix and butter it. Repeat with 8 sheets total.

Then spread another third of the nut mixture and repeat this step again.

After 3 layers of nuts, top the last layer with 6 phyllo sheets, buttered in between.

 

For baking, I recommend Chef Alton Brown’s recommendation-

photo 1(4)  

 

 

Place the Baklava in the center of the oven

at 350F/180C for 30 minutes.

photo 2(4)

 

Take out the Baklava and cut the Baklava into squares

return to the oven for another 30 minutes

 

photo 3(4)

Cut the Baklava again and do not worry if the phyllo breaks.

 

 

 

 

 

While cooling, prepare the syrup – this is a crucial part of the Baklava.

Place in a pan and bring to a boil:

1 cup honey
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tbs. rose water

Bring to a boil and keep boiling until you get a thick syrup.

Pour the hot syrup over the cooled Baklava and leave to rest for 8 hours at room temperature, or better, overnight. It will look like a lot of syrup, but it will be absorbed..

photo 4(2)Now it is time to enjoy the deliciousness, preferably with a small cup of Turkish coffee or sweet Moroccan tea.

photo(10)

Enjoy and let me hear what you think!

 

 

Apple Fest Review From Cornell Daily Sun

After a busy weekend at Ithaca’s 16th Apple Fest, it was fun to see the review the Cornell Sun gave Ba-Li Cravings:

Tarte Tatin

One of my favorite parts of this final Apple Fest journey was encountering the Ba-Li Cravings’s stand, where the owner told me that it was her family’s first time at the apple celebration and that she had pulled an all nighter in order to create and bring her baked goods to the festival. Her tarte tatin did not disappoint. The softened layers of tart, cinnamon-infused apple slices still had a nice bite to them and the thick layer of the sweetened dough was perfect in balancing the two elements together. A flourished swirl of whipped cream and a layer of caramel added a final touch of sweetness to the lovely, homey dessert.

And enjoy the video here  where we are featured and you can get a glimpse of my sweet girls keeping busy….

Until next year…..

Journey Through the Culinary History of the Finger Lakes

Last week Laura Winter Falk’s new book was released Culinary History of the Finger Lakes.

book-cover-200x300When Laura told me about this project, a few month ago, I was very excited for her. I do not know a more knowledgeable and passionate person about the Finger Lakes. Having started Experience! Finger Lakes 7 years ago, Laura and her husband Alan, have guided hundreds of tours through the wonderful wineries and restaurant this area has to offer.  What was especially great about this book, is that Laura asked chefs around the Finger Lakes to develop recipes representing each era in the book, using ingredients that were available at that time in history.

Reading the book has been a lot of fun.  I have always known that the Finger Lakes region is rich not only in natural resources and beauty, but it has an incredible history as well. But this book lets you really travel through the history of the region from the Indians to the early settlers to today in an easy-to-read and enjoyable way.

After the release of the book, I met with Laura to congratulate her, when she asked me to be a part of an unbelievable project. An event where some chosen recipes in the book will be featured, and the chefs will tell about their recipes. I have been asked to prepare some of these recipes and can not express my excitement for having this opportunity.

I will write about my journey through the history of the Finger Lakes while re-creating recipes of the areas leading chefs. How great is that?! For someone, like me, who likes to make changes to any recipe I try, it will be interesting to create these recipes step-by-step, with no changes. I mean, the chefs themselves will get to taste them, so I better be careful…..

I encourage you to look for Laura’s book at Barnes & Noble, regional book stores, or order it on Amazon. You will enjoy it and learn a lot about the history of this magical region.

The first post will be about The Three Sisters Soup from the time of the Iroquois.

Lastly, Laura Winter Falk dedicated her book to her parents adding “…who taught me to always embrace the opportunities and experiences that life brings“. I couldn’t have put it better, and want to thank Laura for asking me to be a part of this beautiful project. Thank you my friend.

Join me on my journey.

 

 

A Journey Completed, A New One Starting

I am back and excited. So many things have happened over the past few month, the main being COMPLETING the AIDS Ride for Life. I have posted here before about my previous ride, a year ago, my accident and healing and now I am VERY proud to say that I got on my bike and completed the 100 miles (160 km) ride.

I am constantly asked why? why is it so important to me to do it, and it is not an easy answer. My reasons for this journey are that last time, exactly a year ago, I got on my bike after raising $1,000 for STAP and meant to do this great ride, for a great cause but at mile 40 flew off my bike and that changed my life. I wanted to complete it. To feel that here I am a year later, and got to the finish line. 6 month I was not myself. Surgery, broken hand/jaw/teeth, pain and discomfort. Stress was a huge factor during this whole year, not working seriously for 6 month, feeling my life was re-directed to a different path and then deciding that this new path will take me further and that this shift, and change, are good. It took me a long time to build my confidence on and off the bike. I got on the bike pretty soon after the fall and found that everything is closer and more fragile. The first time I went down a steep hill I literally heard my jaw breaking and got very nervous. I thought I would never go fast again. Going uphill, after 6 month of slow recuperation was just as hard. Every leaf that flies in front of my, made me lose a beat. But as time progressed, and miles accumulated, so did my comfort on the bike. I do love biking.

I biked the first 15 miles of the AIDS Ride, to remember the feeling, I biked the last 40 miles (rt. 89) to remember what is ahead. Biked with friends 30 and 40 milers and even got a wonderful 50 miler in for another great cause.

It is not a journey I took alone. The support and love I have received from family and friends, near and far, has overwhelmed me. I am so blessed to have so many loving, caring, funny people in my life that made this all possible.

When I signed up for this year AIDS Ride, I knew I had to raise the minimum $300 but had no clue that the love and support of my FB family and community would within days get me close to $1,000 in donations. All writing how they are proud of me and rooting for me. I mean, with that kind of love, how could I NOT get back out there?!

But life has a humor of its own. And whoever is running my show, has a real wicked sense of humor.

The 16th AIDS Ride for Life took place on September 13th, 2014 around the Cayuga Lake. Up until the 13th, the weather had been beautiful. In fact, I rode the week before 40 miles on the most-perfect, sunny day. I woke up at 5:00am on the Saturday of the ride to 40F (5C) and cloudy skies. It was cold. I do not have real bikers gear as I refrain from biking in rain…. not the adventurous type I guess. I put on my sports jacket, the AIDS Ride t-shirt above, the biking pants and leg warmers. Last minute I remembered my ear warmers. At 6am we gathered at Stewart Park and by 7 we were ready to start. the first 35-40 miles are mostly hills and I was mentally ready. At 7 we left the park, and at 7:10 the rain started. At first drizzle, then a real Ithaca rain- the strong, never-ending, big drops rain that followed us for about 7 hours. It was miserable! 7 hours of biking in freezing winds, never stopping rain, wet shoes, wet clothes, wet roads, trucks splashing and hills. Slow climbs but also slow descends because of the rain. At mile 17 we reached King Ferry Winery for our first stop. I could not stop. I was cold and needed to keep on going. Just before mile 35 my back leg muscle tightened up from the cold weather and It stayed that way, all the way! it was too cold to loosen up.

The ride took me 8 hours with all the stops. 7 hours in rain, cold winds and more rain. The last hour, the rain stopped and the sun even came out. I had planned to stop where I flew off last year and take a moment to say that I’m good, to connect to myself and feel blessed. But the weather was so horrible that I just flew by, this time on my bike, and did not really feel my heart beating, loosing a breath or anything. That is a good thing, I think. The last 50 miles were really just mental. Staying on the bike, not giving up to my rational side saying “this is insane! you will be sick” but just staying focused on why I am doing this. Remembering it is the end of one of the most intense journeys I have been on and this is needed to feel I can do anything. I saw cars drive by with bikes on the back and felt total respect for those who stopped and decided it is too much. But I kept on going. 15 miles before the end, my family drove by and cheered me and that totally shifted my mind-set from feeling miserable and sorry for myself to proud and excited to finish. And Finish I Did!

I passed the finish line in sun. I was still soaked and very cold, my kids gave me a towel and warm fleece to change into. I went home before the evening ceremony and dinner to get a very long hot shower and feel my toes again.

I did it. In rain and wind. I am proud to say that I did it!

10348307_10204019979916330_5723145349521297285_nWith Noga and Itai at the finish line- don’t be fooled by their short sleeves!

At the dinner, I saw Jim Orcutt, the dentist who was biking behind me last year, and whom I will always be grateful for. Jim is 70 and has done the AIDS Ride for many years now. He completed the whole 100 miles this year as well, and I got to go up to him and got a big hug at the end of the ride and thanked him again for being there, back then, and afterwards when I needed advise and had questions.

What I take with me from this year is that life is so much more than what we think and plan for, and that we need to be flexible and willing to change out paths. I think that I am a different person today that I would have been, and on so many levels, in a different place.

I feel truly blessed and grateful for the people in my life and the people I have met because of this. I say again that this is my journey but not one I have been on alone.

I feel that although I still have medical things to do, this is now a part of my past that I have completed. I still love biking and feel honored to be part of this years ride and to continue supporting STAP for their wonderful work and dedication.

I have now started a new journey, my culinary journey, that I am excited to share here, and my first post will be posted very soon.

Thank you all, be blessed and remember – flexibility and humor are the most important qualities we can embrace as humans.

As always, I welcome your remarks, thoughts and sharing.

Do Good!

**** And YES! I did get very sick with fever, a bad cold and sore throat. I’m just now getting over it, a week after…. But it was totally worth it and in support of people who are really sick, and to educate and prevent others from getting sick……!

The First Memory

I have been away from my Blog for way too long. Life took over. Days fly away, and I could not find the quiet moment needed, to sit down and write.

It is not that there were not many stories to share. For example the 4th year of Mimuna  celebration with more than 150 people coming into our house,  spending time together, while eating many delicious treats. I also made many different birthday cakes, and food and sweets for other events. I’ve thought often how I’d like to share all this with you all.

1794670_751362421564332_1782757887106457818_n 10253874_751362384897669_1782532760056220732_n 10301369_751362098231031_7576299384724059079_n

But here I am and I wanted to share a story.

Yesterday I participated in a workshop led by Dave Makar, as part of the Referral Institute of Ithaca. It was an intense day where we did many different exercises and got to think about what we do in a new light. Or rather a more focused light. Towards the end of the day, Dave asked me why I love baking and cooking and want to do this as a business. I thought immediately of the joy I have when I bake, especially for others, and about how I have invited people to celebrate the Mimuna for the past 4 years. I explained about this wonderful tradition, and how although I did not grow up celebrating it, I have adopted it because of the idea of open door and sharing sweets with so many people who come.

Dave smiled, and then said. OK. But go further back, find the first memory that led you to baking. I literally saw hundreds of moments in front of me: birthdays, friends coming over, baking with my kids, baking for my mom or dad on their birthdays or when they would have friend over, teaching baking to kids. I thought of all the volunteer events, and I thought of Avital. Avital is one of the sweetest girls  I know. Every Friday I bring her and her family a fresh-baked raisin Challah. Her face lights up, she always tells me how much she loves my Challah. From time to time, I surprise her with  an additional treat – red velvet cupcakes, cookies and more and she is so happy. Her sweet, beautiful face, I told Dave, is why I love baking for others. Delicious treats make everything better. Home-made fresh-baked treats make people happy. I love making people happy.

Dave asked me to go further back and then I remembered my first real baking memory. I was 6 or 7 years old, we lived in Denmark at the time, in a rented apartment with a rather big kitchen. I would always fool around in the kitchen mixing and blending things together and ask my parents and sister to taste. I loved the kitchen. One day, my parents were asleep and I mixed up cookies I invented. I remember it was with coconut, sugar, cocoa and eggs. I turned on the oven and baked them, by myself, and when they were done I waited patiently for my parents to wake up.

I did not think of the option of them waking up angry because I had turned on the oven when I was alone, or the most-likely very messy kitchen I had left, I only thought of making them happy. They got up and came into the kitchen. I do not think they got mad. I  only remember them tasting the cookies and smiling. They loved them and I was over the moon.

Thinking back, it was my first version of macaroons, and till this day, coconut is my absolute favorite ingredient. I guess that my passion and love for baking has always been a big part of me and mostly because of how happy people are when they see fresh-baked cookies, or a table full of delicious things to try. That is probably also why my catering and events are all about having variety of things to try and enjoy, and why I always try to surprise, or spoil, the ones I love with something extra.

And a recipe.

One of my family’s favorite cookies are Turkish Delight Filled Cookies. There is something about the crispy, not so sweet dough, folded over a nice piece of sweet Turkish Delight to make these irresistible, and very fast to disappear….

This recipe is based on a recipe by Yonit Zucker.

10334277_751362138231027_3433141893287967143_n

 

1 kg. (34 oz) flour

200 gram (7 oz) unsalted butter or what I did – a mix of  coconut oil (melted in the microwave) and margarine – melted or soft.

1 cup oil

1 cup orange juice

2 tbsp. of powdered sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

vanilla

I also added a tbsp. of Rose Water that give the cookies a wonderful aroma.

Filling:

I chose Turkish Delight, but you can fill with anything you like – Marzipan, Dates and Nuts, Nutella or Peanut Butter.

Making the dough:

Mix all the wet ingredients well together.

Blend in the flour, add baking powder and sugar powder as well.

Mix until you get a nice sift dough.

How to make the cookies:

10006200_748741085159799_7329500618074106892_nCut the dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece out and cut as shown above. If you are going to use Nutella or peanut butter, spread it on the whole circle before cutting.

Place the filling on each triangle

10176068_748741258493115_4806630495033434048_n

Then roll them into croissant shaped cookies

1797568_748741451826429_8344722498581029002_n

Bake at 350F, 180C for about 20 minutes and sprinkle sugar powder after they cool a bit.

  10273741_748741551826419_5673751033288557949_n

1613898_748741648493076_7143159433178946450_n

These will NOT last long. They are just that good…..

Let me know what you think.

The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap 2013

photo(48)This was my first year participating in The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap. I was excited to take part in this fun community building activity, and all for a great cause. Who could ask for more?! This activity raised more than $13,700 for Cookies For Kids Cancer!

The organization and communication was spotless. Just enough emails, just enough communication to keep it exciting, but not over whelming.

I got my 3 matches and went on their blogs to get to know them better. 2 of them I had already been on their blogs, 1 I was following so that was fun. They had great ideas and recipes and I found myself spending quiet a long time on their websites and blogs.

Then came the hard part of deciding what to bake. I had a couple of ideas but kept changing my mind as time passed. Finally I went for a new cookie that I had just tried to make, adjusted, and fallen in love with. The Almond Caramel Cookie. I had just received a book from a friend by mail a couple of weeks before Inside The Jewish Bakery, and found it really interesting. In that book I found the Lace Cookies that I played around with and the final cookie was better described as Almond Caramel cookie.

photo(57)

I made it a couple of times before making the batch for the swap, but they were eaten too fast and I never had enough. Finally, I decided to bake the cookies late at night when everyone was asleep….

I decided to make a combination of 1 layer cookies, and some filled cookies. I needed a total of 36 cookies (a dozen for each blogger) and decided to send 4 plain and 8 filled. Some with white chocolate, some with milk truffle and some with chocolate mint. This meant that I needed a total of 60 cookies. Busy night was ahead of me.

photo(56)The house was quiet and I started chopping and mixing and baking. The smells these cookies spread are wonderful, and I thought that everyone probably had some great dreams…

I made a double batch of the cookie dough and started.

The recipe for these truly wonderful cookies is:

2.5 cups Almonds (or other nuts you like – Hazelnuts is wonderful as well).

1 cup brown sugar

70 gram (2.5 oz or 3/4 cups) Unsalted butter

3-4 tbsp. honey

1/4 + 1 tbsp. cup water

1/2 cup All purpose flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

How to prepare the dough:

First turn on the oven to 190C/375F.

I like to lightly roast the almonds (or hazelnuts) on a dry pan before I grind them. It adds a depth of flavor to the cookies. Then you need to grind the almonds to a fine texture.

In a saucepan combine sugar, butter, honey and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir continuously. Add the flour, nuts and cinnamon and stir well until you get a thick paste. To get a caramel consistency, you need to let it all boil for more than 60 seconds while constantly stirring.

Turn off the heat and let cool but this paste must be pipped or spooned while still hot. Once it cools it is very hard to work with.

I tried pipping the cookies but soon found that using 2 spoons is easier and faster.

Arrange at least 3-4 trays and place baking paper on them.

With 2 spoons spread cookies on the baking paper leaving a lot of room in between as these cookies spread out a lot. Pat the dough down a bit to get thin lace like cookies.

Bake for 5-6 minutes only. As soon as they are light brown, take out of the oven. They burn fast. Once out of the oven, take the baking sheets with the cookies on them, off the baking trays and leave to cool on a table or cool surface. Leaving them on the hot baking trays will keep them baking.

Once the cookies are cold they harden you can take them off the baking paper, and only then can they be filled with chocolate.

I melted white chocolate, milk truffle and chocolate mint and filled 48 cookies (total of 24 double layered cookies).

photo(59)       Filled with white chocolate

photo(60)Filled with chocolate truffle, and Chocolate mint.

Then the cookies were wrapped, boxed and shipped to the Food Bloggers. All that was left was to enjoy packages and look forward to feedback from the recipients…..

photo(55) photo(54)

photo(53) photo(49)photo(50)

Thank you Lindsay and Julie for organizing and to Imperial Sugar and OXO and Gradmas Molasses for the great gift we got  and for matching the donations!

For inspiration visit the wonderful bloggers I sent cookies to:

Aesthetic Eats

A Couple in the Kitchen

Beth’s Blue Plate Special

I really enjoyed the cookies I got from the bloggers like Chocolate and Carrots  (great website), Cupcakes and Bakes and also from Food, Pleasure and Health.

I’m already looking forward to next year

Have a great Holiday Season with your loved ones!!

Sweet Treat

We all have our favorites, but when it comes to my middle girl, her favorites are very well known, so on her birthday I don’t need to think long about what to make for her.

The hard work is making all the birthday treats in sync to her celebrations. Her birthday starts early morning at home, but the first treat is always for her class. It needs to be special, sweet and something I can prepare in the morning, fresh and fast. This year, because of the proximity to Chanukah, I baked Sufganiot and decorated cupcake style with whipped cream, just like she loves.

photo(45)

After school she loves to celebrate with all her after-school friends (yes all 70-80 of them) so I made a strawberry shortbread take, dairy free, in small cups to be easy to give out to 80 kids.

photo(44)

photo(43)

And then the highlight of the night, was creating her ultimate favorite Pavlova- Meringue with Strawberry Mousse (recipe here) and Chocolate….. what can go wrong there ?

photo(42) photo(37)

All this for a sweet 10 year old girl! Happy birthday baby girl!

photo(40)

Until next year…..:)