Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rosh Hashana / The Baklava Diaries

Time to celebrate the Jewish New Year! (cries the girl who was raised strictly Irish Catholic)

A couple of pals in Seattle are celebrating in their own way, and I decided to make some baklava for the various parties. Sounds great, right?

Has anyone worked with phyllo dough? Yeah? Well, what about whole wheat phyllo dough?

As far as this recovering catholic is concerned, it's the devil him(or her, not only am I open-minded, but I also went to an all-girl high school which taught me little except that evil can soooo be female)self.

After having a ridiculously fabulous time at one of the very, very few middle eastern food shops in Seattle (technically in Bellevue actually), I found myself with oodles of phyllo dough. While at the store, I perused the frozen phyllo doughs, and was excited to see a whole wheat version. In my head I'm thinking: Ooh, whole wheat means healthy, this means I could make healthy baklava.

Such a smart girl, I know. Needless to say, I ignored the fact that baklava is made with butter, nuts, and sugar. Very good for the health. Riiiiight.

I rented this fabulous cookbook, the cooking light recipe collection that I've mentioned before, and decided to use it's recipe.

This may be a good time to mention that I have tried desert recipes with this book, and have yet to be satisfied. They take out too much fat, and add waaaaaay too much sugar. Supposedly they taste test these recipes, but they must be taking drugs at the same time. Or had seriously strange childhoods. Who knows.

So this morning I gathered my ingredients, including the thawed phyllo dough, which I patted myself on the back for remembering to thaw, and prepared to do some serious baking. The recipe calls for letting the baklava soak in syrup for a total of 11 hours, so I wanted to get started nice and early. Smart? To be cooking at 8am? Never.

After an hour of acting like an idiot, running around my kitchen while sweating and swearing, I had efficiently ripped or ruined half of the phyllo dough sheets. ERRGH! It was so much fun.

By the time the baklava recipes were in the oven, I had remembered how much I disliked the CL desert recipes. Great, great timing. Now, if only I could have these revelations before I start cooking. Although, that would probably be too much, I'd perish from perfection.

While the jelly-roll style baklava (okay, actually half of the recipe because I had mucked up the other half) baked, I ran to the grocery store.

Let's paint this picture, shall we?

My boyfriend and I woke up at 530 to go climbing at our gym. I hadn't showered before baking, because that would just be silly, but I had thrown a comfy sweatshirt over my gym clothes in lieu of an apron. This sweatshirt is the second least attractive thing I own ; the first being an excessively over-sized lumberjack style flannel that my mom bought for me - and yes, I still wear it - even though someone once asked me if I was trying to look unattractive when I wore it. I have loved this sweatshirt so much, that it has long since lost any shape or elasticity it may have had. It's been painted in, so it's splashed with random colors, memories of rooms and houses past, and since I'd been cooking, it was displaying bits of baklava ingredients.

Man, I'm hott.

So I popped into the posh grocery store in my artsy-funky hood, ignoring the looks and confusion (possibly because I was in a rush and nearly ran over a couple of people) as I gathered ingredients before flying back home, burdened with a pound of butter and another of phyllo dough - what else would you buy at 9am?

But! This time I had regular phyllo dough! And the Joy of Cooking baklava recipe, complete with oodles of butter.

The JC (ha) recipe was much more user friendly, and faster. I tasted both, although they aren't fully marinated quite yet, and neither is that good. The JC one is less sweet, which I like, but it seems like there was too much syrup, they aren't firm - the tops are perfect, but the bottom is goopy. The Cl baklava rolls, a cool idea (I especially like the shredded phyllo touch), are waaay to sweet, as per usual. But, they are more firm, so the texture wins out.

Here are photos of both:

Baklava, JC style
Check out that puffiness!

The Jelly Roll Style

Ooh - they just came out looking so perfect!

Ready to serve
(with one of the many lemons lost to the two recipes)

So here's to a new year, and to the phyllo dough that's leftover in my freezer. It might be a while before I use that again!

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