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February 27, 2014

The Broken Home and The Baklava Fix

Baklava: The Easy Way
Far from a spate of bad luck and more akin to overuse, objects in my house have become broken--seemingly all at once and sadly, on the heels of several writing deadlines. Thankfully, one of my best qualities is my resourcefulness followed closely by my sense of humor.

I dug out my old iBook with the bootlegged copy (not my work) of Windows 97 to work on my writing, but unfortunately, the browser is so out of date that I can't access my email. For that, I employ my Kindle, and to conduct general business, Mr. B will graciously let me slip into his chair to use his computer--provided that I leave things the way I found them, a simple task that often eludes me.

And for the first time, I had to send an FYI to an new editor who I am working with alerting him of my dilemma and yes, it rang heavily of the old "the dog ate my paper."A weak and suspicious excuse to be sure, but worse, it fell into the category of being pedestrian. So, later in the afternoon when I managed to finish my work in spite of all the glitches, I submitted it with a more creative note:



"Dear Editor,
The computer glitch would be comical, if it weren’t my second one to go in a few short months. I’ve also worn out a blender, a mixer, a toaster, a coffee maker and the oven. The household appliances and small kitchen electrics are calling me “The Angel of Death” and even the lamps are whispering unkind things behind my back.”


Feeling slightly better for providing a more interesting explanation, it was time to reward Mr. B for playing musical desks with me. For months now, he's been telling me how much he's been craving baklava, although I haven't a clue what brought about his hankering since I haven't made baklava in over a decade and honestly, that was a fiasco. I struggled to work fast enough to keep the filo dough from drying out, I made a mess of the syrup and in the end, we needed a jack hammer to get it out of the pan.

Riding on the fumes of victory and in spite of the broken oven, I decided to see if I couldn't take my success to a new level. I was set on making baklava for Mr. B and since I still had an amicable relationship with the toaster oven, I decided to push forward.

Instead of looking for a recipe, I read recipe reviews and cobbled together my own after reading where others went wrong. Surprisingly, baklava is quite easy and what I managed to make in my toaster oven could easily rival the best Greek bakeries and left both Mr. B and I stunned. Thus, while it's been a week requiring me to think on my feet, adapt to the unexpected and push myself to use my creativity--and ingenuity--the results couldn't have been better. The moral of the story: never let obstacles prevent you from succeeding, even when you're coming from a broken home!

Easy Toaster Oven Baklava
1 package of thawed filo dough
1 stick of butter melted
3/4 cup of pistachios
3/4 cup of walnuts
3/4 cup of almonds
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Spray an 8 x 8 inch glass baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Place pistachios, walnuts, almonds, sugar and spices into a food processor and process until ground, but not pulverized. Place in a bowl and set aside.
3. Unroll the filo dough and place the glass pan on top of it so that the pan edge touches the top and side margin.
4. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the dough to fit the pan.
5. Wrap up the extra dough for another use.
6. Place the pan next to the stack of cut dough and separate and place 5 sheets into the bottom of the pan and brush the top sheet with melted butter.
7. Top with an additional 5 sheets of filo, buttering each layer as you build.
8. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture onto the last layer.
9. Butter a layer of filo dough and place it butter side down on top of the nut mixture and then bush the other side with butter.
10. Build another 8 layers of filo dough, butter each layer as you go.
11. Top with the remaining nut mixture and then, just as in step 9, add a layer of filo, buttered on both sides.
12. Top with the remaining layers of filo (should be another 8-10 layers) buttering in between each one and buttering the last layer.
13. Gently use the serrated knife to cut the baklava into squares.
14. Bake in a 350 degree toaster oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and gently recut the baklava along the previously cut lines; return to the oven.
15. Bake until golden brown then remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool.
16. Once cool, but still a little warm, pour the syrup over the baklava a little at a time, giving the syrup time to absorb before pouring on more.
17. Let cool for at least 6-8 hours before serving.
18. Enjoy!

The Syrup
*Make this while the baklava is cooking. Reheat before pouring onto the baklava.

3/4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of honey
3/4 cup of water
2 pieces of star anise
2 inch piece of a cinnamon stick
2-3 big pieces, about 2 inches each, of orange zest
the juice from one orange

1. Place all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil.
2. Reduce heat and continue cooking until syrupy.
3. Syrup should be slightly warm when poured over the baklava



1 comment :

  1. Dear Melanie,

    Thank you for this incredible recipe that I plan to lean on significantly prior to Christmas Eve if at all possible! I was quite surprised as I read through your narrative to discover your discursive style to be as familiar to me as if it had been me writing the article myself. I was also surprise to see that you also like to substitute orange for lemon in the sauce and that you are faithful to using honey in your recipe! I admit that I have never combined almonds and pistachios with the standard walnuts, but this looks quite appealing! Pistachios are just so good in baklava and almonds are amazing in their own way, not to mention that they are also a very nutritive source of protein! Thank so much for your recipe! Merry Christmas to you and yours! -MMP

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