"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Baklava

I don't know what I did to my camera. It was taking such great photos! But whatever I accidentally adjusted to allow me to take this:



(the view from a sunset cruise on the Schooner Appledore last Saturday evening)

produced a really AWFUL photo when I tried to document my baklava:



And that was the best of the bunch.

Let me see if I can find a better one.



Which brings me to my next point. Do you see any whole clove in the middle of that yummy looking piece of baklava? No, you do not. And if you go online and look for photos, you won't see any either. My co-worker Katie, of Armenian ancestry, says she has never seen whole cloves in baklava--in fact she got sort of agitated when she saw mine and offered to help me take them out because when she makes meatloaf she sticks whole cloves in the top to flavor it but invariable misses one and ends up with THAT piece--a mouthful of whole clove + meatloaf.

We can talk some other time about the judiciousness of whole cloves + meatloaf, and it's also a bit of a mystery to me why this baklava recipe asks you to use them.

Yes, they pin down the top layer. Yes, cloves complement honey, cinnamon and walnuts. Yes, they are decorative.

But they aren't edible. I know this because one time when I was in, oh, the eighth grade or so, I thought I'd make a batch of spice muffins, which called for clove and coriander. All my mom had was WHOLE clove and coriander, and although I was dubious about putting them in the mix, I thought maybe some sort of softening magic occurred in the oven. Even then, I had faith in the mysterious powers of cooking.

When I proudly offered my muffins around to the army wives in our little military base cul-de-sac, one kind lady gamely worked her way through a muffin (saying only, "Mmm, kind of...crunchy!") and I realized that whole spices do not in fact dissolve in the oven. Unfortunately.

So I was with Katie on the removing-the-cloves business. It would be one thing if I could oversee the eating of the baklava, but I couldn't be sure that some unwitting guest at work wouldn't just pop the whole thing in their mouth, trusting that whatever I put out there must be edible in its entirety.

If you've never made baklava (with or without cloves), the process is a little on the laborious side. You make a filling of finely chopped walnuts, sugar and cinnamon, and sandwich it between layers and layers and layers and layers and layers and layers and layers and layers of buttered phyllo dough. Add twelve more layers and you get the idea.

The laborious part is buttering the phyllo. It's so delicate that it either tears, or lifts up and sticks to your pastry brush--it's a pain in the ass. I've made a lighter version of baklava that asks you to spray the phyllo with cooking spray (horrifying, I know--but when you've got dieters around it's amazing what sort of corners you cut) and trust me, I was tempted.

But I soldiered on and finally got it into the oven and out again--heavenly smell--and poured on the honey-lemon syrup.

Friends, I can't tell you how it tasted. I'm sure it tastes fabulous--how can you go wrong with butter, honey and walnuts? But the recipe asks you to let it sit for twelve hours and I really made it for Miranda, who will be cooking for the next cascade of family at work, and they can pop it (clove-free) into their mouths with impunity.

1 comment:

Georgia said...

Have you heard of/ eaten pine-nut pie? R. and I enjoyed slices of this dessert at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite.

From the hotel's dessert menu:

Wawona Pine Nut Pie
A Carmel Flavored Pie With Pine Nuts
Served With a Spiced Port Wine Sauce.