Thursday, November 11, 2010

Patisserie Danoise (Danish Pastry), Baklava

Chef Karen's Baklava

I'm getting the hang of mise en place; the lessons are far less stressful, and they make the week ahead  much more enjoyable. Best part of today is, we don't go home empty handed.

Like the pavlova, baklava has many claims to it parentage. Chef Karen says it's Greek in origin, though in my opinion the Turks put up a pretty strong case too. But leave me out of this debate, I have no intention of starting a war, I'm just here to eat.

Ghee, Filo, Nuts

We used the same store-bought filo as we did for the Spanakopita, layered with melted ghee and crushed nuts (walnut and cashews drenched in a little flour and sugar). Though pistachios are a popular addition, they tend to burn in the oven, so we'll save them for garnish.

Ghee is the Indian name for clarified butter, made by simmering unsalted butter till all the water evaporates and the milk solids settle to the bottom of the pot. The result is a a clear fat with a high smoking point and a light toasted flavor, perfect for deep frying or in our case today, long baking time in the hot oven.

Ghee, Filo, Cut

Another layer of filo and ghee caps the baklava, and into the freezer it goes to set the ghee making it easier to score and slice through the filo layers before baking.

Soaking Syrup

In addition to ghee, the other key component in baklava is the sweet soaking syrup, made by boiling sugar, water, cinnamon and lemon zests, and sometimes scented with rose water and orange blossom water. This has to be ready and piping hot when the baklava comes out of the oven, for maximum liquid absorption.

Danish Pastry Dough: De Butter In De Trempe

We then made the Danish pastry dough; similar to croissants, with yeast as a rising agent, and like puff pastry, laminated with a good slab of butter, 3 turns, and it's done!

Apple Filling & Streusel Topping

Hazelnut & Cream Cheese Filling

A variety of fillings for tomorrow, and mark my words, I'm a-looking forward to it.

Glistening Baklava

I doubled the amount of nuts in the filling, halved the ghee and the soaking syrup. The result is far less greasy, not overly sweet, and chokeful of nuts, just the way I like it.

Nutty Layers

If you do try your hand at making this very easy dessert, resist devouring it on the same day, it will be too hot and flimsy to handle anyway. The oil and sugar will preserve it for generations to come, but refrigerated for a couple of days, the flavors will improve exponentially, and your patience will be rewarded a thousand-fold.

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