Friday, December 23, 2016

Turkish Almond Walnut Plum Baklava










     Baklava!
     Of all the desserts in the world, Baklava has to be rated as one of the ten best!  Baklava is on the menu at nearly every Greek restaurant.  This dessert is popular during the holiday season and it is often served during special events.
     Many people think Baklava is a Greek specialty, but this dessert actually originated in Turkey.  Turkey has many great signature dessert pastry recipes that are often overlooked by modern chefs.  The origins of fine pastry making in ancient times can be found in Turkey, Persia and the Middle East.
     Turkish dessert pastries are usually served as petite portions.  Spices, nuts and fruit are common ingredients used for making Turkish pastries.  Greek versions of Baklava do not usually have fruit in the recipe.  Dried fruit or fruit paste is used to make Baklava recipe variations in Turkey.
     Phyllo is usually made with a hand turned or electric powered sheet dough rolling machine.  Making the paper thin sheets of Phyllo by hand is not easy to do.  For the sake of convenience, it is best to purchase some pre-made Phyllo.  Pre-made Phyllo can be found in Greek delicatessens and at most grocery stores.  Phyllo is sold as a frozen dough product.  Once the package is opened, care must be taken to prevent the sheets of Phyllo from drying out.

     *This entire recipe yields 4 portions!

     Drawn Butter: 
     The milk and water should be removed from the butter, so the Phyllo does not become saturated with moisture.  The butter for Baklava should not be clarified at a high temperature.  The milk fats can be saved to flavor vegetables or potatoes.
     Step 1:  Place 12 ounces of unsalted butter in a sauce pot.
     Melt the butter over low heat.
     Gently simmer till the watery milk separates from the butter.  (The butter will float on top.)
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Carefully pour the butter off of the top into a container.
     *Discard the watery milk fat that remains in the sauce pot or use the milk fats to flavor vegetables in another recipe.
     Keep the drawn butter warm on a stove top.  

     Almond and Walnut Preparation:
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of shelled almonds on a cutting board.
     Place 3/4 cup of shelled walnuts on the cutting board.
     Very finely chop the almonds and walnuts together.
     *The chopped nuts should be no bigger than a dried split pea.
     Step 2:  Place the finely chopped nuts in a bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.
     Stir the nut mixture together and set it aside.

     Prune Preparation:  
     Very finely mince 3/4 cup of prunes (dried plums).
     *The minced prunes should be no bigger than a dried split pea.
     Set the minced prunes aside in a container.

     Baklava Syrup:
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of water in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 cup of sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/3 cup of honey.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the syrup becomes a medium thin consistency that can lightly glaze a spoon.
     Step 3:  Remove the sauce pot from the heat.
     Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
     Set the syrup aside.

     Turkish Almond Walnut Plum Baklava:
     Step 1:  Cut 26 square shaped sheets of phyllo that measure 8"x 8".  (More may be needed.)  
     *Always keep the phyllo sheets covered with a dry towel, so they do not dry out.
     Step 2:  Brush a high sided baking pan (roasting pan) with melted butter.
     Lay 1 phyllo sheet on a board and brush it with melted butter on both sides.
     Place the buttered phyllo sheet on the buttered baking pan.
     Butter the second phyllo sheet and place on top of the first sheet.
     Stack a total of 8 layers of buttered phyllo sheets on the baking pan.
     *This first stack of phyllo will be the base of the baklava.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle a thin layer of the nut mixture on the stacked buttered phyllo.
     Step 4:  Place 2 more buttered phyllo sheets on top of the nut mixture layer.
     Sprinkle the chopped dried plums evenly on top of the stacked phyllo.
     *Just sprinkle the minced prunes on the phyllo.  Do not try to spread the minced prunes on the phyllo or the delicate phyllo will tear!
     Step 5:  Place 2 more buttered phyllo sheets on top of the minced prunes.
     Sprinkle a thin layer of the nut mixture on the phyllo.
     Step 6:  Repeat stacking alternating layers of the nut mixture and 2 buttered sheets of phyllo, till you run out of the nut mixture.  (About 3 or 4 layers.)
     Step 7:  To complete the top of the baklava, butter 8 sheets of phyllo and place each of them on top of the stack of phyllo.
     *The baklava should now look like a tall square shaped layered stack of uncooked pastry on the baking pan.
     Step 8:  Using a sharp wet knife, gently trim the edges, to make the baklava square with even straight sides.
     Step 9:  Cut the square baklava into four triangles.
     Leave the 4 baklava triangles butted against each other, without moving them in the pan.
     Step 10:  Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake till the pastry turns a golden brown color.  (About 30 to 40 minutes.)  
     Step 11:  *This step must be done while the baklava is still hot!
     Remove the baklava from the oven.
     Immediately spoon all of the syrup on the edges and sides of the baklava.
     *Do not pour the syrup over the top of the baklava!  That will ruin the baklava!  The excess syrup in the pan will eventually be pulled into the baklava pastry.
     Step 12:  Let the baklava set at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, till all the syrup is absorbed and soaked up by the pastry.

     Presentation:
     Baklava requires no garnishes or sauces.
     Use a spatula to place a piece of baklava on a dessert plate.
     No garnish is necessary!

     If you take the time to make this dessert correctly, then you will be looked upon as a pastry chef by dinner guests.  Baklava is a very impressive tasting classic Turkish dessert!

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