Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Baklava with Homemade Phyllo Dough!

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING 
by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I was honestly really nervous about making these..making my own phyllo dough?! sounded too intense for an amateur baker like me. but last weekend, while i had some friends over, i ventured off to the store to get myself some ingredients for the baklava.
Overall, the whole experience was really fun. i had a great arm workout out of it as well, kneading and rolling out the phyllo dough until it was really thin. after seeing the end result i felt extremely accomplished :] i might actually make this again sometime soon! 

Baklava consists of three parts: thin transparent phyllo, nutty filling, and sweet sticky syrup! 


phyllo dough:
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour 
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon water 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar 

*all wet ingredients in small liquid measuring cup
**may need more water or flour depending on the consistency of your dough
***recipe can yield about 14 layers 

mix flour, liquid ingredients and salt in a bowl and mix together until it forms a dough

once it forms a dough, place on a floured surface and start kneading (i was kneading this for 40 minutes because i'm weak..)
to knead, push the dough upward with the heel of your hand, then fold the top of the dough towards you

you can also punch down the dough to take out any air bubbles that might have been incorporated when mixing the ingredients. after punching, fold the dough in half towards you

to know if your dough has formed enough gluten, press your finger into the dough, and if the indentation springs back up, then it's ready! 

brush vegetable oil on the dough 

wrap it up in plastic and refrigerate for two hours! :D 

Meanwhile...make the filling! 

1 cinnamon stick, broken into 2 or 3 pieces
3/4 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup pistachios
3/4 cup walnuts 
2/3 cup sugar 
*sorry i didn't take pictures of the ingredients! my friends and i were too excited to start crushing them in ziploc bags (i don't have a food processor)

put all ingredients together and crush them! or use a fancy food processor and set on high until finely chopped (make sure the spices are finely chopped because, since mine weren't as fine as they should have been, it kind of hurt the jaw a little chewing on the baklava...)

After 2 hours, take out the dough and pinch off a little piece, the size of a golf ball.
then wrap the rest of the dough and set aside, to ensure that it doesn't lose moisture (pretty important!)

best part ever! flour your surface and rolling pin and flatten the ball. then roll to make the circle bigger. 

then roll the dough around your rolling pin and roll the pin on the surface. when you peel the dough off the rolling pin, it will be really stretched out! repeat until you get the desired size or until it can't stretch out anymore.
make sure the rolling pin is well-floured before the dough is rolled onto it because it will stick.
keep making layers until all the dough is used up.

my layers can fit into an 8x8 inch pan...

layer the layers when done rolling and separate with wax paper to make sure the layers don't stick together

took forever...

it wasn't as thin as i wanted it to be..but at least it was slightly transparent! good enough for me.

then take each layer and trim with a pizza cutter or a sharp tool so they can fit in the pan

i cut out hearts with the extra dough :]

melt 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of butter 

butter the bottom of your pan, then place a layer on top. then butter that layer and add a second layer on top of that..then butter that layer! 
with 14 layers, the layering pattern should be: 
4 layers - filling - 3 layers - filling - 3 layers - filling - 4 layers
*don't forget to butter the top of each phyllo layer! this makes it flaky and crispy! 

by the way, i totally messed up the layering because i thought i counted 11 layers but actually had i did 3 layers - filling - 2 layers - filling - (then i figured out that i had way more than i thought) 4 layers - filling - 5 layers....i can't count :[

adding 1/3 of the filling!

adding my layers!
with those hearts, i placed them on top of my last layer and buttered it!

tuck the edges to make it look neater ( i really didn't have any edges to tuck though..)

cut into whatever shapes you think is purty and stick into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes...
don't worry if you can't cut down all the way..

after 30 minutes in the oven, take it out and make sure you cut down through all the layers...
and stick it back into the oven for another 30 minutes! or until the top is nice and golden brown

While waiting for that to finish baking, make the syrup!

1 cup water
1 cup honey
 1 cup sugar 
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece of fresh citrus peel (orange or lemon)
pinch of ground cloves

place all ingredients in saucepan on medium high heat and stir occasionally

once it starts to boil, keep it at a boil for ten minutes
then drain and let it cool 

golden brown! time to take the baklava out of the oven!! 

make sure the syrup is cooled before pouring onto hot baklava.
it'll look like too much syrup but that's okay! 
let it cool to room temperature. once it's to room temp, cover and leave it out at room temperature overnight so the baklava can soak up all the syrup. 

beautiful. looks like i have only two layers of filling, but it's only because there are only 2 layers of phyllo dough in between the first two layers of filling -.- i can't count! 

but it looks amazing nonetheless.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Daring Cooks' Challenge: Healthy Potato Salad

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
I usually think of a potato salad as a creamy mess, but after this challenge, i realized i could use some other dressing other than nasty mayonnaise (sorry folks, i'm not too crazy about mayo). i had alot of fun coming up with ideas on what to put in my salad and the colors of the veggies were so pretty together :]

red bell peppers
yellow squash
two garlic cloves

and colorful fingerling potatoes! (from the Berkeley Bowl..thank you Andrew!!)

for the asian-western vinaigrette:
3 parts balsamic vinegar
1 part soybean/sesame oil
couple drops of soy sauce

boil the potatoes until soft 

meanwhile, crush the two cloves of garlic to put in a low-heated saucepan filled with a 1/2 cup of olive oil.

then add some dill and thyme into the olive oil. heat this up for a little, just so the thyme, dill, and garlic can give flavor to the olive oil. 

take the potatoes out of the water once a fork can be easily inserted into one of them

then peel the potatoes! 

while the potatoes are still warm, pour the olive oil onto the potatoes and mix. this gives such great flavor to the taters :]

i decided to steam my vegetables!

for the vinaigrette, i just added 3 teaspoons of soybean/sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (only because i only had a tiny bit of soybean/sesame oil there wasn't really alot of vinaigrette in my potato salad)

add a couple of drops of soy sauce...because i didn't want it to be too salty 

and there you go! healthy potato salad and a yummy vinaigrette with an asian twist! 

mmm the purple potatoes were my favorite! tasted so good..

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Millionaire Shortbread

I love making these! they're so simple to make and people looove them. i decided to make these because i needed to use up my homemade caramel, but i ended up not having enough..and i was too lazy to make more, so what resulted was just a really thin layer of caramel sandwiched between my sweet, flaky shortbread and softened dark chocolate. still so good..

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 60% dark chocolate chips
2 teaspoons heavy cream
2 ounces white chocolate chips

soften the butter

 then add the flour, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract and knead until you form a dough. then cover the actual dough (not the bowl, to prevent a dry dough) and refrigerate for 10 minutes. refrigerating the dough hardens the butter, which makes a more flaky shortbread.

 then evenly press the dough onto a 8x8 inch pan with your fingertips.

 bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are browned.

 then chill in the fridge until cool.

 after it's cooled, add the caramel and then chill in the fridge so the caramel can harden.

 bring water to a boil and pour the dark chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. set the bowl right on top of the boiling water and melt the chips.

 instead of just pouring that onto the shortbread/caramel, i added a couple teaspoons of heavy cream because i wanted my chocolate to be softer than regular hardened chocolate. it gives that soft bite, which, in my opinion, complements the sticky texture from the caramel and the chewy dense texture from the shortbread. 

 after the caramel is hard, pour the chocolate on top.

then plop 9 circles of melted white chocolate chips right on top.

 then run your knife along the surface to create the marble effect, but don't get crazy or it will look nasty. 

 then just chill that until the chocolate hardens and cut into little squares!!

 so good!

 look at those yummy layers :] all three different textures just complemented each other so beautiful.