Baklava (Kol Wa Shkor) 

So this is the first time I’ve ever dared to attempt baklava, and I’m very pleased with the result. This is kind of a cheats version, as it uses pre-made phyllo pastry, but it still tastes as baklava should and is relatively simple to make. The recipe comes from my sweet Middle East cookbook, and is written as follows;

Ingredients

Filling

1 1/3 C (200g) hulled unsalted pistachios

1/2 C (100g) superfine sugar

1 Tbsp orange blossom water

1 Tbsp rose water
12 sheets phyllo pastry, each measuring 18 by 32 cm

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

6 Tbsp (90ml) fragrant sugar syrup 

Fragrant Sugar Syrup

2 C (400g) superfine sugar

1 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 C (120ml) water

1 Tbsp rose water

1 Tbsp orange blossom water

Method

Fragrant Sugar Syrup (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

  1. Put the Sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. Boil for 3 minutes, and then add the rose water and orange blossom water. Mix well and remove from the heat. Let cool before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Baklava

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Butter a medium baking dish measuring about 18 by 32 cm and 3cm deep.
  2. To make the filling: Coarsely grind the pistachios in a spice grinder or small food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, orange blossom water, and rose water; mix well. Set aside.
  3. Spread one sheet of phyllo pastry over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet over the first and brush with more melted butter; repeat with the additional four sheets, brushing each with butter for a total of six layers of phyllo. Spread the pistachio filling evenly over the pasty and cover with six more layers of phyllo, brushing each one with melted butter. Pour and leftover butter over the pastry.
  4. Cut the pasty into 5 cm squares or into thin rectangles about 5cm long and 2cm wide.
  5. Bake until crispy and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for a minute of two before pouring he sugar syrup all over the pastry. Store in an airtight contaminated at room temperature for up to 2 days.

The only difficulties I had while making this involved taking the baklava out of the baking dish, but I found using a serrated knife and a spatula to lift pieces out made it easier. 

   

Date-filled Pastries (Maqrud)


I’m currently in Dubai visiting my dad and so I thought it fitting to bake something from my Sweet Middle East cookbook. The date-filled pastries worked out better than I had anticipated, given that the semolina flour I used was the wrong sort-the result of a very late night shopping trip. The recipe calls for fine semolina, where as I just used ordinary semolina, which meant the pastries were unfortunately a bit grainy in texture. The taste however made it well worth the effort. So, without further a do, I shall write out the recipe I used.

Ingredients

Honey syrup

1 2/3 C (400ml) water

1 3/4 C (350g) organic cane sugar

1/3 C (100g) honey

Pastry

Pinch of saffron threads

1 C (240ml) warm water

2 1/2 C (450g) fine semolina 

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 C (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Filling

1 1/2 C (225g) pitted dates

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Grated zest of 1 orange
Sunflower oil for frying

Method

To make the syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and honey and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Dinner for 3 minutes, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature.

To make the pastry:

Crush the saffron threads between your fingers or in a small mortar with a pestle. In a small bowl, combine the saffron with the water and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the semolina, salt, and baking soda; mix well, then make a well in the centre. Add the olive oil and the saffron water and stir with your hand or a spatula to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. Knead in the bowl by hand until you have a smooth, malleable dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. 

To make the filling:

While the dough is resting, in a food processor, pulse the dates until coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil, cinnamon, and orange zest and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed. Divide the filling into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a cylinder about 2 cm thick and 5 cm long and set onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover with cling wrap.

Lightly oil a baking sheet (or use nobestick baking paper). Place a wire rack over a second baking sheet.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Roll one ball of dough into an oval about 10cm in length, 5cm wide, and 12 mm thick. Place a filling cylinder along the length of the dough oval, centred over one half. Fold the other half over, enclosing the filling. Using your fingers or the fine-holed side of a box grater, flatten the filled dough to an even 12 mm thickness. Using a chef’s knife, trim the ends, and then cut the dough at an angle into diamonds with about 2.5cm sides; you should be able to cut 4 diamonds. Lay them on the oiled baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a larger, deep frying pan to reach a depth of 5cm. Place over medium heat. Check the temperature by dropping in a piece of dough into the oil; if the oil bubbles around it, it’s ready. Drop in as many parties as will comfortably fit without overcrowding. 

Fry the pastries until golden all over, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Remove the pastries using a slotted spoon and drop them into the syrup. Turn a few times in the syrup to coat them well, and then transfer to the prepared wire rack to allow the excess syrup to drain off.

Fry and coat the remaining pastries in the same way, making sure the oil does not get too hot. Let cool on the rack to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
I found this recipe quite easy to follow as it has very clear, detailed instructions. Do read the section regarding rolling the dough carefully however as I found it a bit confusing at first.