Sunday, June 21, 2009


Butter, honey, sugar, butter, dough, nuts, butter, spices, and more butter.... what could be more delicious? Being caught between layers of baklava could possibly be Paula Dean's and my own personal heaven.

Baklava has been claimed by many ethnic groups as their own, but since this is my blog, I am going to claim it officially for Greece.... even if the origin of the word came to English via Turkish. Regardless of where this lovely treat originated, it is delicious, sweet, a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort. Enjoy!

24 Servings
60 minutes prep time
45 minutes cook time

1/2 lb. walnuts
1/2 lb. almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb. phyllo dough

1 1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
Juice of one lemon
Rind of 1/2 a lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of coriander


1. Thaw phyllo dough according to the package directions. Leave wrapped until ready to use.

2. In a food processor, combine walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse about 15 to 20 times until finely chopped.

3. Melt butter over low heat in a sauce pan. Do not allow to brown.

4. Spray the bottoms and sides a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

6. Assemble nut mixture, butter, and baking dish on your work surface. Open the phyllo dough and immediately cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. The sheets dry out extremely quickly and need to have the cover. If the phyllo dough is larger then the dish you are using, trim to size with a knife.

7. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan and cover remaining phyllo with damp towel. Using a pastry brush, brush phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat this process seven times, buttering each new sheet of phyllo dough.

8. Spread evenly 1/3 of the nut mixture atop the last layer of buttered phyllo dough.

9. Atop the nut layer, lay one sheet of phyllo dough, brush with butter, and continue process until 7 more layers have been added. Spread 1/2 of the remaining nut mixture atop the last layer of buttered phyllo dough.

10. Atop the nut layer, lay one sheet of phyllo dough, brush with butter, and continue process until 7 more layers have been added. Spread the remaining nut mixture atop the last layer of buttered phyllo dough.

11. Atop the nut layer, lay one sheet of phyllo dough, brush with butter, and continue process until 7 layers have been added. Butter the top of the final sheet of phyllo dough.

12. Using a sharp knife, make a cut lengthwise through the center of the layered phyllo. Now, cut each one of those "halves" in half, creating 4 even lengthwise rows. Now, turn your pan and cut down the center to form a column. Make two cuts on each side of the center cut, creating 6 even columns. In the end, you should have 24 squares. Make sure to cut all the way through the bottom layer.

13. Transfer your baking dish to the preheated oven and cook about 45 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile...

14. In a medium sauce pan, combine the honey, sugar, water, lemon juice, lemon rind, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, and coriander over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the syrup has thicken slightly; about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan so that it does not boil over.

15. Remove lemon rind and cinnamon sticks and let syrup sit to cool.

16. Remove baklava from oven and let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Pour the syrup mixture over the top and allow to cool for several hours at room temperature uncovered. It will look like a lot of liquid, but it will be soaked up by the baklava.

Baklava will remain fresh for 10 days at room temperature. Like it will even last that long...


Quick & Dirty Tips
Replace the damp towel on top of the unused phyllo dough immediately have using a sheet of it. You'll be amazed at how quickly it dries out and turn to paper... and sticks together... and gets you mad... and angry...

Buy 2 boxes of phyllo dough in case it starts to dry out or gets to damp. Helps to have an "emergency" box on hand.

I cut the lemon in half to juice it and then just throw one of the halves in for the syrup rather then zesting it or anything fancy... the flavor will be drawn out either way.

You can use any type of nuts... but always keep at least 1/2 the nuts walnuts. When I made this yesterday, I used a combination of walnuts, almonds, pecans, and a handful of pistachios leftover in the pantry.

I double this recipe and use what is called a 1/2 sheet pan. It takes two sheets of phyllo to cover the surface area and makes 48 squares. I love it.... simply double everything!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Banana Bread

I love sweet breads and especially ones that make your whole house smell good when they are baking. Every time I make banana bread, I swear guests come flocking to the kitchen with curiosity on their face and only one question on their mind, "What 'cha making?"

I have a friend who sells houses and when she is showing, she always puts something in the oven that will take a while to bake, like a banana bread. She swears that when she does this, clients visualize themselves in the house, it makes them fall in love with the house, and they buy the house. She gets paid for doing her job and gets a nice loaf of banana bread to boot!

One bowl, one spoon, and only a handful of ingredients that you already have in your cupboards. Double it, triple it, quadruple it... You can't go wrong with this recipe! Enjoy....

8 Servings
10 minute prep time
65 minute cook time

4 large ripe bananas
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 4x8 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

2. With peels on, heat bananas in the microwave just to warm them up; about 45 seconds. Peel and mash in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Add melted butter and mix until well combined.

3. Mix in both sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

4. Sprinkle in the baking powder and baking soda and mix.

5. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

6. Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 65 minutes until a knife comes out clean from the center of the loaf. Cool in pan for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or cold.


Quick & Dirty Tips
If you don't have ripe bananas, microwave until warm and then transfer to the refrigerator for several hours. This alters the bananas just enough to bring out the sweetness and tenderness needed.

Don't omit the salt... it is a flavor enhancer!

Resist the urge to open the oven to check on the bread. Let it bake for the 65 minutes, then check on it.

Instead of spreading butter on your slice of bread, try cream cheese or peanut butter!

I make a bunch of loaves at a time. This break freezes really well. Just heat back up in a warm oven or the microwave.

I use this bread to make Banana Bread French Toast... recipe coming soon!