Recipe: pistachio rolled baklava
I’ve been so wrapped up with work the past few weeks that I kept missing sunsets and sunrises, except to notice that I missed them. While I walked Kaweah Monday evening, I had one eye on the dog and another eye on the sky. A few clouds overhead began to tint gold as we walked back to the house and I got antsy. Potentially good colors. “Come on, little girl. We need to get moving.” But Kaweah was intent on sniffing every single twig, pine cone, and rock for at least ten seconds apiece. I glanced up and noted that the yellow had become intense with hints of orange. Looking further east, the clouds were orange and pink. I placed my hand on Kaweah’s side and tried gently guiding her in the direction of the house only to have her take interest in the next rock. Determined not to miss yet another sunset, I scooped her up in my arms and carried her across the yard into the house. “I’ll make it up to you with unlimited sniffing tomorrow,” I said, patting her belly as I set her down at the door.
i got my sunset
It’s easy to get sucked into work. Too easy. And that usually comes at the expense of other things. I got together with a bunch of girlfriends for a potluck this past weekend and realized that I hadn’t seen most of them in over a year. But I’m so glad I went because it was nice to just chill out, cook, and talk. I watched my friend’s son playing in the yard while we adults ate lunch on the patio. That carefree kind of play. I think carefree play has been missing from my life these days. Gotta fix that.
the joys of sweet youth
The dish I brought to the potluck was a dessert. Actually, I brought two desserts – some huckleberry ice cream and baklava. Baklava, I can make in my sleep. I’ve been making it since fourth grade which is… a long time. This time, the same old baklava just didn’t appeal to me, so I tried to mix it up a little.
butter, phyllo dough, sugar, pistachios, orange blossom water, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, extra pistachios
place the pistachios, spices, sugar, and orange blossom water in a food processor
pulse it to coarse sand texture
Pistachios cost much more than walnuts, but they are worth it. They are treasured for the gorgeous green color as much as for the flavor. I used organic raw unsalted pistachios to get the best results and added cardamom, nutmeg, and orange blossom water to the usual cinnamon. The motivation was that these additional flavors would complement the pistachios.
keep the phyllo sheets under a damp towel
brush butter on one half of a sheet
fold the sheet in half and butter the top
Working with four layers of phyllo (two full sheets, folded in half with butter between each layer) seemed to be the right amount of dough. If you wind up using half sheets, then just butter and stack four sheets. I wanted to make rolls because it’s different from the usual cut diamonds… I like variety. My first attempt at this recipe didn’t seem to have enough pistachio filling or oomph in flavor (it was too subtle), so I doubled the spices and then doubled the filling per roll.
sprinkle 1/3 cup of filling along one edge
roll it up tightly like a rug
slice the log
arrange on a buttered baking dish
brush with butter before baking
The drawback of making rolled baklava is that it is messier and a little more time consuming than layering everything in the baking dish. The nice part about making rolled baklava is that it bakes for far less time than the layered baklava. Of course, this means you can’t go and do other things while it bakes because you need to make the soaking syrup such that it is ready when the baklava come out of the oven.
sugar, cinnamon stick, honey, orange, lemon, orange blossom water
boil the sugar, water, lemon and orange peels, and cinnamon stick together for 15 minutes
add the honey
Try to let the syrup cool a few minutes (it will still be hot) before adding the orange blossom water. I had misgivings about adding it right as the syrup came off the heat, but every recipe I researched added at this stage. The orange blossom water just seemed to evaporate the second it came into contact with the hot syrup, which makes total sense. As the steam rose up from the saucepan (much in the way it would in a Harry Potter film), I waved it toward my nose and it smelled heavily of orange blossom water. I wondered if all that flavor released into the atmosphere instead of going into my baklava.
stir in the orange blossom water
pour the syrup over the hot baklava
pulverize the extra pistachios
For best results, you ought to pour the syrup over the baklava when it comes out of the oven. It will soak up the syrup more easily when everything is hot. After you pour the syrup, it will look like there is way too much and the whole pan is sitting in a pool of sugar. Give it a few minutes and the rolls will soak up all of that flavor goodness. Meanwhile, crush (use a mortar and pestle or just blitz it in the food processor) the extra pistachios for garnish. I like to reserve the greenest, skinned pistachios for this step. When the baklava have cooled, sprinkle some ground pistachios on top. Friends, neighbors, and husband all gave them a thumbs up, but who doesn’t love flaky pastry?! I find them far easier to eat than my layered version – dangerously so. And my friend’s adorable little boy left me a message, “I love them, Jen! I love those real crispy things!” which makes all of the effort TOTALLY worth it.
rolled, not layered
goes beautifully with tea
Pistachio Rolled Baklava
based on this technique
2 cups raw (and unsalted) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsps orange blossom water
1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed
8 oz. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup raw (and unsalted), skinless pistachios, crushed or food processed into a fine crumb
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 2-inch slices of lemon peel
2 2-inch slices of orange peel
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp orange blossom water
Make the rolls: Place 2 cups of the raw and unsalted shelled pistachios in the bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cup of sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water. Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Unwrap the phyllo dough and unroll so the sheets lie flat. They should be 13×17 inches. Cover with a damp cloth. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Set one sheet of phyllo dough on a large clean work surface and brush half of the sheet (half by the short axis) with butter. Fold the unbuttered half over the buttered half, then brush butter over the top of the unbuttered half. Stack a second sheet of phyllo dough over the buttered folded sheet (line up the corners). Brush butter over the half of the sheet that rests on the stack of phyllo, fold the unbuttered half over the buttered half, then brush the top of the stack with more butter. You should have four layers of phyllo dough. Note: If you purchased half sheets, then just layer four half sheets with butter brushed between each sheet.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup of pistachio filling along the long edge of the dough stack leaving a little margin at the ends. From the pistachio end, tightly roll the dough up like a carpet so the pistachio filling is in the center of the roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into equal-sized pieces (I cut 5 pieces per roll and they were just over 2.25 inches long). Arrange the pieces in the baking dish. Repeat until the baking dish is full. Brush butter over the baklava rolls and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Make the syrup: While the baklava is baking, combine the sugar, cinnamon stick, lemon peel, orange peel, and water in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 15 minutes. Stir the honey into the sugar syrup and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat. Let cool a few minutes before stirring in the orange blossom water. Remove the peels and cinnamon stick.
Finish the baklava: Have the syrup ready when the baklava comes out of the oven. While the baklava is still hot, pour the syrup over the pastries. Let the baklava cool completely (the syrup will pool at first, then the pastries will soak up the syrup). Sprinkle the crushed pistachio over the baklava. Makes approximately 35.
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