My Top 10 of 2011!

Wow! Where did 2011 go?  Seems as I get older the years just fly by.  This year  I did a lot of baking, most were good, some were amazing and a few were total flops!  There were some  new recipes and others were tried and true favourites.  The Daring Bakers took me way out of my comfort zone as I was truly dared with some amazing recipes.  As for the “flops” I posted them too, not everything can turn out well.  I thought I would end the year with a “top 10” list of my favourite recipes of the year.

 10. Perogi Day

Perogi Day was a day I will never forget! Mom, Etta, Jen and myself were at it for almost 12 hours.  We made 9 different flavours, used 25 pounds of potatoes, 7 tubs of sour cream, almost 2 bags of flour and a lot of bacon, cheese and onions.  We ended up with, get ready for it……471 perogies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They were delicious, not sure I will be able to go back to the frozen ones from the store.  It was a great day and the results were amazing! We all agreed that we would definitely do it again, just not anytime soon…

9.  Apple Sauce Muffins

These Apple Sauce Muffins were something I stumbled across when visiting Gramma one afternoon.  They were hot and fresh and delicious!  You can’t really taste the apple sauce, they are a little bit sweet and have an amazing texture.  I think I have made them at least 6 times since then.  A wonderful recipe with simple ingredients, Thanks Gramma! 🙂

8.  Baklava

This one was special for me.  I was asked to be the host of the June Daring Bakers Challenge!  Being host meant that I was able to pick any recipe and have all the members make their variations. I had always said, way back when I joined, that if I ever got the chance to host I was going to pick Baklava.  It was amazing to see the different variety of baklava that were made.  I was a little daring (mean) and had everyone make their own phyllo dough.  Some people enjoyed the process, a lot did not, but all in all it was a wonderful experience.  It was a true honour to be picked to be the June 2011 host.  My baklava was delicious.  I will definitely be making it again but, like many other members, I will probably use pre-made phyllo!

7.  Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow was new for me, I had never even heard of it.  Jen had come over to do some Christmas baking and she brought all the ingredients for Puppy Chow…hmmm.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Unlike the name this is a wonderful treat!!!  Very simple, cereal, chocolate, butter, peanut butter and icing sugar.  It is very addicting!  It was a great gift to give away in little Christmas sacks.  Thanks Jen for a great recipe that I will be using for many years to come.  I may have to come up with a more appealing name….

6. Cupcakes, Cupcakes and more Cupcakes!

This was a scary one! Making 130 cupcakes for Kris and Selena’s Wedding!  I had never done anything like this before.  I mean I had made cupcakes but never 130 in one day!  I was a nervous wreck, as I think the wedding cakes is a huge deal.  Sadly it’s the food aspects that people remember more at a wedding then the actual ceremony.  I thought if they don’t turn out I’d have people thinking “god, their cake was horrible”.  Thank goodness everything went smoothly and the cupcakes were a hit!  So much so that there was not near enough 😦 If there is a next time, I will know people will eat more than one! Thanks Kris and Selena!

5. Bachlorette Cake

When Coralee asked me to make Chrissy’s Bachlorette Party cake I was thrilled!  I had just recently taken the Wilton Fondant course and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give my new skills a try.  For my first try at creating a formed fondant covered cake, I think it turned out pretty good.  I hope to make more in the future.  Unfortunately I fell ill that night and was unable to make the party, so I didn’t get to try it.  Hope it was good!

4. Wedding CakeS!

No, I did not make a typo in the title I meant for the ‘S’ to be big!  This was by far my biggest baking event ever, let alone in 2011.  I was asked to make the cakes for Jen and Martin’s Wedding.  At first I was terrified and think I even tried to talk her out of it, as I mentioned above, the wedding cake is a huge deal!  When I calmed down I was truly honoured and accepted the challenge.  Jen had a wonderful idea of having a cake on each table.  The cake would then be “the wedding cake”, centre piece and dessert.  It really was a good idea.  It was a ton of work but I enjoyed every minute of it and would do it again in a heart beat!  Thanks Jen!!

3. Povitica

This recipe was from the October Daring Bakers Challenge hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk.  She introduced me to something I had never heard of.  Povitica?? I could barely say it let alone make it.  As it was a bread recipe I was very hesitant in even trying it, bread and I do not get along well.  I was pleasantly surprised, it was an amazing dough and so versatile.  I was able to make both savory and sweet loaves out of the recipe.  They were delicious!! This one rang in on my top 3!  I will be making this a lot more in years to come.  Thank you Jenni!!

2. Whoopie Pies!

I was a little late jumping on the Whoopie Pie ban wagon.  Not sure what rock I had been living under but I just heard about these in July.  Apparently they were quite the craze a while ago.  There is even a “Whoopie Pie War” with two States as they both say they are the founder of the Whoopie Pie.  Well, I don’t care who came up with the idea, I’m just glad they did!!  These are little pieces of heaven!  Surprisingly they are not sweet, they have a lovely light texture and a wonderful marshmallow filling.  I have only made the “Classic Whoopie” but I have a book and plan on making many different kinds.  What a wonderful find!

Drum roooooooooooooooooooollllllllllllllllllll…………………….

1. Salted Caramel Shortbread Bars

Without question this was my favourite recipe of the year!  I mean look at at…it’s not only the best tasting dessert bar ever, it’s also a thing of beauty!  This recipe was not even intended for me, haha.  When Jen came over to do some Christmas baking, it was for her to take to her baking exchange.  I had one bite and almost had to sit down.  It is one of those treats that after your first bite you have to stop before you start chewing and your eyes grow twice their normal size as you cant believe this piece of magic in your mouth.  It then turns into an eyes closed slow chew as you take in all the textures and tastes, and then it hits you…the salt!  Your taste buds jump into high gear.  It is like no other dessert experience I have ever had.  Don’t believe me, Try them!!!  Thank you Jen for my FAVOURITE treat of the year!  This recipe will remain at the front of my recipe book to be made time and time again!

I would like to thank my many followers for stopping by throughout the year to see whats up in my kitchen. When I first started this whole blogging thing, I really didn’t think anyone other then family would read.  I was shocked and so happy to see when I had over 20,000 hits!

Thanks again and Happy New Year!  Please come back to see what’s baking in 2012

Daring Bakers Turn Phyllo into Baklava!

Guess what? I was the host of the Daring Bakers June Challenge!!!!  In mid April I received and e-mail from the Daring Kitchen asking me if I would step into the June position, as someone was no longer able to do so.  What? Me? Host a Challenge??  Heck YES!  I was thrilled, honored and terrified!

I have been fascinated with Baklava for a very long time and knew if I ever got the chance to host a challenge it was definitely going to be the recipe. I had my first baklava at a local Greek restaurant called The Original Greek; they have, in my opinion, the best baklava.

Baklava, a sweet rich pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and nuts sweetened with simple syrup.  Baklava is widely knows as a Greek dessert, but it’s origin has really never been pinpointed as many Middle Eastern countries also name it as their own.

If you’re thinking baklava is easy, just layering phyllo, you’re right, but not so fast.  We  made our own homemade phyllo; we are after all the Daring Bakers.  Phyllo, which means, “leaf” in Greek, is tissue paper-thin like sheets of dough.  Homemade phyllo is a lot of work to roll out but is worth it, its delicious!  Baklava is quite simple to make but is a little time-consuming.

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.

Recipe Source:

Phyllo Dough Recipe –  Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

Baklava: Adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network

Baklava

Phyllo Dough:

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed

2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough

1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

 

Directions:

 

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt


2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar


4. Add water oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)

Too Dry

This is what you are looking for

5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes.  You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx 20 minutes. 


8. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes.  Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
9. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil


10. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can.  I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me.  You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.

1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger than a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.

2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.

3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.

4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel

5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)

6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!

7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.

8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine

9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Baklava Recipe

 

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network

Ingredients

 

For the syrup:

  • 1 1/4 cups (315 ml) honey
  • 1 1/4 cups (315 ml) water
  • 1 1/4 cups (315 ml) sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel

When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup.  When you combine the 2, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved

2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.

3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

For the filling:

  • 1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 15 to 20 whole allspice berries
  • 6 ounces (170g) blanched almonds
  • 6 ounces (170g) raw or roasted walnuts
  • 6 ounces (170g) raw or roasted pistachio
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • phyllo dough (see recipe above)
  • 8 ounces (225g) melted butter ** you may need more or less

 

Directions:

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped.  If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can.  Set a side


3. Trim your sheets to fit in your pan

4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet

5. Brush phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 8 times ending with butter.  (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)


6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top

7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.

13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge

14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)

15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!

Next morning all syrup is absorbed

16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature

I also got a little creative and made rolled baklava as well

Rolled Baklava

1. Take one rolled sheet of phyllo

2. Brush with butter and lightly cover with nuts

3. Take a think wooden dowel and begin rolling up the phyllo

4. As you roll bush the underside with butter

5. Continue rolling until it is entirely on the dowel

6. Repeat without nuts

7. it will look like this

8. Push all phyllo to one end

9. Carefully slide off dowel

10. Place in a butter baking dish and brush with a generous amount of butter

11. Bake until golden brown

12. Cut into desired length and cover with syrup

Unfortunately we at this one too fast and I didn’t get any pictures plated

The baklava was delicious!  The homemade phyllo dough was wonderful but for convenience I would probably try the store bought dough next time.

I had an awesome time hosting the Challenge this month and I look forward checking out everyone’s blogs to see how they made out

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava.   It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container.  Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier, but still great.   You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life.  You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.

Additional Information:  I have included some videos and links to help you through the process.

How to roll the phyllo dough –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvNzAi9w6TU&feature=related

Excellent 3 part video showing the whole process –            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLV7W-KUME8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8pzyKgxuF4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJgotI69pXY&feature=related

Making Hallow Baklava Rolls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvM8cWzjKI

Making Baklava Rolls – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H51egHWv0sQ