Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A quick taste of fall in an unusual place...Apple Baklava

So here's the story...I left my house this morning totally content and ready to take on the day.  (The mornings are finally cool enough to drive to work comfortably with the windows down.)  Then I made a bad driving error, it was totally my fault, no accident occurred, but this lady totally yelled at me, out her window, into mine, that I "had to stop".  By the way...Clueless style..."I totally paused" and did look both ways a couple of times.  I just didn't see her car.  This completely threw off my morning.  

What is it sometimes about D.C. where people are just angry, even in the suburbs...aka Old Town Alexandria?  Sometimes I feel like it is killing me on the inside a little bit.  Don't get me wrong, I love this area, it is beautiful, there are tons of things to do, and bike paths everywhere, but sometimes I just want to tell people to take a chill pill, calm down, and try to enjoy life a bit more.  I wanted to stop this lady, hand her a piece of baklava and a cup of tea and tell her to take a 5 minute break to enjoy the cool September morning.  

Okay on to the sweet stuff...

This is one of those recipes that I have been meaning to make for a year now.  I think I actually found it last fall when I was looking for things to make with all of the apples I had picked.  Well I am glad I finally took the time to make it.  This baklava makes you take a moment just because it is rich and sweet, with an amazing honey, nutty flavor and the right amount of crunch and spice.  It is a dessert that should be enjoyed and savored, maybe with a cup of tea.  It is not a quick to make dessert, but definitely worth the effort if you have the time.  Enjoy!

Toasted walnuts, time for some chopping.  You could totally do this in a food processor too.

Whisk in the the cinnamon and brown sugar and the filling is almost ready...

...just need to chop up the apple.

I went ahead and made the honey syrup ahead of time...

Filo dough and butter...time for some serious layering action.

First layer of nuts and apples down.  Repeat two more times.

Pre-cut the pieces and then into the oven.

This will seriously make you house smell amazing.

Honey syrup poured over and then let some to room temperature.

Ready for the office!

Apple Baklava: (recipe adapted from amybites)
*makes 16 squares

For the baklava:
3 cups walnuts
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large apple, chopped
1 lemon
1 roll frozen phyllo dough, thawed (25 sheets)
1 1/3 stick butter, melted

For the syrup:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup water
Dash ground ginger
Dash ground cloves
Dash ground nutmeg

1. Combine all syrup ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to boil until reduced by half, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool completely.

2. Preheat oven to 350ยบ.  Spread nuts out in single layer on baking sheet. Toast in oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until fragrant. (or toast on the stove top in a skillet on medium-low heat).

3. Once nuts have cooled slightly, chop them in to very small pieces. (You can definitely use a food processor for this part).  Then in a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the brown sugar and cinnamon in with the nuts.  Set aside.  Next, chop the apple into very small chunks.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the apples so that they don't turn brown.

4. Spray 8×8" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Lay phyllo sheets out flat and cover with plastic wrap, then with a damp kitchen towel. Working quickly, take one sheet and fold in half in the bottom of the baking dish.  Using a pastry brush, brush this layer lightly with the melted butter.  Repeat stacking and spraying with four more sheets. Spread about 1/3 of the nut mixture on top of the dough layer. Then sprinkle 1/3 of the chopped apple.

5. Repeat this process a second and third time. Top with another 5 sheets of dough and butter. Using a sharp knife, cut into 16 equal squares. Bake until dough is light golden-brown, about 45 minutes. Pour cooled syrup over hot baklava. Cool to room temperature before serving.  Enjoy!

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