Alright, so I am doing a cleanse right now. Basically, for the last 5 days, and for at least the next five, I drink lemonade made from maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. Brooke started me on it.
Among the many benefits it provides, it is supposed to be helping me cure cravings for various naughty foods. It must be day 5 that really lets me have it, because let me tell you. I have never wanted lasagna, chips and dip, pizza, pasta, soup, cheese, couscous, and whatever else you’re serving more than I wanted it today. The most terrible thing today was making this warm buttery baklava. I was able to make it while I am cleansing because I already tried out the recipe a few weeks ago on the women at church, and therefore didn’t have to taste it to see if it was good enough to post. And I was so good. I didn’t even lick it, well maybe just a little of the honey that dribbled off.
My recipe uses orange blossom water. You could also use rose water. Both are available through amazon.com, which is where I bought mine. It makes a very subtle difference in the flavor that is quite lovely. Wish I could have some right now.
baklava with almonds and orange blossom water
4 cups (650g) sliced almonds
3/4 cup (140g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pound (450g) package phyllo dough, defrosted in refrigerator for 24 hours
2 sticks (224g) salted butter, plus up to 1 stick (110g) more in reserve in case you run out of it before you finish the baklava
1 1/2 cups (350mL) honey
juice of 1 orange
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 cardamom pods, crushed with the bottom of a cup measure
4 or 5 inches orange peel
1 cinnamon stick
5-6 whole cloves
1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water
1. Position a rack in the top third of the oven, and a second in the bottom third. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees celsius). In a food processor, grind up almonds, sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground cardamom, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
2. Melt 2 sticks (224g) of butter, and leave the reserve butter unmelted until you need it. Line a half sheet pan (one of those aluminum 18 x 13″ cookie sheets) with parchment paper.*
3. Begin layering your baklava. Place a sheet of the phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan and cover the rest of the sheets with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Brush the phyllo in the pan with a thin layer of butter. Repeat with 3-4 layers. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the almond mixture. Continue to layer in this manner (3-4 layers of butter and phyllo, followed by 1/3 of the almond mixture) until the almond mixture is used up. Melt additional butter whenever it is needed. Finish by layering 4-8 sheets of phyllo with butter, ending with butter.
4. Using a very sharp knife, trim the edges of the baklava, so you have a neatly trimmed rectangle in the center. Slice the rectangle evenly into 24 squares, then cut each square on the diagonal to form triangles.
5. Bake on the rack placed in the top third of the oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan, and put back in the bottom third of the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until triangles are puffed and golden brown.
6. While baklava bakes, prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, bring honey, orange juice, lemon juice, cardamom pods, orange peel, cloves, cinnamon stick, orange blossom water, and salt to a boil, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Strain.
7. As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour strained honey syrup all over the baklava, making sure to douse all the cracks with the liquid. Allow to cool for up to an hour and serve warm. Or refrigerate after completely cool.
* This is a very important step if you are using aluminum. The honey syrup has citrus in it and will react to the aluminum. If you don’t have any parchment paper, then you might try a non reactive pan—something made out of glass or stainless steel.