Dip, Brush, Repeat: A Baklava Story
You know you’re part of a foodie family when it’s 10pm on Christmas night and you’re making Baklava together.
I find the process of making Baklava incredibly cathartic. Dipping a brush in butter, then painting the pastry… dipping in butter, painting the pastry… over and over, again and again. It’s a work of art.
My somewhat limited experience with Greek food is that it is often therapeutic to make and comforting to eat. I’m thinking Spanakopita, with lovely layers of filo creating a pastry parcel that envelopes a bundle of spinach and cheese.
Dip a brush in butter, then paint the pastry.
Boxing Day Lunch
This year for Boxing Day lunch, my family and I attended a Greek inspired lunch hosted by our good friends. One member of the party was Greek and that was enough to warrant a theme. This was music to my ears. Note to readers: no Zorba was played during this party. Instead, the Greek theme came to life in the food.
We feasted on freshly baked bread from their woodfired oven. I made good friends with a slab of marinated fetta. There were the requisite olives, tzatziki and a classic Greek salad. Succulent lamb skewers circulated early on, and Ben made it his number one priority to secure as many sticks as possible. We were then offered lovely little plates of Greek sausage with tomato, before finally tucking into some beautifully roasted lamb, which was also cooked in the woodfired oven, and potatoes.
Then the desserts came. We were treated to authentic, homemade Galaktoboureko. The custard was light and subtle, and absolutely stunning. With cinnamon sprinkled over the fresh filo pastry, I was in heaven. I was speechless. The use of fresh filo pastry appeared to make it refreshingly light and moist. In our Baklava, we used frozen filo, and it did not have the same effect. It goes without saying that next time I am very keen to use fresh pastry.
Our Baklava was greeted with cheers and many generous compliments. Actually, come to think of it, they were probably just being honest rather than generous, it was seriously delicious. I really like this recipe. Just quietly, it is a Syrian recipe. However I didn’t feel it would matter. As long as it was tasty, yes?
I used a recipe by Amal Malouf (link). I have been super keen to try it, ever since watching the Food Safari episode on Syrian cuisine. We used a combination of pistachios and walnuts, as this is what we had on hand, however it ended up containing primarily pistachios. It wasn’t too sweet, and it was the perfect level of moistness (surely that is a word). I will certainly be using this recipe again.
I have officially decided that Baklava is one of my favourite desserts. Ben and I have tasted some lovely versions during both our trips to Greece. I do not know if I prefer walnuts or pistachios in my Baklava. I suppose more cooking and tasting is required to come to an educated conclusion.
Either way, there is something really special about Baklava. It elicits hungry groans of longing from whoever is near, whenever it is mentioned. It is superbly delicious. The crunchy nuts and flaky pastry defy their natural properties and completely and utterly melt in your mouth, courtesy of the sugar syrup, which is spiked with orange blossom and rose… it is almost too much to handle.
Evidently it wasn’t too much to handle. I had a piece the next day for breakfast with an espresso.