Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Great American Flake-Off

Ever since My Opera-Loving Friends first took me to the wonderful Turkish restaurant in the Big City, I have wanted to try making the Turkish version of baklava.

What's the difference? you ask? Well, I'm sure there are many, but the version I make at Christmas is loaded with walnuts and pecans mixed with cinnamon and cloves and drenched with a honey-lemon syrup. It turns out somewhat dry and flaky on top and progressively more syrupy and sticky the further down the layers you go.

What we had in the Turkish restaurant seemed to have no spices, a lighter (sugar only?) syrup, and a hint of rosewater. It had a certain degree of stickiness, but it wasn't overly dry and it wasn't overly syrupy... just right, in fact.

And I've sampled baklava at Middle Eastern restaurants that was much drier and flakier, and often times it includes chopped pistachios.

So many possibilities to choose from! But I decided that in honor of the last week of my new dance class (don't worry, I'm not the teacher!), I would attempt the Turkish version, following a sketchy outline of a recipe I had noted from a Turkish cookbook.

Happily, I had just enough phyllo dough left in the freezer for one pan of baklava, and I had just restocked on walnuts and pistachios. So after work last night, I pulled everything out and went to work, brushing the layers of dough with melted butter, sprinkling chopped nuts, and topping the entire baked pastry with a sweet sugar syrup laced with a hint of honey and rosewater.

Though it looked like the same old baklava, the taste was a little lighter, and the softer crunch of the pistachios worked well with the faint taste of roses.

But hey, don't take my word for it. I took the pan to class and earned rave reviews for the dessert, including one classmate who informed me that we were now new best friends on the basis of my baklava. And the teacher, who claims a pastry chef in the family, had that slack-jawed, wide-eyed look of absolute culinary bliss when she ate her piece and murmured about how good it was. (Can you tell I live for that moment, when people are so happy about what I've fed them that they get a little wobbly?)

I'm sure I'll take some to share at work tomorrow, just so that I don't have to overindulge on the remains myself.

Because, you know, I think people like it when I get a little flaky.


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