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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Food and Drink: Baklava

It was Sunday night, late.

The lights twinkled on the Christmas tree. Satellite radio played holiday music softly in the background. I was on the couch, reading, and thinking that if yet another dang burn version of Little Drummer Boy aired I'd . . . . when it hit me like a thunder bolt: Baklava.

I sat up straight. My arms tingled. Heart attack? Probably not. No other symptoms. Was this how Saul felt when he fell off his horse? Who knows. But the angles of baking had certainly sent me a direct message. I glided over to the computer and started searching: Baklava.

After checking out a few web sites, I bookmarked two: A five-star rated Baklava recipe at Allrecipes that had been reviewed by 650 people, and, Mediterranean cooking with helpful videos. The ingredients looked simple enough: butter, sugar, honey, nuts. Phyllo dough. I'd never worked with phyllo dough. How hard could it be?

On Monday, I assembled the ingredients and read thorough the recipes a few times. In a radical move, I read the package direction on the phyllo dough. Timing would be the thing in this project.

Tuesday afternoon arrived. While the dough defrosted in the refrigerator, the nuts were toasted in the oven, and then were mixed with sugar and spices. The honey syrup was prepared and butter melted in a sauce pan.

After a latke dinner (oven-fried, easy, no mess and chef gets to eat with everyone else), the baklava was assembled. Layers of dough brushed with butter, the nut and sugar mixture sprinkled in between. The only tricky part was cutting the assembled dish into squares before baking. This required a bit of care. Then the pan was put into the oven and, 50 minutes later, golden flaky deliciousness emerged. The cooled honey and sugar syrup was poured over the the pastry, and everything was left to meld together overnight.

Finally, morning arrived.

It's Christmas Eve day. Iowa Public Radio is broadcasting a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols live from King's College in Cambridge, England. Baklava for breakfast? Yes. Crunchy, honey sweet, and nutty. The angels of baking are happy.

Merry Christmas!