Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I tip my hat to Grandma Mary

Upon meeting Jason's family for the first time, I felt I had stepped onto the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. While his father's family's heritage is from Armenia, the importance of family and the large family gatherings that come with it brought about plenty of roars of laughter and what felt like a room full of extroverts. Along with this heritage comes delicious homemade foods, such as marinated lamb, pilaf, and of course, baklava or boorma (and much more!). Jason's grandmother was the skilled home "chef" behind these dishes that she so carefully crafted from scratch, using high-quality ingredients. While Grandma Mary passed away 4 years ago, the memories I have of being in her kitchen and learning how to use fresh phyllo dough to make flaky and sweet boorma (a rolled baklava) remain dear to me. So, when I learned that the Daring Baker's challenge this month was to make baklava, I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity to keep up the skills she so precisely instructed me.

Erica of Erica's Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker's June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Yes, indeed, it was daring to make phyllo dough from scratch. Making the dough on a 75% humidity day caused me to add more flour than the dough required, but once the right balance was found, the kitchen aid mixer went to town and kneaded the dough into a beautiful smooth and elastic ball. After resting, I found the rolling to be easier than expected with the dowel I was given from Jason's grandmother.

The trick is to roll out the dough as thin as possible, enough so that you could read a printed paper beneath it.

The real challenge actually came back to the humidity and how it affected layers of phyllo that didn't have enough extra flour to keep them from sticking! While I was able to separate about half of my pre-rolled sheets, the others gummed together at the edges and required me to re-roll them, which made for a slightly thicker, a little less flaky phyllo on top.

However, Jason was quite impressed with my efforts and enjoyed every crumb of baklava, down to the last drop of sweet syrup. He had it with eggs in the morning, and then again after lunch and maybe also dinner :) I guess he's been missing his grandma, who fed him so well with these treats and much more!

If you feel so inclined to give phyllo dough a try, here is the recipe. I made alterations to the filling and the syrup of the baklava, based on Grandma Mary's recipe, so let me know if you want any of those tips, too!

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