Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers': Chocolate Baklava


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.


For this challenge I enlisted the help of my mother and one of her best friends :).  I wouldn't have been able to complete this without them, so they deserve a BIG THANK YOU!  They also deserve credit for coming up with the Chocolate Baklava idea, so another round of thanks for that!


Even though making the homemade phyllo was extremely tedious, it was definitely worth the effort.  This baklava was the best any of us had ever tasted!  Better than what we've tasted from Greece and Turkey.  Each bite, perfectly sweet and sticky, had the most amazing flavor not just from the Nutella, but from the toasted hazelnuts and syrup as well.  I bet you can't have just one! 


Chocolate Baklava

Phyllo Dough
adapted from Kaffeehaus – “Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

*To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 16 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe. 
*Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish. 
*Dough can be made ahead of time and frozen.  Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw and continue making your baklava

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups flour 
1/8 tsp salt 
1/2 cup less 1 Tbsp water, plus more if needed 
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough 
1/2 tsp cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)

Directions

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt.  Mix with paddle attachment.  Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.  Add water mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water.

Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes.  You will end up with beautiful smooth dough.  If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes.  Pick up the dough and throw it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.

Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes to 2 hours, longer is best
.
Rolling your Phyllo

** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a video at the end of this section on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me.  You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin, or a ceramic slab roller as my mother attempted to use at first...really whatever works best for you.  We actually ended up using a wooden dowl, a muslin cloth, and lot and lots of flour.

Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball.  While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.  Also be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter.  As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.

Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.  Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel.  Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see video below for a visual, its much easier then it sounds).  Remove; notice how much bigger it is!  Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can get it.  Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.

When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner.  Roll out your dough until it is transparent.

Set aside on a well-floured surface.  Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well.  You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.


For the syrup (make the syrup while the baklava is in the oven)
adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
(I had a lot leftover, so next time I may just halve the recipe)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups honey 
1 1/4 cups water 
1 1/4 cups sugar 
1 cinnamon stick 
1 piece lemon peel
a pinch of ground clove

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.  Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.  Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool (or if you are short on time, put the syrup in a ice bath).

When you combine the baklava and syrup, one of them needs to be hot. I found it to be better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled.

For the filling
adapted from myrecipes.com

Ingredients

1 cup hazelnut chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped (plus more for garnish)
1/3 cup blanched roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
Cooking spray
1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the Nutella in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave on High for 30 seconds or until melted.  Combine the hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.  

Lightly coat a 9 x 9 baking dish with the cooking spray.  Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time, place 1 sheet in the bottom of the pan and brush lightly with the melted butter.  Repeat this with 3 more sheets of phyllo and butter.  Drizzle about 1/3 of the melted Nutella over the phyllo layer.  Next sprinkle about 1/3 of the nut mixture.  Repeat this entire procedure (4 layers of phyllo a butter, one layer of Nutella, one layer of the nut mixture) two more times.  For the top, layer 4 more sheets of phyllo and butter and then press down gently into the pan.

With a sharp knife cut your baklava into desired shapes and number of pieces.  If you can’t cut all the way through, don’t worry, cut the top layer and later on you will be able to cut all the way through.  A 9 x 9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces (cut lengthwise and crosswise).  Now brush with a generous layer of melted butter and make sure to cover the entire area.

Bake for 30 minutes or until phyllo is golden.  Remove from the oven.  Now cut all the way through if you weren’t able to cut all the way before.  Place back in the oven for another 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and pour the cooled (it may still be a bit warm) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring.  I had way too much syrup, so I poured the syrup until it reached the top layer of phyllo.  It will look like it is a lot of syrup, but over night it will soak into the baklava creating a wonderful texture. 

Allow the baklava to cool to room temperature.  Now cover and store at room temperature overnight and in the morning the syrup will be totally absorbed.  Serve at room temperature.
Tips on storing:  It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container.  Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks.  You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier.  You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life.  You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

 
I was visiting one of my best friends in Boston during a very cold weekend back in February.  We had successfully eaten our way through Boston's North End (one of my favorite past times) and ended our day by picking up a fresh batch of pasta for a dinner she was making after my departure.  What her dinner menu was missing was dessert, and that's where I came in.


I found a tasty looking biscotti recipe which was going to go perfectly with the Italian inspired meal.  The only problem was that we had to shell the pistachios!  The biscottis came out so delicious that I decided to make my own batch.  They were softer than typical biscotti and had a deep chocolate flavor provided by the cocoa powder and a nice hint of salt from the pistachios.

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
(3 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1 and 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup whole pistachios
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Add the pistachios and mix.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined (your mixture should resemble dough at this point).

Remove the dough and using your hands, divide the dough into two or three pieces and form into long flat shapes about 8 long x 1-1/2 inches wide.  Place on the lined baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, gently cut the loaves on an angle into 1/2 inch slices.  Return to the baking sheet fitting as many as you can on the baking sheet, you may need to do this in batches or use a second baking sheet.  Bake the biscotti for another 3-4 minutes on each side.  This recipe makes about 24 pieces.  (1 serving = 1 biscotti, 3 PointsPlus per serving)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


What to do with leftover Valentine's Day candy?  I know it's been quite a while since February, but these M&M's hadn't expired and I was in the mood to experiment with a new recipe.  I stumbled upon Docetto Confections' Monster Cookies and knew I found what I was looking for.

 No surprise here, these cookies came out delicious.  They were light and crisp, crunchy, but not dry.  The peanut butter flavors were sweet and smooth, but did not dominate; so you were also able to taste the oats and chocolate.  Yummy!  I will admit, however, that I found the batter to be a bit slippery which made it difficult to mix in the M&M's.  Luckily I came up with what I would like to think was a pretty clever solution!  See my directions below for more details.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Dolcetto Confections
(3 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup white sugar
⅔ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 cup reduced fat peanut butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 cup peanut butter M&M's
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the peanut butter and light corn syrup, beat until just combined.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, then add the oats and baking soda- beat until just combined.

If your batter is not slippery you can remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the M&M's.  If you find it difficult to add in the M&M's you can do as I did and remove the batter from the bowl and spread evenly onto your counter.  Take the M&M's not already incorporated and place them on top of your batter, press down firmly.  Next take a round cookie cutter, or an upside down drinking glass, and cut out circles of the dough.
 
Place dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.  Bake until golden, about 18 minutes. The middle of the cookie should still give slightly when pressed. Allow to cool slightly on the cookie sheets, about 5 minutes, before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.  My recipe made about 44 cookies.  (1 serving = 1 cookie, 3 PointsPlus per serving)


Look at how many cookies I made!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chocolate Muffins


I'm not sure how many of you out there are into muffins, but I can comfortably say I am definitely a muffin person!  Blueberry muffins are my favorite, but I also enjoy any type of crumble, fruit, and even a nice oat or bran.  I wouldn't normally go for a chocolate muffin, but when I came across this recipe I figured it was worth a try.


I'll admit that they were not as fluffy or as moist as I would have liked, but they made the kitchen smell absolutely amazing and they had a nice rich chocolate flavor.  They also satisfied both my chocolate and muffing craving without having to make a stop at the nearest Starbucks!


Chocolate Muffins
taken from Weight Watchers
(4 PointsPlus per serving)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour   
1 1/2 tsp baking powder   
1 tsp baking soda   
1/8 tsp table salt   
9 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, beaten   
1 tsp vanilla extract   
2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate   
3 Tbsp unsalted butter   
1 cup hot water, almost boiling   
1 1/2 Tbsp powdered sugar   

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake liners or coat pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.  Using an electric mixer, in another large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla until light and somewhat fluffy.

Melt butter and chocolate in a double-boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly, so it doesn’t burn.

With the electric mixer running on slow, pour the warm chocolate mixture into the eggs until thoroughly combined.  Add the flour mixture and hot water, alternating in batches, until just combined.

Pour the batter into muffin tins about 2/3s of the way full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 24 minutes.  Place the pan on a wire rack for 2 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan to cool completely. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Yields 1 cupcake per serving. (1 muffing - 1 serving, 4 PointsPlus per serving)