Tag Archives: orange is the new black

Baklava

29 Aug

Baklava.

So delicious, and so intimidating.  We’ve all heard horror stories about working with phyllo dough.  And even if we haven’t (you really haven’t?  Huh.), it’s just hard to imagine being able to recreate something with so many precise layers, something so unbelievably delicious that it necessarily seems unattainable.

Maybe you don’t overanalyze your desserts like this.  Whatever.

I was intimidated by the idea of baklava.  I heard phyllo dough horror stories.  I was craving some and made it anyway.

It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done.  But it did get done, and wow my baklava was (were?) insanely delicious.  So rich with butter, honey, and pistachios.  So sticky and good!

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And okay, actually?

Shelling the pistachios is the hardest part, no joke.  My thumb was in SO MUCH pain for days from wedging it under shells and prying them open.

You can use walnuts or pecans if you prefer, but I happen to love pistachios and for some reason the only unshelled ones that were in my grocery store came in little snack packs…  So I had to buy shelled ones.

But if, unlike me, your friends have not all left to resume college/left the country completely, you can enlist their help.

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Or you can do what I did, and shell pistachios while watching Orange is the New Black to distract yourself from the pain.  (You could watch the show anyway, you know, because it’s amazing.)

I got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

Ingredients:

  • One package phyllo dough
  • 4 cups chopped pistachios, walnuts, or pecans
  • 1 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 cups honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla

Recipe:

First of all, if your nuts have not come pre-chopped, food processor the hell out of them.

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Set those aside.

Now, about that phyllo dough.  The package will tell you how to defrost it, but maybe you’re like me and don’t want to follow the directions because the directions tell you to wait 24 hours for the dough to defrost.

Lame.

I did a lot of anxious searching for defrosting methods that didn’t take forever, thinking that surely there were people out there who went to make something with phyllo dough the night of some event or dinner and had to defrost in a hurry.

And I was right.

(Betting on the existence of human error is always a safe bet, especially when it comes to baking.)

Some people talked of a suspicious-sounding microwave method, while other talked about hot water baths.  Most, however, said to let it sit around for a few hours on the counter.  You might want to do your own searching for a method you like, or that is more precise, but I let mine sit out for about three hours and it was totally fine.

So okay, dough is out of the way.

Once you’re ready to work with the dough, butter a large pan.  Check the dimensions of your dough to determine the size of pan you should use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On your phyllo pile, butter the top sheet and lay it and the sheet below it into your pan, buttered side down.  Repeat two more times.

Sprinkle a single layer of nuts.  I would sprinkle sparsely, because I ran out of nuts a bit too soon.

Butter two sheets and lay them over the nuts.  Add a layer of nuts, then two more buttered sheets.  Repeat until you use up all your nuts, then lay four buttered sheets on top.

Slice into diamonds very carefully and with a very sharp knife.

Bake for 45 minutes, until a deep, golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, make the syrupy stuff.

In a pot over medium-high heat, combine one stick of butter, the honey, sugar, water, and vanilla, and bring to a boil, then simmer until the baklava is done.

When the baklava is out of the oven, pour half the syrup evenly over the pan and wait a few minutes for it to soak in.  Then, pour the other half.

Wait a few more hours for it to set and become gooey and wonderful (don’t worry, it’ll still be warm), and then go bananas and eat as much as you can stand.

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That’s what was left after family carved out their slices and after I ate many slices during many meandering, late nigh phone calls.

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Cover with plastic wrap to keep them fresh for up to a week and a half.

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You’ve probably heard of the new Netflix show Orange is the New Black, and maybe you’ve already watched it.  If you haven’t, this is your gentle reminder to get on that shit because it is pure gold.

I had my reservations about it, which is why I’m so late to the party.  I thought it would be a case of “Here is a real world problem that no one usually cares about, but we can care now because we have a pretty white female protagonist.”

I thought the other prisoners would be pigeon-holed and stereotyped, and that the main character would dominate the show.  They wouldn’t even be playing second fiddle; they’d be playing viola.  (No offense, violists, but you know.)

I was so wrong, and so happy to be so wrong.

In fact, all the characters are incredibly complex, well-written, well-developed and likeable.  I love all of them.  (Okay, most of them.)  Rarely do we get good ensemble cast shows where the ensemble is racially, sexually (there’s a trans* woman played by a trans* woman!  Sexuality is portrayed as a spectrum, not a “choice” of two options!), socio-economically diverse.

The show also handles prison life really well (I think).  It shows prison as being horrific and degrading without making the women look weak and like victims.

It’s a really well-written show with amazing characters, and I highly, highly recommend it.