Classic Baklava

This is my mom’s recipe for classic baklava.  It’s not drenched in syrup and it’s not overly nutty – it’s just crunchy, sweet and perfectly balanced. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. filo dough
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, melted
FILLING
  • 2 lb. chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
SYRUP
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

HOW TO MAKE IT

FILLING

  • Process the walnuts in a food processor until they’re finely ground but not too powdery (keep checking the consistency so you don’t over process) – you could also do this with a nut grinder if you have one
  • Mix the walnuts with the sugar, rose water and melted butter – start with 2 tbsp of butter and add in the 3rd if you think the mixture needs more moisture to stick together
SYRUP
  • Pour the water into small sauce pan over medium-high heat
  • Add in the sugar, keep stirring and bring to a boil
  • Reduce the heat, add in the lemon juice and keep stirring over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken and become syrup-like
  • Be careful not to burn the syrup, it should remain a light color like light corn syrup, not golden brown like caramel or maple syrup
  • Add the rose water in and blend well – take off the heat and allow to cool
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER…
  • Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and cover the stack with waxed paper and a damp towel – this will prevent it from drying out and becoming brittle (you don’t want the damp towel directly on the dough because it will ruin it)
  • Lay out a sheet of filo and brush it generously with butter
  • Lay another sheet on top of that one and brush it with butter (repeat this until you have a total of 4 sheets)
  • Place an inch wide strip of walnut mixture along the bottom edge of the filo dough rectangle (make sure you place the walnuts along the longer side of filo)
  • Roll the filo dough around the walnuts, pinching it to make sure it’s tight, and roll it up totally
  • Cut the roll on the diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long (you should get approximately 10 pieces per roll)
  • Repeat this process until you’re out of filo dough sheets (you should get 4 rolls)
  • Place the pieces onto a greased baking pan
  • Bake at 350°F for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
    • Makes approximately 40 pieces
  • While the baklava is warm, drizzle it with the cooled syrup
Variation…
    • Brush a 9×13 inch baking pan with butter
    • Layer 6 sheets of filo dough, brushing butter in between each sheet
    • Spoon the walnuts over the filo
    • Cover with 6 more sheets of filo dough, brushing butter in between each sheet
    • Score the top 3 sheets with a knife
    • Bake at 350°F for approximately 40-45 minutes or until golden brown
    • Cut into pieces of desired size and drizzle with the syrup while still warm
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Maple Twist


This dessert is another one that can easily get away with being justified as a breakfast food.  It’s basically a glorified homemade cinnamon bun that looks really pretty (before it’s devoured).  It requires some time to make, but it definitely pays off.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast (1/4 oz.), dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp maple flavoring

CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple flavoring
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted
  • Optional: 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
GLAZE
  • 1  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp maple flavoring (or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp milk
  • Optional: 1 -2 tbsp butter, melted

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, salt and sugar
  • In a small sauce pan, warm the milk and add the butter to the warm milk – keep stirring until the butter has melted then let the mixture cool
  • Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of water and add 1 tbsp of maple flavoring to the water, set aside
  • Add the milk liquid, yeast liquid and lastly the beaten eggs to the dry ingredients
  • Knead the dough with your hands and add in flour a little bit at a time until the mixture is moist but not sticky
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm place away from any drafts (I always put my dough in the closet that has all the equiment for the TV because it gets so warm in there!)
    • Allow the dough to rise for 1  1/2 – 2 hours (or until the dough has doubled in size)
    • If your dough isn’t rising, it’s probably because the surroundings aren’t warm enough
  • Divide the dough into 3 balls
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball into 12 in. circles
  • Fit one layer of dough onto a greased baking sheet
CINNAMON SUGAR FILLING
    • Mix the ingredients together using your hands, if you want, to get it really well blended
  • Brush the dough with melted butter and evenly sprinkle 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar filling on top
  • Continue the same steps with the remaining 2 layers of dough (end with the cinnamon sugar filling exposed)
  • Use a small juice glass to mark a 2 in. circle in the center of the dough (be careful NOT to cut through the dough)
  • Make cuts from the outside edge of the glass out to the edge of the dough
    • You want to end up with 16 pie shaped wedges – the best way to do this is cut the circle in half and then keep cutting each section in half until you get 16 wedges
  • Twist each wedge 4 or 5 times
    • Remove the glass once you’re done twisting
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 1 hour
  • Bake at 325F for 22 minutes or until golden brown
GLAZE
    • Whisk together the ingredients and add more milk a little bit at a time until you reach your desired consistency
  • Drizzle the baked treat with the glaze while it’s still warm (but not too hot – about 5-10 minutes)

Lois’s Pumpkin Cake Roll

This recipe comes from a dear friend of mine… she loves making this around Halloween and has even made a low fat* version that tastes just as good!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin or squash
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
  • 1 cup confectionary sugar
  • *6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (use low fat cream cheese, if desired)
  • *4 tbsp softened margarine (or butter), room temperature (you can use as little as 1 tbsp, if desired)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Beat the eggs on high speed for 5 minutes
  • Gradually beat in the sugar
  • Stir in the pumpkin and lemon juice
  • In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture on low speed until all of the ingredients are well blended
  • Line a greased 15 x 10 x 1 in. cookie sheet with parchment paper and grease the parchment paper, too
  • Spread the batter evenly onto the pan
  • Sprinkle with nuts, if desired
  • Bake at 375ºF for 15 mins
  • Lay out a dish towel (preferably not a terrycloth towel) and sprinkle it with powdered sugar, this will help the cake from sticking to it
  • Turn out the cake onto the sugared towel and remove the parchment paper
  • Roll up the cake with the towel inside and let it completely cool
    • While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese filling…
CREAM CHEESE FILLING
    • Beat all of the ingredients on low speed until well blended
  • Unroll the cake and spread the filling right up to the ends of the cake
  • Now, roll up your cake without the towel
  • Wrap the pumpkin roll up in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze it – when you’re ready to serve it, slice it into slices of desired size

Mixed Mashed Potatoes

Growing up, I never liked sweet potatoes – I always ended up mixing them together with the regular mashed potatoes.  This mix of sweet and regular potatoes makes this side dish more savory and the candied walnut topping makes it really tasty.   

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large sweet potatoes (approximately 5 cups when sliced)
  • 3 large yukon gold potatoes (approximately 5 cups when sliced)
    • Feel free to play around with this proportion of sweet to regular potatoes – the proportions usually just depend on my mood
  • 4 tbsp salted butter
  • 1/8 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • Salt to taste
CANDIED WALNUT TOPPING
    • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
    • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
      • Large pinch of vanilla sugar, if you’ve got it on hand
    • 1 tbsp butter, melted

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Slice the potatoes into 1/2 in. slices
  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until they fall apart when you fork them (approximately 15 minutes)
  • Strain the potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl (or back into the same pot)
  • Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, potato ricer or a hand held mixer (I just got this potato ricer and it works really well)
  • Add in the butter, maple syrup, milk and salt and blend well
  • Pour the mashed potatoes into a caserole dish and top with the candied walnuts
  • Bake covered at 350°F for 30 minutes (uncover and broil on low for 5-10 minutes)
CANDIED WALNUT TOPPING
    • Combine the walnuts, brown sugar and melted butter

Double Chocolate-Chip Chocolate Cookies

I was obsessed with Panera Bread’s Chocolate Duet Cookie… and then they stopped making it.  So, I created it on my own… and the homemade version tastes even better!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup dutched cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup  milk chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tbsp water (if needed)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder in a medium bowl
  • Whisk the eggs, yolk, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla together in a medium bowl
  • Combine the two mixtures
  • Mix in the softened (not melted) butter – be careful not to overwork the dough.  If it seems a bit dry, add in a little bit of water (approximately 1 tbsp)
  • Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts (if desired)
  • Refrigerate until firm (approximately 2 hours – you can speed this up by placing it in the freezer until it’s firm, but NOT frozen)
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Form the dough into balls of desired size and place on the baking sheet – leaving a couple of inches in between the cookies
    • Flatten the cookie dough balls a bit to get a better shape when baked
  • Bake at 350°F until the outside is crackly, but the center is still moist – approximately 10-12 minutes (keep an eye on the oven, you don’t want to over cook these)
    • Cool the cookies on a rack and enjoy!