pinaygourmand's Passion for Thy Bounty
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 Baklava With A Filipino Twist






How do Filipinos celebrate their Christmas? A month before Christmas and everybody seems to be too busy in Manila. Planning and preparation are on the way to celebrate the most anticipated holiday for most Filipinos, which is a pre-dominantly Christian nation. Philippine Christmas or “Paskong Pinoy” season is probably the longest if not grandiose in the world. When ber-months start, you’ll most likely hear Christmas carols on the radio, malls offering monthly bargain sales and pre-Christmas value sales and bazaars and flea markets sprouting everywhere. After Halloween, households begin to decorate their houses with colorful lanterns, parols, lights, artificial Christmas trees, belen etc. Come to think of it, Filipinos have 4 months and a week or two for a holiday season! Whew!

Nowadays, Kris Kringle or exchanged gifts have probably taken over schools, offices, among sets of friends and even homes. Christmas parties, reunions, New Year’s celebration and all sorts of get-together feasts are all scheduled. And believe it or not, most have probably been planning their festive menu this early on. Philippine cuisine is a mixture of every part of the world’s cuisine. From European, Latin, American, Malay, Indian and Chinese (did I miss any?), you’d notice the influences.

Most Filipinos are known for a vice, which is to celebrate any events and holidays especially this season festively and grandiosely. Pinoys are known for their love for food. Proofs to such are the numerous restaurants, fast foods, eateries, cafeterias, food stalls and booth anywhere in Manila. There seems to be a sure food find in every block around.

I myself have started planning menus to numerous parties and dinners coming up. Since I do have at least 2 to 3 get-together dinners at home monthly, I need to come up with a new dish-something that I don’t usually get to eat and prepare for Christmas. In other words, special. So when a friend mentioned that he had Greek Baklava during Thanksgiving, I thought of including it in my menu.

I have never tried baking Baklava. Just the thought of making phyllo dough is already eye-popping. Of course, there is available frozen phyllo dough at some deli shops but I have this baking principle, to make and bake from scratch as much as possible. An authentic Greek Baklava primarily uses walnuts, adds a tang taste with some lemon and uses more honey than sugar. I had an idea of making Baklava with a little Filipino twist though; and I just had to give it a try. I tried testing how my Baklava version will turn out and it was surprisingly great! For a newbie Baklava maker, it is just so good you’ll probably mistaken it was made by a chef! It is gooey, rich and not too sweet. Those who are able to sample it can’t wait to have it again for the holidays! It did require a lot of patience and hard work but it was worth it once in a while. So for the holidays, I’ll give it a go!



Since it came out really good I thought of submitting this as an entry to the Festive Food Fair hosted by Anna at Morsels and Musings. I am again successful in making a foreign famous food, which is Greek Baklava into a filipinized version turning it into a Filipino preference. Here’s how I come up with it.



To make homemade phyllo dough I used a recipe from Nancy Gaifyllia.
You may also use pre-made phyllo dough available from the grocery or deli shops
unsalted butter, melted


Filling:

1 cup finely chopped pistachios (or you may use peanuts for a more Pinoy touch, I am just not a peanut fan)
1 cup finely chopped cashew nuts
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp muscovado sugar (optional or any kind will do)

In a large bowl, mix the nuts, spices and sugar well. Set aside.


Syrup:

1 cup water
1 cup Philippine honey
2/3 to ¾ cup sugar
2 tsp calamansi juice
1 tsp vanilla

Heat a small saucepan in medium fire, mix in all the ingredients and let it boil. Be careful not to burn the syrup.


Pre-heat oven at 325 F.
Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Lay a sheet of phyllo in the pan and lightly brush with melted butter. Repeat until 4 or up to 7 sheets are in stock. Spoon some of the nut mixture. Top with 2 sheets of phyllo both brushed with melted butter. Spoon some of the nut mixture again then top with 2 more pastry, repeat until the last batch of nut mixture. Top the last batch of nut mixture with 4 or 7 sheets of phyllo, each evenly brushed with melted butter. Trim any excess dough or tuck it in.

***Or you may just divide the phyllo sheets into 2 equal amounts, stack it all up and make them as the base and a top just like how you make pies. But be sure to always brush each layer with melted butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into equal crosswise strips. Cut diagonal cuts across the strips to come up with diamond shapes. Sprinkle the top of the pastry with some water. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until just golden brown.

Pour the cooled syrup into the cooked Baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. It is best that you let the pastry absorb the syrup well and the flavor to steep into it. You may prepare this a day ahead before serving.





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Posted by pinaygourmand :: 3:16:00 PM :: 1 comments

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