A couple of years back, I had the good fortune to attend a class at the Asian Food Channel kitchen in Singapore. I wrote all about it here. One of the recipes we made was traditional Middle Eastern baklava with honey syrup and pistachios. The chef demonstrated how to roll the first tube of filo pastry with nuts and then squish it off into the baking tray and then asked for a volunteer for the next one. I held back a minute or two, in case someone else would step forward, but since no one did, I raised my hand. The chef looked much relieved and complimented me nicely on my baklava roll. I was amazed at how easy baklava really is because it always looked so complicated on the plate, with all those layers! After that, my fellow students got into it and several took a turn. Sometimes you just have to start the ball rolling, you know. They turned out to be nice folks and we had a great time learning, cooking and eating together.
When my fellow Cooked in Translation members were discussing the theme for this month, we decided that we would each “translate” a different Thanksgiving favorite, rather than working on the same dish. I remembered my baklava class and thought that pecan pie would translate quite well. And while I was playing free and easy with pecan pie, I also decided to throw in some dried cranberries. Just because I could. If this were real pecan pie, no variations are allowed. Whatsoever. Because we use my aunt’s recipe and it is engraved in stone.
As you might remember from past months, Cooked in Translation is where we take a recipe from one culture or ethnicity and interpret it from another culture or ethnicity. It makes me put my thinking cap on and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge. If you would like to join us next month, click on the logo to see the rules. We’d love to have you!
To see the other Thanksgiving dishes that have been recreated this month, just scroll down to the bottom of this post.
For the baklava:
1 cup or 225g butter, melted
About 14 oz or 400g pecans, separated (1/4 cup chopped will be reserved for topping)
16oz or 500g package filo pastry (You will probably have a few sheets leftover if you buy the 500g package.)
1/2 cup or 60g dried cranberries, separated (two tablespoons reserved for topping after chopping)
For the pie filling:
3/4 cup or 180ml light Karo
1/2 cup or 115g sugar
For the topping:
Reserved chopped pecans and cranberries
N.B. You will also need a wooden dowel, which can be purchased at a craft or hardware store, or one long chopstick that is used for cooking, like this or this. This also bakes best in a non-stick pan. It will get lovely and sticky and you want to be able to remove it easily.
Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.
Chop your nuts finely in a food processor. Take out 1/4 cup and set aside for topping later. Chop your dried cranberries in the food processor. Reserve about two tablespoons for topping.
Mix the remaining pecans and cranberries together in one bowl.
Using a pastry brush, brush the top layer of filo pastry with melted butter. Sprinkle with a thin layer of the chopped pecans and cranberries.
Roll up from the long side with your dowel or chopstick and roll it all the way off the stack of filo pastry.
Brush the next layer of filo with butter. Place your roll back on the near edge of the filo and roll up once more.
Using a hand on either side, compress the stuffed filo roll.
|This was a hard step to photograph with only one hand. You will use both hands to push the filled roll to the middle.|
Make as many rolls as will fill your pan. My pan is 21cm x 21cm or about 8 1/4 in x 8 1/4 in and, as you will see, it took six rolls. Which also just finished my pecans, so that worked out. :)
|No problem if you didn't compress the roll enough.|
|Just push it in and make it fit.|
Using a sharp knife, cut the rolls into short lengths - about an inch and a half or four centimeters. Be careful not to mar your non-stick pan though!
Bake for about 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven.
Meanwhile, put your egg, Karo and sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. This should turn a pale yellow color but, as you can see, my lovely egg yolk was vivid orange so mine just turned yellow.
When the timer rings or your baklava is slightly golden and crunchy, remove it from the oven but leave the oven on. (Sorry about this but the baklava needs to go back in.) Let it cool for about 10 minutes.
When cooling time is up, give your sugar/Karo mixture another good whisk. You just thought the sugar was dissolved. But a little always seems to settle out again.
Pour the mixture over your baklava. Give it a few minutes to soak in, pushing the pieces apart gently with a spatula, if necessary.
|You can see that it was still bubbling a little but that subsided when it cooled.|
Mix your reserved pecans and cranberries together and sprinkle them all over the top of the rolls.
And just a quick picture of something I am thankful for today. The pooch has arrived in good form!