Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pecan Pie Baklava with Dried Cranberries for #CookedinTranslation

Sticky, crunchy pecan pie baklava is made in the traditional manner but with the unusual ingredients of pecans, cranberries and pecan pie syrup for a delicious cross cultural treat.

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 enjoyed the challenge.

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:
1 egg
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. 
 Now push it down to one end of the dowel and slide it into the pan.

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. 
Brush the tops liberally with butter.

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.

Pop the pan back into the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until it is a nice medium gold and completely sticky around the edges.

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.

Allow to cool just a few minutes before removing from the pan to serve.  The sticky, chewy edges are the best part but it is all delicious.


And just a quick picture of something I am thankful for today.  The pooch has arrived in good form!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bananas Foster Muffins #MuffinMonday

Banana muffins filled and topped with a bananas Foster sauce of brown sugar, rum and pecans! These are a decadent breakfast or a handheld dessert!
Food Lust People Love: Banana muffins filled and topped with a bananas Foster sauce of brown sugar, rum and pecans! These Bananas Foster Muffins are a decadent breakfast or a handheld dessert!
We have entered the MuffinMonday Holiday Series where Anuradha from Baker Street has challenged us to not only bake some great muffins, but to kick them up a notch into FESTIVENESS.  I am all excited about this because, with the move to Dubai, I have not spent much time thinking about Thanksgiving or Christmas and I am counting on this challenge to put me in the MOOD, baby.

Our muffin recipe this week is traditional banana bread from Food Network.  So, in the spirit of festivity, I decided to make a banana muffin inspired by the New Orleans classic Bananas Foster, originally created by Chef Paul for Brennan’s Restaurant.  If you are not familiar with it, Brennan’s is the sort of restaurant where people celebrate Special Occasions (And, yes, the capitalization was deliberate!  Those kinds of Occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries, graduations and even engagements.) and Bananas Foster is their most popular dessert.  The wonderful caramelized, rum-infused banana sauce is supposed to be served over vanilla ice cream.  I have added chopped pecans and folded it through the muffin batter, then saved a little for a topping.

I am still baking in the serviced apartment kitchen here in Dubai, but the good news is that all our appliances are being delivered and installed shortly, so by the time you read this, we will be in our new home.  Then my helper can join us once more.  Regular readers will know that means the Boxer dog, who stayed behind in Cairo having a puppy sleepover with his friend, Marley, until we were in the house and his paperwork could be completed.  It's only been a few days but I miss his fuzzy face.

Beso and his buddy, Marley.

Bananas Foster Muffins

For the Bananas Foster sauce:
3 tablespoons or 45g butter
1/2 cup or 100g dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 banana
3 tablespoons rum
3/4 cup chopped pecans

For the muffin:
1 ripe banana
1 large egg
1/3 cup or 70g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup or 60ml milk
3/4 cup or 170g granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups or 190g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.   Thoroughly butter a 12-cup muffin tin.  You can use muffin liners but some of the sticky caramel banana might end up staying stuck on them when they are removed.  Which would be a doggone shame.

Cut your sauce banana in about 1/2 in or 1 cm slices.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon for the sauce in a flambé pan or skillet.

Place the pan on a low heat, and cook, stirring, until the brown sugar dissolves.

 Add the bananas to the pan.

Turn the heat up a little, until the melted sugar is bubbling slowly.

When the banana sections soften, carefully add the rum.  You are supposed to light the rum by tipping the pan, but I was working on an electric stove and a match did not do the trick.  Give it a try but don’t worry if your rum won’t light.

Remove from the heat and add in the chopped pecans.  Stir well.

Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon for the muffin in a large bowl.

In another smaller bowl, mash the remaining banana and whisk in the egg and milk and melted butter.

Pour your wet mixture into your dry ingredients and stir gently until just mixed.  This should seem a bit dry.

Still in the pan, separate your caramel banana sauce into approximately, two-thirds and one-third.  No need to measure exactly.

Gently fold the two-thirds amount into the batter.   Divide between the prepared muffin cups.

See!  It got a lot wetter with the addition of the sauce.  It's all good. 

Top each with a share of the remaining caramel banana sauce.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for about five minutes in the muffin tin and them remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Food Lust People Love: Banana muffins filled and topped with a bananas Foster sauce of brown sugar, rum and pecans! These Bananas Foster Muffins are a decadent breakfast or a handheld dessert!

These are sticky and chewy and delicious.  A right celebratory muffin.

Food Lust People Love: Banana muffins filled and topped with a bananas Foster sauce of brown sugar, rum and pecans! These Bananas Foster Muffins are a decadent breakfast or a handheld dessert!

Food Lust People Love: Banana muffins filled and topped with a bananas Foster sauce of brown sugar, rum and pecans! These Bananas Foster Muffins are a decadent breakfast or a handheld dessert!


Food Lust People Love: Banana muffins filled and topped with a bananas Foster sauce of brown sugar, rum and pecans! These Bananas Foster Muffins are a decadent breakfast or a handheld dessert!
Go ahead!  Take a bite!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grouper with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic Lemon Crème Fraîche

Hello from Dubai!

You know that song that goes, walking on sunshine, whoa oh?  That’s me.  Despite working on a sleep deficit, yesterday went like a dream.  We arrived in Dubai and fell into the hotel bed with time enough for just two hours of sleep before waking up to meet the real estate agent at the house for the Great Key Handover.  Lordy, mercy, there are a lot of keys for our new house!  Then the airfreight arrived and I was reunited with my Kenwood mixer.  And then the rental furniture was delivered so as soon as we buy and get a stove and refrigerator installed, we can move in!

But the best part was my trip to what will be MY GROCERY STORE.  It’s right near the house and I walked through like the bumpkin from the country just arriving in the big, bright city for the first time.  It is part of the Géant chain, which has ties to the hypermarket Casino in France and is gorgeously laid out with most everything a person could hope to want.  The first thing I spied were some baby tomatoes on the vine and my brain said, “Roast them and set them on top of something like fish or chicken.”  So I went off in search of fresh fish and found some lovely grouper filets.  At which point my brain said, “You need crème fraîche and lemons and garlic.”  And low and behold, all those things could be mine.  I rounded off the menu with some rocket or arugula tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette.   I am cooking in the small kitchen in my hotel apartment so the photos aren’t the best, but this was one delicious and easy meal.

Small piece of fresh lemon
1 clove garlic
Olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche or mild sour cream
1 branch on-the-vine tomatoes per every two fish filets
1 Grouper or other white fish filet per person
Flakey sea salt  (I use Maldon’s.)
Crushed red pepper
Black pepper (I didn’t have any but you should definitely use some.)

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Finely mince your garlic and put it in a small bowl with the crème fraîche and a healthy pinch of salt.

Cut the end off of the lemon and squeeze the juice into the garlic/crème fraîche bowl.

Add just a little olive oil, perhaps a half a teaspoon, and give it a good stir.  Refrigerate until needed.

Cut your leftover lemon peel into thin slices.

Put the tomatoes in a heatproof dish that will be big enough for your fish filets later.  Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and crushed red pepper.  Top with the slices of lemon peel.

Roast the tomatoes in the preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, season both sides of your fish filets with salt and black pepper (if you are fortunate enough to have remembered to buy some) and drizzle them with olive oil.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and carefully transfer them to another dish.

Place the fish filets in the baking dish and top with the tomatoes.

Put it back in the oven and bake until the fish is opaque and cooked through, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your filets.

Serve each filet with half of the tomatoes and a generous dollop of the garlic lemon crème fraîche.  If you’d like, a side green salad rounds out the meal.