#6 on Things to eat Before You Die – Baklava

This story takes place on March 7th, 2009.


For the longest time I had wanted to try Baklava. I had seen it on tonnes of Food TV shows (the N.Z. version of Food Network), it looked amazing, and it seemed relatively simple. Nuts, butter, syrup and pastry. How could you go wrong? I can’t remember which Food TV show I took this recipe from, or whether it was from a food blog, but it was amazing.

Phyllo dough was something I was introduced to with a recipe for chicken strudel that my mum made. I was taken by the thinner-than-paper pastry, so delicate yet infinitely versatile, andoccasionally temperamental. I knew you had to be quick, keep it moist, or it will dry out on you quickly. With baklava being my first time manipulating this pastry I was a tad nervous. I remember having my phyllo under a damp teatowel, my baking dish next to me, the melted butter ready to go, chopped nuts in front of me, taking a deep breath and going rapid fire to assemble the dessert. I realised quickly that once the butter was brushed onto the pastry it would stay moist.

One change I made to the recipe was the omission of rosewater. I know it is a traditional part of the recipe, but I had heard so many bad things, and one Food TV show (with a real greek person) said it was fine to leave it out. I also had no idea where to get it. So, I had baklava without rosewater.

Why have baklava? Why not have baklava should be the real question. But I did have a reason. It was my birthday. I had baked my own birthday cakes for the last 4 years or so by this stage, and I wanted a change. It was the perfect excuse really. You can’t eat a tray of baklava by yourself, so I HAD to have friends around to eat it. And eat it they did! Most people loved it. Some said they couldn’t have more than a piece because it was so sweet, others went back for thirds. I, myself, had three pieces if my memory serves correctly.

How would I describe it? Well, the upper phyllo is playfully crackly as the layers separate and don’t receive as much of the syrup as the other layers. The phyllo in lower levels becomes moist and unctuous. The nuts burst through the phyllo as you bite and their flavours seem more intense. It’s a wonderful sensation and I’m wondering to myself as I write this why I haven’t had this more often.

That evening I also ended up cooking Jambalaya, and like most birthdays, we had too much alcohol to drink. But baklava was the star.


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