Who doesn’t like a ooey-gooey dessert?  Recently, I was in a cold medicine haze and something popped in my head, “wouldn’t it be lovely to have some sweet, nutty, sticky baklava?”  Since that haze, I have been craving the Middle Eastern treat.  Lucky for me, baklava is surprisingly easy to make!

Baklava is the name given to a variety of sweet pastries made of nuts, phyllo dough and honey.  These ingredients can be combined in many different ways to make the pastry.  Some people say you shouldn’t use salted nuts, but I say go for it!  Every sweet dish needs a little salt to bring out the sweet anyway.

This is my own recipe:

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 cup walnuts

1 cup cashews

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugarBaklava

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 package of frozen phyllo dough

Approximately 1/3 cup of melted butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup orange blossom honey

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon zest

Chop nuts up in a food processor.  Mix nuts with granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix well to ensure it will spread evenly. Brush some melted butter on the bottom of an 8×8 pan.

Begin layering by placing one phyllo dough sheet on top of the butter.  Brush the phyllo with the melted butter.  Place another phyllo sheet on top of the other.  Brush with melted butter.  Continue to layer this way until there is at least 5 sheets layered on top of one another.  Then, spread the nut mixture on top and repeat.  Keep layering until the nut and sugar mixture is gone.  Top with 5 more layers of the phyllo dough.

When done, cut your baklava!  It is important to cut it BEFORE cooking.  Place into an oven heated to 350 degrees.  Cook for approximately 35-45 minutes, or until nut mixture is melting and dough is golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, make the syrup to cover it.  Begin by mixing sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Add honey, vanilla, and lemon zest and reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Once baklava is done, remove from oven and immediately pour syrup mixture over baklava.  Let cool and enjoy!

Cake in a cup?

Today I am reviewing a recipe going around the internet called Cake in a Cup.  The e-mail, which I received from my aunt, describes a way to “bake” chocolate cake in a coffee mug.  Cake in a Cup Initially, I had my doubts.  I mean, come on cake? In a cup?  Thee whole idea behind the recipe is that you put a little dash of this, a splash of that, mix it all up and nuke it in the microwave to make your own single-serving instant cake for those late night cravings.

Brilliant, right?  Wrong.  While this did take a mere 5 minutes for me to whip up, I wouldn’t exactly call it “cake”.  As you can see, the end product looked more hardened lava rather than fluffy cake.  The taste was just as disappointing.  It had a tough, spongy texture.  It tasted bland and faintly of plastic.  I blame it on the egg to dry ingredient ratio.  After all, most cake recipes have a couple of eggs and couple of cups of flour.  This recipe calls for one egg and only a few tablespoons of flour.

I wouldn’t recommend this speedy treat to anyone; if you have a late-night chocolate craving, I’d stick to the Oreos.  However, just in case you want to experiment with it on your own – here is the recipe. (Since no one is credited in the e-mail, I don’t know who to credit with inventing it)

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (make sure its microwave safe)