Orange Chocolate Toasted Pecan Sticky Buns and Bad Boy First Love, Part One

January 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Dessert, Fruit, Yeastspotting | 49 Comments
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I made these sticky buns over a week ago, the photos processed, resized and ready to go, but I couldn’t write the post to go with it.  There’s been a lot going on in my life – so with all the drawn blanks I let it sit until I could write something that wasn’t boring or viscous.  I finally decided to write about my first ‘true’ love.  We all have one of those, right?  It’s loaded with corn and cheese, but a great memory.  Don’t worry, I will get to these fabulous, gooey sticky ‘bad boy’ buns.

When I was in High School, I had a thing for bad boys.  Not boys who did bad things, but boys who probably weren’t going to become doctors or lawyers, or even attend college for that matter.  Not dumb, just tough, hard working, strong boys – the kind that scared your parents just a little bit god forbid we marry one.  Bad boys like a young Matt Dillon, Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano on My So -Called Life etc – you get the gist.

I lived in a pretty affluent town.  Most of the residents had loads of money, old and new, as did the residents of  the other town that used our High School because they didn’t have a High School – probably because it was even more affluent than our town and didn’t want some old High School decreasing the palatial estate property values.

Most of the guys were clean-cut and super-duper spoiled.  Even the ones who ‘looked’ like bad boys were wealthier than the clean-cut guys and the Phish/Deadhead stoners were even wealthier than the rich guys who looked like bad boys.  I’m not saying there weren’t some great guys in the bunch, I just wasn’t feeling ‘it’ on a romance scale.

I guess there were just too many of them, and after a while, any attraction I had, poofed as I grew up.  It was the same old same old – Stepford boys who received brand new porsches and corvettes the minute they got their learner permits – not driver’s licenses, learner permits!  Some celeb’s kids were dropped off in limo’s.  Really vulgar displays of wealth at times.

I was the opposite of a gold digger.  The blue-collar cuties who had to actually work for extra spending money, with a natural toughness/grittiness and sexy, deep voices, made me weak in the knees.  The type of guy who would always defend your honor and not hide under a table when a fight broke out at a party (Yes, one of the clean cuts I dated did just that).  Ladies, have we all not had at least one moment like THIS, in some form, sans the dyslexic talk?

 Turn this upside down……..

Well, I finally found my ultimate bad boy, or rather, he found me.  It was the summer of my 15th year (going on 16) of life, at the Jersey Shore, before the show of the same name completely bastardized it and turned it into something that it was the polar opposite of when I was a teen.

Back then, it was all about the beach, the boardwalk, beach parties and rock music- not the guidos/guidettes, tanning salons (they’ve got the beach as their front or backyard, for chrissake) and discos you see on TV. There were no Snooki’s in my Seaside.  In fact, the only time I saw guidos and guidettes was on Sundays when they would drive down in troves and swarm the beach and boardwalk.. like flies to a rotting apple.

Lasers of sun reflected off their gold chains, blinding us, as they sauntered down the boardwalk in their tight guinea tee’s, making all kinds of lewd remarks to women. Eating an ice cream cone was grounds for;

“Oh man, I wish I was zat ice cream cone…come mere, baby…tawk ta me!”

It was only one day a week, and everyone has a right to enjoy the shore, so no big deal.  I probably wouldn’t enjoy it now, if it’s like that 7 days a week.  Since the TV show started airing, Seaside Heights is a sticky fly trap for them.

So, I finally met my ‘dream guy’.

 …….and you get this

It was an uncharacteristically chilly night for August so I had an over-sized jean jacket over a thin, lacy white mini skirt and top, my arms crossed tight, inadvertently wrapping the too long sleeves around me like a straitjacket.  Me and a friend were on the Casino Pier watching some hunky guy climb to the top of a pirate ship ride to fix it, with shock and awe.  She was scoping him out (blue-collar boys didn’t have the luxury of free summer vacations like we did…they had to work to play).  Suddenly, she nudged me hard in the ribs and whispered..

“That really hot guy that works on the bumper cars is trying to get your attention…OMG, Lisa..LOOK!”

I had seen this guy a few nights before and almost melted into a puddle of goo, but there were too many girls standing around trying to get his attention, and frankly, I was way too young, insecure and shy to even think of joining the fray of adoration.

I turned my head and there he was, signing to me by rubbing his arms and mouthing ‘Are you cold?”.  I nodded ‘Yes’.  He gave me a huge smile, then shouted out..

“Come over here, it’s warmer”

I don’t even remember how I got there.  I couldn’t feel my feet, much less my legs, but soon I was standing before him.  Ironically, ‘Walking on the Moon’ by the Police was the song that was playing on the classic rock station he had blasting for the ride.  I was most certainly walking on the moon, not to mention over the moon.  I’d never felt this in my entire, albeit brief, life.  Sure, I’d dated, and had crushes, but no one had ever lifted my body and soul off the earth like this.  The colorful lights around me turned into a kaleidoscope of blur, and his beautiful face and blue blue eyes were the only thing in focus.  Then the voice – deep, tough and sexy.

“Feeling warmer?  What’s your name?”

I’m pretty sure I said “Lisa”. but my friend repeated it, so it probably wasn’t very audible.

After the usual “Where are you from…where are you staying…how long are you here for?”..questions…he asked how old I was.  I gained some sense of clarity (landed on earth) for a moment, and asked him the same before I gave him my answer.

“18” He responded, almost too quickly.

When you’re a teenager. a 3-year age difference is akin to a 50-year-old man dating a 25-year-old woman.  A 15-year-old would be a ‘kid’ to him.


I hated myself, but I never wanted someone so much in my life at that moment.

He asked me if I wanted to do something when he got off work.  YES YESS YESSS I screamed inwardly, but I kept it as cool as I could, outwardly.


Oh, and as luck would have it..the hunky guy my friend was checking out, who bravely climbed the ‘what seemed to be’ thousand foot tall ride, as fast as a monkey up a tree,..was also 18, and his friend.  So, he would be there too.  It was all too perfect.

Problem was…we were 15, we had a curfew, and that curfew was midnight, but since it was a weekday, only my mother was at the house we rented since my father only came down on weekends due to work.  She was easy to sneak out on, we’d been doing it since we had arrived a few days before.

He asked me to meet him by the carousel around midnight.  Me and my friend decided to go home early so my mother would fall asleep early, giving us plenty of time to sneak out and be there at midnight.

I was still floating, walking on the moon, not feeling my feet as we hurried down the boardwalk to meet them.  I’d never felt so alive, the salt air blowing my hair every which way, the sound of crashing waves in the dark night, the faint smell of popcorn and cotton candy getting closer with each step, the ‘perfect’ guy waiting for me.  As the lights got brighter and the music louder, I looked up – there he was..his face breaking out in a huge smile.

“Hi, I’m so glad you showed”,  he said in that tough, sexy Matt Dillonesque voice that somehow didn’t completely jibe with his amazing face (sorta like Matt Dillon), but that’s exactly how I liked my fantasy  ‘bad boys’.  Once again, I felt myself melting into a puddle of goo.

Where are my legs?  I can’t feel them!  Oh, there they are – they just turned into JELL-O sticks.

We couldn’t stop staring at each other as my friend and hunky monkey man chatted away – shy, fleeting glances from my end, more direct, confident glances from his.

This is where I stop because speaking of ‘bad boys’, I’ve got some sticky buns that need a little attention here.  Part two coming on the 27th. – I promise..and it gets better..with a twist!

So what happens if you take a brioche recipe by Nancy Silverton, and sticky bun inspiration from Joanne Chang of the Flour Bakery and add orange and chocolate?  You get these sticky buns!

I call them my ‘If Nancy Silverton and Joanne Chang’s sticky buns had a baby with orange and chocolate, STICKY BUNS’.

I love Nancy Silverton’s brioche recipe..I love Joanne Chang’s sticky buns.  The goo is amazing in Joanne’s recipe – but a little too sweet for me, so I took the amount of sugar down a bit, added orange zest, orange supremes and substituted freshly squeezed orange juice for the water.  The filling is mine.  Why not add chocolate to a sticky bun filling?  This is what makes them bad boys, in relation to this ‘bad boy’ theme I’ve got going here.  One thing I did, via Nancy Silverton’s sticky bun recipe, was also add chopped pecans to the filling.

Big mistake.

Since I use 1 cup of chopped and whole pecans in each pan of the goo, the pecans in the filling were nutty overkill.  I omitted them from the filling in my second roll of sticky buns, and as you can see in the cross-section photo above, pure brown sugar, chocolatey, orange goodness.

The best part about these outside of the chocolate?  The orange supremes caramelize so perfectly, they’re like soft orange candy.

Orange Chocolate Toasted Pecan Sticky Buns
Makes two 9-inch round pans – 14 sticky buns, if using whole batch of brioche

The directions for rolling, filling, and cutting the buns are from Nancy Silverton’s recipe, with my additions and subtractions.

One batch Nancy Silverton’s Brioche Dough

Filling – this is the amount for one pan of 7 sticky buns using half the dough – make another batch for the other half of the brioche dough if making two pans.  If not, make something else with the other half of the brioche dough or freeze it for later use.
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup grated milk or dark chocolate

Gooey Topping
Adapted from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, with my revisions
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks), unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 to 2 teaspoons orange zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Supremes from 4 navel oranges, divided – How to supreme an orange
2 cups toasted whole pecans, half of them chopped, divided (1 cup for each pan)

1. Divide dough in half; keep one half covered and chilled while working with the other. On a floured work surface, roll dough into a 11 inch wide, 13 inch long, and 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Dot surface evenly with half the softened butter and fold dough in thirds. Turn it so the closed fold is on the left and roll out again, without rolling over the edges. Fold dough in thirds again, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Repeat rolling, folding, and chilling with second piece of dough and remaining butter. (This is what I love about Nancy’s brioche for sticky buns, the additional butter with turns)

2. Rub orange zest into sugars until fragrant, then stir in cinnamon; set aside. Make another batch of the sugar, cinnamon and zest mixture  in a separate bowl and also set aside. Have two separate bowls, each containing 2/3 cup grated chocolate, ready.

3. Remove first piece of dough from refrigerator and roll into an 11 inch wide, 13 inch long, and 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Paint surface with beaten egg. Leaving top quarter of dough bare, sprinkle one bowl of the cinnamon, orange sugars over the dough, spreading it lightly with your fingers. Top with the 2/3 cup of grated chocolate; spread with fingers to distribute evenly. Use a rolling-pin to lightly press the filling into the dough. Starting from the short side, roll into a log and pinch the seam to seal.

4. Make the gooey topping.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine until uniform.  If it separates, that’s ok, keep stirring until it comes together somewhat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, orange juice, orange zest and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool to room temperature.

5. Wrap log in plastic and freeze until firm. Repeat with second piece of dough. While logs are chilling, lightly butter two 9-inch cake pans and divide the gooey topping evenly between them. Top each pan of gooey topping with half the orange supremes, and 1 cup toasted whole and chopped pecans.

6. Remove a log from freezer and trim ends if ragged. Slice log into seven 1 1/2-inch slices with a serrated knife. Lay each slice flat, flatten slightly, and round the sides. Place rounded buns in a circle with the last one in the center; seams of buns should face outside of pan.

7. Repeat with second log. Let rest, uncovered, for 2 hours, until slices touch. Arrange oven racks so one rack is in the middle and the other just below, and preheat to 350°F. Put pans on middle rack and put a foil-lined jelly-roll pan underneath to catch drips. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Invert immediately on serving dish – one that’s big enough to catch any extra gooey topping that drips down the sides.

8. Use any extra goo on the bottom of pan or plate you turned buns over on, to drizzle over individual buns.

Finally, did you know that sticky buns originated in Germany and and are known as ‘Schnecken’?  They were brought to Pennsylvania via German Settlers in the 18th century.  Germany is one of many countries I’d love to visit in Europe, so I’m submitting these to Bread Baking Day #46, in which the theme is baking a bread from a place we’d love to visit, hosted by Noor of Ya Salam Cooking.

I’m also submitting these sticky buns to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread baking showcase hosted by the uber talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

Don’t forget to tune in to Part Two of Bad Boy First Love, on the 27th!

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Orange Lacquered Chicken for #citruslove

January 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Posted in Dinner, Fruit, Poultry, Vegetables | 72 Comments
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First I want to clarify (although I know 99.9% of you know this), the following Orange Lacquered Chicken does not contain real lacquer, or any stain or shellac.  Nor does it contain any substance you might find at Home Depot.  I wanted to roast a chicken with orange flavor, and after many bastings with orange goo, the skin tuned a beautiful burnished color, and I think lacquered is a great way to describe it.

I couldn’t find my big platter, so I stuffed everything onto this medium dish.  It really wasn’t served this way…lots more carrots and potatoes behind where this photo was taken.

The first thought that came to mind, was a chicken dish by Rick Bayless, basted with his red mole and agave syrup, that looks similar after being roasted.  He calls it Lacquered Chicken because it looks well, lacquered – not unlike a door, floor, or piece of furniture you all probably have at least one of in your homes.

Great, I’m comparing chicken to lacquered wood.  I bet that’s really juicing up your appetite!

Thing is, there are people who actually do use not food safe lacquer, stains and all kinds of liquid substances that will probably poison you.  These people are professional food stylists.  Ever see those pictures of perfectly, deep, golden brown turkey’s on a beautiful platter with lots of fixings, smack in the middle of a Thanksgiving table, not a burnt spot or flaw to be found?  Ever wonder why that look is almost impossible to achieve ?  Because, although it’s real fowl, you cannot eat it.

I usually truss before buttering or oiling, but I wanted to show the butter in every nook and cranny.  So, the wings got cut off in the buttering photo – and this was the only collage I liked.  Oh, well.  Just truss and reach in and underneath where the wings are folded and tied down, to distribute the butter.

I always found that to be a waste, especially with all the starving people in the world.  Take a perfectly edible turkey, roast it until it’s nice and brown, then slather it with wood stain and Minwax super gloss clear finishing lacquer to give it that lovely, burnished, flawless appearance.  YUM, pass the compound and sandpaper, please!

I guess they throw these turkeys and chickens in the garbage once they get the photo they need.  Change that ‘I guess’ to ‘I hope’.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, my chicken contains none of the above, and look at the lovely deep, glossy skin I got.  No, it’s not perfect, and you won’t see it on one of Norman Rockwell’s holiday tables, but it’s completely edible and delicious!

For this month’s love bloghop, the theme is citrus.  I had sweets on the brain, orange sticky buns, individual lemon charlottes, orange chocolate chunk cookies of some sort, etc.  After picking up an organic chicken a few nights ago my plans changed.  I was craving roast chicken, so why not an orange roast chicken?  I still had sweets on the brain, so the cookies were made, and the finished brioche dough for sticky buns is resting in the fridge as I type this.  I will be posting both, but once this chicken came out of the oven, it got the job – I knew this was going to be my #citruslove.

To start, I made an orange compound butter to massage into the chicken, on top and underneath the skin…mostly the breast because thighs and legs don’t take kindly to their skin being pulled away and stuffed.  They tear in protest if you go to matter how gently, so I usually do the best I can.  This means the fat part of each drumstick ends up with a glob of butter, herbs or whatever, smack in the middle, which has to be massaged on the outside of the skin to cover as much of the meat as you can.

SCREEEECH! Hold on!…Time to segue.  As I type this, feeling no flow whatsoever, completely disjointed, discombobulated – I’m realizing how boring all of the above is.  Last week I received an email from a reader…

“Why aren’t you as funny anymore?  You used to crack me up.  Are you ok?”

There’s too many answers to that question, and that was part of my response to her.  The rest “I promise it’ll return, just not in a great place, or flowing at the moment”, with a huge smiley emoticon at the end –> 🙂

Maybe I should just post my food photos with poetry, or songs?  I’ve heard some of the best of both have come during ‘down times’.  How about a Haiku?

Oh lacquered chicken
How beautiful thy skin is
I want your drumstick

OK, maybe not.

It’s really tough to get a good photo when everyone is begging to eat.

Back to the boring writing chicken.  I wanted to infuse a good amount of orange flavor into it since I’ve had plenty of orange roast chicken where you could barely taste the orange, so I layered – I layered like I do to my skin when I get out of the shower – body oil of scent I plan to wear, powder of scent I plan to wear, then the scent.  Orange compound butter inside out, oranges stuffed in the cavity, orange lacquer (I really love calling it that) – a few herbs, seasonings, and other stuff to contrast and enhance, and the orange flavor popped, but not in an overpowering way.  Not to mention, this chicken was juicier than Violet Beauregarde, pre – dejuicing room.

As I mentioned above…January is #citruslove month!  Please join in on the #citruslove fun by linking up any citrus recipe from the month of January 2012. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to stop by the #citruslove (the hashtag) event on Twitter!

A shout out and thank you to my co-hosts for #citruslove;

A Little Bit of Everything, Astig Vegan, Baker Street, BigFatBaker, CafeTerraBlog, Cake Duchess, Cakeballs Cookies and More, Easily Good Eats, Elephant Eats, Food Wanderings, Georgiecakes, Hobby and More, Mike’s Baking, Mis Pensamientos, No One Likes Crumbley Cookies, Oh Cake,, Peaches and Donuts, Savoring Every Bite, Simply Reem, Smart Food and Fit, Soni’s Food for Thought, Teaspoon of Spice, That Skinny Chick Can Bake!!!, The Art of Cooking Real Food, The More Than Occasional Baker, The Spicy RD, The Wimpy Vegetarian, Vegan Yack Attack, Vegetarian Mamma, You Made That?

Please visit their blogs to see all the delicious #citruslove they created!  OH, and of course – the linky!  I’ve been rather involved with the linky’s lately, huh?  Well, it’s just one click below to citrus porn!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Orange Lacquered Roast Chicken

1 5 lb organic chicken
Orange Butter (recipe follows)
2 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
Cut up oranges (use the ones you squeezed for the juice, plenty of orange flavor left in them)
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
Orange Lacquer (recipe follows)

Orange Butter
1 stick (4oz) unsalted, room temperature butter
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Orange Lacquer
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 6 to 8 navel or navel sized oranges.  Save the squeezed orange halves to stuff into cavity of chicken)
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 scant tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, chopped very finely – almost paste consistency
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (regular sesame oil is fine)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Grate all the zest you will need in this recipe from your oranges, then split them in half and keep squeezing until you get 1 cup of juice.  Set aside zest and juice.

2. In a medium bowl..stir together the butter and one tablespoon of orange zest until creamy and uniform. Set aside.

3. Remove giblets and neck from chicken, then rinse under cold water inside out.  Dry thoroughly.

4. Rub some of the orange butter all around the inside of the cavity, then salt and pepper it liberally. Stuff with all the herbs and as many orange halves as you can fit into the cavity.  Truss the chicken.  THIS is the method I use..quick and easy. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

5. Rub the rest of the orange compound butter all over the chicken, inside and out, lifting the skin where you can without tearing, and sliding some in – placing the skin back down and pushing it around on top of the skin until it covers most of the meat.  Throw any leftover compound butter into the cavity (the hole is still big enough to get it in even though it’s trussed). Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken, liberally.

6. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.  Pour a little chicken stock or water on the bottom of the pan, if you like.  Easier clean up, and gravy, if desired, although this chicken doesn’t need it.

7.  Place roasting pan with chicken in the preheated oven.  Roast for 1 hour.  Check every 20 minutes to make sure it isn’t burning in spots.

8. While chicken is roasting, make orange lacquer.  Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, except the sesame oil.  Cook over medium heat until the brown sugar is disssolved, then bring to a boil, stirring.  Let it reduce to almost half of what it was.  It won’t be super thick when done, more syrupy.  Stir in sesame oil.

9. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and remove chicken.  Paint the lacquer all over the chicken, getting into every nook and cranny with the brush.  Place back in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Remove it again, and paint.  Do this every 10-15 minutes for a total of 35-40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh register 165 degrees F.

9.  Remove from oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes (this is when you should take photos if you’re a food blogger ;)).  Carve and enjoy!  I served mine with glazed carrots and smoked paprika roasted potatoes.

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Phyllo Fail..Baklava Success..and a GIVEAWAY!

June 27, 2011 at 1:39 am | Posted in Daring Bakers, Dessert, Giveaway, Pastry | 76 Comments
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Back in 2009, a fellow Daring Baker friend and I were discussing my 1st Daring Bakers challenge, and what I should do.  I was throwing out ideas, and like first pitches in baseball..they were all over the place.  Baklava was one of them, and then we both joked how hated I would be if I made it a requirement to make the phyllo dough from scratch.  I swear on every pair of jeans with broken zippers, I never thought I’d see the day.  Well, that day has come, and Erica, nobody hates you, and in fact, I think they’re loving it!

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge.  Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

OK..I suck.  I really do.  I gave it a shot, but not a good one.  We had a blast of humidity here, on and off the past month, and I just wasn’t able to muster up the motivation and desire to continue rolling out paper-thin sheets of dough for three hours.  I started, and by sheet number 3, I threw in the towel.  They ripped, they stuck together, they laughed in my face.  I buttered each crumpled mess of three doughy phyllo sheets, sprinkled them with some of my sugar nut mixture, then rolled them into roses (scrunch and roll, it’s actually quite simple), baked them, and plopped them on top of some of my baked baklava, drizzled with a little extra honey syrup.

I feel like a cop-out, but the truth is..I’m a horrible super, stretchy, thin dough rollerProof is in the pudding..look at my strudel dough from back in ’09.  Everyone had gorgeous, stretchy, transparent sheets of dough that they rolled and stretched to kingdom come…they truly could have been hung as sheer curtains, that’s how perfect they were.  In the mean time, I was barely able to roll mine larger than a trash can cover, and it was completely unyielding.  It just sort of stayed flat, didn’t even bend, then tore in half when I tried to lift it with the tops of my hands to stretch it.  I just used what I had, and ended up with maybe two flakey layers upon baking.   I think I just have to accept the fact that I’ll never be part of any tablecloth-dough stretching team, for strudel or phyllo.

However, I’d never made baklava before, so this was definitely a challenge for me.  Thankfully, I bought 2 lbs of phyllo as backup, almost expecting phyllo failure.  With that said,  I am no longer intimidated by the process of putting together a baklava. I always put off making it..thinking there was no way I wouldn’t end up with a mess of crumpled phyllo as I layered it in the pan.  Oh, and the cutting/scoring part..I swore it would be impossible, and I would end up pulling and tearing each square or diamond into an inside out mess before baking.

Well..none of the above happened, so I’m pleased as punch, but the thing is..I can’t stop eating it..and it’s scaring me.  I’m scared because I can feel my organs ready to protest as each morsel of dripping baklava permeates my system with sugar.  I don’t think I’ve ever had this much sugar in my body at once, and I don’t think I’ve had this little sleep either.  I’ve been on a constant sugar high every night for the past week.’s just so damn good!

I’d like to share a little of my history with baklava and sticky, dripping Greek (actually of Turkish origin, thanks to Emre!) pastries in general, with you all.  When I was in college, there were several pizzerias peppered throughout the streets of our city campus.  They each had a purpose, so they were all used..none left out.  One pizzeria was the after bar/clubbing pizza place.  You always went there after an alcohol-laden night, even those who were hooking up.  It was fun seeing booze-induced couplings scarfing down gooey pizza before the inevitable boom boom .  Oh, the pizza was good.

Another made phenomenal subs.  In fact, every time I walked in, the owner knew ‘my sandwich’ and immediately got it started, and it was always absolute perfection.  It was a hoagie roll, split, spread with mayo, topped with provolone, toasted, then piled with crabmeat salad, the real stuff.  I know it sounds gross, but I loved it.

The next one was the ‘after game’ pizzeria, or after all classes pizzeria, for those who liked to supplement their food plan with pizza.  Sort of a college version of an amuse bouche, well, several amuse bouches, prior to the main meal.

THEN, there was the baklava pizzeria.  We called it this because there was always a fresh pan of homemade baklava on the counter next to the cash register. It was a small place, so when it would get really crowded, my roommate, and others, would grab a piece or two from the pan and scurry back to our table with devious looks.  Thievery!  Criminals! It was bad, but the baklava was  This is where and when I fell in love with baklava.  I craved it immensely.  I couldn’t go in that damn place without buying a piece (Yes, I did pay).  This is also when I knew baklava was a very dangerous little pastry, and it led me to other dangerous Greek pastries, and many a Greek festival at Greek churches near every place I lived after college, where I indulged shamelessly.

Well..I managed to break the habit and stay away.  In fact, I hadn’t had baklava or any Greek or Turkish pastry for about 10 years prior to this challenge.  Now I know how to make it.  I’m SO screwed.  What’s even worse is..they make phyllo sheets to fit 13 x 9 pans perfectly, so it makes for quick and easy layering.  Once again, SO screwed.

Since I copped-out on the homemade phyllo, and had 2 lbs of store-bought phyllo, I didn’t make a small 9 x 9 inch pan of baklava, which was the recipe given to us, so we wouldn’t have to roll out 30 to 40 sheets.  With 2 lbs of phyllo, I made a version of THIS RECIPE for a 13 x 9 pan ( I used the syrup from the challenge, though, with a few changes).  I love and curse this man at the same time.  This recipe is pretty much a compillation of all the awesome baklava I’ve ever had, from the pizzeria in college, to every Greek festival I’ve ever been to.  I did make some changes.  I used equal amounts of cashews, pistachios and walnuts, but then realized I was a cup short of 6 1/2 cups of nuts, and the only nuts I had left were macadamias.  I guess you could call this a crazy combo nut baklava, but it’s good crazy, as in, I wish I could stop eating it and trash it ‘good crazy’.  I also added a little fresh squeezed orange juice to the syrup, along with cinnamon sticks, orange peel and split and scraped vanilla beans, to flavor it before straining.

A few quick notes and hints;

  • Pour hot syrup on cooled baklava instead of cool syrup on hot baklava.  This prevents a soggy bottom
  • Even though I didn’t tear the slices of baklava inside out, I’m a horrid baklava cutter.  My rows were not only incredibly uneven, but raggedy.  Three sizes of baklava in one pan.
  • Super sharp knife comes in handy, as does a super sharp ability to draw straight lines.
  • Yes, I did attempt to make each slice pretty with phyllo hearts.  FAIL.
  • I didn’t want diamond shapes, I really wanted squares!
  • Baklava can last a month if the water in the syrup evaporates when cooked down, or obviously, if you don’t use water in your syrup.
  • Make this, then give it away after one piece.  You’ll thank me later.
  • I just ate another piece.

I almost forgot..the GIVEAWAY!  Colleen from contacted me last week and offered me $50.00 worth of free t-shirts with any prints or photos I’d like.  I decided I wanted to transfer this generous offer to my readers.

ooshirts, is a rapidly-growing custom apparel company. They can and will print anything you want on these shirts – whether it be your blog, company or website name, a memorable quote, a favorite saying, a photo of my baklava (hehe), or a favorite photo etc etc. This comes out to 4 to 5 shirts, depending on what design you end up choosing.  You have four chances to win this giveaway, use as many as you’d like 🙂

1.  Leave a comment.  Maybe tell me what you would have printed on these shirts.  Go check out their site and see some of their custom shirts and the awesome possibilities!

2.  Follow me on Twitter @parsleynsage

3.  Follow @ooshirts on Twitter

4.  Tweet this giveaway. @parsleynsage is giving away $50.00 worth of shirts with prints and/or photos of your choice. Comment to enter!

The winner will be chosen one week from today, and will receive a coupon code to use for their free shirts and prints, at  Good luck everybody!

Back to the challenge.  To see all the real Daring Bakers, the ones who actually made and rolled out tons of sheets of phyllo, and turned out some gorgeous baklava’s, click on the links to their blogs, HERE.  To get the recipe, plus step- by-step photos, for phyllo and the challenge recipe for baklava, click HERE.

My Nutty Take on an Awesome Baklava Recipe
adapted from, with my revisions, John’s Jotttings

2 pounds phyllo dough (approx. 40 sheets)
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
2 cups finely chopped unsalted cashew nuts
1 1/2 cups finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
1 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 pound unsalted butter (melted)

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups honey
1 cup water
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 large vanilla bean, split
1 long strip of orange peel, pith scraped off

Make the Syrup:
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot, scraping the vanilla bean into the mixture and throwing in the pods.  Heat over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.

2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and let cool.  Do not strain yet, let the flavors steep in the honey, water and sugar until the baklava has baked and cooled.

Build the Baklava:
1. Grease a 13×9 pan (bottom & sides) and set aside. Mix well the nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack.

3. Set aside one full-size sheet of phyllo dough. Cover with plastic wrap.

4. Cut remaining phyllo sheets into 13×9 sheets. Actually, measure your pan and cut the sheets to match the actual inside dimensions. On my pan it is actually 12″ x 8″, for example. With a big sharp knife you should be able to cut all of the phyllo at the same time. You will most likely have a lot of left over phyllo – consider finding another dish where you could use the smaller pieces of leftover phyllo dough.

5. Carefully lay the full-size phyllo sheet into the greased pan, folding over the pan edges. With a pastry brush, liberally apply melted butter.

6. Lay a cut sheet of phyllo into the bottom of the pan, and with a pastry brush liberally apply melted butter. Repeat 9 more times, so that you have the one full sheet and 10 smaller sheets as your bottom layer.

7. Sprinkle 2 cups of the nut mixture into the pan. Lay 6 more sheets of phyllo on top, making sure to liberally apply the melted butter between each sheet. Repeat this 3 more times, so that you have 4 separate layers of the walnut mixture. For the top layer place as many phyllo sheets on top as you have remaining, again making sure to liberally butter between each sheet. Using a sharp plastic spatula, carefully fold over the large sheet of phyllo that should still be extended over the edge back onto the top, so that you can see down the inside edges of the pan. In effect you now have one big baklava package wrapped with your initial phyllo sheet. Using a very, very sharp serrated knife, carefully score the baklava into whatever shape you want. A diamond pattern is the traditional shape. Try to cut about half-way down into the baklava when you do this.

8. Bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 300 degrees until brown.

9. Let the baklava cool completely.  Strain the syrup, then reheat until hot. Slowly pour over the cooled baklava.  Cover with plastic wrap and let the baklava absorb the syrup for at least 4 hours.  Can be kept refrigerated for up to a month.

Note from John: When working with phyllo be sure to work fast and keep the unused portion covered with plastic wrap at all times, as it tends to dry out pretty fast. Also, be sure to carefully follow the defrosting instructions on the phyllo – the sheets will stick together if you try to do a “speed defrost”.

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