Pistachio Baklava

IMG_2739I live in a culturally rich part of London where the streets are essentially a tapestry of Turkish and Greek restaurants and bakeries. The Baklava’s are usually quite deliberately perched in long trays and pans in these shop windows, which also happen to be located behind a bus stop of some kind, leaving me drooling…for the 29 bus. Most of us are familiar with this very sweet delicacy, and only the brave or those with dentures can manage more than one maybe two squares. There is no healthy alternative to this, you can’t skip or substitute any ingredients it is what it is: yummy! Now off for my 5k run.

Pistachio Baklava

  • Servings: 60 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
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Filling

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

40g walnuts

250g almonds (with skins on), chopped

150g shelled pistachios, chopped

1 lemon, finely grated zest

6 tbsp granulated sugar

16 sheets Filo Pastry

75g unsalted butter, melted

Syrup

450g granulated sugar

Pinch of sea salt flakes

1 lemon, juice and 3 strips zest,

1 cinnamon stick

1tsp almond essence

1 tsp minced ginger (optional)

Whole cloves (decoration)

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Put the spices, in a pan and roast over a high heat until you start to smell the aromas. Allow to cool then with a mortar and pestle finely grind. Finely chop all nuts in a bowl and add the ground spice mixture with the lemon zest and 6 tbsp granulated sugar.

Open out the filo pastry, and cover with a damp tea-towel to prevent it from drying out. Brush a rectangular baking tray with vegetable oil. Brush a sheet of filo with butter and place in the baking tray. Repeat to make 8 layers. Trim to make sure it fits snuggly.

IMG_2740Add the nut mixture and spread evenly. Brush remaining pastry with butter and layer until all the pastry is used. Trim the top to a snug fit. Press down gently with the palm of your hand. Lightly score the pastry top but do not cut all the way through into the nuts. Criss-cross in diagonal lines to give a diamond pattern. Pin the whole cloves through the centre of each of the diamonds at this stage if you wish. Brush top with butter and bake for 25-30 minutes.

In the meantime make the syrup. Put the sugar in a pan with 300ml water, a pinch of sea salt flakes, the lemon juice and strips of zest, ginger and the cinnamon. Heat gently until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil for 5-8 minutes until the syrup is light and slightly thickened. Add the almond essence to taste. Cool quickly by placing the pan in a bowl of ice.

IMG_2747Remove baklava from oven once golden brown. Cut the pastry all the way through. Straining the syrup, gently spoon the syrup over the baklava.

(Adding cold syrup to hot pastry keeps the pastry crisp.) Cool completely.

 

 

 

White Chocolate & Lemon Viennese Whirls

IMG_1761Viennese Whirls growing up and pretty much as they are today, are made with a combination of jam and cream. What separates them from your average jammy dodger is the light crumbly shortcake texture of the biscuit. For this recipe you don’t have to keep to the classic ‘mountain peak’ or Swirl shape, why not experiment with shortcake fingers or squares?

The real reason why you should go to the trouble of squeezing the dough through a piping bag is because it’s aesthetically pleasing and makes you look like a pro. So why not give it a try?

White Chocolate and Lemon Viennese Whirls

  • Servings: Makes 32 sandwiches
  • Difficulty: medium
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Biscuit

250g/9oz very soft unsalted butter

50g/2oz icing sugar, plus extra to decorate

250g/9oz plain flour

50g/2oz corn flour

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Filling

1/4 cup double cream

150g white chocolate chopped coarsely

1/4 cup (or more) lemon juice

1 tsp grated lemon rind

Yellow food colouring (optional)

For the Biscuit

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

Put the butter, icing sugar, plain flour, corn flour and vanilla extract in a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to scrape the mixture down a couple of times with a rubber spatula.

Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe 16-18 in rosettes or swirls of the dough, spacing well apart.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 13-15 minutes or until pale golden-brown and firm. Cool on the baking tray for five minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 32-36 biscuits.

For the filling

Bring cream to the boil in a small saucepan.

Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until completely smooth

Add food colouring and lemon juice to taste (you want to be able to taste the lemon, don’t let the chocolate be overpowering).

Refrigerate until spreadable (roughly 1 hour +)

With another piping bag swirl on the cream to one of the biscuits, sandwich the other biscuit together gently and dust with the icing sugar to finish.