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Born a Texan, but traveled the US extensively.  Now staying on the East coast.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I stayed home for New Years Eve

6and part of the reason was to write and compose this entry.

I needed time for myself and i was not getting it

I have not written because of "drama" and also many visitors and guests, but enough of that...on with the show...

The last is a great picture of Jake, the lab who lives at our house...who looks like he is sharing some of my same feelings.

The next is a picture of a snow drift, from the one big (and in my opinion, the only one we need for this winter season)...

and if you ever wondered, as beautiful as this looks, i still dislike it completely.
Next, for gifts, I made cookies and such, but challenged myself as never before, I made 4 Greek pastries and the recipes are as follow:
The Start is a Honey Orange syrup

Honey/Orange syrup
1.    2 cups sugar
2.    2 cups water
3.    1 cup honey
4.    1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter (you always wanted to know when it was used, right?)
5.    ½ cup orange juice
6.    1 orange, 2 Clementines, 2 tangerines or other orange type citrus fruit
7.    1-tablespoon sweet anise seed (optional)

Since the syrup is used in other things, it can be reserved, keep it in the refrigerator
While the amount of syrup can be increased, the ratio remains the same.
Make by mixing granulated sugar with water and bringing to a boil, reduce heat. (DO NOT LET IT BURN!!)
Add honey and cream of tarter, mix
Peel orange and remove white rind as much as possible.   Cut into 1/8 squares and add to hot sugar water.
Add peels into the sugar water
Add anise seed and heat to just boiling
Add orange juice and reduce the total liquid by a third at a low simmer
Remove from heat, strain and let cool
Keep the diced citrus peels for other use

A difficult cake was the next one, but my personal favorite - the twist here is that i use hazelnuts, not walnurs:

(Greek Nut Cake)

6 eggs, separated
1-cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice or nutmeg
1 teaspoon finely diced orange peel
1/8-teaspoon baking powder
1/8-teaspoon salt
1-cup cake flour
2 cups ground hazelnuts (or walnuts)

Honey/Orange Syrup or powdered sugar

Beat Egg yokes until thick and then add cinnamon, allspice and orange peel
Beat egg white with cream of tartar until stiff
Fold the two egg mixtures gently
Mix baking powder with the flour and sift into the combined egg mixture, folding gently
Finally, slowly fold in nuts
Pour into a small (9” x 9”), greased cake pan and cook at 350°F for 40 minutes
If using with powdered sugar, cover plate with powdered sugar and place cake onto plate (of course removing from pan)
Sprinkle top with powdered sugar after the cake has cooled
If using the honey syrup, warm the syrup first and pour about ½ to 1 cup of syrup over the cake and cool
Serve cool

New is a cookie that is not sweet, yet also very much a favorite - I did nothing different for this one:

(A Greek sesame seed cookie)

1 cup soft or partially melted butter (does NOT need to be clarified)
1 cup granulated sugar (I used raw sugar)
3 eggs (with 1 egg white saved for topping before baking)
¼ cup milk
1-teaspoon vanilla
5 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
Sesame seeds
Whole cloves

Combine liquid ingredients first and slowly add the sugar
Mix the baking powder with the flour and add to the liquid
The mixture will be very dense and it needs to be so that it can be rolled out into the proper shapes
Take a small ball of the mixture and roll it out with your hand on a board to a long quarter inch strand
Shape 6 inches of this rod into various braided shapes:

My favorite is a “fish” like shape: 
Other shapes that are common to me are as follow:
A braided infinity sign: ∞
A spiral:     
A Doric column spiral: 

Lightly grease a cookie sheet and placed shaped cookies 2 inches apart

Brush the reserved egg white on all the cookies and sprinkle sesame seeds on each
Place a whole clove in each
Bake at 350º F for 25 minutes

My traditional cookie with lots of variations

(also call wedding cookies)

1.    1 pound softened sweet butter (do not clarify for firmer cookies)
2.    ¼ cup granulated sugar
3.    ¼ cup orange/anise/honey syrup
4.    1 tablespoon Orange zest or candied rinds (reduce sugar by 1/8th cup if you use candied rinds) chopped fine
5.    1 cup well chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or a mix)
6.    2 teaspoons orange flavor
7.    1-teaspoon anise flavor
8.    1 tablespoon orange juice or water
9.    3 cups flour (for cookies that are more cake-like (my mother suggestion), use 2½ cups cake flour and 2 cups
10.    regular flour – this also required more flour than the original, regular flour recipe to get the correct consistency of the mixture)
11.    Powdered sugar

Beat the butter 30 seconds then add sugar and beat till fluffy.
Add cool syrup and continue to beat.
Add zest or rinds, nuts, orange and anise flavor and water.
Continue to beat until the mixture begins to  “ball” into clumps. (Sometimes I need to add more flour)
You may shape the cookie, keep in balls or “squash down”.  Your choice
Roll into balls and place on a baking tray and cook for 20 minutes at 350º F.
The cookies will have the edges just brown.
They must cool before removing from tray (but not cold).
Place on tray and cover with powdered sugar.
Eat at room temperature.

This is my recipe, Greeks generally add 2 eggs to lighten the cookies and use only confectionery sugar, not syrup and not granulated sugar.
I have seen no fewer than 5 different recipes for this cookie.

Finally, every ones favorite:

This will make 2 large trays of pastry
1.  1 package Filo dough
2.  1 pound unsalted clarified butter
3.  6 cups chopped nuts - walnuts and pecans
4,  1/2  cup granulated raw sugar
5.  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6.  1/4 teaspoon ground clove
7.  the rinds of 2 oranges or 4 clementines
8.   Who;e cloves

The nuts, 1/2 pound of melted butter, sugar, spices and citrus rind are all combined and mixed well and set aside
In a greased large pan, 7 layers of filo dough are placed, slathering melted butter on each.

I bake this for 15 minutes at 350 F
Remove and add 3 nut mixture layers - nuts, filo,nuts, filo, nuts and then 7 more layers of filo dough.
The traditional way is to cut this into  "diamonds before baking (and it does help).
Place a clove in the middle of each diamond.
Bake for 1 hour.
Heat up the Honey/orange syrup 20 minutes before the baklava comes out of the oven.
Add the syrup mixture as soon as the Baklava comes out of the oven.
LET COOL FOR 4 HOURS before attempting to cut.
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