Old School Middle Eastern Recipes with Some Modern Day Twists

Tag: cardamom

Authentic Masala Chai

Authentic Masala Chai

Around this time of year, without fail, there is a craving for all the fall spices. Hence, this authentic masala chai recipe is making its way to you. No less from my close friend, Annie and her mama, who are the true pros of this […]

Nana’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Nana’s Chicken Noodle Soup

This chicken noodle soup recipe is super creamy, tasty, and hearty. Your kids will love it! With cardamom in the recipe, this is definitely a uniquely-flavored chicken noodle soup. Of course, Nana brought us this amazing recipe! Sick days were always a great time staying […]

Baklawa

Baklawa

Baklawa (baklava in Greek) is the quintessential Middle Eastern dessert. In this version of baklawa, spiced walnuts are nestled between layers of buttery phyllo dough and finished with a heavy hand of delicious honey. The outcome is a blissfully sweet dessert that without fail puts my relentless sweet tooth at bay…at least for the time being.

Although there are so many great Middle Eastern bakeries in the area (Chicago/Detroit), nothing quite replaces a dish that is made at home. This recipe is the compliments of our Aunt Zina, and gives all the Middle Eastern bakeries a run for their money!

The making of this dish was truly a family affair. As I have mentioned before, often when one person is cooking up something, other family members just show up. Some help, some drink tea, some are there for the snacks and chaos but all together it is a great time! This time, I was lucky enough to have Nana B’s brother, Umu Hazim and Amma Nezhat (my great aunt) also help out. Umu Hazim was an accountant back in his day, and his precise nature was a great addition to the baking, see below!

As I mentioned before, nothing beats a great dish made at home. It is said the components of a great dish are “fat, acid, heat, salt..” But I’d argue that a huge flavor factor is sentiment. How many times have you eaten a dish that you grew up eating that has the exact same ingredients, but it does not 100% taste the same? I think it has to do with sentiment. There is a huge comfort level and flavor bomb that occurs from cooking at home, especially if they are recipes that become familiar in your household. Why not make baklawa one of those?

Baklawa

Spiced walnuts are nestled between layers of buttery phyllo dough and finished with a heavy hand of honey. A utterly sweet and delicious dessert!
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Arabic, greek
Servings 88 pieces

Ingredients
  

  • 2, 1 lb packages of phyllo dough*, sheets size 18"x14" (each box typically has 18 sheets)
  • 2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks), melted
  • 1.5 lbs walnuts
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2.5 tsp ground fresh cardamom**
  • 4 egg whites, yolks separated
  • 12 ounces honey, more or less for desired sweetness

Instructions
 

Walnut Filling

  • In a food processor, place walnuts and pulse until nuts are ground to medium-fine texture. Avoid over pulsing as that can cause a paste rather than nut pieces.
  • In a bowl, mix ground walnuts, sugar, ground cardamom and egg whites.

Assembly

  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  • Lightly coat a ~18 x13" baking sheet with melted butter.
  • Add two layers of phyllo dough to tray.Brush butter all over second layer of phyllo dough. Grab another 2 sheets of phyllo dough and butter the entire second layer. Repeat this process for a total of 9 times, until all 18 sheets of phyllo dough are used.
  • The first box of phyllo dough makes the bottom layer of the baklawa.
  • Evenly spread walnut mixture over the entire last layer of the buttered phyllo dough on the baking sheet. Smooth out filling with the back of a spoon.
  • To make top layer of baklawa, repeat step 3 until the second box of phyllo dough is fully used. Do not butter the last layer.
  • Make horizontal and vertical cuts along the length and depth of the baklawa tray to acheive 1.5" x 1.5" squares. To make straight line cuts, we highly recommend use of a ruler!
  • Drizzle melted butter on top of last layer. Avoid brushing butter as that will cause movement of top layer of squares.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on tops. First place in middle rack. Mid way through baking rotate and place on higher baking rack.
  • Once out of the oven, drizzle honey evenly over entire baklawa tray. Allow the honey to seep between pieces.
  • Allow to cool and then remove from tray.
  • Stores on the counter for 3-5 days, in the fridge for 1-2 weeks or in the freezer for 3-4 months. Enjoy!

Notes

*We typically find our phyllo dough in the refrigerated or freezer aisles of most Greek, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern grocers. Given the thin nature of phyllo dough, be sure to work with it quickly once exposed to air or it will dry out. If you cannot find that exact size, no worries! Just crimp the edges in to adjust to the size of your baking sheet.
**Grind fresh whole cardamom pods until you have 2.5 tsp of ground cardamom. 
 
Keyword baklawa, cardamom, honey, phyllo dough, walnuts
Lawzena

Lawzena

There is nothing more uniquely synonymous with our Nana Badriya than Lawzena.  This one-of-a-kind cookie contains the perfect balance of just four ingredients: ground almonds, whipped egg whites, sugar and cardamom. People come from near and far for a taste of this delicious, chewy, almond cookie […]