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Surprisingly Simple Baklava Recipe (Gluten Free Option Included)

It’s been a while since I delved into recipe creation. The winter has a way of sending me into cooking hibernation. Now that the days are getting longer and I have taken a bit of a reprieve from cooking, I feel refreshed and ready to go.

Dessert is my first love. It is a pleasure in life that I never avoid.

I revel in creating desserts that utilize simple and natural ingredients. It is a way to honour both my needs and desires. It goes without saying that dessert brings a smile to my face.

When we lived in Edmonton, I was a frequent visitor to the European Bakery on 135th Avenue and 113 Street where the tantalizing sights and smells of phyllo pastry, syrupy gooeyness, nuts and spices warmed my dessert loving heart.

It has been a long time since I have encountered Baklava so the situation called for DIY time.

I have made this recipe vegan (all plant-based). A light olive oil makes the pastry light and flaky though butter does produce a more delicate pastry.

I did not put any sugar or sweetener into the filling itself. I found the sweetness of the syrup that is poured over the baked pastry sweet enough without being cloying. I found that the pinch of nutmeg in the filling provides an adequate ‘sweetness’. If you feel like  you need to add some sugar to the filling, a 1/4 cup of organic cane sugar or coconut sugar should do the trick.

For those of you who are gluten free, here is a recipe from my go-to gluten free blog Gluten Free on a Shoestring for Gluten Free Phyllo Pastry. Nicole has worked hard to develop an excellent recipe and for that I am thankful.

You can also request that your local health food store bring in pre-made gluten free phyllo pasty or use gluten free ‘puff’ pastry which is more readily available with very similar results.

If you don’t have lemon rind, cinnamon sticks or cream of tartar on hand, do without. Don’t let perfection get in the way of greatness.

Recipe

2 cups mixed nuts, chopped (walnuts, cashews, pistachios)

1 tsp cinnamon, ground

1/2 tsp mixed spice (pinch of nutmeg, cardamom)

pinch of cloves, ground

10 sheets of phyllo pastry

light olive oil for brushing

Syrup

1 cup real maple syrup

2 tablespoons organic coconut nectar

pinch of cream of tartar

1 cup water

2 strips of lemon rind (use a peeler)

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves, whole

How To

  1. Combine Nuts, spice and sugar (optional) and process in a food processor until you nuts are chopped up. Cut each phyllo sheet in to 3 even strips along the width.

    baklava-2
    quickly process nuts and spices to combine
  2. Brush each sheet with oil. Place approximately 1 heaped tablespoon on the end closest to you. Fold pastry over the filling and then roll up to make a cigar.
    baklava-6
    place spoonful of mixture at one end of phyllo pastry

    baklava-7
    carefully fold phyllo pastry over (it tears easily) and  roll
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 C). Place cigars on a greased baking sheet. Brush with oil and bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.
  4. For the Syrup: combine maple syrup, coconut nectar, cream of tartar and water over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add lemon rind and spices. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Do not stir once it starts boiling.
  5. Pour syrup over baked phyllo cigars and garnish with finely chopped nuts or ground cinnamon. Can be server hot or cold.

 

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Fresh Strawberry Easy-as-Pie Recipe

We have been having some hot weather and our strawberries are producing fruit – again. We had our first crop in June and now here we go with a second growth.

The second coming of strawberries makes me giddy. I had to dust off my Fresh Strawberry Pie recipe so that I can make it and share it.

This recipe is super simple and dairy free. I love desserts that allow fresh fruit to take center stage.

I have included a regular single-pie crust pastry recipe as well as a nut-based crust (gluten free) recipe that works just as well. In fact, I prefer the nut-based crust with this recipe.

This is a great dessert for any occasion. Let’s get to it.

Recipes


Pie Filling Recipe

Ingredients

6 cups strawberries, cut in half

1 cup water

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar/coconut nectar/honey (whatever your preference)

2 tablespoons of corn starch

How To

1. In a food processor or blender, combine 1 cup of strawberries, lemon juice and the water. Cover and process until smooth.

2. Transfer to a small sauce pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, for 2 minutes.

3. In a medium saucepan, combine sweetener and corn starch, stir in the strawberry mixture.

(in a small bowl, combine cornstarch with a couple of tablespoons of water and mix it with a fork until mixture is smooth and then combine with sweetener – this prevents lumps)

4. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly.

5. Cook and stir for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

6. Cool to room temperature. Fold remaining 5 cups of fresh strawberries into the cooled mixture.

7. Transfer to pie shell or raw nut crust. Cover and chill for 3-4 hours.

Serve with whipped topping such as Whipped Coconut Cream.

Single-Crust Pie Recipe

This is the easiest and best pie crust recipe that I have been able to find. Gloria Donahue (a.k.a. Nana) has some great tips on how to make pie crust and she tells it like it is. She teaches this recipe to elementary school kids. It is worth it to watch this video if you want to make great pie crust. I subscribe to her YouTube channel and have learned so much from her.

 

Ingredients


1 cups +2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil (your choice of oil)

2 tablespoons ice water (it has to be cold)

How To

1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt

2. Add cooking oil

3. Add ice water

3. Stir lightly with a fork until it forms into a ball (don’t over mix – Nana says that pie crust doesn’t like to be handled and it’s OK if it isn’t perfect)

4. Roll out using a rolling pin and wax paper with pie dough in between two sheets of wax paper.

5. Roll into pie dish. Prick bottom and sides of pastry generously with the tines of a fork.

6. Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until pastry is golden.

7. Cool on a wire rack.

Nut-Based Pie Crust

Ingredients 

1 cup cashew/macadamia nuts/almonds (whatever nut you prefer)

2/3 cup dried figs/Medjool dates, pitted (about 10)

1 tsp vanilla bean powder or vanilla extract

1/8 tsp sea salt (cuts the sweetness so don’t exclude)

1 tbsp honey or coconut nectar (buy it at Save On Foods in the Baking aisle)

How To

1. Use a 9 inch pie plate or a 6 inch ceramic tart dish.

2. To make the crust: Place nuts, figs/dates, vanilla, salt, and coconut nectar in a food processor.

3. Process until crumbly and the mixture sticks together when you press it between your fingers.

4. Press the crust into the ceramic dish. Press the dough down from the center out to form the crust.

5. Place the crust in the freezer for firm up while you make the strawberry pie filling.

Strawberries in our Garden