Persian baklava – the sweet end to our feast

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Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

We chose to end our Persian feast with baklava, served with a very untraditional accompaniment of vanilla ice-cream (which worked really well, btw!). And completely wrongly, as it turns out because Persian meals usually end with fruit, and baklava and other pastries are more commonly eaten during the day, often with tea. Although we bought a gigantic watermelon for that purpose, still, we just had to make baklava. You can’t really cook a Persian feast and omit baklava.

 

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Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

Baklava is made of layers of thin phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in syrup. The origin of this delicious pastry is unclear, but its popularity is firmly established: in Iran (of course), all over Middle-East, in Greece, Turkey, and even closer to (my) home, in Bosnia & Herzegovina. (My Bosnian cookery book has suggestions on how to cut the dough to create a variety of different pattern – gorgeous!) The rest of the world is not immune to its charms, either.

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Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

Persian baklava is made with cardamom-spiced almonds and/or pistachios, and with a rose-scented syrup. It’s a bit different from baklava elsewhere in that it’s a little dryer, and as a result crispier.

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 Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

We made an enormous baklava, with 1 kg of ground almonds, in a tin measuring 35 x 45 x 5! Our filling was made with almonds, and pistachios were used as garnish. The syrup was flavoured with rose-water and lemon juice. The filling is made using the recipe from the Taste of Persia, but we consulted our other Persian books, too. You see, we didn’t make the dough ourselves, like the good Ms Batmanglij suggested, so we had to get some advice on how to deal with the phyllo. Other Persian books, my Bosnian cookbook, and even Nigella helped us!

Margaret Shaida has a version where she makes two different colour layers: one layer with almonds, and the other with pistachios. I like the idea.

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Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

 

You may not be too surprised to hear we never made it to the watermelon that night. 🙂

And here we are at the end of the feast. We enjoyed it very much, and I hope you did, too.

Here are the other posts from my Persian series:

Persian feast in my kitchen: Intro

Persian feast in my kitchen: the first courses

Persian feast in my kitchen: the mains

And check out:

Persian food blogs

Digg This

Chocolate Brazil Soft-Baked Biscuits

 I’ve never been big on biscuits, so I was never much impressed with cookies, either, that is until I discovered Ben’s Cookies in Oxford! They were freshly baked on site, and so lovely and gooey and chocolate that I was swiftly won over! There is something comforting about them, which makes you feel fantastic straight away! I suspect is part the effect of chocolate, and part psychological! In any case, if you happen to be in Oxford, do go to the Covered Market (which is amazing in itself!) and have some Ben’s Cookies! In the meantime, try making the below fantastic Chocolate Brazil Soft-baked Biscuits! They’re from my favourite book for now, Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes, and of course they’re delicious!

Chocolate Brazil Soft-Baked Biscuits

 

SOURCE: Green & Blacks Chocolate Recipes; recipe sent by Lorna Dowell

PREPARATION TIME: 15 min

COOKING TIME: 20 min

MAKES: 20

 

Ingredients

75 g unsalted butter

60 g caster sugar

1 large egg, beaten

175 g wholemeal self-raising flour

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 – 2 tbsp milk

75 g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, roughly chopped

75 g milk chocolate, preferable 34% cocoa solids, roughly chopped

50 g brazil nuts, chopped

pinch of salt

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 C/gas mark 4. Grease a baking sheet with melted butter, or use baking parchment.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.

3. Beat in the egg.

4. Sift the flour once, returning the bran to the sifted flour, then fold it into the mixture. The bran gives a distinctive flavour and texture to the biscuits.

5. Beat well, adding the vanilla extract and sufficient milk to make a pliable dough. Mix t wit your hands, adding the milk in stages until the dough is fairly soft, but not sticky.

6. Add the chopped chocolate, nuts and salt and distribute evenly through the dough.

7. Roll out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of about 5 mm. Stamp into rounds and place the biscuits, spaced well apart, on the greased baking sheet.

      What a great bowl to lick! Yummy!  

8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 min. Watch them carefully so they don’t overcook. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

HINT: All flour should be sifted before you use it. Sifting flour is important, not just to remove any little foreign bodies that may be in the flour, but also to aerate it.

VERDICT

The biscuits were delicious, and very easy to make! They were even better the next day, when we had them for breakfast, with some coffee and milk. This is the first time ever I made biscuits, and I really enjoyed it! I will be making these again, and I definitely recommend them to everyone! The combination of bran, nuts and two types of chocolate is brilliant! The bran also gives them a slightly dark colour, making them very attractive.

Instead of rolling them out, I took a small amount of dough in my hand and shaped it with my fingers, which worked well. Also, I didn’t have any brazil nuts, so I used hazelnuts instead, which was fine. You can use any nuts you want, and experiment with the types of chocolate you use, too. Almonds and white chocolate would work nicely, for example.

 

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