S’more Truffles

Smore Truffles

Ahhh S’mores. The quintessential American summer campfire dessert. The first time I ever heard of a S’more was when I moved here in 2003. My friend just casually mentioned making them as part of a camping trip and I guess my blank expression prompted her to ask if we had them in England. There was so much shock and horror in her eyes as she tried to imagine a childhood without S’mores. Needless to say, she soon arranged the whole experience for me as if to undo a great injustice.  She pulled out a graham cracker, added a slab of Hershey’s chocolate, toasted a marshmallow and pressed it onto the chocolate with another cracker on top creating a little cookie sandwich. There were not many American food items that I had not heard of either from friends or American media so I too was surprised that these little squishy-oozey-delights had not made their way across the pond.

Of course once I thought about it, large toasting-style marshmallows were not available in England in the 80’s. Plus, the UK is not thought of as a summer camping haven because of the terrible weather. Yes, we may go camping but it’s usually in a water protected camping vehicle or a warm and cozy chalet because you just never know if the sun is going to be out even in the middle of July or August. As a result, there is not really a market for extensive camping cuisine like there is here in the States. (heated Heinz Baked Beans from a tin does not count!). This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy other outdoor cooking like barbecues as soon as there is even a hint of summer (not the american kind of barbecue -barbecue is just the generic English word for grilling out) but we mostly stick to kebabs, burgers and hot dogs. Greeks in London, don’t even wait for the sunshine, if we have a barbecue planned, rain is not a deterrent. Some poor male creature is assigned to build a makeshift ‘gazebo’ out of whatever can be found and stand out there grilling meat even if it means the aid of an umbrella!

So what did I think of my first S’more? It was messy and gooey and sticky and warm and crunchy and just delightful. I am not a purist though because I actually really dislike Hershey’s (sorry!) so I prefer my S’more with a less sugary chocolate but otherwise, good call America! In celebration of Independence Day, I decided to turn these delicious treats into truffles to take to a friend’s fish fry yesterday. It took me a couple of tries to really get these right but they were a huge hit. The challenge with trying to add marshmallows to anything is that they don’t have an actual unique flavour- they are just sugar. What finally made this recipe click for me was capturing the fluffy chewy texture as well as the toasted sweetness, and I think I got there in the end. But hey, make a batch my American friends and let me know what you think.

S’more Truffles

(makes a lot of truffles but the exact number depends on the size you chose to make them)

12oz good quality milk chocolate chips

12oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like using both kinds of chocolate to balance out the sweetness)

1 large bag of mini marshmallows (I don’t recommend using a store brand- go for the good stuff, you will really taste the difference)

1/3 cup of heavy cream

1 tbsp butter

1 cup of graham cracker crumbs

1/2 -3/4 cup of marshmallow vodka (optional)

Place chocolate chips, cream and butter into microwave safe bowl and heat at 50% power for 1 minute. Stir and heat for 30 seconds more at 50%. Stir again and heat for another 30 seconds if needed until half the chips are melted. It’s really important to stop heating BEFORE all the chips melt otherwise you will burn the chocolate. If you stir well, the remaining chips will melt away nicely without becoming grainy. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vodka if using- add as much as you like but it is very sweet so be careful not to make the mixture too sickly. Line a baking sheet with foil and cover with non-stick spray. (I learnt the hard way by not using the non-stick spray when I did this the first time.The marshmallows will stick to everything if you don’t spray!) Spread marshmallows over baking sheet in a single layer so they toast evenly (you will have to toast the marshmallow in two batches to fit them all). Place under the broiler and watch until they become nice and golden brown. Take them out and allow them to cool for about 20 seconds and then spoon them into the melted chocolate. Finish toasting the remaining marshmallows and add them to the chocolate as well. Do not stir until all the marshmallows are in the bowl as this is key to capturing the flavour and texture of the truffles. Once they are all in the bowl, fold them in just enough to be incorporated but not too much so they completely dissolve. You should still be able to see lots of white flecks and strings of marshmallow throughout the mixture. Cover the surface of the chocolate with plastic wrap and place in fridge for about 3-4 hours. Put graham cracker crumbs into a small bowl. Scoop out a spoonful of chocolate mixture and roll it in the palms of your hands to form a ball. Drop ball into crumbs and roll around to get a nice cracker coating. Place the truffles back into the fridge in an airtight container until ready to serve.

S'more Truffles

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White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

Picture1

We all love a good Oreo style truffle – so easy to make and a guaranteed crowd pleaser but every now and then it’s important to remember the beauty of a real french style chocolate truffle. Decadent, elegant and the perfect gifts for any chocolate lover (if you can bear to part with them). Somehow, I had build them up in my mind to be this intimidating complicated process that absolutely required you to either have a culinary degree or French ancestry. Fortunately, I was very much mistaken and not only are they easy but once you learn the process, you can pretty much make ANY style truffle your imagination can muster. Which is how this recipe was born.

Recently some fun friends of ours threw a Black and White themed party to celebrate the completion of some pretty important exams. We were asked to wear black or white and, if we wanted, to bring black or white snacks to share. Once I heard that they had invited an amazing mixologists to make exciting unique cocktails at the party, I knew I had to make a white chocolate french style truffle with alcohol! Mojitos are my favourite cocktails and it’s pretty much guaranteed that if a restaurant/bar menu has some kind of mojito concoction, I am going to try it! (I also make a mean blackberry Mojito- even a virgin version – which I will share with you all soon). Therefore, it seemed only natural to make White Chocolate Mojito Truffles. They were a huge hit and I can’t wait to turn other favourite drinks into delicious truffles.

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles:

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

24 oz good quality white chocolate chips

3/4 stick of butter (chopped into little small cubes)

9 tbsp of heavy cream

pinch salt

1/4 cup of rum (you can add less or more depending on your preference! If you want to remove the alcohol altogether, use 10 oz of chips and 1 tsp of imitation rum flavour)

zest from 2 limes

2 tbsp of lime juice

1 tsp mint extract

Place chocolate, cream and butter into microwave safe bowl and heat on 30 second intervals at 50% power until the chocolate is almost melted. White chocolate can burn very easily and turn grainy so it’s better to stop heating before it all melts. Once you remove it from the microwave, just keep stirring and the last few chips will melt away and it will become a smooth texture. Add the zest, extracts and juice a little at a time and mix thoroughly. Finally, add the rum and stir well. Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 hours. The chocolate will be firm but malleable. Scoop out truffle mix with a melon baller and shape into perfect balls in the palm of your hands. (If your hands start to get too warm and begin melting the chocolate, run them under cold water and dry thoroughly before resuming.) Dust the balls in clear sugar crystals. They will need another couple of hours in the fridge to harden completely. White chocolate truffles are typically softer than regular chocolate ones so it’s best to keep them in the fridge until ready to serve.  This recipe makes a lot of truffles but the number depends on their size.

White Chocolate Mojito Truffles

Hotel Chocolat- trying to do the right thing

Chocolate

Chocolate…could we imagine life without it? We’ve all wanted to drink from the Wonka River at some point. But this dark delight also has a darker side hidden at the cocoa farms in places like Cote d’Ivore (The Ivory Coast). One of the things that impressed me most about England during my return over Christmas was the amount of ethically sourced chocolate easily available. Here in the States, most people I meet have never heard of the human right’s issues surrounding the cocoa industry. To be honest I am not surprised when you consider that the major chocolate companies in this country are the ones continuing to fuel the problem. It’s hard for us to accept in our modern society that chocolate is a luxury item when we consume such massive amounts. Even more so, in this difficult economy, we aren’t interested in paying more money for something that you can find everywhere for much cheaper prices. But the truth is, that chocolate is a luxury item and the only reason it has become such a predominant part of our lives is because cocoa is being harvested in harsh conditions and mostly on the backs of child workers, a lot of whom are slaves, so it can be a cheaper commodity.

chocolate

Just for a moment think about all the ease with which we find chocolate and use it in daily life…..desserts at restaurants, in healthy snacks as well as indulgent ones, baked goods, in coffee drinks, chocolate milk, and breakfast cereals not to mention all the holidays that focus on candy and chocolate….Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Easter. You then start to realize why this issue is not being brought to the forefront as much as other human rights issues. Can you imagine the impact on the cocoa industry?….No but seriously, can you imagine the impact on the cocoa industry? Our choices make all the difference for other people around the world. I think as consumers we feel so powerless against these corporate giants. It almost reminds me of the Disney-Pixar movie A Bug’s Life where all the ants think that the grasshoppers have this terrifying  control over them. But, there’s the great moment when the ants suddenly get it…..there are more of them, they are the ones who provide food and they have the real power after all. We are the ants….there are more of us than there are greedy corporations and our money and purchase power are what they depend on. If a company starts losing profits, and their shareholders are not happy, you can guarantee that they will change tactics to get their ‘piece of the pie’. Just look at the ‘organic’ industry and all that has changed in the last 10 years. Once sales for non-organic items began to drop, smart companies realized they needed to start producing more organic items to recoup their profits. Already, we are beginning to see the pressure in some parts of the country and in the UK and it’s forcing companies not to turn a blind eye anymore but to take responsibility for their cocoa farmers/suppliers practices. And, although not enough change has happened yet, there are several cocoa companies, such as Divine (on-line and specialty stored) and Green & Blacks (only one available at major grocery chains), specializing in producing chocolate in ethical ways.

Slave Free Chocolate

While in England my brother introduced us to the masterful world of Hotel Chocolat and you can imagine my delight when I discovered that they are making it part of their mission to treat and pay their farmers as valued employees and investing in their well being and success.  I then felt totally free to wander round their little Cambridge boutique and admire the ingenious chocolate creations. Here are the ones my generous brother purchased for us to sample. Needless to say they were amazing!

Hotel Chocolat

Some of you may not have heard about the issue of child labour and slavery in the cocoa industry, and probably have lots of questions There are obviously many factors contributing to these problems and I have only touched the surface so here are some helpful links to aid you in your own research. 

Hotel Chocolat

Crossing Borders Fair Trade

CNN Freedom Project

Food is Power

Finally, I understand that it can be quite overwhelming when you begin to learn about this issue and might be uncertain about what to do next. Even if it is informing others, trading out just one of your usual candy bar choices for a slave-free one, or going all out and only purchasing/consuming slave-free options, everything is beneficial in sending the message that these kinds of practices are not acceptable. It is a long road ahead to make the world slave-free but the worst thing we can do is remain ignorant and not do anything.

Not Your Grandma’s Pancake Day!

Yesterday was one of my favourite English ‘holidays’. Pancake Day is not a hyped up, marketing holiday designed for companies to make millions, but an inexpensive celebration that draws the family together for a meal of pancakes (crepes). Those simple and humble ingredients of milk, flour and eggs can be combined to make an irresistible treat. Of course, getting the basic recipe is vital but let’s face it, the reason crepes have become a huge hit across the globe is really more to do with the fillings and toppings. Sweet and Savoury alike, the possibilities are endless and even though Nutella is probably the most popular of indulgences, there is something to be said about the sour crunch of the English classic with  sprinkled sugar and lemon juice.

However, in true Grumbling Belly fashion, where darkness and moments of brilliance collide, I decided to explore some new flavour options last night. One was inspired by my love affair with lemon curd, and the other was born from my need to use up some leftover pumpkin and sage. This certainly wasn’t the usual holiday fare but it was fun and delicious.

What are some of your favourite crepe fillings and toppings?

Basic Crepe Recipe

(makes about 8-10 crepes)

1 cup of plain (AP) flour

1 egg

1/2 tbsp melted butter

pinch of salt

1 cup of milk

1/2 tbsp butter

(Mix all ingredients until smooth and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking. For more tips on crepes see Peppermint Chocolate Crepe Cake)

Drunken Pumpkin Crepe Filling (savoury)

Drunken Pumpkin Crepes

(makes about 4 servings)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large shallot chopped

1 large garlic clove chopped

1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh sage

1 tsp grated orange zest

2 tbsp whiskey

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

2 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese

(toasted pine nuts- optional)

salt and pepper to taste

4 slices of prosciutto

Heat butter and oil on medium heat. Add shallots, and brown for about a minute, then add garlic and sage. Stir for another minute. Mix in orange zest and remove from heat to incorporate alcohol (make sure you always remove your pan from heat when adding alcohol). Immediately add whisky. It will bubble up quite furiously but will start to settle. Put back on heat and sprinkle in sugar. Stir occasionally as it simmers and begins to reduce. After about 5 minutes add the pumpkin and simmer for another couple of minutes. The colour should get darker as the pumpkin absorbs the sauce. Then stir in the Parmesan, and add salt and pepper to taste. (If you want to use pine nuts, go ahead and add them into the pumpkin mixture at the end)

Lay crepe out flat and place a slice of prosciutto down the middle. Spread 1/4 of the pumpkin mixture on top of the prosciutto and then fold each side of the crepe over the middle (almost like a burrito).

Drunken Pumpkin Crepes

 White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepe Filling

White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepes

(makes about 6 servings)

1 cup of fresh (or defrosted unsweetened) raspberries

1/2 jar of lemon curd (available in the jam section of the grocery store)

1 cup of white chocolate chips

2 tbsp of ricotta cheese

Mix the raspberries with the ricotta. (If using frozen, defrost them in a sieve so the excess water can drain away.) Spread the chocolate chips over the fresh hot crepe and allow them to begin to melt for a minute. Add a few healthy dollops of lemon curd, and the ricotta raspberry mix. Fold over and indulge!

White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepes

Origins of a foodie

Everyone has that one person who pushed them from a simple eater to a true food explorer. For me that one person was my brother. Although 5 years apart in age, and living on separate continents, we are extremely close and the first hour of our catch-up conversations revolve around food (and then usually another hour of discussion about TV shows and movies!). I don’t know that I can pinpoint the exact moment when we moved into the realm of foodies but I can clearly remember that he was always willing to try anything as a kid; lamb’s brain and eye balls, squid cooked in ink,  various animal parts ground, seasoned and wrapped in intestines; and he was always eager that others should do the same. It is not surprising that his food journey has led him to deeply fall in love with places like Japan, and as much as I would love for him to live near me, I know in his heart, he could never leave the culinary excitement and adventure of a big city like London.

And, I don’t blame him when there are places like Borough Market at London Bridge to explore your every specialty food indulgence. My husband and I were treated to a day of wondering, sampling and purchasing with my big brother and we had a blast! I am not sure if every person who stepped down off the bus with us had originally planned to go to the market, or if they were helplessly seduced by the aromas wafting into the streets above, but as one unified mass, we all eagerly bustled into the culinary oasis together.

Borough Market

After all, who could resist. The market sports all kinds of masterly crafted cheeses, meats, chocolate, freshly shucked oysters and clams, baked goods, olive oils, vinegars, micro brewery beers and fresh produce not to mention all the stands weekly conjuring up delicious meals to feed the already mesmerized (and sometimes free sample stuffed) crowds.

.Here are just some of the stands we stopped at to indulge:

oysters and clamsFresh oysters and clams served with Tabasco and sherry vinaigrette.

cheese soaked in red wine

A sampling feast of the Italian L’ubriaco Drunk Cheese. Cheese aged and soaked in Wine-how can that be bad?!

Chocolate

Artisan du Chocolat. Probably my favourite stop along the way. My brother bought one of their incredible boxes  with a creative selection of chocolates which he generously shared with us later that evening. (Also, for about $5 you can buy a bag of their misshapes and try a variety of their treats at half the price). Did you notice the Tobacco dark bar?

olive oilA unique olive oil blend from Oliveology. We all know how I feel about good olive oil…so yes.. I did want to just drink this!

duck confit sandwichesA tasty duck confit sandwich for lunch with some mulled wine.

the marketWhat a perfect Christmas season trip on a chilly wintery day. This really is just a very tiny sampling of the incredible vendors we enjoyed. I have never had such a difficult time making a lunch choice! Honestly you can’t beat a trip to Borough Market if you love food.  I am so grateful for all the ways my brother keeps expanding my culinary experiences. If there is anyone to blame (thank) for my grumbling belly- it’s him!

Chocolate Peppermint Crepe Cake

Crepes, my first pancake love. Simple, warm, with a squirt of lemon juice and a dusting of sugar. Perfect! Truth is there are so many great ways to enjoy them. My mum and aunt used to make crepe suzette (sizzling with orange juice and Grande Marnier) and then in Cyprus I discovered the amazing combination of Nutella, bananas and crushed toasted hazelnuts. Soon, I was seeking out Creperies for date nights, for dinner and dessert and exploring all flavour combinations, sweet and savoury.

In secondary school one of the first things we learnt to make in Home Economics (for boys and girls!) was pancakes. My first attempt was pretty poor and I came home with a Tupperware filled with soggy shreds of broken pancakes. Now, I am quite the crepe flipping diva but as much as I love them, I really don’t make crepes very often because there is no real healthy way to craft the batter effectively unlike American style pancakes. However, we had some new Waco friends over for dinner last night and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to re-kindle my original pancake love affair. I have seen a crepe cake trend emerging on Pinterest so it seemed only natural to attempt my own version.

It’s not easy to describe in a blog how to make the perfect thin crepe and so I am going to defer to the internet on this one! There are lots of  video tutorials to follow and you don’t need a special crepe making machine, just a good medium sized shallow pan (and a little practice!) . But as always, I do have a couple of tips for you.

  • Unlike american style pancakes, your pan should be on medium high heat and make sure you use a non-stick spray or butter. This will ensure they don’t stick.
  • They don’t take long to be ready for the flip. As soon as you see the little tiny bubbles appear, pull the edges away with a spatula all the way round and then turn them over.
  • Use a mixer to remove all the lumps. Your batter should be very smooth.
  • Allow your batter to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes before making crepes.
  • Stick to a good recipe. The consistency of crepe batter is crucial so don’t experiment too much, especially if you’re making them for the first time.
  • The batter keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • I think crepes are best fresh. You can make them ahead of time, if you are going to re-heat them. But with something like a crepe cake, were they are cold, I think crepes are best if served on the same day.

Pancake/crepe Batter:

1 cup all purpose (plain) flour

2 cups of milk

2 eggs

1 tbsp melted butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

Sift flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Combine together with a fork and then mix on medium speed with a hand held mixer until perfectly smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. For the crepe cake, I doubled the ingredients to make about 12-14 pancakes. Make crepes and set aside separated with parchment paper until ready to assemble the cake.

(For the filling and topping, I adapted a delicious cupcake recipe that I was introduced to by a friend. The original recipe can be found here on Your Cup of Cake an excellent baking blog)

Chocolate Mint Filling:

1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 cup of dark chocolate chips

1 tsp mint extract

1/4 cup of powdered sugar

1/4 cup of dutch processed cocoa powder

Melt cream with chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds on 50% heat. Stir well until all the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. (If you chose to make this ahead of time and it hardens in the fridge, you can add a little extra cream and place it back in the microwave for a few seconds)

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

4oz cream cheese at room temperature

3 tbsp of butter at room temperature

3 cups of powdered sugar

drop of mint extract

1/2 tbsp of cream or milk

green food colouring

Cream the butter and cheese for about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, milk and extract. Mix until smooth and then add food colouring a tiny bit at a time until it reaches your desired shade of green.

Assembling the cake:

Lay crepe on serving dish and spread a thin layer of the filling. Leave about a 1cm space around the edges.

Chocolate Mint Crepes

Mint Chocolate Filling

Pipe the buttercream over the top

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

and then drizzle with a little melted chocolate.

Mint Chocolate Crepe Cake

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Almond Baklava Rolls- in loving memory of Aunt Ellie

My Aunt Ellie recently passed away. It was rather quick and a shock to all of us when she got sick as we knew her as a very vivacious and lively woman. She was the wife of my dad’s eldest brother, Tony, and they lived in Canada or America throughout my childhood. They would occasionally pass through on their way to Greece/Cyprus, or sometimes he had a conference to attend in England and they would spend more than a few days. I didn’t really know them very well during this time but one thing I always remember is that she had the funniest stories, mostly about crazy things that had happened to her (like greeting a waiter at a reunion thinking he was one of the family, praying aloud for a young person referring to them as ‘he’ only to discover later that ‘he’ was a ‘she’, and many more). I loved that she could laugh at these things and her accounts were extremely entertaining.

Tony and Ellie moved to Cyprus a couple of years before my family did in 1993. I was 15 and finally at an age where my relationship with them began to deepen. One thing I soon learned was that Ellie welcomed everyone into her home with a lot of joy and a full plate of food! Although they moved away the following year, we ended up living in the same town again for about 6 months when I came to the States for my graduate degree in 2002. Every Sunday lunch featured a table full of people she had invited for a delicious meal and a dose of her amazing hospitality. All of my roommates soon loved being invited to Auntie Ellie’s and even when I went alone they would wait eagerly as I came home with several bags of Tupperware packed with leftovers every week. (Greek people always plan food for about 20 more people than they invite and Ellie was no exception!) She and I would have discussions about life and faith, and even though we may not have agreed on everything, and although I would arrive each week to find that she was trying to set me up with whatever single guy from church she could find (without warning me!), I had a lot of fun getting to know her better as a real person and not just ‘some relative that comes to visit.’ I have two very vivid memories of my time with her during this period. The first was when she took me out shopping for 10 hours straight (my feet still hurt thinking about it!), and the second is when she taught me to make her famous baklava rolls. Tony and Ellie moved permanently to Greece in the middle of my first year of grad school. When she passed away this summer, numerous people (around the world!) poured out their happy memories of her cooking and hospitality among many other qualities they admired in her. I only hope I have impacted half the number of people that shared their thoughts after her passing.

I have carried on her baklava legacy by making these rolls for tons of friends throughout the States and have helped teach others how to make them too. It was a little sad making these and writing about this recipe but I hope it will be one that you greatly enjoy.

Ellie’s Baklava

One thing every one should know is that there is no rule to making baklava. Much like eliopita (olive bread), it is primarily based on people’s family recipes. However, the basic formula is always a combination of nuts, sugar, spices, phyllo dough, and syrup (honey or sugar). This is Ellie’s recipe, which uses almonds, and the only change I have made is that I don’t include rose water because it’s an acquired taste and not always popular with non-Greeks.

Recipe

When I made Baklava this week, I decided to try a chocolate version as well as Ellie’s classic, so I have included both below.

(Makes about 40 pieces)

Syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

squirt of lemon juice

Almond Filling:

1 1/2 cup almonds

2/3 cup of sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

1 tbsp water or syrup.

(For Chocolate Baklava: add 1 cup of very dark chocolate chips)

Rolls:

1 box of Phyllo dough (two rolls)

3 sticks of unsalted butter

Yes, there is a lot of butter and sugar in this recipe. This is one dessert that you cannot skimp on and have a great result. However, it does make 40 small rolls, so instead of eating a whole square as with normal Baklava, you can nibble up a couple of pieces. They also keep for a week in the fridge so there is no need to eat them all at once! And, they make great gifts and are perfect for pot lucks.

Method:

Place all syrup ingredients into a small pan, mix well and then put on low heat and gently simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set aside to cool.

Combine nuts, sugar and spices into food processor and slightly pulse. Do not pulverize the almonds – you just want them to be chopped down a bit. Transfer into a bowl and stir in  water/syrup to help bind the mixture together.

Baklava Fillings

If you are making the chocolate version, pulse the chocolate chips first to break them down a bit and then add the almonds and continue as above. Because of all the sugar in this recipe, it is important to use very dark chocolate. My favourite at the moment is Guittard extra dark. Not only are they delicious, but they care about cocoa farmers and the environment.

Guittard

Melt 1 stick of butter in a microwave safe bowl for 40 seconds. It should be melted but not really hot.

Melted butter

Brush the bottom of your baking pan with butter to prevent sticking during baking. You can spray the bottom if you like, but I find this actually changes the flavour and the bubbling filling that leaks onto the pan makes the baklava stick.

Buttered Pan

Set up your rolling station with your filling and butter bowls on one side, and your sheets of phyllo dough on the other. I like to roll my baklava on a cutting board in the middle.

rolling station

Phyllo dough is rather intimidating. One of the main problems people have is that the very thin sheets tend to dry out if not used swiftly. However, if it gets damp, the sheets will stick together and be impossible to separate. Here are a few tips to help you manage this delicate balance

  • Get good quality phyllo dough (Athens is pretty good and easy to find at major grocery stores)
  • I recommend defrosting the dough overnight in the fridge. I find it tends to get wet on the sides when defrosting at room temperature and this makes it harder to work with.
  • Only open one of the rolled packets at a time.
  • Be gentle. If the sheet tears, don’t panic, you can always ‘glue it’ back together with the butter.
  • Some suggest placing a layer of plastic wrap over the sheets you are not using and then a damp towel on top to help prevent the dough drying out in the air. (Be careful to make sure the dough is completely covered in the plastic wrap so it doesn’t get wet). I have worked often enough with the dough that I find this just slows me down, but if you have never used phyllo before, I recommend trying this method.

Lay out 1 sheet of Phyllo. Using a pastry brush, spread some butter all over. You don’t want the sheet to be saturated, just covered. I usually put on a couple of globs and then spread the butter around, making sure to cover all the edges and corners.

Brushing Butter

Buttered Phyllo Sheet

Lay a second sheet of phyllo over the top and butter again. Spoon a small amount of the filling mixture in a line along the bottom of the sheet. Leave a tiny gap at the edges because the filling will bubble up and expand.

Chocolate Filling

Roll up tightly to the very top

Rolling BaklavaRolling Baklava

and then slice into three sections.

Cut Baklava

Brush the top with more butter and place tightly together on the baking sheet.

Baklava in Pan

It is tempting to skip this step because it means more butter but this serves an important purpose other than amazing flavour. As the rolls sit and you continue to work, they can get dried out, and the butter helps to keep them moist so make sure to lightly coat the edges especially. It also, helps them brown in the oven much like an egg wash.

Brush Corners

Repeat until you are out of filling mixture. Melt more butter as needed, one stick at a time.

Chocolate Filling

If you chose to do both flavours of Baklava, make sure you use two separate pans so chocolate doesn’t leak onto the plain ones.

Almond filling

Make sure they are all tightly snuggled into the pan. This is important to ensure that your edges don’t burn (especially for the chocolate ones).

Baklava Snuggle

Place in the oven at 350 for 50-60 minutes. They should be golden brown. Remove and immediately pour the cold syrup over the top.

Baklava

The syrup needs to be cold and the baklava piping hot so that the syrup is absorbed well without making the baklava soggy.

Chocolate Baklava

Allow to cool and then serve. These keep for a week in a sealed container in the fridge. Just remove the amount to be eaten and bring to room temperature before serving.

Chocolate and Almond Baklava