I recently added a Mediterranean cooking class to the schedule at Shiso Kitchen, and was thrown back to a wonderful trip I took a few years ago to Turkey and Greece. The warm days spent sitting outside by sparkling waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas were filed with shared mezze platters and sweet confections filled with honey, spices, and citrus fruits.
As I created the menu for this class, I had to somehow incorporate the flaky and sweet dessert treat of baklava. Traditional baklava is made by piling layer upon layer of buttered phyllo dough, stuffing in chopped nuts, and pouring a sweet syrup over the top and allowing it all to meld together in beautiful honeyed harmony. The trick is letting it set over night so that the baklava can soak up the syrup.
This key step is the exact problem that would hinder me from being able to add a true baklava to my class menu as we only have about 3 hours total to complete a meal. Well, my creative light bulb flicked on and I realized a way to utilize all of these rich Mediterranean flavors that would only take about 20 minutes to prepare. Thus, I bring to you Orange Almond Baklava Cups.
When working with phyllo dough, be sure to be delicate. The dough comes in super thin sheets, and should thaw before use, otherwise they will literally "chip off the block." Keep a damp towel handy to cover the unused dough while you are buttering each layer. Paint each layer with butter so that it is entirely coated. The orange simple syrup for this recipe does double duty by also lightly candying the orange slices, making even the peel edible. You can use any kind of nut for this recipe. I think that pecans and pistachios are particularly delicious.
Orange Almond Baklava Cups
- 1 package frozen phyllo dough
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 orange, halved and sliced
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
1. Combine sugar, honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve. Add orange slices and allow to simmer about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove some orange slices and set aside to garnish the cups.
2. Lay a sheet of phyllo on the counter, and brush with melted butter. Keep the remaining phyllo sheets covered with a damp cloth. Layer 2 more pieces and brush with butter. Repeat until you have 6 layers. Cut phyllo into strips and then cut into squares. Press squares into cups of a greased muffin tin. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes until golden brown.
3. In a food processor, pulse nuts with cinnamon. Stream in simple syrup until the mixture catches. You may not need to use all of the simple syrup.
4. Fill the cups with the nut filling and top with a candied orange slice.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.