It is spring! (as of last Saturday) and no day so far has shown it more than this one. The birds are out, the hyacinths are blooming alongside our dining room window, the sun is out, and I hear songbirds out-singing the crows.
How else to celebrate spring? I shall make baklava!
As a part of a plan to become a more adventuresome cook and wean myself from my traditional apple pies, I thought I would crack open my beautiful Greek cookbook, Vefa’s Kitchen, and make my culinary maiden voyage with dessert.
I made the filo pastry from scratch, but something must have gone wrong (like my kneading) because it was very hard to roll out and there was not much of it. With one substitution, Earth Balance for butter, this dessert will be fit for my vegans, K and P (who I hope like baklava).
The most time-consuming task was the chopping up of the walnuts and almonds which would form the substance of the baklava which with my very dull knives took over an hour. Fortunately, Terence Malick’s The New World was there to keep me company. (Was there ever such a meditative, aesthetic, yearning film? I could watch it over and over.)
After 2 hours of cooling and a very clean house it was at last time for tasting, accompanied by music from the Turkish café. It was good. I mean, anything drenched in syrup can’t be bad, can it? But, sadly for my baking repertoire, it is baklava a la Dutch. It’s thick and sturdy, like apple pie without the apples. Ah well. It’s a start.
I can’t pretend that the baklava and this post haven’t been directly inspired by Molly Wizenberg’s food blog, Orangette. She is a Seattleite, an unfailing bon viveur, and my hero of the day. Her book, A Homemade Life, came out in paperback yesterday, and, strangely, I think I saw her at the Easter service at St. Paul’s last year. I did a double take on the trek to the communion rail, not because she is a local celebrity (which she is now officially) but because I recognized her face from a book signing she had done at the store a week earlier and she was - again - tres chic.