Baklava: How to Make it at Home (Simple & Delicious)

Layers and layers of flaky crispy dough filled with pistachios and walnuts and covered with a perfectly sweet glaze. 

Baklava making is indeed an art. In the large businesses you will find huge, cold rooms reserved for rolling out he dough (called yufka, also known as phyllo) and preparing this delicious dessert.

Although baklava is found throughout the world especially in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, it is almost always prepared differently. No matter who I ask, they always tell me that the baklava from their country is the best and proceed to explain to me why.

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As for me, I find it a beautiful thing to simply appreciate the differences. Yes I have my favorites but at the end of the day, how it is prepared is a beautiful reflection of collective cultures and societies.

Making baklava at home is actually quite simple especially if you buy the pre-prepared dough like I did. Essentially, it just takes time and patience to carefully and steadily build layer upon layer of this dessert.

Here’s the recipe:

Baklava

  • 200 g melted butter
  • 400 g yufka or phyllo dough
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 lemon

Preparation:

Pre-heat the oven on 200C/392F.

Grease your baking dish with butter using a pastry brush. (I used a glass 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish; this is not the traditional type of pan but it works well)

Then keeping the yufka covered with a damp kitchen towel, peel layer by layer and carefully place it in the dish, brushing the dough gently with butter after each addition.

After about 15 layers, it’s time to add the nuts.

On one side I added the pistachios and on the other side I added the walnuts.

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Then I continued layering about 18 more sheets of the dough, adding butter after each addition.

Once the final layer is added, gently cut the baklava into diamond or square shapes, being careful not to tear the dough.

Cover with the remaining melted butter and place the baklava in the oven.

Meanwhile, to make the simple syrup combine the sugar with 2 cups of water and the the lemon wedge and simmer on low heat, stirring frequently for about 8-10 minutes.

Once the baklava is golden, remove it from the oven and pour over the simple syrup on top. The baklava will rise and sizzle and it will look and smell absolutely delicious.

Allow to cool and then serve and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

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Cacık (Creamy Yogurt with Garlic, Lemon, Cucumber & Mint)

A refreshing, delicious and light addition to compliment grilled meats, salads or just simply served as a classic meze (appetizer).

I have had the pleasure or eating Cacık numerous times and what I have found is that no recipe tastes the same. In culinary school, we made it with a thick yogurt and most of my colleagues ate it as a side item. Some of my friends prepare it with yogurt and water to make it literally the consistency of a soup and it is eaten as so. The store bought variety is somewhere in between but lacks the burst of freshness from the lemon, garlic and using fresh mint. 

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My recipe is a bit different from them all. I use a thick yogurt but then I really infuse it with the fresh flavors of the lemon, garlic and mint that makes it undeniably delicious. Quite frankly, I love Cacık with grilled meats or to dip toasted bread. Yum! 

Here’s the recipe:

Cacık (Creamy Yogurt with Garlic, Lemon, Cucumber & Mint)

  • 1 c thick yogurt (Suzme, Greek or your favorite strained yogurt) 
  • 1/3 c finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh mint + a sprig for garnish
  • 1 large garlic clove (crushed)
  • salt (to taste)

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt until smooth. 

Add in the lemon juice and salt and whisk again.

Stir in the cucumber, garlic and fresh mint. Taste to see if more salt is needed.

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Serve & Enjoy!

Afiyet Olsun!

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Photos & Recipe by EE Winkler

©All Rights Reserved

Donauwelle: A Traditional German Sheet Cake with Fresh Cherries, German Buttercream & a Chocolate Topping

A modern twist on the traditional German sheet cake, with layers of chocolate cake, vanilla cake, fresh cherries, German buttercream and topped off with a chocolate topping.

Although from the sounds of the ingredients, it may seem that you have heard of this cake before or it may seem similar to the Black Forest Cake. But in as many ways as it is similar it is also unique.

The cake batter is essential comprised of a chocolate cake layer and a vanilla cake layer but when the cherries are placed on top, they fall into the cake as it bakes thus creating a wavy cake on the inside.

Topped with a decadent German buttercream and a chocolate glaze (that gets better with time) it is a treat that is easy to serve to friends or enjoy for a special occasion.

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Here’s the recipe:

Donauwelle

For the cake:

  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c sunflower oil (or an neutral oil)
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c thick strained yogurt (Greek or Suzme)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 c cocoa powder
  • 1.5 – 2 c pitted fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 TBSP butter (for greasing the pan)

For the German Buttercream:

  • 2 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c corn starch
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 1 c softened butter

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP sunflower oil (or any neutral oil)

Preparation:

Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C & grease a small cake pan with butter.

For the cake: whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and then whisk again. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Alternating between the flour mixture and the strained yogurt, add them to the cake batter, while whisking well with each addition. Divide the cake batter in half and whisk in the cocoa powder into half of the cake. Starting with the chocolate cake batter, pour it into the cake pan. Then add the vanilla cake batter on top creating a nice even layer. Then layer the pitted cherries on top of the cake to completely cover the cake in neat rows. Bake the cake for approximately 40 minutes and allow to cool.

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To make the German buttercream: Heat the milk in a medium saucepan just until hot, but not boiling. In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch and sugar until smooth and well incorporated. Temper the egg mixture by slowly adding the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly until completely combined. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Then pour the mixture onto a plate, and cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the cream. Chill for a couple of hours to overnight.

Once cooled, whisk the softened butter in a large bowl and then whisk in the pastry cream mixture into the butter until completely combined.

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Top the cake with a thick layer of the German buttercream and spread it evenly over the cake (Note: you might have some left over).

To prepare the Chocolate glaze: melt the chocolate over a double boiler until it is melted. Stir in the oil and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Once the chocolate has slightly cooled, pour it over the German pastry cream.

Then using a fork or a butter knife, create the waves on top of the cake allowing some of the pastry cream to be shown through the chocolate.

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Serve immediately or pop it in the fridge for a special treat for later.

Guten Appetit!

Fresh Stuffed Grape Leaves (Taze Yaprak Sarmasi) – Vegetarian Version

Tender fresh grape leaves stuffed with a flavorful vegetarian filling.

I will never forget the first time I tried stuff grape leaves. I cannot remember exactly how old I was but I was a small child. It was a new taste for me. The leave reminded me of an undercooked collard green but I thought the filling was quite tasty.

Flash forward a couple of decades and I would say I’ve eaten my fair share of stuffed grape leaves in many different countries, prepared a myriad of different ways. Although they do require some time to actually roll and stuff the leaves, they are well worth the effort. I love that they can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature so there’s no need to fuss with this aspect. 

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Traditionally, they are prepared with meat, but I don’t miss the meat when I prepare them without it. I created this recipe because I did not have meat on hand and I used bulgur instead of rice simply because I really love bulgur. 

I think that everyone that has ever eaten a stuffed grape leaves, knows them immediately when they see them. And if they are like me, then seeing them will surely bring a smile to their face.

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Here’s the recipe:

Fresh Stuffed Grape Leaves (Taze Yaprak Sarmasi) – Vegetarian Version

  • 20-30 fresh grape leaves
  • 1/2 c dry fine bulgur
  • 1 small onion (finely diced; about 1 cup diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon (sliced)
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Preparation:

To blanche the grape leaves: Clean the grape leaves thoroughly. Then prepare a large pot of boiling water. Working in batches, blanche the grape leaves for about 30-60 seconds. Then remove from the water and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the grape leaves and set aside.

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To prepare the filling: Prepare the bulgur by placing it in a bowl and adding one cup of boiling water. Stir and then cover with plastic wrap or a plate to allow it to steam for 10 minutes. 

Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Then add the tomato paste and stir well, adding a little water as needed. 

Then mix the bulgur and the tomato paste mixture in a large bowl. Season with the oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh parsley just until it is incorporated.

In a large stock pot, line the bottom with about 4-5 grape leaves (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan).

To roll the grape leaves: One by one, place them on a flat surface. Starting at the wide bottom part of the grape leaf, place about half a tablespoon of the filling on the leaf and spread out into a thin line. Fold in the sides of the leaf and gently roll it until it is completely rolled. Continue until all of the grape leaves are rolled.

Place each of the stuffed grape leaves seam side down in the pot, side by side, very close together. Top with the lemon slices and enough water to fill the pot half way up (but do not submerge the grape leaves. Place a heavy ceramic plate of bowl on top of the grape leaves and cover with a lid. Allow the grape leaves to cook for about 45 minutes, adding more water as needed. 

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Once cooked, gently remove from the pot.

Serve and Enjoy with a lemon slice.

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Afiyet Olsun!

 ©All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: EE Winkler

Garlicky Good Green Beans

Simple, healthy and delicious green beans sautéed with garlic, olive oil and seasoning!

A good side dish recipe can be difficult to create but well worth the effort. This recipe was birthed nearly 10 years ago when I wanted to make green beans in a quicker way than how I grew up eating them. And so, with a bit of garlic, olive oil, seasoning and green beans, this recipe idea became a reality. It is still a go-to recipe for me to prepare a simple and quick side dish. It is perfect for everyday whether it is just a weekday or a holiday.

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Here’s the recipe:

Garlicky Good Green Beans

  • 1.5 c green beans
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (crushed and minced)
  • 1-2 T olive oil (or butter)
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Preparation:

Clean and trim the ends of the green beans.

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Mince the garlic until it forms a paste (rubbing the flat part of a knife back and forth on a cutting board with a bit of salt will achieve this paste consistency).

Place the green beans and garlic in a frying pan with a little bit of water. Simmer them for about 2-3 minutes and then drain the excess water.

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Drizzle over the olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano and sauté the green beans for just a couple of minutes before the garlic starts to brown too much.

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Serve immediately and garnish with fresh parsley.

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Bon Appetit!

Bazlama: Turkish Yeast Flatbread (Light, Fluffy & Simply Delicious)

A fluffy & light yeast-based Turkish flatbread, Bazlama is a classic and simple bread. Cooked until puffy and thick and coated with a little butter or olive oil, it is so delicious and perfectly compliments any meal.

Bazlama is a combination between a flat bread and a traditional bread similar in texture to Naan. It is thick and fluffy, making it perfect to serve with meals with sauces or gravy because it can soak up the excess liquid.

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With minimal prep work, the dough can be prepared ahead of time and then the Bazlama can be prepared just before you are ready to eat.

Here’s the recipe:

Bazlama (Turkish Yeast Flatbread)

  • 1 c flour (plus more for kneading and dusting)
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1/3 c warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 TBSP olive oil +more for brushing the bread after cooking (if desired)

Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, warm water and 1 TBSP of olive oil.

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Then add the flour and the salt and stir until thoroughly incorporated.

Then transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.

With the remaining half a tablespoon of olive oil, grease a bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover it with a damp kitchen towel, place it in a warm place and allow it to rise for one hour.

After the dough has risen, knead it gently again for one minute. Then shape into a ball and cut into two equal pieces.

Roll out each piece to make a large circle (like making pizza dough).

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Place the rolled out circles on a piece of parchment paper dusted with flour and cover again with the damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for an additional 30 minutes.

To cook the bazlama: Place each piece one at a time on a crepe pan or large frying pan. Allow the bazlama to cook on both sides (about 3 minutes each side on medium high heat). Note: The dough will start to puff up a lot and this is a very good sign. When it starts to lightly brown, it is ready to be flipped.

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To serve, brush with olive oil or butter and sprinkle with salt (if desired).

Break bread and enjoy with your loved ones!

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Afiyet Olsun! 

 

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)

A flaky, thin, buttery crust filled with apples, cinnamon sugar and raisins! An Austrian delightful recipe!

I don’t know what there is not to love about apple strudel. It is so delicious and although the dough is an essential formula to this recipe, the dough does not steal the show away from the natural delciousness of the apples.

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Here’s the recipe:

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel) 

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour (plus more for kneading)
  • 2 TBSP melted butter (or any neutral oil) + 1 tsp for oiling the bowl
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 2-2.5 c sliced apples (I used Golden Delicious)
  • 1/3 c raisins
  • 1/3 c white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon’

For topping the strudel:

  • 2 TBSP melted butter

Preparation:

To prepare the dough: Mix together the egg, oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Then add the flour and the salt and stir well until the mixture forms a cohesive dough. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough for about 5-6 minutes until the dough is smooth. Grease a bowl with butter or oil and then place the ball of dough in the bowl, cover with a damp dish towel and allow the dough to rise for 1-2 hours.

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To roll out the dough: Cover a large countertop or table with a clean tablecloth. Dust with flour and roll out the dough into a very thin rectangular piece. The dough should be thin enough for you to see your hand through it and it will be very, very delicate.

To make the filling: Mix together the apples, raisins, cinnamon and sugar.

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To assemble the strudel: Pile the filling in a line along one of the shorter sides of the dough leaving about 2-3 inches of space from the edge of the dough.

Lift up the edge of the dough to partially cover the filling and then using the tablecloth, lift it up so that the strudel naturally rolls up.

Once rolled, tuck the ends under each side and brush liberally with the melted butter.

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Carefully lift the strudel on to a baking sheet lined with parchment and lightly greased.

Bake the strudel in a pre-heated oven on 375F until the strudel is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and brush with a little extra butter (if you choose; I did).

Serve and Enjoy warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Absolutely divine!

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Guten Appetit!

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