Ζητω Η Ελλαδα!!! Χρονια πολλα Ελλαδα! Long live Greece and Happy Greek Independence Day to all the Greeks around the world! Today is a national holiday in Greece as it marks the start of the Greek war for Independence (March 25, 1821) from the Ottoman Empire (Turks). As a tribute to this important day in Greek history it is only natural I had to make one of if not the most famous Greek dessert around the world…baklava.
As with everything I bake I try to put my own creative spin on it and these mini baklava bites are no exception. I know my version of baklava will probably drive all the yiayia’s (Greek for grandmother) crazy because it does not resemble anything to the traditional baklava they are used to making. However, I feel that given a taste of these bites even my harshest critics would find it hard to resist admitting how great these came out.
Traditional baklava is a blend of toasted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, or walnuts depending on the baker) layered between buttery sheets of fillo then soaked in honey syrup. For my version, I decided to add a hint of chocolate because who doesn’t love chocolate. In order to incorporate the traditional flavor provided by ground hazelnuts, I used some leftover Greek Merenda spread, which is the Greek equivalent of Nutella, to provide a rich hazelnut chocolate flavor.
For such a small dessert these bites do not lack any of the flavor or richness found in traditional recipes. They are great to serve at large gatherings because one recipe makes 30 and their bite size cuts down on the messiness of cutting into and eating the original. I recommend trying this modern version of the classic Greek dessert! Kali Orexi!
Chocolate Baklava Bites
- ¾ cup Walnuts
- ¾ cup Almonds
- ½ cup Honey (preferably Greek)
- ¼ cup Water
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 3 tbsp. Sugar
- 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
- 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 tsp. Salt
- ¼ cup Hazlenut-Chocolate Spread (such as Merenda or Nutella)
- 2 boxes Mini Fillo Shells; 15 shells each
- Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange walnuts & almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden & fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes. Allow nuts to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, add the honey, water, and cinnamon stick to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until honey dissolves. Continue to cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 230°, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm. Discard cinnamon stick.
- Add the slightly cooled nuts to the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Pulse to combine.
- Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Place mini fillo shells into wells of 2 mini cupcake tins. Working quickly place 1 tsp. of melted hazelnut spread into the bottom of each fillo shell. Next, top each fillo shell with 1 tsp. of the nut mixture. Bake in oven until filling is hot and fillo is golden, about 10 minutes.
- Pour 1 tsp. of honey syrup into each fillo cup while warm. Allow syrup to soak in and then add another 1 tsp. to each cup. Refrigerate at least 5 hours but preferably overnight for flavors to develop.
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017
Today was a very overcast blah day which made it perfect for baking. I chose to tackle a famous Greek pastry called Loukoumades, also known as Greek Honey Puffs. A few days ago I tried to make these sweet gems but failed miserably. After translating a family recipe from Greek to English the measurements were not clear and a lot of guess-work was necessary. This guess-work produced a bowl of dense, inedible pastry.
I admit I was rather frustrated. After working hard to translate my boyfriend’s family recipe only to have it not turn out did cause me to lose motivation, especially since the Greek language is not the easiest thing to learn in the world. I have been trying to learn as much Greek since the birth of my daughter as we will be raising her Greek Orthodox and sending her to Greek school so it will be important for me to have a clear understanding of the language and culture in order to help her learn easier. This has been an uphill battle since the only foreign language I know is Spanish and some random German words and phrases, which are not helpful at all in the quest to master Greek.
Sure I have picked up a lot of Greek words and phrases and can even generally decipher conversations I hear based on what I do know but I am nowhere near where I want to be. Since I have a long road ahead to master Greek language I decided there is one thing I can master from Greek culture rather quickly… their food. This will also come in handy since I want my daughter to learn the tastes and flavors of that portion of her heritage all while broadening the horizons of my own palate. Lately I have been succeeding with savory options such as pasta and rice dishes to offer at dinner. It was only natural that I move on to sweets, which Greeks are notorious for.
Having gotten over my initial frustration I remembered my ultimate goal to provide these traditional dishes for my daughter and boyfriend since we are miles from family that would be able to do so for us. I was refreshed with my initiative to learn every traditional Greek dish, savory or sweet, knowing there is no one else to take on that responsibility and make sure tradition passes down to my daughter and eventually her children as well. With this newly lit fire I decided to get to the bottom of my initial failure.
I did some research online as well as cross referencing the family recipe with a recipe I received from the church cookbook of other family’s traditional Greek recipes. It was there I found my problem. The dense nature of my failure had two causes. The first was too much flour and not enough leavening agent. The second was too thick of dough, causing it to remain lumpy and hard to shape.
With my knowledge of what went wrong I went back to the drawing board. Can you guess what happened… that’s right… SUCCESS!!! Having successfully tackled on Loukoumades I can now put that burden behind me and find a new Greek recipe to try.
- 2 pkgs Instant or Rapid-Rise Yeast
- ½ cup Warm Water; between 90° to 100°
- 2 Eggs
- 4 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
- ¾ cup Milk, lukewarm to touch
- 3 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour, sifted
- 1 ¼ tsp. Salt
- Oil for Frying
- Pure Honey; for drizzling
- Cinnamon; to taste
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Be sure to not overheat the water as it will kill the yeast. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the milk and sugar and mix until just combined.
- Stir in the yeast and half of the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well blended. If the dough appears too thick, add water in small increments until the dough is smooth and falls slowly from the spoon. Make sure the dough is lump free. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
- In a large saucepan or pot heat the oil. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. This will absorb the excess oil after the Loukoumades are removed from frying. Give the risen dough a quick stir. Place a small amount of oil in a cup or bowl. If you desire small Loukoumades, select a teaspoon. If you desire larger Loukoumades like the ones pictured, select a tablespoon.
- Dip the spoon you selected in the cup of oil. This will keep the Loukoumades from sticking to the spoon and maintain their shape while frying. Grab a handful of dough and gently squeeze your fist together, causing the dough to squish out through the space in your palm between your thumb and pointer finger. Squeeze out enough dough to cover the surface of the greased spoon and use the edge of the spoon to cut off the dough and create a smooth, round shape. Gently slide the dough off the spoon into the hot oil. Fry the dough until golden brown.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove each Loukoumades and place on the prepared pan. Once all the Loukoumades have been fried, transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately as the texture deteriorates once the Loukoumades cool.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
PETER MENDOROS – PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2013