December 31, 2009

... Sweet and Spicy Almonds

This recipe is so easy to whip up - perfect for a holiday gift, to take to a NYE party, or, I'm thinking, even a Super Bowl party, Game Night, whatever.  Who doesn't love a bowl of nuts for snacking??

Most likely, you'll have most of the ingredients in your kitchen and since it takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish, I think you'll love recipes from Everyday Food just like I do.

2 1/2 cups unblanched almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt and cayenne pepper.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook honey and water with olive oil, stirring, until combined, 1 minute.  Add almonds; toss to coat.

Transfer nuts to sugar mixture (do not scrape extra glaze into bowl); toss to coat.  Cool in a single layer.

Taylor's Notes:
I just use a full 1 lb bag of almonds.  It's about 3 cups so I just adjust the other ingredients accordingly - like a heaping 1/4 cup of sugar instead of a level one.  Definitely be sure to not scrape the extra glaze from the skillet into the sugar mixture.  It makes a mess and the almonds don't come out looking like they do above (trust me).  They do taste as good, but they're not as pretty.  And who doesn't want pretty almonds??  


December 23, 2009

... Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava

You know, sometimes you come across a recipe that makes you say "Ohhhh yeahhhhh."  Well, here was mine for the year.  Thanks to Cooking Light for presenting me with my recipe of 2009... too bad I didn't come across it until November.  Or maybe not so bad (where my hips are concerned!)  Regardless, I think I'll be making this one for years to come.  Especially around the holidays.  Toasted nuts, hazelnut-chocolate spread, pastry... it just screams "holiday", doesn't it?

The recipe is actually pretty simple if you're patient enough to take the time (about an hour to assemble) and to clean up the mess (totally worth it).  And, unless you can find hazelnuts out of the shell, it's a great stress reliever to bang the heck out of those shells.  My tool of choice: a meat tenderizer.

Above is a shot of the baklava right out of the oven after I poured the honey / cinnamon  mixture on top.  So golden and shiny!  Below is a shot of them plated.  Look at that nutty, hazelnut-chocolaty goodness!!

Chocolate Baklava (apparently I added "Hazelnut" to the title on my own)
serves 24

3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella) (equates to one jar)
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup blanched toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspooon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
24 (14x9 inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat; stir until honey dissolves.  Increase heat to medium; cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 230 degrees (about 10 minutes).  Remove from heat; keep warm.  Discard cinnamon stick.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place hazelnut-chocolate spread in a microwave safe bowl; microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted.  Combine hazelnuts and next 5 ingredients (through salt).  Lightly coat a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Working with 1 phyllo sheet at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), place 1 phyllo sheet lengthwise in bottom of prepared pan, allowing ends of sheet to extend over edges of dish; lightly brush with butter.  Repeat procedure with 5 phyllo sheets and butter.  Drizzle about 1/3 cup melted hazelnut-chocolate spread over phyllo.  Sprinkle evenly with one-third of nut mixture (about 1/2 cup).  Repeat procedure twice with phyllo, butter, hazelnut-chocolate spread, and nut mixture.  Top last layer of nut mixture with remaining 6 sheets phyllo, each lightly brushed with butter.  Press gently into pan.

Make 3 lengthwise cuts and 5 crosswise cuts to form 24 portions using a sharp knife.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until phyllo is golden.  Remove from oven.  Drizzle honey mixture over baklava.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Cover; store at room temperature.

Taylor's Notes:
First off, don't make the honey / water / cinnamon mixture until the baklava is about halfway done baking.  How on earth are you supposed to make that, remove it from the heat and keep it warm while you're assembling the baklava and letting it bake for 35 minutes?!?  Secondly, definitely use butter.  I used margarine both times I made this and it just turns into a watery consistency when it's melted.  It still tastes good - no doubt about that! - but I think I'll use butter next time.  Also,  unless you want to be wasteful like I was, find another use for the remaining phyllo dough.  There's probably 20 sheets left out of the box after you finish this recipe.

In case you can't find the four types of nuts already toasted / roasted, you can spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Bonus: your oven will smell so warm and cozy when you take them out!  I think the recipe is a little confusing, so to clarify, basically you're preparing 4 layers of phyllo and 3 layers of goodness.  6 sheets of buttered phyllo, spread Nutella, sprinkle nuts, 6 sheets of buttered phyllo, spread Nutella, sprinkle nuts, 6 sheets of buttered phyllo, spread Nutella, sprinkle nuts, 6 sheets of buttered phyllo and pop it in the oven.  And one last tip, don't drink a bottle of wine at dinner with your sister prior to making this... otherwise you'll lose count of the layers of phyllo and confuse yourself :)