Pumpkin Spice Cake Cutouts

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I’ve observed that there are typically 2 ‘sides’ / camps when it comes to the subject of pumpkin spice.

People either really, really, REALLY love it. Or, they absolutely despise it.

Let’s face it: come September-October in the USA, we see a LOT of pumpkin-spice(d) stuff get thrown at us from food retailers and grocery stores. You can pretty much find a pumpkin spice flavored everything; cookies, doughnuts, candies, chips, cake mixes, lattes, coffee creamers, booze. There are pumpkin spice flavored savory dishes served in restaurants (which I think, depending on the ingredients may not be so bad)

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Pumpkin spice scented candles and Glades make appearances. I’ve even seen pumpkin spice scented bathroom spray down the toiletries aisle of one my local grocery stores- which, I think is taking it a little too far.

There’s pumpkin spice scented shampoo, lotion and body soap. Again, I feel pretty sure that this is taking it too far; why would you want to literally ‘smell’ like pumpkin spice? Why can’t we just let our pumpkin spice obsession stay in its lane, in areas that it can shine the best without being too extra or just plain ridiculous?

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You know a really good place/fit for pumpkin spice? Baked goods.

There are very very few baked goods that can’t be improved with pumpkin spice.

I found that out when I adapted a recipe I saw in Rachael Ray magazine for cut out style cookies that were meant to mimic the flavors of a spice cake. What with all the pumpkin spice craze going on, I thought that maybe I could try and apply it to something that makes sense. The flavors of pumpkin spice and spice cake actually aren’t all that different from one another, so I figured that it couldn’t be that hard to pull off successfully.

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Turns out, I was right.

So what I did here was adjust the flavors of the base spice cake cookie dough. Then, just to be “cute” with it, used pumpkin shaped cookie cutters and made an orange hard icing to spread on top with some Halloween sprinkles.

As cut out cookies should be, these are thick and soft with just the right amount of chew. And heating them up for about 10 seconds in the microwave makes them practically melt in your mouth. The pumpkin spice is noticeably prominent but still SO good. You really do get the feeling that you’re eating a pumpkin flavored spice cake- except it’s a cookie. And a really good one at that, which means I’m really happy with how these turned out.

Happy Halloween to all of you wonderful people, especially those at this week’s Fiesta Friday #92.

Pumpkin Spice Cake Cutouts


Recipe Adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 sticks (8 0z.) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  •  2 eggs

For Icing:

  • 3 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • Orange food coloring (Red and Yellow Mixed together)
  • Orange and Black Nonpareils

Directions

For the Cookies:

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, allspice, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the butter and both sugars, occasionally scraping down the bowl, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Reduce speed to low; add the flour mixture and beat until just blended. Divide the dough in half; flatten into two disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Working with one dough disk at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies with a three inch cookie cutter. Gather up scraps, roll out again, refrigerating the dough if too soft to cut. Place cookies 1 inch apart on 2 parchment lined baking sheets; refrigerate 15 minutes.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through until golden around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

For the Icing:

Whisk first 4 ingredients together in a small bowl. If icing is too thin to sit on cookies without running off, then add more confectioner sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time. Sprinkle cookies with nonpareils. Let cookies stand until icing sets and is fully firm, about 1 hour.

Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches

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Something I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on this blog before is that I enjoy musicals quite a bit.  I admittedly don’t have the Broadway cash to be able to get out and see the majority of the ‘newer’ ones that have come out- but when it comes to certain classics that have either been videotaped and sold or broadcast on PBS or, made into actual cinema movies, I’ve got quite a few favorites.

For me, the #1 spot permanently belongs to “Phantom the Opera” (by Lloyd Webber). I fell in love with it from that very first time I watched it/heard the music and no other  musical is ever going to take its place.

“My Fair Lady” is a very close second, though. I went through a phase where I kept the VHS of My Fair Lady semi-permanently set out next to my tv because I would watch it at least several times a week. To this day the song “On the Street Where You Live” is enough to always make me smile and pull me out of the worst moods.

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“The Wiz”, “Chicago”, “The Slipper & the Rose”, “RENT”, “Carmen Jones”, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella”, “Grease”, “Gigi”, “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Annie”, “Sweeney Todd”, “West Side Story”.

Love them all.

I could go on, but you get the picture, right? I really love musicals.

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So, what do musicals have to do with today’s post?

There IS a connection, actually. You may have noticed that in my little list of favorite musicals, I left one out- possibly one of THE most well-known and popular musicals of all time.

Calling all theater nerds: which one did I leave out?

Yep. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music”.

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If for nothing else, many people are familiar with The Sound of Music for the song “My Favorite Things” that (for some reason that I never have really understood) has become a song that’s sung here in America at Christmastime.

I have only, ever, and always thought about one thing when I hear(d) the word ‘schnitzel’.

Just one thing, period.

Maria von Trapp-the main character who sings the song “My Favorite Things”.  I kinda knew about schnitzel with noodles before I even knew just what the heck schnitzel was. I knew it was probably some kind of meat since it was being eaten ‘with’ noodles, but besides that- not a clue.

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Eventually when I became a foodie and started cooking I found out what it was, but still wasn’t very interested in it. It was one of those foods I saw come out around October for Oktoberfest with a bunch of other German/Austrian foods. And for some reason, there’s a restaurant in my area that has a schnitzel special come out around St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not typically a huge fan of German food so I never had much of a reason to try schnitzel, whether it was made by me or someone else.

Recently, I was thumbing through an issue of Food Network Magazine and I came across a recipe for Pretzel Rolls that really stuck out to me-enough so that I decided to go ahead and try it out for myself. It was a marvelous success, and the subject of my last blog post. Directly opposite the pretzels rolls in the magazine was a recipe for Schnitzel Sandwiches that they suggested you pair with the rolls.

Well lemme tell you guys, the schnitzel in the magazine looked SO tasty alongside those pretzel rolls that I just couldn’t resist following that recommendation. I went to the store and bought myself chicken and decided to give it a try for myself.

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And now, I really do understand why schnitzel made the list of Maria’s favorite things. I SO get it now.

If you buy meat that’s already been pounded thin for you, then this dish is actually really easy and relatively quick. The seasonings are also pretty simple, but they yield such wonderful results. The coating fried up SO golden brown and crisp, and it stayed on like glue even while frying (I’m pretty sure it was because of the chilling given to the cutlets before they get to the pan, so I wouldn’t skip that step if I were you.) I ate my chicken on a golden brown pretzel roll just like the recipe suggested, served alongside some potato chips sprinkled with malt vinegar.

SO GOOD, y’all.

Heck, even when I was eating the leftovers (after the crispiness had left the coating for obvious reasons) I STILL thought this dish was awesome. So awesome, that I’m bringing it to this week’s Fiesta Friday #91, co-hosted this week by  Juju @ cookingwithauntjuju and Indira @ I’ll Cook, You WashI’m pretty sure I’ll make all of us schnitzel-lover converts by the time the party’s over 😉

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Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches


Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • kosher salt & black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds or combination of the three
  • 8 chicken cutlets
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 8 pretzels rolls (see recipe)

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Whisk the eggs and milk in another shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Combine the breadcrumbs and seeds in a third dish; season with salt and pepper.

Lightly dredge each cutlet in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in the egg mixture, then in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat both sides.

Arrange the cutlets in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour. (It helps the coating stick to the meat)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the cutlets until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per side, sprinkling with the parsley during the last minute of cooking. Remove to a rack or paper-towel lined plate to drain. Season with salt.

Sandwich the schnitzels on the pretzels rolls (you may need to cut the bigger pieces of meat.) Top with pickles, red onion, lettuce and/or mustard.

Pretzel Rolls

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Random piece of trivia: it took me until I was an adult before I would eat anything that remotely resembled or had anything to do with pretzels of any kind.

When I was a kid in Pre-School and Sunday School and they offered us the Rold Golds crunchy pretzels that came in the chip bags, I would never take them. I hated the taste so much that I would rather eat nothing at all and just sit at the table with my Dixie cup of water while the other kids chomped on those things that I thought tasted like salty sawdust and gave you bad breath.

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Can someone answer a question for me that I have yet to figure out for myself?

WHY does anyone actually eat those soft Super Pretzels in the black box that you buy in the frozen food section of the grocery store?

In the first place, I have a thing about eating dough that’s already been baked then frozen. I just haven’t had any yet that had any real flavor to me.

In the second place: the Super Pretzels (that are apparently really popular among little kids) are absolutely dis-GUSTING. They taste like…I don’t know. Bland cardboard or they way you’d imagine salted packaging foam to taste if that were even a real thing.

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I’ll be honest: my early dislike of pretzels and anything to do with them made me a really late bloomer on getting around to trying Auntie Anne’s.

C’mon, you didn’t ACTUALLY think I was gonna slander the deliciousness that is an Auntie Anne’s pretzel, did you?

After all, I do have taste buds. And they are working correctly. Auntie Anne’s pretzels-plain AND cinnamon sugar- are great. No contest there. (Their strawberry lemonade is pretty on point too.)

Sam’s Club butter pretzels are also pretty tasty too I’ve found. I’d love to get my hands on that recipe someday to try and recreate it at home.

But in the meantime-in-between-time, what I’ve got for you guys today will work juuuuuust fine.

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I first saw these in a Food Network magazine article and thought that they looked delicious. I immediately clipped it out and put it in my binder to make for later. “Later” took a few months, but as it turns out, homemade soft pretzels are a classic food for Oktoberfest, so I just figured that this was a pretty good time to try this recipe out.

Making pretzels is actually a pretty interesting process. The dough gets mixed together in a traditional way, then after proofing and molding out the dough into pretzel shapes, you boil the pretzels in a salt and baking soda bath, THEN bake them in the oven

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The results are pretty awesome. The rolls baked up nice, tall and golden brown. They were also the inspiration for the next post I’ve already gotten lined up for you guys.Cause there’s definitely more coming. Stay tuned.

And now, I also know how to make pretzels.

Totally a life skill everyone should know.

(Oh by the way, I actually like Rold Golds crunchy pretzels a lot now. Go figure.)

Happy Fiesta Friday #90 weekend as well: and thanks to  Effie @ Food Daydreaming and Lindy @ Lindy Mechefske for co-hosting.

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Pretzel Rolls

Recipe Courtesy of  Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2  1/4 tsp. dry active yeast
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2  1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until a thermometer registers 110 degrees F. Pour into a medium bowl; sprinkle with the yeast and let soften, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Combine the flour and fine salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the yeast mixture and butter and mix until the dough is slightly smooth and soft but still sticky, about 2 minutes. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray; add the dough, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Generously coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Stretch into a 16-inch-long log, about 2 inches wide; cut into 8 even pieces. Roll and stretch each piece into a 6-inch-long rope, then wind into a coil; tuck the end underneath. Transfer the rolls to the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature 15 minutes, then refrigerate until slightly puffed, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a large pot or deep skillet with 3 inches of water. Add the baking soda and 1/4 cup coarse salt and bring to a boil. Add half of the rolls and cook until slightly puffed, about 1 minute, flipping halfway through with a slotted spoon. Recoat the baking sheet with cooking spray and return the rolls to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Brush the rolls lightly with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Transfer to the oven and bake until the rolls are deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes on the pan, then remove the rolls to the rack to cool completely.

Banana-Pecan Streusel Pound Cake

Banana Pecan Streusel Pound Cake2

I have a two year old niece. She’s great. Really great.

She can count up to thirty by herself. She knows her all of her ABCs and colors.

She LOVES eating vegetables. She’ll eat fresh picked green beans like they’re potato chips.  Broccoli? Brussel Sprouts? Cucumbers? No problem. She’ll eat them with a smile on her face.

She sings the “Farmer in the Dell” as the “Farmer in the Cheese”. I don’t know why, but it’s friggin adorable. I videotaped it. I watch it often whenever I need a smile.

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Her hair goes down to her butt when it’s straightened. (Note, that makes it longer than mine- her 26 year old aunt)

She is an expert at working a cellphone and a tablet. I’m serious: this 2 year old knows how to find contacts and dial/Facetime numbers, surf Youtube, find the cartoon videos she likes, skip the ads, rewind/fast forward and repeat the videos over again. It’s CRAZY how tech savvy she is.

She’s very articulate for her age. For instance: when I recently announced to her that it was time for bed, she replied, “What? But that’s impossible and so silly!” (Verbatim. Those were her exact words. Where she learned how to say ‘impossible’, I have no idea.)

All I know is, I’m a mighty proud auntie.

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I mean, she’s two: so that means that she does love Cheetos, apple juice, and ice cream.

She asks A LOT of questions, REPEATEDLY. (“What are you doing?” followed by “Why”? being her favorites right now)

She doesn’t like going to bed at night.

And hearing the word ‘No’ sometimes makes her….upset.

But regardless of those trying times that come with living with a toddler, I gotta say that my niece is one of the biggest lights of my life and I’m so glad that I get to help raise her and watch her grow. Even if I never have any kids of my own, she’ll always be my baby.

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Come to think of it, I just remembered something. Something important.

I know what you guys are all thinking.

“Jess…what on Earth did you bake that monster of cake for?”

Well, today’s a pretty special occasion guys. So I baked a pretty special cake.

Today’s the second anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. I’ve been both an aunt AND a food blogger for two years now and although being an aunt always takes precedence for me, I will say that being a blogger’s been a pretty great part of my life too. It’s given me the opportunity to share what I love to do with a whole bunch of friends, strangers, and strangers who have become friends. It’s also one of the better decisions I’ve made and I couldn’t let the day go by without whipping up something great to commemorate the occasion.

And God, is this thing great.

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Let me tell you guys something. There’s pound cake….and then there’s POUND CAKE.

Those who know what’s up, can tell the difference.

You guys should know how serious I was about celebrating my blogs second birthday. This recipe was originally, just for a plain banana pound cake with pecans sprinkled on top. But that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted more.

So not only did I add a buttery pecan streusel topping to this ginormous cake, I went a step further and made a caramel sauce from scratch to drizzle on top of the finished product.

I took an ordinary pound cake, and brought it up to…a higher level. It’s just what I do.

And I’m also feeling rather generous, so to celebrate Cooking is My Sport’s birthday, I’d like to invite all of you to take one great big slice of this cake. Eat, get your mind blown, and smile.

Then repeat.

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Banana-Pecan Streusel Pound Cake


Recipe Adapted from The Southern Cake Book

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • Shortening

For Pecan Streusel:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt

For Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer about 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition.

Combine mashed bananas, milk and vanilla

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to batter alternatively with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour into a greased (with shortening) and floured 10-inch (16 cup) tube pan. Sprinkle with pecan streusel.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on wire rack.

For Pecan Streusel: Stir together flour, pecans, melted butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt until blended. Let stand thirty minutes or until firm enough to crumble into small pieces.

For Carmel Sauce: Bring light brown sugar, melted butter, whipping cream and honey to a boil in a medium saucepsn over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 15 minutes before serving. To reheat, microwave at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or until warm, stir until smooth.

Baklawa

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Over the course of the past several years since I started cooking for myself I’ve built up a collection of different recipes and foods that are on a little thing I call my Cooking Bucket List. I’m sure many of you have ones of your own. They’re really just a list of foods that have yet to actually attempt making for myself but are still very interested in trying out….y’know, before I, kick the bucket.

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Some of these recipes (like souffle, candy or from scratch pastry cream) are rather complicated, which is the main reason why I haven’t tried them yet- having a fear that I’ll somehow mess it up and waste my time and the ingredients. Others (like standard ice cream, the Momufoku Milk Bar birthday cake,  require me to have to make a purchase of some other kind of something that I don’t have ‘just’ to make this particular recipe. I’m not the most frugal person in the world but I’m also hesitant to go out and splurge on an ice cream machine or shop online for baker’s ammonia or acetate strips when I know I don’t ‘need’ to make something.

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Those are the first two types of recipes on my Cooking Bucket List. The third type, I’ve really got no fancy-dancy explanation for; they’re recipes and foods that wouldn’t really put me out of my way to make at all. They’re there, because I’m lazy and simply just haven’t gotten around to trying them out yet.

Today’s post was one of those.

Baklawa is one of my favorite Middle Eastern foods and one of my overall favorite treats in general. There’s a Middle Eastern deli nearby where I live that makes delicious baklawa, but I’ve still wanted to try it out for myself for years.

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There are several markets in my area that sell Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine ingredients so I was able to find orange blossom water pretty easily for a fairly inexpensive price. I’d never heard of it before this and from what I understand, just a little bit goes a LONG way. So as a side note, if any of you know of any recipes using orange blossom water besides baklawa, I now have a nearly full bottle of it just sitting on a shelf that I don’t really know what else to do with- if you happen to have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

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Now look guys, I know my first attempt at baklawa ain’t exactly the Belle of the Ball. It’s not as pretty as I would’ve wanted it to be and clearly my fillo layering skills could use some practice. But it was my first time and all, so cut me some slack.

And in any case, the taste more than made up for the presentation, I can guarantee you.

The fillo cooked up nice, crisp and golden brown. The recipe gives two options for how to handle the syrup: I chose the option of pouring the cooled syrup over hot baklawa right after I took it out of the oven, but doing it vice versa is an option as well. Whatever works for you.

So yeah: that’s one item off my Cooking Bucket List. I guess now I have to go back and pick  another to make. But first, guess I can share some of my Baklawa with the folks at this week’s Fiesta Friday #88, co-hosted this week by  Julie @ Hostess At Heart and Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons.

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Baklawa

Recipe Courtesy of Kibbee ’n’ Spice and Everything Nice

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Ingredients

  • 2 packages of fillo dough

Filling

  • 2 lbs. walnuts
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. orange blossom water
  • 2 1/2 lbs. butter

Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. orange blossom water
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Directions

Unwrap and carefully unfold thawed fillo dough; cover with plastic wrap or wax paper nd a damp cloth to keep the dough from drying out.

Filling: Grind the walnuts coarsely, mix with sugar and orange blossom water until well blended. Butter a 12 x 16 baking pan. Render the butter.

Syrup: Mix sugar and water together and bring to a boil. Boil about 15-20 minutes. Remove syrup from heat, add lemon juice and orange blossom water. Stir and let cool. (Tip: Syrup must either be cool and poured over hot baklawa or hot and poured over cooled baklawa. Never pour hot syrup over hot baklawa; it will make it soggy)

Assembly: Layer one package of the fillo sheets in the pan– buttering generously between each sheet with a pasty brush or cloth dipped in butter. Mix 2-3 tablespoons of water with the walnut mixture and put over the top of the last sheet, making sure to keep the walnuts level.

Repeat the same procedure with the second package of dough, buttering generously between each sheet and butter the top. Cut into diamonds, dipping the knife into hot water as you go for easier cutting. Pour over any remaining butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on your oven) or until bottom is done and top is golden brown. If top does not brown nicely, put the baklawa under the broiler for a few seconds, watching constantly as it will burn very quickly.