Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rose Baklava

As you may have already noticed, I'm a bit obsessed with Oriental desserts. When I was in Paris, of course I enjoyed a rich variety of French food, but I was also daily visiting the Turkish delights shop in the Latin Quarter. I was fascinated with interesting taste and appearance of their tiny colorful delights. Few years later my friend from Syria brought me a box of beautiful baklava. The box was meticulously decorated, and baklava was prepared with pistachio and cadaif. It was so delicious that no words can describe it. But it was not until recently that I started to prepare such treats at home.

Growing up in Croatia, Baklava was quite popular because of Bosnian neighborhood. Therefore Baklava was the only one among this kind of sweets that I was preparing for years, or better said “trying to prepare”. Of course I made baklava with store bought fillo dough - that’s easy. But the problem is how to make home-made dough baklava or some healthier version of this tasty treat. My idea was to make it with whole wheat flour and with less sugar. While the baklava without much sugar is an impossible task, often sugar can be cut in half and also be replaced with healthier choice of natural sweeteners like honey or agave syrup. However, the dough of whole meal flour is usually difficult to roll out very thin, so baklava becomes hard and it should be soaked in syrup for days to become edible. I experimented with all kinds of nuts, including pistachios. I came to my version of syrup made with honey, which is excellent. Recently I was at a Turkish dinner, for dessert, of course, was the baklava...and then I tried to make it again but didn’t get much further again. Around the same time my daughter came across and interesting cookbook in the library. It was the Persian children's cookbook titled "Happy Nowruz" Cooking with Children to Celebrate the Persian New Year, from Najmieh Batmanglij. Cookbook is full of wonderful sweets served for this holiday, many of which we tried.

Among other delights, there was a recipe for baklava. The baklava was made up of only two layers of dough with almond filing in the middle, which I immediately recognized as a potential for my idea of baklava from whole meal flour. It was full of spices, and the idea with rose petals immediately won me visually. But still I had to change the flour, reduce the sugar, I added honey, flax seeds, mint, and changed the amount and selection of few spices. That’s how this fragrant baklava recipe was accomplished and it has become our favorite family recipe and the secret that I am unveiling to you to celebrate spring. If you cannot get rose petals, remember this recipe soon, when first roses start to bloom.