Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Baklava

I am excited to be posting my first Daring Bakers’ Challenge.  This month the challenge was to make homemade baklava with handmade phyllo dough.

For my baklava filling I used walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate, and a few dashes of cinnamon and cocoa chile powder.  The result is a chocolatey, sticky, sweet baklava with nutty undertones.


Maple Peanut Butter Granola Bars

It’s a beautiful spring day.  The kind that makes me want to go to the beach, but I know it’s still a little to cold for that.  Instead I’ve been domestic and have been continuing spring cleaning.  A few days ago I had picked up a box of Kashi cereal that was on sale with the intention of making snack bars, and today seemed like the perfect day to try it.

The recipe is a conglomeration of several I’ve found, a lot of the ingredients can be substituted for whatever you want in the bars.  The nut and seed mixture especially can be almost any combination of seeds and chopped nuts.

A small bar goes a long way.  The maple syrup adds natural sweetness and the peanut butter gives it some oomph.  Chewy, peanut buttery, and delicious.  This is finger-licking good, which is a good thing because it is a little sticky for a bar.  They keep their shape, but be gentle with them.  As soon as you pop one into your mouth it begins to melt.  All the flavors remind me of fall in Michigan with maple trees and camp fires.  Wrapped up in parchment paper these little bars are going to be great pick me ups at work and while I continue spring cleaning.

Maple Peanut Butter Granola Bars (no bake)

1 cup Maple Syrup
1 cup Peanut Butter (smooth)
1 cup Craisins
3 cups Puffed Cereal (I used Kashi 7 whole grain puffs)
2 cups mixture of Raisins, Sunflower Seeds, Cashews, Almonds, and Pumpkin Seeds (your choice on quantities of each)

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper, allowing a few inches to use as “handles” to lift the bars out of the tray.

In a large sauce pan heat the syrup and peanut butter together until smooth.  Heat until bubbles form.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in craisins, cereal, and nut/seed mixture. (I found it easiest to mix the craisins, cereal and nut/seed mixture in a separate bowl while the syrup and peanut butter heated up and then dump the whole thing in at once)

Press the mixture into the prepare pan with a spoon or spatula.  Allow to cool completely.  Cut into bars.  Enjoy!

Almond Sugar Cookies

While killing time between rehearsal and a performance I wandered into Williams & Sonoma, I had been thinking about getting a new spatula for a while and discovered a Darth Vader spatula.  R and I decided it was too cute to pass up on.  I giggled and quoted “Come to the dark side… we have cookies” while R said “cooo-kie” in Darth Vader like breaths.

To break in the new spatula I made an alteration on the Sesame Sugar Cookies, a darker cousin.  Almond Sugar Cookies, they are much richer, lack the crispness of the sesames but the almonds add a moisture to the cookies and a smoky, woody taste.   The white chocolate frosting adds a touch of sweetness without being to indulgent.

Toasted Almond Sugar Cookies
(makes about 6 dozen)

2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond slivers
2 ounces white chocolate, melted

Spread the almond slivers on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, or until evenly toasted.  Let cool in a paper towel to absorb moisture.  Then grind until you have a crumb-like consistency.

Mix flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add brown sugar, beat until well blended (make sure to break up the clumps).  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and 1/4 cup of toasted almonds.

Refrigerate dough approximately 2 hours or until firm.  Shape into balls.  Roll in remaining toasted almonds.  Place on greased baking sheets.

Bake in a 400 degree oven 6 to 8 minutes or until bottoms are a medium brown.  Cool completely.  Drizzle melted white chocolate over cookies.  Let chocolate set.  Enjoy!