Tag Archives: Honey

Baklava Cake: How to Use Leftover Phyllo

Phyllo is one of those ingredients that seems to be able to strike fear into the hearts of would-be-bakers.  Some recipes make phyllo sound as fragile as an explosive, and that you must cover up the sheets between additions or all is lost.  Forget all of that.  Phyllo is one of the most forgiving things you can ever work with.  A little butter or olive oil goes a long way and by the time you’ve baked your creation to a golden crisp, any imperfections in execution will only exist in your own mind since your finished beautiful dish won’t show them.

That said, every now and then there can be some phyllo left over that doesn’t make it into the final product, or perhaps a recipe only called for a partial box of phyllo and you didn’t quite get the box well sealed allowing the phyllo to dry out.  Do not despair.  There are a myriad of ways that you can use the sadly dried out and crumbly phyllo.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

For just a few examples dried out phyllo can be toasted in the oven and used as any sort of crunchy topping on casseroles, in salads, on sundaes, and the list goes on.  Today, however, we are going to transform the brittle bits into a honey-soaked cake version of the famous Mediterranean baklava.

Baklava Cake
Filling Ingredients
:
1 cup combined walnuts and almonds
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Cake Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Topping Ingredients:
1 heaping cup of phyllo dried bits
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Syrup Ingredients:
½ cup white sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. You want some texture, so don’t let it get powdery. Put the chopped nuts into a small bowl and toss with the cinnamon and butter. Set aside.
    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don't let them get powdery.

    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don’t let them get powdery.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

  3. Whisk together all dry cake ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the wet cake ingredients together. Add the wet to the dry and gently incorporate. Do not over mix.
    The dry ingredients.

    The dry cake ingredients.

    The dry ingredients whisked together.  I love my flat whisk for this.

    The dry ingredients whisked together. I love my flat whisk for this.

    The wet ingredients.

    The wet cake ingredients.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The cake batter coming together.

    The cake batter coming together.

  4. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth to the edges. Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter in the pan. Gently pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and then use a spatula to spread the batter over the nuts and to the edges of the pan.
    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    The final layer of cake batter.

    The final layer of cake batter.

  5. In a medium bowl toss the dried phyllo bits with the butter. Let the phyllo bits break apart into glistening shards of dough. You don’t want them to become powdery, but let them break apart a bit. Evenly sprinkle the phyllo over the cake batter in the pan.
    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it's ready for the oven.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it’s ready for the oven.

  6. Carefully place the cake pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Loosely place a piece of foil over the cake and bake for another 35-40 minutes. The foil should protect the phyllo from over browning. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.
    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn't over brown (aka burn!).

    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn’t over brown (aka burn!).

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time.  Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time. Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet...

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet…

  7. Meanwhile combine the white sugar, honey and water for the glaze in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the syrup starts to bubble remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and cinnamon.  You can gently reheat the syrup if needed to make it nicely spoonable over the warm cake.
    The syrup ingredients.

    The syrup ingredients.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat.  If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that's not what you are going for here.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat. If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that’s not what you are going for here.

  8. Test the cake to be sure it is cooked through. Once done remove the cake to a rack to cool. Place a piece of aluminum foil under the rack and carefully spoon the syrup over the cake. Some of the syrup will spill off of the cake, so the foil below the rack should keep your counters from becoming a tasty, but sticky mess. Try to get as even a coating as you can, and don’t forget the edges.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

  9. Cool the cake for 15 minutes. Cut, serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Baklava Cake recipe.

Eat

A Pooh Bear Needs Honey

In a previous post (Culture Shock) I wrote about the Immigrant Welcome Center, part of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Center (CVIMC).  That is where I was told that there was a name for everything that I had been experiencing in Canada, and that name is culture shock.  Doh!  I was also told that I am an “immigrant.”  Now how did that happen?  It shouldn’t be a shock.  I am in the process of “immigrating” to another country, I am not Canadian, I am an immigrant.  But I resisted that label.  I want to be home, where ever and whatever that is.  On the advice of the CVIMC staff I signed up for fieldtrips with the center in order to meet other immigrants and maybe make friends.  The first outing that CVIMC was doing was to a local honey farm, Fredrich’s Honey, in the nearby town of Cedar.  If you have any spare space for a late summer read, this is a good one.

 Not that we could have left the house without him, but particularly since Little Man and I were going to a honey farm we had to bring along Pooh Bear.  To keep him out of trouble, Pooh Bear waited in the car while we were learning about bees.  Before anyone tries to report me for animal endangerment, Pooh Bear is a teddy bear not an animal.  He is, however, almost “real” in the Velveteen Rabbit sort of way.  The important thing for our story is that I didn’t want Little Man or Pooh to get any ideas about balloons and little gray storm clouds.  I’ve learned from experience that Little Man has a good arm and can launch his teddies with surprising speed and accuracy.

Little Man and his tether.

Little Man and his tether.

 Partly because of the way the trip was structured and partly because I was preoccupied trying to keep Little Man out of trouble I didn’t have as much time to chat with my fellow immigrants as I would have liked, but I did start on the road to friendship or at least to having people recognize my face when I come by.  That was a good first step, and I’ll write more about this at another time.  In the meantime, let’s talk honey…

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

 The “farm” itself is mostly an occupied farm house with their Honey House shop located up the hill from their home.  For our “immigrant experience” we were met by Margaret Friedrich, a wonderful woman who is an immigrant from Ireland herself, though her experience in Canada began back in the 60s.  She and her husband, Theo, have been in the honey business ever since, and now her son and daughter-in-law are learning the ropes.  For anyone interested, Fredrich’s Honey also conducts workshops on beekeeping.  You can also read a bit about the ups and downs of urban beekeeping in a book I mentioned in a previous post by Novella Carpenter about urban farming in Oakland.  Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer is an amazing story about her own experiences as a farmer in the middle of urban sprawl and ghetto as she raises pigs, all sorts of fowl, and yes, bees in a small midtown apartment.

An empty beehive.  It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

An empty beehive. It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

 Margaret is an amazing trove of bee-based knowledge.  Some of it I had heard or read about before, but other parts were new.  For the case of their “farm” the bees were currently up in the mountains since it is summer time and that is where the water is.  They will come back in the winter, stay through spring when everything blooms, and then make their move again.  I was a bit distracted by Little Man during much of Margaret’s presentation, but that was to be expected.  I had him on a short leash, literally.  Little Man has a much beloved tether that he wears when out and about in crowded outside areas, like large zoos, farmers markets and fairs.  People often laugh or scoff at the leash, but I do not care.  It keeps him safe, it keeps him with me, and he loves it.  So there!  J  Normally at a place like a small farm with so few people I wouldn’t use the leash, but in this case I wanted to keep Little Man a safe distance from any fascinating bee hives, or other things that a toddler should not be sticking his hands into.  Did I mention that Little Man likes to run around trees and get hopelessly tangled in his lion leash?  Yes… that was much of my morning.

Tools of the trade.  Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

Tools of the trade. Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

 The Honey House was admittedly my favorite part of the trip.  It is open year round, so anyone can come and purchase Fredrich’s honey and other bee-related products no matter what season.  I bought a lovely large jar of wildflower honey, and Little Man was given his own tiny jar of blackberry honey.  One of his and Pooh Bear’s favorite snacks is honey toast.  I will remind him of our visit to the farm each time he gets to bring out his little jar. 

Little Man inching his way towards and active hive.

Little Man inching his way towards an active hive.

 Fredrich’s Honey rotates in different types of honey throughout the year as different plants come into bloom.  Later this fall they will have a Fir Tree honey that I must go back to try.  I am a huge fan of tree syrups; maple is my favorite but Indiana’s Shag Bark Hickory syrup is a close second.  It is lighter in color than maple syrup, but is not as sweet and has a light smoky finish.  Always up for new tastes, I am excited to try a tree pollen-based honey.  I also want to call soon to see if they have any dandelion honey in stock.  This honey is not produced by their bees and they were out of stock when I visited, but woman at the Honey House described it as rich and dark, gotta try it!

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

 My final purchase from Fredrich’s Honey was a pair of two beeswax candles.  The scent was of warm honey and bees; not cloyingly sweet and definitely not artificial.  The candles smelled like what I want “home” to be.  Now I just need to find the box with my candle sticks in it so that I can enjoy that scent in the evenings while I write.  Maybe it’s in that large stack over under the stairs?  Oh bother…

Pooh Bear's dream... honey toast for life.

Pooh Bear’s dream… honey toast for life.