When Borders was going out business last year, a friend and I decided to browse around the store one rainy afternoon. Well, about $100 (on discounted books) and 3 hours later, I definitely had a little something to read for a couple of months.
One of the books which I picked up was The Art of Eating In. Cathy Erway, a New Yorker, decided to not eat in restaurants for a full year. She describes how this experience pushed her to explore the home cooking culture. There are various chapters discussing trash-diving, urban farms, cook-offs and supper clubs. I really enjoyed this book, and it definitely got me thinking about how the American culture is based on going out to eat (whether McDonald’s or Le Bernardin), and what other food movements are out there. Definitely a fun book to read if you’re getting into the foodie movement.
One of the things she writes about is supper clubs. A supper club can be a pop-up restaurant (the space can be rented out from a restaurant, or be a warehouse) and chefs put together a menu for a group of people. This can be as small as 10 or as large as 100, prices can also vary. Other times supper clubs can be made up of friends doing dinner together. Now this can work in various was: everyone brings a dish and all dishes are shared, or 1 person can cook a meal and the locations are switched each time this supper club is held.
About the time I read this book, my friend Stephanie was suggesting that a group of us (4 couples) should do a supper club. And so our little group joined together, and we meet about every other month. Each couple hosts each time, providing an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Everyone else brings the drinks! The goal is to find recipes you had never made before to practice our culinary skills.
Last weekend we held supper club at our house and we chose to do a mediterranean theme. I remembered that I had found a recipe for baklava and decided to make it. Now this may sound funny, but I had never actually tried baklava prior to this night. But why not give it a shot, right?
Well, dear readers, this was delicious and each of you should be making this dessert next time you have friends over. This was not really sweet, it had a great crunch and wasn’t a very heavy dish. Fairly simple and one that you could make a day ahead- it actually tasted even better the next day!
Supper Club Baklava
Adapted from: How Sweet It Is
1 package of phyllo dough
16 oz unsalted pecans
8 oz unsalted pistachios
6 oz unsalted almonds
2 oz unsalted walnuts
1 vanilla bean, scraped
2/3 brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 sticks of unsalted butter (or more)
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
Thaw the package of the phyllo dough per the directions on the package.
Combine all of the nuts in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the vanilla bean, and pulse the food processor 2-3 more times. Pour the nut mixture into a large bowl, add brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves. Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly.
Melt the butter, in the microwave or pot. Using a pastry brush, brush the butter onto the bottom and sides of a 9×13 inch oven-safe dish. Then place the first layer of the phyllo dough on the bottom.* Brush the top of the phyllo dough with the melted butter. Then place another layer of phyllo dough on top, cover it with butter once again. Continue doing this until you have 8 layers of phyllo dough.
Be gentle with the phyllo dough, it does break easily. To cover all of the square footage of the baklava, I’d change things up by brushing each layer of the dough differently. One would be diagonal, another around the edges, or making an X. I was trying to have some fun with my food!
After the 8th phyllo dough layer, sprinkle about 2 cups of the nut mixture on top, spreading it evenly. Then I sprinkled a little bit of butter on top. Next, place a layer of phyllo dough, cover it with butter. Continue to do this until there are 4 sheets. Once again sprinkle 2 cups of the nut mixture on top. Continue to alternate 4 layers of phyllo dough with butter and the 2 cups of the nut mixture. When the nut mixture runs out, add 4 more layers of phyllo dough on top. Remember to brush butter on the top of the dessert.
Combine the water, sugar, honey and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool for about 10 more minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Stick the pan into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. When you take it out, cut up the dough. Since the layers are cold, it’s so much easier to cut. Place this delicious dessert into the oven for 40 minutes. When the top turns a golden brown, the baklava will be ready. Once you take out it out of the oven, evenly cover it with the syrup.
Now you can either serve it that evening, or cover it and serve it the next day.
*I cut the phyllo dough in half, this way each piece I was picking up fit the 9×13 inch pan.