Zoë’s Baklava

You may have noticed that Gazelle Horns weren’t the only goodies on the Sisters of Salome‘s dessert tray.

One of the dancers, Zoë Smith, also made baklava, and agreed to share the recipe with Crustcrumbs.  Since this recipe wasn’t tested by John, the measurements aren’t in weights.

Gazelle Horns & Baklava

Zoë’s Baklava Recipe

1 Box Phyllo sheets
1/2 Cup Melted Butter

1 Cup Walnuts
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Whole Cloves

1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Honey

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Brush a 12″ x 8″ pan with melted butter, then layer 16-20 sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each one with butter.
  3. In a bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients, then spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Layer 12 more phyllo sheets on top of the filling, brushing each with butter.
  5. Use a cutting wheel to cut baklava into the desired size and shape (Zoë used 2″ squares).
  6. Stick one clove into each piece.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. When finished, bring all syrup ingredients to a boil, and pour over warm baklava.  It should just reach the top layer.
  9. Cool and serve.

Sisters of Salome

Thanks again to the Sisters of Salome for inviting us to their event!  You should check out their Facebook page here.

Gazelle Horns

This past Friday, Sarah Skinner’s dance collective, the Sisters of Salome put on a show themed The Tea Room to raise funds for their upcoming Toronto summer 2014 Fantasy Belly Dance show, which will be  a full-length production inspired by the stories of the Arabian Nights. For Friday’s show, the dancers presented a traditional Moroccan tea ceremony to the audience, encompassing mint and rose water tea as well as various Moroccan delicacies.

This sounded like the ideal Crustcrumbs experience to us. I’m not generally a fan of rose or orange water but I could certainly be coerced into liking them in the right setting, like if a belly dancer happen to bring me a tray, spilling over in abundance with fragrant cookies. We also heard that the dancers would be balancing trays of candles on their heads in one of their routines, which meant we really couldn’t miss out on this performance.

Gazelle Horns

When I use rose and orange water at home, I generally use it to clean my counters. Its powerful floral scent overwhelms the white vinegar and water solution I use, masking the vinegar scent, leaving my counters smelling like roses. I think it’s something Martha Stewart came up with, and you know – it’s a good thing.

But given the right setting those floral scents can work wonders and have the ability to transport a person across the globe to another time where the fragrance of roses and orange blossoms hang in the thick night air. When we were invited to contribute to the evenings delights, I knew I had to do something that incorporated those scents. Gazelle Horns fit in perfectly with the theme, as they are scented heavily with orange blossom water and almonds, and their elegant crescent shape would mimic the fluid moves of the dancers.

The pastry for these cookies is not what you might expect. It’s actually much closer to a pasta dough than a cookie dough. As such, I say go all the way and use a pasta machine to achieve the appropriate thinness. You could absolutely roll out the dough by hand, as it’s done traditionally but I’ve found the pasta roller makes a major difference in making this an easy production.

Gazelle Horns

Gazelle Horns

Makes 30-40 cookies

For the filling:
340g jar almond butter, roasted and unsalted
115g icing sugar
25ml cold water
50g unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons orange blossom water

For the pastry:
330g unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
50g unsalted butter, melted
150ml orange blossom water
1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
icing sugar, for garnish

Start making the filling by first draining off any liquid that has separated at the top of the jar of almond butter. In a small saucepan over low heat combine the icing sugar and water and heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Melt in the butter then add the almond butter and continue to stir until the mix is fully incorporated and smooth. With the pan off the heat, add the almond extract and orange blossom water and stir to incorporate. Refrigerate until ready to use. This mix can be made up to a week ahead of time.

To make the pastry, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed add the butter and orange blossom water and mix for approximately 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, similar to a pasta dough. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.

Divide the dough into four pieces and going one piece at a time, and using a pasta roller be it hand crank or an automatic attachment on your stand mixer, feed the dough through the roller, gradually working up the thinness as you would for pasta, until the dough is very thin, finishing around the 5 or 6 mark if using a Kitchen Aid stand mixer attachment. The idea here is that you want a sheet that’s tissue paper thin.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

This next part is a little bit like making ravioli and pierogi. Lay the thin sheet of pastry down on a work surface. Grab a teaspoon of the filling mixture and roll it into a 1 1/2” – 2” log with your hands and place on the end of the pastry sheet, giving yourself approximately a 3” border, and cut the square of pastry using a pastry cutting wheel. Using your finger, dab the egg wash sparingly along three of the four side of the pastry square. Fold the pastry over the log and press firmly to seal the pastry, while also shaping the pastry into a crescent shape. Using a ravioli cutter, cut the crescent, giving yourself approximately 1/4” between the filling and the edge, as the pastry will shrink as it bakes. If there isn’t enough of a border, the chances of the filling exploding out during baking are pretty good.

Place each crescent on a parchment-lined baking tray and keep refrigerated until the trays are full. Bake the trays for approximately 5-8 minutes. The dough will not brown but dry slightly. Transfer the crescents to a cooling rack and allow to cool before dusting with the icing sugar.

Gazelle Horns

Sisters of Salome

Vanilla and Sortilège Milkshake

Milkshake in Bed

While sick people food can be delicious (see chicken skin and whisky), most of the time it’s not. It’s got to be bland, light and often dairy-free to avoid upset stomachs. Consequences be damned. This is the milkshake to have when life is making you queasy.

Milkshake in Bed

Sortilège is a sweet Canadian liqueur made from whisky and maple syrup. I use it a lot in fall and winter cocktails – its sweetness is excellent for replacing the sweet vermouth in Manhattans made with a spicy bourbon such as Bulleit. It’s also wonderful for sipping straight – it’s syrupy-sweetness coats the glass and your throat – a very good thing to have while ice-skating on a pond somewhere in Québec, ideally next to a sugar shack, which is how I like to imagine this spirit came to be.

Milkshake in Bed

Vanilla and Sortilège Milkshake

makes 1 milkshake
250ml good-quality, store bought vanilla ice cream
150ml whole milk (3.5 % M.F.)
250ml whipping cream (35% M.F.)
6 tablespoons Sortilège

I like to make this right in the glass, using an immersion blender but you could use a milkshake machine if you have one or a regular blender. First, using a mixer, whip the cream until just starting to hold its shape, then add the Sortilège and continue to whip until firm. Because there’s quite a lot of liqueur in proportion to the cream, you can expect a fairly loose whipped cream. Next in a tall glass add the ice cream and the milk and blend until fully mixed. Top generously with the whipped cream.

Milkshake in Bed

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

You can’t have a Ghostbusters themed food shoot without Stay Puft marshmallow something. There aren’t exactly many food references in the movie, with the exception of eggs of course, which you’ll see were used plentifully in the recipes for ginger ice cream and profiteroles.

Concord grapes are in season and available through to the end of October in some markets. Buy them up whenever you see them and freeze them so they’re always on hand to add to flavour and colour to various desserts throughout the fall and winter. Just be sure to seed them before freezing. They also compliment the lime slime nicely and their deep dark purple lends itself well to a Halloween menu.

Concord Grape Tartlets with Stay Puft Marshmallow Tops

Makes 12 Tartlets

For the marshmallow:
10.5g unflavoured powdered gelatine
100ml cold water
125ml white corn syrup
175g granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or ground vanilla powder
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
icing sugar, for coating

For the pastry:
400g unbleached all-purpose flour
150g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
210g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold milk

For the filling:
690g concord grapes, halved and seeded
75g granulated sugar
35g instant tapioca (we used Kraft Minute Tapioca)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Start by making the Stay Puft marshmallow tops. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and generously coat it in icing sugar. Using the top of a 3 1/2″ brioche tin, outline 12 circles in the sugar so you know how large to pipe the marshmallow tops.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, add 50ml of water and sprinkle the gelatine evenly over the surface and allow to plump as you begin making the syrup. In a small pot combine the corn syrup, sugar, salt, and 50ml of water. Attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot and cook the mix over medium-high heat until the sugar syrup reaches 240°F (it won’t take long so watch carefully). Turn on the mixer to the lowest speed and slowly pour in the syrup, followed by the ground vanilla powder. Slowly increase the speed of the mixer to its highest speed and whip until the mixture is thick and white and the outside of the stand mixer bowl begins to feel cool to the touch. If using, add the bourbon and whip until fully incorporated.

Fill a piping bag with the marshmallow and pipe rounds onto the prepared sheet, filing the circles just inside the outline as the mix will settle and spread a little bit. Dust the tops of the marshmallows with more icing sugar and leave to dry for 6-8 hours. If you have the time, by all means make the marshmallows a day or two ahead of time and store them coated in icing sugar in an airtight container.

Begin making the tartlets by starting with the pastry. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and lemon zest. Using your fingers and a light touch, gently squeeze the butter into the flour mixture to form coarse, uneven crumbs. You are done as soon as you are sure there are no bits of the flour mixture left untouched by the butter. Add the egg yolks and milk, and using a fork, work them through until a crumbly dough forms. Divide the dough in two and tightly wrap each portion in plastic wrap, forming the dough into a flattened and compact disc as you go. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients for the filling in a medium bowl and set aside while you finish up the pastry.

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to warm up for about 10 minutes or until it’s pliable enough for rolling. Roll the dough out between two large sheets of parchment paper to approximately an 1/8″ thickness. You could also roll out the dough on a well floured surface with a floured rolling pin, if you want to save on parchment. Line six 3 1/2″  brioche tins (or muffin tins if you’re without small brioche tins) with the pastry, pressing it gently to the sides and put the pastry cases in the fridge while you repeat the rolling and lining process for the additional six tins. You could of course skip the dividing stage and roll out everything at once, but unless you’re working on a beautiful and spacious cold slab of marble, you may find the amount cumbersome to work with.

Place a muffin paper-liner inside each shell and fill with pastry weights (we use dry beans). Blind-bake the shells for approximately 20 minutes, pulling them out just as they begin to turn golden around the top edges. Remove the weights and liners and fill the par-baked shells with the grape filling. Return the tartlets to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling begins to set and the pastry turns a deep golden brown. Allow the pastries to cool for 10 minutes before unmolding.

When ready to serve, place a marshmallow top on each tartlet and torch the tops using a kitchen blowtorch, being sure to go around the bottom edges in order to help adhere them better to the tarts. You could also do this under a broiler, watching carefully that they don’t burn.

Exotic Fruit Platter

Exotic Fruit Platter

Thankfully not everything on our Ghostbusters cart requires pastry-making skills or a sweet tooth, the former of which I don’t claim to have at all. In addition to being the most visually impressive item on the cart, it’s also the easiest thing to put together. We’re lucky in Toronto to have such a bustling Chinatown with many fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, although nowadays you can also find a small selection of more exotic fruits at well-stocked grocery stores. If all you have is your local grocery store to work with, you can still create something fun for Halloween using more readily available items and some inventive cutting.

To achieve the visual effect, we left some of the fruits listed below whole, with their seeds in and peels intact. If you want to be kinder to your guests, prepare the fruit to be more easily plucked and eaten from the platter, saving some of the trim for an inedible garnish.

This is what’s on our exotic fruit platter:

3 Limes
1 Orange
4-5 Mangosteens
1 Dragon Fruit
4-5 Rambutans
1 Custard Apple
1 Papaya
1 small bunch Black Seedless Grapes
1 Red Mango
1 small Cantaloupe
10 Strawberries
1 large Cortland Apple
Lemon Verbena or Mint, for garnish

Limes: Transform the limes into completely cheesy-looking lime flowers first by slicing off the top and bottom of each lime. One lime creates one lime flower. Going from end-to-end, cut two slices as thinly as possible without going through to the very bottom of the skin so that you have to two thin slices of lime joined together by a connecting piece of skin. The process is similar to creating a hasselback potato but instead of leaving the lime whole, you’re only aiming to get two slices per piece. Repeat the process for the entire lime. Spread each segment of lime flat, creating two petals that are joined at the base by the skin. Layer the other slices of lime on top in opposite directions to create a sort of lime flower. Using a sturdy toothpick or small skewer, pierce the pieces from the bottom to hold them all together, leaving a portion of the skewer coming through the top of the flower. Place a rambutan, strawberry or grape on the tip of the skewer to act as the centre of the flower.

Orange: Repeat the process above for creating lime flowers.

Mangosteens: These look their best when the fruit is peaking out from its fibrous, deep purple shell. With a sharp knife carefully cut around the centre, cutting through the shell but not through to the segments of fruit inside. Remove the bottom end of the shell, leaving the exposed fruit cradled inside the top-end where the stem is.

Arranging exotic fruit platter

Dragon Fruit: Cut the lower half of the fruit off, leaving the top half available to act as the towering 55 Central Park West top of the platter. Either slice the bottom half into pieces or use a melon baller to scoop out the flesh. To get the most out of the fruit, use a melon baller to carefully remove the flesh from the top half of your centre piece, leaving behind an ornate empty shell.

Rambutans: Either cut them in half as you have for the mangosteens or peel them completely, leaving just the pale white orb of fruit behind. Be sure to leave a few whole so you and your guests can enjoy the spidery effects of their skins

Custard Apple: Using your hands, gently split the fruit into a few jagged pieces. Let your guests grab at the seeds with their fingers or give them a small spoon to take bits as they will be a bit difficult to access once covered in lime slime.

Arranging exotic fruit platter

Papaya: Slice segments lengthwise, leaving the seeds in for optimum visual effect.

Black Seedless Grapes: Using scissors, clip a few small clusters from the bunch and arrange on the platter.

Red Mango: Slice on either side of the pit, giving yourself two equal fleshy pieces. Using a small knife score the fruit, slicing down to the skin but not through it, creating a diamond pattern. Invert the pieces so that the flesh now pops up into a porcupine-esque shape.

Arranging exotic fruit platter

Cantaloupe: Slice into thin whole rounds, removing the seeds if you wish.

Strawberries: Slice some but leave most of them whole to garnish the platter.

Cortland Apple: Slice into pieces and brush with citric acid solution (I used Bernardin’s Fruit Fresh) to keep from browning.