Yesterday was walnut day. Not technically or anything. It wasn't observed around the world. There wasn't some festival showcasing the nut -- unless you were in our house. Then it might have seemed like I was preparing for a walnut showcase. Or something. I just happened to use a ton of walnuts in our main meal and in our dessert.
It kind of started because of this kataifi dough I purchased a long time ago for a sweet cheese dessert. The package had been in my freezer for almost the whole summer and every time I opened the door and saw it staring back out at me, I thought I should really get on making that dessert.
But like all things frozen, it had to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours and then sit on the counter for another 2 hours and, me being me, I would think, hey! I should make that cheese dessert tonight! And then I'd go over to the freezer, take out the box, read the thawing instructions, curse myself for not thinking about it the day before, and put it back in the freezer. And this has been going on all summer long.
Finally, on Wednesday, I took it out and put it in the fridge. I had since scrapped the cheese idea. It's best served warm straight out of the oven -- like most cheese things -- and I figured I'd never get my act together to actually have it ready to cook for an after dinner dessert anyway. So remember how I've been kind of inspired by things cooked in muffin tins? Well, that's what I've been thinking about. Baklava cupcakes.
Baklava is something I've made twice before but with phyllo dough sheets. Kataifi dough is basically phyllo dough but it's shredded and it looks like this:
There are recipes on the box for both kataifi rolls and squares which I thought might be easier options, but when I read the recipes, they're almost identical to my baklava recipe except there's about a cup more sugar. There's already enough sugar going on here. I didn't feel like adding another whole cup would really be necessary. The other problem was how to work with it. For a kataifi roll, the box says to "flatten a section of the kataifi...and roll up." Uh, are you looking at what I'm looking at? What the heck makes up a section? How do I get that section out? How do I flatten it? Kataifi rolls. They're not happening. So I kept on with my original idea.
Here's what I did for my baklava cupcakes.
First, it's important to note that you should make the syrup before you start anything else. It's important that one be hot and the other be cold. That is, the baklava has to either have the cold syrup poured over it immediately after it comes out of the oven or you have to wait for the baklava to cool and then pour boiling hot syrup over it. Whichever is fine, I just find it's easier waiting for syrup to cool rather than waiting for the baklava to cool.
first, I doubled the cupcake liners hoping that would help contain the syrup a bit better. Then I ripped out enough kataifi to cover the bottom of a muffin cup and brushed on some melted butter.
I sprinkled about a teaspoon of ground walnuts mixed with cinnamon and cloves onto the kataifi, ripped out some more dough to cover the tops, and brushed them with a little more butter.
Then all I had to do was pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes. (On hindsight, I think these could have cooked for another 5 minutes just to brown the tops a little more.) After they came out, I poured on the syrup immediately.
pouring the syrup on was a little more difficult because I didn't know how much should go into each cup and the stupid measuring cup I have doesn't pour very cleanly if I'm trying to pour slowly. So every inch of my kitchen is sticky right now. Fair warning.
I ended up making 24 cupcakes, but I opted to use the last of the kataifi in a loaf pan instead. There's too much dough in that box. I would have had close to a hundred cupcakes if I'd kept on. Ok, maybe closer to 50. Whatever count I would have ended up with, it didn't matter. Over 24 is too many for us.
The verdict? They're very good and taste exactly like baklava. I think they look really cute, and it's nice to have them in a small, bite-sized package. Most importantly, Idle Husband is completely in love with them. I had no idea, but kataifi rolls are his absolute favourite dessert. Good thing they're exactly the same as baklava except for the dough and the amount of sugar.
Here is the recipe I use for baklava. I like that I can really taste and distinguish between the honey flavour and the walnuts and the cinnamon with this recipe. And even though it seems like a lot of sugar for the syrup, these really don't turn out as sweet as they could be. I've had authentic greek sugary syrup desserts and trust me. One tiny bite of those and you go into a sugar coma almost immediately. These are nicely sweet. Not overpoweringly so.
Now remember I said we had walnuts for dessert and for dinner? Well, I stumbled on this roasted walnut balls recipe last week and thought it would be perfect to try for our meatless dinner night. It just so happened to coincide with when I decided to pull out the kataifi. Strange. Maybe I was subconsciously craving walnuts.
I don't have pictures of the walnut balls because mine didn't look as nice as the recipe's, so you might as well look at those pictures instead. And you should, because I have to tell you, they were delicious! When I was making them, I wanted to eat the raw dough because they smelled so good. Then they smelled amazing while they were cooking. And the taste? Actually, they taste a lot like a regular meatball. They really do. We had them with ketchup, but I didn't feel like I needed to have ketchup. The white sauce went perfectly with them. And they're good the next day, too. I had the leftovers for breakfast. If you're looking for a meatless recipe, you should definitely try them!