Homemade Filo for Baklava and Apple Tart

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I became a mother almost two months ago and sometimes it still doesn’t feel like it’s real. It’s like how did I suddenly (though it wasn’t really) become a mother? Somehow, it feels like motherhood is something that has to be earned over a longer period of time, not something you can become in just one day when a baby is born. I’m not trying to discredit other mothers, by any means. We have certainly earned the title after carrying our babies in our bodies for 9+ months and going through childbirth, but somehow the title still feels strange. I’m sure it’s just like being married or changing your name in that it’s something that I will get used to over time.

I thought motherhood would make me a different person, but mostly I still feel the same except with a baby. Feeling the same is good of course, as I didn’t want to lose who I was, but I somehow expected this overwhelming feeling of a change in identity. Maybe that also develops over time as I will interact with the world and my baby as a mother.

Of course one of the things that makes me me is my love of food and cooking. In the first few weeks of motherhood I definitely did not have the time or energy to cook and I was grateful to the friends who brought us food and the meals I’d prepared ahead of time to stock our freezer. It was hard enough to remember to eat or find time to eat when my focus was on feeding my baby and getting enough sleep. In recent weeks I’ve felt myself getting back to normal with my desire to get my hands dirty in the kitchen coming on strong. For some reason this week that desire manifested itself in homemade filo/phyllo dough, which I used to make baklava and an apple tart. I enjoyed the process of making the filo dough, though it didn’t turn out as thin as I would have liked, and I was able to use some nuts that were past their “best by” date (they’re still good!)

The baklava I made was based on this recipe here and the apple tart one I made up with a sheet of leftover dough I had. It felt good to get in the kitchen again and create something with my hands, though it certainly wasn’t the same as it used to be. I made the recipe in steps over an afternoon, evening, and morning, with interruptions determined by a certain hungry baby. In the future, hopefully she’ll be helping me to cook.

Apple Filo Tart

4-6 sheets of filo dough, thawed if frozen*

1 large apple of your choice, peeled and diced

2 T. brown sugar

1 T. flour

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

3-4 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lay your sheets of filo dough on the parchment, brushing with butter every two layers or just on top if using homemade. In a medium bowl mix diced apple, sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Spread the apple mixture in a circle in the middle of your filo dough making sure that the apples are not piled on each other, though don’t be too picky about it. Gently fold the extra filo over the apple mixture and brush the top with butter. You may not use all of the butter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until lightly browned and crispy. Let cool and cut into slices.

*I used only one sheet of my homemade dough, though it was thicker than the store-bought kind.

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Seattle Apple Pie

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We made it to beautiful Seattle and in a week’s time we have toured apartments, visited family and friends, walked around a hilly but beautiful new city, and eaten delicious food. Surprisingly I have hardly cooked in the last three weeks. Between staying at a hotel our last week in Boston and now staying with my in-laws, I don’t even remember how to do meal planning and shopping as all of our food has been prepared by others (and for that I am grateful!) Eventually we’ll have to get back to real life, but for now I’m enjoying it. Continue reading

Post 5 – Valentine’s Day

Thursday it was Valentine’s Day and I woke up one of those cynical people (though I am happily engaged) who thinks the day is overrated and cliché and Hallmark-ified and everyone expects chocolate and roses, blah blah blah. I was tired and cranky because my cat woke me up at 4 in the morning to cuddle and when I finally get up and go into the kitchen to get the day started, my wonderful fiance surprises me with a box of dark chocolate!

Now I know what I would be thinking if I were you. Everyone gets chocolate. Big stinkin’ deal. Weren’t you just saying how cliché that is? Yes, everyone gets chocolate or roses or candy or whatever, but when a genuine guy who genuinely loves you (ok when this genuine guy who genuinely loves me) surprises you with a box of chocolates when you’re feeling cynical, somehow that changes all of that and you feel pretty damn lucky. MAJOR points to him for turning my mood around.

So naturally when he does something nice for me, I want to do something nice for him. I mean relationships are about give and take, though of course not everything has to be evenly reciprocated. Instead of making a sickeningly sweet chocolate dessert, since baking is my specialty, instead I made something sweet, but not overly sweet, beautiful and fun for me to make – apple pie roses. They look fancy and you might think they’d be too much work to make but really they’re not any harder than apple pie. You make (or buy) a small batch of pie crust, slice some apples thinly and simmer them until they’re soft and then you just make cinnamon rolls out of them and bake! Ta-da! Impressive, romantic, and delicious. When I was making them I showed them to him and asked him, “So what do they look like?” Poor guy, being honest, clueless, and thinking in the Valentine’s Day spirit says “Hearts?” Oh well, he was impressed nonetheless.

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I guess my biggest problem with Valentine’s Day, like others, is that it is an assigned day of love. Can’t I just be more spontaneous with my affection?

Reminder to my future self: If someone who loves you wants to treat you well on a nationally recognized day of love, don’t scorn them because of your own contempt. Let love in and reciprocate the best way you know how. Baking is one way.

Apple Pie Roses

Adapted from excellent-eats.com

2 small pink lady apples or other firm RED apple, washed and UNpeeled

½ of a pie crust (see recipe below, which makes ½ of a pie crust)

Crust: (Double this if using for a single crust pie)

5/8 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

2 T. COLD unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 T. COLD vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces

2-4 T. ice COLD water

Start by making the pie crust – mixing the flour, sugar, and salt thoroughly in a bowl or food processor and add the butter and shortening, stirring to coat the pieces in flour. Cut fat in with a pastry blender, in a food processor by pulsing, or with two knives (the old fashioned way) until the mixture is crumbly and somewhat uniform. Start by slowly drizzling 2 T. of the cold water while mixing gently with a fork. Add more water as needed so it comes together in a ball. You don’t want it to be too sticky so add the water slowly. Shape into a rough square, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours at least.

When dough is cold, slice apples very thinly, leaving peels on, and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water to cover all of them (about 3-4 cups) and add a few tablespoons of sugar if desired and cinnamon (I only added cinnamon). Bring to a low boil and simmer for 10-15 or until apples are pliable. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Remove pie crust from the refrigerator and roll out on floured surface into a long thin rectangle so that the dough is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into strips (length wise) about the width of the apple slices. I got about 5 strips out of mine.

Carefully lay out the apple slices with the round skin side of the apple slice sticking out ever so slightly over the edge of the dough, slightly overlapping the pieces. Carefully start from one side and roll up the dough like a cinnamon roll, careful to keep the apple pieces in. Seal the dough at the end of the roll underneath the rose or on the side. Set on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silicon. Repeat with remaining dough and apples. This Pinterest recipe has better visuals than I can describe.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 to keep apple peels from darkening. Bake until center of rose is no longer doughy. Let cool and enjoy!