It’s too soon for a trip to Greece, but I’m feeling optimistic while sitting on my Hammock, Florida front porch on a mild spring day, with the scent of lemon blossoms boding a good crop this year, and the end of the Pandemic a real possibility. Some of us may even visit Greece soon. Their government is ready to open its doors to tourism come May. For many of us, we will be waiting and watching to see how our future lives unfold.
I can almost imagine myself in Greece. At least the dessert will be authentic.
The piece of baklava in the title photo is to be found in Athens, Greece. I tell you without hesitation that my baklava recipe is better. Don’t take my word for it, bake it, try it, serve it to friends and let me know if you agree. If you aren’t yet vaccinated, it freezes beautifully for the day you first sit around the table with favored friends or loved ones.
My first visit to Greece was in the late 70s. I knew enough to order moussaka and retsina in the Plaka, but not that it would be served lukewarm–the moussaka, not the Retsina. I hadn’t yet heard of Baklava.
Athens was a much calmer place in those days. You could walk up to the Parthenon in the evening for the Sound and Light Show and wander back down through the Plaka without the mob of tourists and trinkets that it now purveys.
The Parthenon today. Over heads and under repair.
The Plaka with time for an ouzo.
I had the good fortune to meet a young Greek female attorney on my flight from Madrid to Athens. She took me under her wing, invited me to her parent’s home for dinner, and showed me Athens by day. I bought a pair of leather sandals with rawhide ties, I suppose they were the original gladiator sandals before they came into fashion in the late 90s in the USA. Being 6 feet tall, I admit to appreciating how flat they were at the time. Fast forward to 2019 and on a day in Mykonos, I found their twin pair. $60 instead of $6 but, hey, the same and from Mykonos! I could play at being a movie star for that amount. In fact, I was made a deal that if I bought another similar pair, the price was only $100 for both. I loved Mykonos. You can see more of my visit in my post about my more recent Cruise to Greece and Italy
Mykonos back street and my sandals.
I also loved Crete. They say you can count the 5 shades of the blue Aegean there. One of the beaches has pink sand. I plan to return to Crete for an extended stay. I didn’t have time to hunt down a portion of Baklava but I did get my first coffee in Greece at the charming Kafenion pictured below.
There are many “bests” in Crete. I found the prettiest Kafenion, the tastiest Greek coffee, the freshest loukumi (Better known to many as Turkish Delight, but not in Greece.) In my opinion, they also had the best honey, wine, olives, linens, and ceramics. I would not have been at a loss if I had missed the cruise ship departure in the Port of Chania. I think the rose flower olive oil eye cream is purported to keep me forever young–you will have to be your own judge of that!
Kafenion in Chania, Crete
Mmm, Greek coffee
It’s time to get back to the Baklava. My first trip to Greece was actually a stopover on my way to Dubai. My first memory of Baklava was the Lebanese version in Dubai and it was made with pistachios. I always thought that was what it was supposed to be and anything else was just a poor man’s version. While living in Atlanta, we frequented an International Grocery where we bought our Baklava until I found this recipe. I was glad to find out that walnuts are used in the Greek version as they are much easier to find, let alone less expensive for the quantity required. By the way, you can make 48 portions for the price of buying 8 from a bakery!
This recipe came from an old cookbook called “Foods with a Foreign Flavor”. It was written by Home Economics teachers in Texas. Mrs. Virginia Pope from Lake View High School in San Antonio, Texas submitted this recipe. I tried to look her up to let her know I was sharing her recipe from over 40 years ago. I was not successful. If you happen to know her, be sure to tell her how grateful I am. I think you will be, too.
It Better Be Baklava–G is for Greece
Greek Baklava with walnuts
Remove the package of phyllo pastry from the freezer. Place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Bring 1/2 cup sugar, water, honey, grated orange peel, and cinnamon to a boil. Let simmer for a few minutes and cool.
Unfold the phyllo. Cover it with a cloth.
If almonds are used, toast them for about 10 minutes in a preheated 300-degree oven. I prefer walnuts.
Chop the nuts finely and mix with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Butter a 10 by 14-inch baking sheet.
Line the baking pan with 3 layers of phyllo. Brush each sheet with melted butter. You may have to cut the sheets to fit. The brand I use takes two sheets to cover the bottom. So each layer of 2 sheets fits my jelly roll pan perfectly.
Sprinkle lightly with the nut mixture. I use about one cup per layer.
Repeat, alternating 2 sheets of buttered phyllo and the nut mixture to a depth of 1 inch, ending with 2 sheets of phyllo. Cut into 1 x 1 1/2 inch triangles. Insert a whole clove in the center of each triangle.
Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cut through the pastry diamonds again completely. While hot, pour the cooled honey syrup mixture over the top.You may want to tell your guests to remove the clove before eating. It only happened once that a chef, of all people, didn't notice it and bit down on it to his dislike. It won't hurt anyone if consumed, but some people may not think to put it on the side of their plate.