yes, i said i was going to bake christmas cookies, and i did—baklawe (baklava) as far as the eye can see! here's one of the trays i made and shipped in tins across the u.s.a. to some lucky folks!
this is how it all begins:
with the old-fashioned nut-chopper—this one was my dear mother alice's—walnuts from my walnut tree, (thanks to baba! and i can't resist sharing this recent photo of him under the walnut tree with his latest catch—and i caught him in the act with fresh feathers on his mouth! poor beautiful robin!)
and of course, my copy of alice's kitchen: traditional lebanese cooking for the recipe on page 203! if you don't have the cookbook, the recipe is pretty simple: a mixture of ground walnuts with a little sugar and orange flower water is the filling that goes between layers of buttered filo dough; baked and then topped with a cold simple syrup flavored again with orange flower water. heavenly, yes divine!
here's the filling spread across one half of the package of buttered filo dough:
now the rest of the filo gets buttered and layered over the nut mixture and cut into squares or diamonds, like this and then baked:
the butter is not just melted, but clarified (recipe on page 39), which is simply melting and cooking the butter, lifting off and discarding the white foamy bubbles that you can see at the left side of the pot in this picture, and not using the sediment at the bottom. clarified butter (samne in Arabic) is the same as the Indian ghee, the main quality being that it does not burn as quickly as plain butter:
when the baked baklawe comes out of the oven, the made-ahead simple sugar syrup (attar) (or agave syrup) flavored with orange blossom water is drizzled over the top. here's the scrumptious finished product:
or the squares
i also baked almond crescent cookies (nus qamar), and fig cookies flavored with anise and mahlab! soon i'll bring up the photos for those! till then, happy cooking and happy new year!