Saturday baking plans fulfilled

During the week I toyed with the idea of making a healthier version of baklava- prompted by the Mediterranean lunch we had at work. I liked it because it was perfectly flaky but could have loved it with less honey. I told myself I will make my version come Saturday.

I have a co-worker who brings bread from Panera whenever his friend who works there gives him unsold batch- and I mean enough to feed a battalion. But these are artisan breads that work not only for those who indulge but more so for the creative. This type is not for people who are used to soft and buttery rolls and tender loaves of bread. When this gourmet lot becomes kind of hard and you don’t know what to do to soften it, more often than not, it is left attended for the molds. And what a waste! I have an idea how to avoid that catastrophe and the result will be something my co-workers will truly enjoy. Bread pudding! And that will be my other project along with baklava.

So today my plans came to fruition and I'm just so happy to share what I made in the kitchen. I got sourdough and French baguettes which I cubed and lightly toasted before doing the whole bread pudding ritual. I did save the 3-cheese demi because the aroma didn’t seem to belong. It is best used for a sandwich.

And that was my lunch. Because it was so cold in the kitchen, it became even harder so I sliced the bread about half an inch thick, slathered both with my clarified butter (prepared for my baklava) then I assembled it into a sandwich with Romaine lettuce, mini yellow heirloom tomatoes-only because I ran out of Romas, rotisserie chicken and fresh mozzarella cheese. I also sprinkled the top with 21 seasoning salute. Who needs to go to Panera? It was so good and the bread really came to life with the clarified butter.

It is more inspiring to bake when you’re full and sated. Trust me!
So on to my bread pudding with my happy tummy.

1 lb sourdough or wheat bread, cubed and lightly toasted
8 cups half and half
2 cups granulated sugar
a dozen eggs, beaten
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter
maple syrup for glazing
3 cups fruit cocktail, drained

Pour the beaten eggs over the cooled bread cubes

Then mix with your loving clean hands
Add the drained fruit cocktail and continue to gently mix with your hands

While doing that, simmer half and half- about 8 cups with 2 cups of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 sticks of unsalted butter and two teaspoons of pure vanilla

Pour over the bread and egg mixture, gradually lest you turn it into French toast if you cook the eggs with sudden heat
Mix with your hands, gently so as not to mush the fruit cocktail. This is also the time to feel for still hard or tough bread pieces to soak more in the custard mix to soften. Let the mix sit for an hour or so before baking.

Proceed to the next task which is baklava
First, I pulsed walnuts and almonds together in a blender

Then mixed the nuts with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg

Next, I made my simple syrup which is granulated sugar, water, just a tablespoon of honey and juice of one small lemon.

I wish I took a better picture of this. Here’s the result anyway

Earlier I clarified my butter which is what makes my baklava a little different and less sinful. Edit: I thought clarifying the butter makes the cholesterol go away- what a misconception! My dietitian gfs told me otherwise. But it still classifies as a healthy ingredient if used sparingly. Oh well... at least it was good on the sugar content.

Now everything’s ready and I have to prepare my Phyllo dough, I mean-take it out of the box. I am not that ambitious to make my own. Maybe I could if it’s to save the life of someone dear to me ha ha ha.

I didn’t realize how wide and long this Phyllo dough is till I took it out of the plastic bag. I had to cut it in two and used only half of it. I initially planned to do triangles but lazy me opted to do rolls when I saw that it still didn’t fit my pan. I had to cut the extra 1 ½ inch from each roll to make them fit so I have bite size rolls in the last row.

I baked it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes then cut through the rolls with a serrated knife (four each row) while it is still hot. Then I poured my simple syrup over. Cutting the baklava before pouring the syrup so it will penetrate each slice but not necessarily drenching it which is what I want to avoid.
Let it sit and soak for a while before sampling.

Now it’s time to finish the bread pudding. I buttered my pans then ladled the mix about ¾ full then baked them for 50-80 minutes depending on the thickness of the pudding. When I made it for the first time, I made the maple sauce as substitute for the bourbon sauce but this time, I just brushed some on the top just to give it a maple-y, glossy finish.

I am not a big fan of baklava but I was able to accomplish my goal- to make it less sinful and sweet but not so sweet. And I got a thumbs-up from one of my cousins who is a baklava fan.

There’s no mystery to unravel in the bread pudding – I made it so many times in different ways and flavors. But as they say, the result of the pudding is in the eating so we’ll see on Monday.


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