Spiced Citrus Champagne and Baklava for New Year’s

Thanks to my sister and her great ideas I was able to find a great recipe for me to use this New Year’s (and The Kitchn). We not only had great cocktails but we also had homemade baklava (made by my friends mother!) It was a very low-key night. My husband and I went to another friends apt and had dinner and watched the ball drop. Even though the weather was great in NYC, none of us wanted to be near Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I guess that’s what happens when you live in New York for too long. Large amounts of people starts to feel very unappealing over time.

My friend’s mother was born in Turkey and a fabulous cook. I had always had the Greek baklava which is made with honey (and lots of it!), but Turkish baklava is much different because it’s made with no honey and just sugar and butter. The difference is it’s much, much lighter. So if any of you out there love baklava but hate the heavy feeling afterwards, you should definitely try this kind. This truly was a great dessert. They wrapped me up a little doggie bag and I’ve been taking many trips over to the fridge this entire day.I have recently realized that I only have four pieces left. Now there is only one and I don’t know if I can wait for my husband to come home and finish it!

The recipe below is unfortunately not my friend’s mom’s secret recipe, but is from the very reliable epicurious.com.

Turkish-Style Baklava

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 pound package phyllo sheets, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, melted

Syrup:

  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 lemon, peel only
  • 1 clove

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Mix together the walnuts, sugar, and spices and set aside.

As you work, keep the sheets of phyllo covered with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Place 1 sheet of phyllo on the bottom of a jelly roll pan (12-inch x16-inch). Brush the dough lightly with melted butter. Repeat this process until there are 8 sheets of phyllo in the pan.

Sprinkle one-third of the nut mixture onto the phyllo sheets.

Place 4 more sheets of phyllo on top of the nuts, brushing melted butter between each sheet.

Place another one-third of the nut mixture on the dough.

Layer the remaining sheets of phyllo on top of the nuts, brushing melted butter in between each sheet. Brush the top sheet with butter as well.

Trim the edges so that they do not stand above the level of the dough.

Cut the pastry into 2-inch squares, making sure not to slice through the bottom layer of phyllo dough. Leaving the bottom layer uncut will allow the syrup to soak in more efficiently.

Bake at 375°F for 25–30 minutes or until the top layer of the phyllo takes on a light golden brown color.

While the dough bakes prepare the syrup. Combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove the clove and lemon peel.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour hot syrup over the baklava.

Before serving allow the baklava to stand at room temperature until cooled. Slice through the bottom layer of phyllo dough and serve.

What was else on the dessert list? Spiced Citrus Champagne. It was around 11:30pm and I almost completely forgot that I had to heat up all the ingredients. The hardest ingredient to find is the star fruit, but you can find it at a more specialty based grocery store. Now, the worst part of the night was when we got to our friends and realized we forgot the key ingredient at home (along with the specialty cheese that cost an arm and a leg). I take no blame for this one. I was rushed out the door by someone. Period.

Anyway, this drink was made without the star fruit and it still worked. I think the star fruit has pectin in it (so a friend said) and that helps to soke up the liquids like the honey and water. So my syrup ended up being more like a mixer and much more water based.

I’m not the biggest fan of champagne as it often makes me a bit sick, but it’s New Year’s right? So, this was a good middle of the road drink because you can add as much of the syrup as you like. The “syrup” which is just a mixture of water, honey, cloves and cinnamon can really be added to any favorite alcohol. Need a hot toddy (second reference to this drink on this blog–I know)? All the ingredients are there so it’s a win-win in my eyes!

Spiced Citrus Champagne

  •  1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Zest of 2 lemons, cut into long strips
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • Champagne, or dry sparkling white wine

Bring water, honey, lemon zest and juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. Cool syrup.

Serve each glass of sparkling wine with 1 tablespoon spiced syrup and a splash of orange juice, to taste. Garnish with a slice of star fruit or a lemon twist.