"Cooking With Fire" cookbook author Paula Marcoux of Plymouth, Mass., is bringing her expertise to Bellingham June 22 and 23 and shares her recipe for campfire baklava:
"As a food historian, I am fascinated by the diffusion of culinary ideas and ingredients across time and space. Sometimes the written documentation of food in motion is slim enough that the evidence of archaeology, even experimental archaeology, can be really helpful. In this case, I developed the recipe as a playful by-product of researching how nomadic peoples carried wheat - and the knowledge of how to stretch and layer it into delicious pastries - from the heartland of its domestication into Asia and Europe.
"Stretching a simple flour-and-water dough into a gossamer sheet seems like it should be really, really hard. But it's all in trying it out and just doing it. None of us will ever be able to do this like professional dough stretchers in Anatolia, but what we can achieve is surprisingly good!
"Keep an open mind. Start a fire, mix up some dough, and get busy! If you have kids, get them started young - not only will they have fun, but with their youthful hands and brains they actually stand a chance of developing superior skill!"
Marcoux is the food editor of Edible South Shore magazine. Her web site is themagnificentleaven.com.
7 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2/3 to 3/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter, melted
You'll need a campfire that has burned down to coals, a griddle and some bricks or rocks to prop the griddle up over the coals.
Make the dough more than an hour ahead. Mix the flour, salt, and 2/3 cup water together in a small mixing bowl with a fork, adding a bit more water as necessary to make the dough come together. Knead the dough until it is very smooth and uniform.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces (about 4 ounces each) and knead each one into a nice smooth ball. Cover airtight and let rest about an hour.
Make the filling by stirring together the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon.
Depending on how much you like to multi-task, either start preheating your griddle now, or assemble all four pastries first, and then turn your full attention to cooking them.
Flour your work surface and remove any jewelry from your fingers and wrists. Take one ball of dough and press it into a disk. Using a straight rolling pin, roll it into as large a circle as possible. Pick up the dough and place your hands, knuckles upward, under the center of the dough circle. Gently stretch your fingers and hands apart, rotating the dough to stretch it evenly.
You will soon find that the center has stretched pretty thin, but the edges are holding you back. (Hold the dough up toward a window or a light source and the awkward thick places become immediately apparent.) Now, working quickly and gently, take the dough by an edge and work your way around the perimeter, stretching little sections as you go. If you make a little tear by the edge, no matter; it'll be buried in the pastry. Be careful, though, not to rip the center.
When you get to the point where you're sure you're about to wreck it, place the pastry back on a very lightly floured surface. Brush the surface of the dough with butter and deposit one-quarter of the filling in a 3-inch squarish blob in the center. Fold the upper and lower dough edges in partway, covering the filling. Brush a touch more butter on any unbuttered surfaces, then follow suit with the left and right flaps. You should have a nice compact square packet. Continue with the remaining pastry and filling.
If you haven't already done so, start preheating your griddle over a medium-low fire. Place one or more packets on the hot surface, brushing any exposed unbuttered surfaces with butter. Bake for about 4 to 6 minutes per side, until golden brown and puffed up. (If you have a large griddle, you may be able to cook all four at once.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet or clay pot, stir together the honey and water. Place down in the coals of the fire and remove from the heat as soon as it arrives at a bare simmer.
When the baklava packets are crispy and golden brown, move them to a cutting board. With a large knife, cut each into four quarters, and transfer them neatly to a small bowl. Pour a quarter of the syrup over each pastry and enjoy right away.
Marcoux will offer a free demonstration of making campfire baklava 1- 3 p.m. Sunday, June 22, at Yeager's Sporting Goods, 3101 Northwest Ave., and will host a live-fire cooking class/dinner with Village Books at Ciao Thyme at 5 p.m. Monday, June 23. Tickets are $75 and available at ciaothyme.com/events/cooking-with-fire.
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