Almond Cinnamon Baklava & a Giveaway!
My girlfriend jokes that Santa Barbara has a festival every weekend.
I’m beginning to think that she is right.*
A few weeks back we went to the Greek Festival (to eat!) and we couldn’t pass up the chance to tack a little triangle of honeyed baklava heaven onto our savory Greek lunch feast.
I always get excited about baklava– after all it’s one of those fancy desserts that you can justify splurging on now and then, since it’s too complicated to make at home… or so I thought!– but this baklava was something else entirely: it was practically oozing with cinnamon! (My girlfriend
So that settled it. It was time to make baklava, and not just any old baklava; a giant flaky vessel for gooey cinnamon. And chunks of fresh raw almonds. Did you think I would forget to mention the almonds?
California has been very good to me.
My friends Nate and Bekki own an almond farm nearby in Wasco, California called Fat Uncle Farms.
Fat Uncle Farms is their family-owned almond-growing business, but they don’t just grow the almonds; they also have a kitchen where they make their own almond butter (roasted or raw), almond flour, marzipan, marzipan cookies, sprouted dehydrated almonds, roasted almonds, and my favorite– flavored blistered almonds, including Cajun Spiced, Garlic & Herbs, and Cinnalmonds.
Fat Uncle Farms sells at various farmer’s markets, from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica, but lucky for YOU, they also sell their almond products online!
I used their Whole Raw Almonds in this baklava recipe (along with a cup of walnuts, though baklava traditionally calls for only walnuts or pistachios), and it was spectacular. I chopped the almonds rather coarsely, which gave the baklava some extra height. All the better for slowly biting through the crisp layers of phyllo dough, to the pockets of sweet cinnamon syrup-coated almonds in between.
It’s hard to describe how good the Fat Uncle Farms almonds are, but something about knowing where your almonds are grown, who grew them, and that they are fresh makes all the difference. Their almonds are also some of the largest I’ve seen, and they’re enticing roasted or raw. (I say this firsthand from extensive farmer’s market sampling!)
Here’s where the exciting part comes in.
~~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY [Now CLOSED] ~~~~~~~
In honor of the first of many Fat Uncle Farms and Spontaneous Tomato collaborations, I am hosting my very first giveaway!
The winner will receive two 5 oz. bags of flavored blistered almonds from Fat Uncle Farms, in the flavors of your choice! (And this giveaway is open internationally, so anyone can enter!)
The (awesome) blistered almond flavors are: Naked (unsalted), Original with Sea Salt, Chinese Blistered, Cajun Blistered, Garlic & Herbs, Rosemary Blistered, “Ass Kick’n” Ginger, and Cinnalmonds.
(Or opt for one of the roasted flavors– Honey Roasted or Honey Roasted with Coconut– or one of the sprouted dehydrated flavors– Original or Lemon Pepper.)
This giveaway is open through Midnight (U.S. PST) on Sunday, Sept. 23rd, and the winner will be chosen by random number generator– and notified via e-mail (the address you use to comment)– during the day on Monday, Sept. 24th.
Best of luck!
* I already knew of the Lemon Festival, Avocado Festival, Seafood Festival, Earth Day Festival, Summer Solstice Parade, Christmas Parade, “I Madonnari” Chalk Art Festival, International Film Festival, and Fiesta (“Old Spanish Days”) Festivals in town, but this summer I didn’t travel out of town as much and noticed the Greek Festival, French Festival, and Wine Festivals. You have to admit, that’s a lot of festivals for what is NOT a big city. (And I say this based on the facts that Santa Barbara only has a population of 89,000 and still doesn’t have a real Korean restaurant.)
Almond Cinnamon Baklava
(Roughly adapted from the traditional Baqlawa recipe of my friend Nori’s mom, Kay)
Cinnamon Syrup Ingredients:
~ 1¾ cup sugar
~ 1 cup water
~ ¼ cup honey
~ 2 tsp. lemon juice
~ 2 tsp. rose water
~ ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
~ several slices of fresh orange peel
~ 1 16-oz. package of phyllo dough (if frozen, defrost in the fridge overnight)
~ 3 cups whole raw almonds (I got mine from Fat Uncle Farms!)
~ 1 cup walnuts
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon (plus more for sprinkling in between the layers)
~ 2 sticks butter
1. First make the syrup: Add sugar, water, and optionally orange peel to a saucepan, and heat slowly, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Then raise the heat to bring to a boil, remove the orange peel (I used chopsticks), pour in the honey, and lower the heat again to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, rose water, and cinnamon. Mix well, then set aside to allow the syrup to cool completely. (You can later transfer it to a bowl or pitcher with a good pouring spout if you like.)
2. Use a food processor (or a ziploc bag and sturdy coffee mug– or hammer?!) to smash the 3 cups of almonds until they are pulverized but not ground. I used the “pulse” function on my cuisinart, and opened the lid to stir the almonds a few times to make sure they were getting evenly chopped– I also left them in larger chunks than you might want to. Pour the almonds into a bowl and repeat with the 1 cup of walnuts. Mix the 1 tsp. of cinnamon together with the pulverized almonds and walnuts and set aside.
3. Move an oven rack to the top third of the oven, and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the 2 sticks of butter. Use some of the melted butter to grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 glass baking dish.
4. Prepare the phyllo dough: Remove the dough from the fridge, and spread it out on a large, clean, and dry cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough in half (so you end up with two stacks of rectangles, each the size of your 9×13 baking dish). Wrap half of the phyllo sheets back up in the plastic wrapper– or cover with plastic wrap– so they don’t dry out while you’re working with the first half.
5. Assemble the baklava: Lay a rectangular sheet of phyllo dough across the bottom of the baking dish and brush very lightly with melted butter. Repeat this until there are 6-8 sheets, each brushed with butter, at the bottom of the dish. Then evenly sprinkle on 3-4 heaping tablespoons of the chopped nuts, and add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each with butter. Continue this pattern (alternating 3-4 Tbsp. nuts and 2 butter-brushed phyllo sheets) until all the nuts have been incorporated, saving 6-8 sheets of phyllo dough for the very top. Optionally sprinkle over extra cinnamon in between some of the layers.
6. Use a sharp knife to cut the baklava into large triangles or diamonds (cut diagonal stripes across the pan, then turn and do the same from the other side). Bake for 35-45 minutes– or until brown and crispy-looking– in the top third of the oven. When the dough on top looks nicely golden brown, remove from the oven, and while hot, immediately pour the cooled syrup evenly over the entire baklava. (The baklava will absorb the syrup.) Allow to cool completely before serving, or make ahead and store in the fridge once it’s cooled.
Related Recipe Posts:
> Apricot Almond Galette (with Strawberry and Mango variations)
> Avocado Hummus
> Pita Chips with Labne Olive Oil Dip