Nope, this is neither vegan nor free of refined sugars and flours.
But it wasn’t for me to eat.
It was a gift Rob and I made for my Dad.
This weekend, we travelled to Ottawa to celebrate his upcoming big 6-0 birthday.
Homemade gifts always appeal to me because you can taste the love in every bite.
My Dad adores baklava, but I decided to make him a different Turkish treat for his birthday. Not that he would balk at a repeat of baklava (I just gave him a batch for Father’s Day), but I wanted to try something new. There must be something wrong with me…. I can’t make the same recipe too often! Even if I don’t eat it myself, it would be too boring to prepare it a second time! Ack!
(But for some reason, I made Roasted Cauliflower with Dukkah and 15-Minute Zippy Garlic-Basil Marinara with Zucchini Noodles for everyone this weekend without problems.. AND to positive reviews).
I consulted the same Turkish cookbook, The Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan, for another possible dessert. I picked out a few contenders, but was fixated on the Nightingale’s Nests which as you can see, are cute nests of phyllo dough filled with walnuts and topped with pistachios and a not-too-sweet syrup. Basically all the same ingredients in baklava, just in a different shape. After watching this video, it honestly looked less tedious than baklava. I just needed to find a thick stick first.
The Turkish rolling pin, or oklava, is a rod-shape and quite thin. Ozan suggested using a dowel from the hardware store in a pinch. Rob and I got creative, though. We found an old clothes hanger with a thick base and wrapped it in wax paper. It worked like a charm!
Once you figure out the technique and have a good oklava substitute, this is easy to make. Baklava is easy, too, just tedious, especially when you layer 2 packages of phyllo dough. But dare I suggest that this looks even more remarkable than baklava? You’d think we slaved in the kitchen, but we know better than that! It is a good thing my Dad doesn’t pay much attention to my blog.😉
Turkish Nightingale’s Nests (Bulbul Yuvasi)
1-1/2 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/4 cups walnuts
2 tsp sugar
1 package phyllo dough (20-23 sheets)
3/4 cup clarified butter
3/4 cup ground pistachio nuts
1. If clarifying your own butter, start with 1 lb of unsalted butter. In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter. It will separate into 3 layers: a foamy froth on top, a clear liquid in the middle and a white solid at the bottom. When the butter is heated through and no more foam is developing, remove from heat. Remove the foam with a spoon. You want to keep the yellow liquid. You can save it by decanting it from the saucepan without disturbing the milk solids, or strain it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
2. Preheat the oven to 375F.
3. To make the syrup, combine the cold water with the sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Boil the mixture for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15-30 minutes. The syrup is ready when it is light yellow, and when a small spoonful dropped onto a wooden surface is tacky when cooled. Once ready, stir in the lemon juice into the syrup and set it aside to cool.
4. Place the nuts and sugar in a food processor and process until medium to finely ground (but not too fine!). Set aside.
5. Brush the inside of a2 baking pans with a little bit of the clarified butter.
6. Check out this video for a great demo! Place one sheet of the phyllo dough on your work surface with the shorter end of the dough facing you. Keep the other dough covered with a damp cloth so that it doesn’t dry out. Lightly dust the phyllo dough with the clarified butter. Spread 1 tbsp of ground walnuts over the half of the phyllo dough furthest away from you. Lift the piece of phyllo dough closest to you and fold it in half so that it lays with one inch uncovered, furthest away from you. Take your stick and use it to wrap the phyllo dough around it, loosely. Leave the one inch end hanging. Now you will scrunch the phyllo dough together by pushing the two ends together, until it is 8 inches long. Carefully remove it from your stick, bend it to form a circle and lay on your buttered pan.
7. Repeat until you use up all of you phyllo dough.
8. Lightly brush some of the sugar syrup overtop the nests. Bake at 375F for 15-25 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown, and remove from the oven. drain off any excess butter (not a problem for us). Allow the nests to cool completely, approximately 10 minutes. Fill the centre of each nest with the ground pistachios, then top with the sugar syrup (warm up if it has cooled). I usually don’t use all the syrup, by the way.
9. Store at room temperature in an airtight containe (ours became more soggy after 4 days, so try to serve these as fresh as possible!). Serve at room temperature.
Makes 20-23 pastries.