Showing posts with label cloves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cloves. Show all posts

Pumpkin cheesecake with almond thins crust

It's fall again, and time for pumpkins and fall dishes and desserts. This is a pumpkin cheesecake that I've been making for the last few years. I wanted to get that baked type cheesecake that you get at a restaurant, like a New York style cheesecake. So I've been playing around with a few recipes and came up with this one. The difference is that I didn't use graham crackers for the crust. I used Anna's Swedish almond thin cookies since they have no soy in them. As for the gluten free version, I took the leftover cheesecake batter, placed in ramekins without a crust and baked them in the oven along with the cheesecake. Since my daughter is gluten free she was able to enjoy the cheesecake without having to worry about gluten. It's a delicious dessert and can be enjoyed during this time of the year. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 18 servings = 4.2oz each serving)

5 ¼ oz Anna's almond thin cookies crushed (about 1.5 cups)
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
4 tbsp. butter
16 oz. cream cheese
16 oz one third less fat cream cheese (cream cheese that has 1/3 less fat)
1 ¼ cups sugar
16 oz canned pumpkin
½-cup sour cream
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs


Crush the box of Anna's almond thin cookies. It will make 1 and 1/2 cups.
Melt the butter. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to the crushed cookies along with the butter. Mix together and press into a 9" spring form pan. Refrigerate.

At room temperature mix together the regular cream cheese with the 1/3 less fat cream cheese and the sugar. Mix till well blended. Add the canned pumpkin packed solid, the sour cream, the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla. Mix well together. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Pour into the 9" spring form pan and the rest into 9 ramekins without crust. Place the 9" spring form pan into a 350°F preheated oven. Place the 9 ramekins into a baking sheet that's 1/4 filled with lukewarm water. Place those in the oven too. Bake the 9" spring form pan for 1 hour and 30 minutes and the ramekins for 1 hour and 15 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Some oven temperatures vary so it's best to use the toothpick method as a guide. Remove from the oven and let them cool before serving.

Nutrition FactsServing Size 1 serving (117.6 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 294
Calories from Fat 180
Total Fat 20.0g
Saturated Fat 12.0g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 90mg
Sodium 263mg
Potassium 107mg
Total Carbohydrates 24.1g
Dietary Fiber 1.0g
Sugars 19.0g
Protein 5.6g

Pumpkin cheesecake with almond thins crust
 Pumpkin cheesecake with almond thins crust and Dream whip cream 

 Gluten free cheesecake baked in ramekins
Gluten free cheesecake in ramekin sprinkled with icing sugar

Baklava with walnuts and almonds and its History

The History of Baklava

Many will argue about the origins of Baklava. Greeks will attest it’s their own creation. Turks will say that the Greeks claimed it since it was perfected while Greece was under the Ottoman Empire for 400 years. Lebanese will make their own version of baklava by using an array of nuts like pistachios, walnuts, cashews or pine nuts. In other areas, they will use dough with eggs, or plain dough, unlike the “phyllo” dough. Greeks perfected the use of dough by inventing the “phyllo” dough, paper-thin sheets of dough (“phyllo” in Greek means “leaf”). A baklava recipe with the use of syrup with rose water and cardamom and a filling variety of nuts will most likely be from the Arab countries. The use of syrup with cinnamon and cloves with walnuts and almonds filling will be from the Balkan countries.

Even with all these declarations, it is believed that it was the Assyrians who came up with this dessert in 8 B.C. Greek seamen travelling to Mesopotamia, brought it to Athens and eventually they perfected it by developing the “phyllo” dough. Baklava reached the kitchens of the Byzantine Empire until its fall in 1453 A.D. Under the Ottoman Empire, baklava was served to the Pashas and the very rich. Eventually, the dessert reached the western world and was brought to America by Greek immigrants, or as others might say, by Turkish or by Lebanese immigrants. I’d like to believe that it was the Greeks who brought it to the Western world and since the Greeks perfected the paper-thin dough, I’d say it’s more of a Greek origin than any other.

There are areas in Greece that they use olive oil instead of melted butter to make baklava. I remember my mother and grandmother making baklava while I was young and they used clarified butter. The butter was made from pure cow’s milk. The color of the butter was white and not yellow like the butters we see here in the US. The ingredients, of course, were more organic back then.

I’ve seen and tasted many versions of baklava while here in the US. I tried the pistachio filled baklava, baklava drizzled with chocolate, baklava with pecans, but I’m partial to the Greek baklava with walnuts and almonds, or just plain walnuts as I remembered it from my childhood. This version of baklava is the way my mother and grandmother used to make with the only difference that I added the chopped almonds to the filling. I still use butter to brush between the phyllo dough sheets.

This is also a very traditional dessert to make during the Christmas holidays and Easter. With the Christmas holidays upon us, here is my version of Greek Baklava. Enjoy!

Baklava with walnuts and almonds

Makes 30 servings

8 oz phyllo dough
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
3 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cloves
6 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup butter

30 whole cloves (optional)

MIx together the chopped walnuts, chopped almonds, sugar, cinnamon and ground cloves. Set aside.

Melt the butter. Brush a 12x7.5 pyrex pan with melted butter. Remove one of the two packages of phyllo dough from the box. You can refrigerate or freeze the other package. Open up the phyllo dough and cover it between two clean kitchen towels. Phyllo dough dries quickly, so it is best to keep it covered while working on the baklava. Take a sheet of phyllo dough and lay it on the pan. Brush with melted butter. Continue to layer the pan with approximately 10 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing them in between layers with butter, and extending the ends over the pan (like the Spinach Cheese pie (Spanakotyropita)).

Pour the walnut, almond/sugar mixture and spread evenly. Fold over the extended phyllo dough and layer the rest of the phyllo dough sheets, one by one by brushing in between with butter. Cut diagonally and place it in a preheated 350° oven for 45-50 minutes till golden brown. If desired you can place a whole clove in the middle of each piece before baking.

  Ready for the oven

The syrup

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
Rind of one lemon

Bring to a boil 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water. Add the cinnamon stick and the lemon rind. Boil for about 5 minutes till is slightly reduced and clear. Remove from heat.  Remove the cinnamon stick.

As soon as the baklava is cooked, take it out of the oven and pour the syrup over baklava while it's still warm. Wait for it to cool and serve.
Ready to serve

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving (49.8 g) approximately 1.8 oz
Amount Per Serving
Calories 148
Calories from Fat 59
Total Fat 6.5g
Saturated Fat 1.4g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 4mg
Sodium 49mg
Total Carbohydrates 21.5g
Dietary Fiber 1.2g
Sugars 16.0g
Protein 2.4g
...or ready to give as a gift!

Melomakarona – Greek walnut cinnamon honey cookies

I remember my grandmother making these when I was young. I distinctly remember the occasion when she came over showing my mother how to flatten the cookies in your palm, add the filling and then shape them into ovals. I was very young around 5-6 years old. From then on my mother used to make these honey morsels every Christmas. When I started my own family, I too began the tradition of making these cookies.  

Melomakarona or Greek walnut-cinnamon-honey cookies are very traditional cookies during the Christmas holidays. They are also healthy since there is no butter in the recipe. You can substitute the vegetable oil with olive oil. I always used vegetable oil when I made these cookies. Now I make sure that the vegetable oil I use is free of soy, so I use canola oil. I am hesitant in using olive oil for desert type cooking, since olive oil can be a bit overwhelming. Even though the olive oil in the United States comes from some European countries, I find it a bit stronger than the Greek olive oil that’s produced in Greece.  

You can substitute 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 cup melted butter. But even with the vegetable oil these cookies are delicious. Enjoy!

Melomakarona – Greek walnut cinnamon honey cookies                       

Makes 56 cookies (approximately 1.3oz each)

Filling and topping
15 tbsp ground or finely chopped walnuts
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

Cookie batter
2 cups vegetable oil (like canola oil)
1 cup sugar
½ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy or cognac
1 tbsp orange zest (peel of 1 orange) 
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
6 cups flours
2 tbsp extra flour for kneading

2 cups honey
2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick

Finely chop the walnuts. Add the ground cloves, cinnamon and sugar. Mix well and set aside.  

Beat together the vegetable oil with the sugar, orange juice, brandy, cinnamon and orange zest. Shift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add to the wet ingredients. Blend. Knead with your hands and add flour, as needed (about 2 tbsps). Take portion of the dough about 2” ball and roll it between your hands. Flatten it in the hollow of your palm and add about ¼ tsp of the filling. Pinch the dough together to seal it and shape it into an oval shape. Place the cookies in a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350° oven for 25 minutes until coppery brown.  

Make the syrup
Bring honey and water to a boil – about 5 minutes. Skim off any foam. Lower the heat and drop the cookies one at a time in the honey. Do not overcrowd. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Place them in a platter. Continue simmering the cookies in honey until done. Sprinkle with the rest walnut-cinnamon mixture. Drizzle the cookies with any syrup that might be left over. 

Nutrition Facts 
Serving Size 1 serving (38.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 138
Calories from Fat 81
Total Fat 9.0g
Saturated Fat 1.6g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 45mg
Total Carbohydrates 14.5g
Dietary Fiber 0.3g
Sugars 14.0g
Protein 0.6g

Right out of the oven

Dipped and drizzled with the honey syrup and the nuts. 
Merry Christmas! Enjoy!