Baklava for breakfast this morning! Do not be intimidate by the thin flaky layers. Baklava is pretty simple to assemble when using a quality pre-made phyllo dough. Use a combination of your favorite nuts, raw or toasted. I like walnuts and pistachios the best. If using salted nuts, do not use salted butter (but I would suggest unsalted nuts). Please share if you have a favorite family Baklava recipe. I based mine off of one posted on allrecipes.com but would love a family rendition to try as well!
Want to make your own phyllo? Here is a useful video. But I am still buying mine for now.
Baklava – makes one 13 x 9 inch pan ; freezes well assuming it isn’t all eaten immediately
1 pound nuts, chopped
1 cup of butter, melted
16 oz phyllo dough defrosted (premade, in the freezer section)
1 large orange, zested (optional)
3 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 cup water
1 cup sugar!)
1/2 to 3/4 cup honey (crystallized works great too)
1 teaspoon vanilla extra or paste
Defrost phyllo dough (filo dough?) according to package. This can take a few hours. Plan ahead. I didn’t and then gently defrosted in the microwave. Not recommending this as the sheets weren’t quite defrosted and then broke. But guess what, broken pieces of phyllo work just fine.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Melt the butter in a glass bowl or measuring cup
Chop the nuts and put in a small mixing bowl. I use a nut grinder for this. Toss with cinnamon and orange zest. This is the filling!
Layering the phyllo dough sheets takes the longest. You will have 6-8 sheets for the bottom and 6-8 sheets for the top. the rest of the baklava is based on layering two sheets, filling, two sheets, filling etc. Until your pan is full, you run out of phyllo or you run out of filling.
Layer the sheets two at a time, brushing with butter as best you can. For bottom that means, one sheet, two sheet, brush with butter, three sheet, four sheet brush with butter, five sheet six sheet, brush with butter.
Add a layer of filling. Just a little bit, light even sprinkle. Then one sheet, two sheet, brush with butter. Add filling… you get it by now. When you are nearing the end, repeat the top just like the botton, so you have a nice substantial top layer (one sheet, two sheet butter, three sheet four sheet butter……)
Once all layers are in place, cut the squares in the pan before cooking.
Place in the oven and a bake for 30-50 minutes. Why the variation? Well, i have had one batch that took 30 minutes to be flaky and brown and one about 50 minutes. I think it is related to one batch I didn’t use as much phyllo dough because I ran out of toppling (a few layers were maybe to heavy). But that is ok, this is really forgiving and flexible.
It is done backing with brown and crispy.
While baking, make the sweet syrup. Dissolve the granulated sugar in hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes then add the honey and keep simmering until baklava is done backing. stir in vanilla at the end.
Remove the baklava from oven and spoon the hot syrup over the pastry. I used a spoon and repeated light application repeatedly. I don’t always use all the syrup (but when i do…) to avoid soggy bottom baklava.. Sad face.
I strongly encourage you to eat a fresh from the oven corner piece. This is joyful and helps you with removing the rest of squares for storage. Do not store the pastry in the pan for long as it will get soggy. I store them in cupcake liners or on a plate.
Rumor has it these freeze well and spring back to life with a quick warm up in the oven. But I haven’t had a chance to test this.
This easy three plum galette graced our late summer table and will likely make a fall comeback as a pear version. Galette is a Frenchie word describing a variety of flat freeform flakey, crusty desserts. Crusts can be made with puff pasty or pie crust or somewhere in between. I always have a box of puff pastry on hand from baked brie with honey and garlic (self, why no blog post?); top pie crusts, empanadas, beef wellington (on my list!) and caramelized onion tart.
Don’t worry if it is not perfectly rectangular or round or the rolled edges are a bit wonky – call it rustic and take its photo. See below. You can also make them individual portions, like this Bon Appetite idea, using a knife or cookie cutter. Key with puff pastry is working fast so it doesn’t warm up to much. You could also make puff pastry from scratch – never attempted, best left for LeCB chef extraordinaires.
I promise I am done with plum recipes for the year. Pin this away for next year or for inspiration with whatever is seasonal.
Plum Fruit Galette
Approx. 1 lb of plums, I used three colors for flare! Or apples, pears, berries etc.
1 sheet of prepared puff pastry, defrost according to package, about 14 ounces, but this doesn’t need to be exact
1-3 tablespoons of honey for drizzling
Fresh thyme or rosemary or basil or mint – depending on your taste and fruit.
1 T Olive oil
Optional; beaten egg white with water or cream to brush on edges to help brown
Preheat oven to 425 F
Slice and pit the plums into wedges, not to thick but about the same size.
Unfold/roll the puff pastry sheet onto a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Fold or roll over the edges all the way around OR run a knife around the edge about ½ inch in, without cutting through. This will allow it to ‘puff’ up and make a border. It never works all that well for me.
Brush the pastry with the olive oil, lay down the plum slices. Top with herbs and drizzle with honey. You can warm the honey up a tad so it drizzles easier and faster.
Bake 25-35 minutes until brown and fruit is soften with some carmelization. Suggest rotating the pan part way through if your edges are browning up equally.
Sprinkle with salt sparingly before serving. Goes great with ice cream! (but what really doesn’t…)
You can make a lot of modifications to this recipe, could spread jam lightly on the pastry instead of olive oil and pair with a different fruit or savory item, add spices like nutmeg or cinnamon. Sprinkle with sugar, play around with herbs etc. Enjoy!
Fresh figs are a fine treat and preserving them opens up many more possibilities, from dried to newton to jam to pudding. I covet (yes, I know) my neighbors majestic fig tree and this year made it out in time to harvest about 10 pounds of green figs in 10 minutes. I am not sure of the exact varietal but think it might be a Kadota, Desert King or lattarulla (Italian honey fig) based on climate and description. I honestly hadn’t put much thought to figs (a flying fig?), other than I loved to eat them in any presentation but especially as a jam with cheese. Do some research for your self about this complex inward blooming druplet. Now let us get down to figgin’ business [groan].
Sultry Fig Jam
This recipe is made a tad bit sultry by adding balsamic vinegar. Inspired by Put Em Up by Sherri Vinton
2 pounds of figs, any edible variety
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
½ cup nice quality balsamic vinegar
¼ cup commercial lemon juice
½ orange for zesting
Makes about 4 cups and doubled well, just increase time to reduce.
Prepare the figs by trimming off the stems and halving or quartering the fruit.
Add them to a large nonreactive pot, add the water and heat it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the fruit is really soft. You then can mash up by hand (potato masher) or use an immersion blender, on low, pulsing.
Add the sugar, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Keep it at a simma’ and stir frequently for 20 to 30 minutes, until it becomes thicker than honey. You can use the gel test or my favorite, guessing. About 10 minutes before done, zest in your orange peel.
Ladle into jars (smaller is better for sharing), leave about ¼ inch headspace and process using a hot water bath method for 10 minutes. If you have never canned please take a class or do more research on safe canning practices, as I do not expound on them here….
Enjoy this sophisticated jam served alongside cheese, on buttered toast or stirred into yogurt. You could even use as a marinade or filling for cookie (think jam thumbprints!)
Options: add in candied ginger, simmer a 2 inch cinnamon stick (then remove), fresh or dried apricot or really play up the orange flavor.
Boozy Figs in Honey Syrup
Boozy is optional but figs packed in honey syrup is a must. Inspired again out of Put Em UP! I cannot wait to try these out. I am thinking to smoosh and spread on a cheese plate or warmed up and served over ice cream. Black Mission figs are in the stores right now and for color/interest I used them in combination with my green figs. If all else fails, they look pretty in the jars.
3 pounds of figs, stemmed, washed
1 cup of honey
½ cup Cointreau or other favorite liquor (thinking brandy or bourbon)
¼ cup sugar
Commercial lemon juice, enough to put a tablespoon in each pint jar
2 cups water plus more for initial simmer
Optional orange zest
Makes 3-5 pints, depends how good you are at packing the jars and how much syrup you have.
Place the prepared figs in a saucepan and cover completely and then some with water. Bring this to a boil and then just simmer for 2 short minutes. Drain.
Combine the honey, sugar and water in small pan and bring to a quick boil. Pour syrup into larger pan with the figs, add the booze and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Do not over cook them or they will be even more fragile. Turn off the heat but you can leave the pot on the burner.
Have your pint jars all prepared (clean hot and ready) and add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar and the orange zest if you like. I used my wire egg yolk separator to scoop up each fig and place into the jars. Ladle or pour in the syrup into each fig filled jar, leaving about ½ inch of headspace. Put the lids on and swirl and invert to make sure that there are not air bubbles lurking. Take the lid off and remove bubbles as needed. You might need to add more syrup too. I poured the warm syrup into a large glass measuring cup and then poured. It was easier than ladling with this recipe.
Process the boozy figs for 45 MINTUES (yes, fourty five) in a hot water bath. Why so long? Do not question; just figgin’ do it… because you are packing lightly cooked whole fruit and figs are really low acid.
Continuing my resolution to be a better beekeeper and bee steward, 2014 marks my fourth season of bee herding and while earning my Apprentice Badge adds a nice bit of flare, beekeeping and stewarding is more about doing than passing a test, a lot like life and career …. There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I don’t think you can really fail. Even if your hives died, your honey was full of bee legs and you got stung on your lucky mole 13 times – you still probably helped educate friends and families about bees, aided in pollination and have frames of honey ready to feed back to your next package in the spring (unless disease took the bees). This year I am only running one hive due to some upcoming “competing commitments”. I might try catching a swarm or splitting a hive this year if the opportunity arises. The In The Hive tasks for Summer (June/July) are all about letting the girls do what they do, keep them and nearby humans safe and make some scholarly observations.
Worker Bee Tasks
Inspect the Hives: When inspecting on a nice warm sunny afternoon, you should see evidence of the queen laying eggs, bees bringing in pollen and the honey stores building up.
Watch for grasses, flowers etc growing up and blocking the entrance to the hive. Remove them (I like to do this early in the morning before they are active).
Take note of brood versus drone cells. Drone cells look like pencil erasers. You do not want a bunch of loafing drones. You need strong female workers to forage and raise brood. You might need replace your queen (or let the hive do it for you) if it looks like she is only laying drones.
Don’t forget to track your activities and observations!
Queen Bee Ideas
Watch for swarms and booming hives: Activity and colony size pick up in spring and by now your hives should be pretty busy. Swarming is still a risk but perhaps a little less than springtime. Know what your local beekeeping organization has available as resources. In my neck of the woods, PSBA has a helpful page with a call list, tips and talking points (e.g. the bees aren’t angry).
Do not panic if you see lots of bees covering the outside of the hive. They are probably just hot and helping to regulate the hive temperature.
Know what nectars and pollens are available: Not all flowers and other plants produce nectar and the weather, especially Seattle rain, can often make it hard for the forager bees to get out – remember Junuary, although for sure there is a much greater variety of flowers and plants this time of year. My lavender is in full swing but just like the past years, the honeybees do not frequent it, only the bumbles…. Here is what the science says about this, other than we don’t live in Provence. Sigh.
You have to eat, so make a honey recipe. Here is one of my most recent experiments.
Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. Great way to stay on top of the bee season.
Busy time of year for beeks!
Make a simple Bee Waterer: just place some marbles in a dish and fill with water (picture below). The bees will be able to land on the marbles and drink, without drowning. You can use rocks and sticks as well.
I hope you celebrated National Pollinator Week! It is never too late and I try to celebrate them every week. If you are even the tiniest bit politically inclined there are several government actions recently set in motion to save the pollinators. Learn about them, maybe sign in support.
So, I was eating one of those S.bucks protein snack packs the other day (hey, for me, it’s like supporting a local business) pondering how the peanut butter is the best part, when it hit me…… uh, I could make this and keep in my desk at work. Well…. Prepare to have your mind blown with my ingenuity! This is a perfect use for crystalized honey and those last few, moderately annoying scoops of peanut butter in the jar. No one paid me to post this, my personal honey stores aren’t crystallized yet and I am, after all a member of PSBA, who sells some delectable honey, that happened to crystalize, which is totally normal and fine.
Scoop out your peanut butter, for every ½ cup add about 2 teaspoons of honey.
Mix it up and store in an airtight container. If you like it sweeter add more honey.
Enjoy! Toast, apples, crackers, knife, spoon….
Maybe next I will kick it up a notch and make my own peanut butter (roasted nuts, coconut oil)…..
Key Bee Learning point: crystalized honey isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean it is old or nor spoiled, just a different texture. In fact, crystallization is a sign that a honey is pure and natural, not cut with corn syrup or other atrocities. Honey crystalizes because it is a super saturated sugar solution (say that 5 times fast). There are several kinds of sugar molecules. Honey is made up of fructose and glucose. The composition varies with year/batch based on what the bees are eating. The honey pictured above is primarily raspberry, which tends to crystalize quicker versus some of my other honey which has a larger blackberry component, Fructose is more soluble in water, meaning it will easily remain in a liquid state. Glucose, however, is less soluble and more likely to crystalize. Once it starts crystallizing it may go quickly crystallize the entire jar or no, gets chemically and geometrically complicated. One thing that will speed it up is the presence of a “seed” crystal. Small bits of pollen or wax form the foundation for crystal structures to build. Extra processing usually removes all these delicious little bits… Lastly, the storage temperature can impact honey; temperatures between 50 and 60 F allow for the quickest crystallization, cooler and warmer help prevent.
There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I don’t think you can really fail. Even if your hives died, your honey was full of bee legs and you got stung on your lucky mole 13 times – you still probably helped educate friends and families about bees, aided in pollination and have frames of honey ready to feed back to your next package in the spring (unless disease took the bees). I am starting this year out with only one hive due to some upcoming “competing priorities”. I might try catching a swarm or splitting a hive this year if the opportunity arises.
Worker Bee Tasks
Install your package bees: I remember by first year doing this… I will admit it was tad nerve racking despite how calm the bees are, but I armed myself with key supplies (screwdriver, marshmallow, pushpin) and watched no less than a dozen You Tube videos. The sound of the bees being poured into the hive is memorizing, now, a bit like packing peanuts.
Inspect and/or Feed current hives: When inspecting on a nice warm afternoon, you should see evidence of the queen laying eggs, bees bringing in pollen and still some honey stores.
Don’t forget to track your activities and observations!
Queen Bee Ideas
Watch for swarms and booming hives: Activity and colony size really pick up in April and May. Know what your local beekeeping organization has available as resources. In my neck of the woods, PSBA has a helpful page with a call list, tips and talking points (e.g. the bees aren’t angry).
Know what nectars and pollens are available: Even though there are flowers all around, this time of year can be hard on bees as their colony grows, not all flowers and other plants produce nectar and the weather, especially Seattle rain, can often make it hard for the forager bees to get out. Your local beekeeping group is a great resource for this very geographically specific knowledge. This was really apparent to me on a March trip to San Diego where the bees were out in full force on plants I have never seen in Seattle. I will say though that rather than curse the early dandelion blooms, embrace them as a great bee and human food source and then figure out how to make a salad or tea.
You have to eat, so make a honey recipe. Here is one of my most recent experiments.
Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. They will likely be doing a lot of education about swarms and nectar flows.
Watch this excerpt from More than Honey of the queen’s virgin mating flight. If you have a new queen this spring, and many of us do, either by our intention or the bees’, this is his and her’s destiny.
Help educate people about swarms: They are not something to be afraid of, bee smart. Do not spray a swarm with pesticides or anything really. For SHAME Yankees and Red Sox – this faux pas really sent the wrong message.
Join in the Great Sunflower Project: easy to grow, a great source of pollen and nectar for bees, provide a swatch of shade, pretty to look at and the spent heads are a tasty snack for chickens. I am starting my sunflower project this weekend and will be tracking progress all summer.
Fresh ricotta cheese is nothing to fear. Very little investment in terms of money, time and emotion, yet pays in spades with pride, flavor and possibility! If you haven’t made your own ricotta yet, here is one approach that I recently shared. Ricotta is incredibly versatile, from plain to savory to sweet recipes. I pinned quite a few ideas on my Say Cheese! board, so check them out and share your favorites. For this strawberry tart inspired by bell’ alimento, I actually didn’t have a tart pan and used a pie plate, which worked just fine, just adjust the crust height. Next time I might use ramekins for mini versions or just acquire myself a nice proper tart.
¼ to 1/2 cup honey (Are you feeling more sweet or less sweet?)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 small to medium lemon – zested
1 pound strawberries – topped and sliced to about ¼ thick, could also mix in blueberries for a more patriotic version
Powdered sugar to dust on top
1 premade pie crust, get crazy and try a chocolate one, graham cracker crust would be tasty too.
Mint or basil for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees.
Unroll or defrost (or however you need to get your premade crust read). Be sure to prick with a fork about 6 times, to minimize it puffing up. Bake just the crust in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool while you make the filling and slice the berries.
Into a large mixing bowl combine the ricotta, egg yolks, honey, vanilla extract and lemon or citrus zest. Mix together with a spatula or whisk to combine.
Pour your filling into prebaked crust.
Bake the tart for approximately 30 minutes OR until center is just set and it begins to ever so slightly brown. If it puffs up when cooking do not worry. When you remove it from the over poke it once with a toothpick and it should settle back down.
Place the pan on a wire cooling rack and let it cool down before placing the fruit on top.
Arrange the sliced strawberries to your liking. Dust with powdered sugar. Maybe top with a sprig of mint or basil if you have any.
This is quite easy an easy recipe, that will fool many of your friends! Enjoy.
While nothing beats the feel and smell of a book in your hands, there are some mobile apps that might have just the information you are looking for. I put together an app collection for managing hives, staying on top of bee news, connecting with others, planning a garden, pass the time or serving as a conversation starter.
Bio Bees: Mobile version of the popular beekeeping site biobees.com. A plethora of information on natural beekeeping, of which I have only scratched the service. Nice collection of podcasts, video posts etc from the always informative Barefoot Beekeeper. I love his top bar beekeeping book as well.
Honeylove.org:Honeylove.org is a non-profit organization promoting urban beekeeping in LA. This app houses video content, including some of the best waggle dancing footage ever, done like only LA would. The org’s website is fantastic and makes me long for something oh soo swanky as a yellow-tie event in Seattle. Their shop is full of great gifts too. It is not all LA, one of the featured videos is from right here in Seattle, The Flight Path Project at the Common Acre. Download the app and enjoy the videos and learn a few things too. NOTE: I WILL be making black and yellow bow tie for the hubs collection.
Beekeeping Forum: A hand held forums for bee keeping, hives, honey, honey products, help, questions and more. Based on the web versions, also includes some article and news etc. Great for perusing, seeing what are the hot questions and repository of information. Topics range from bee medicinal, blueprints, swarms and alternatives bees. Some geographical sorting available. Free and handy!
Honeybee Helpers by Heritage Farms: An interesting app with a quiz, some live video feeds in the hives, state bee facts and a nifty anatomy overview. Good thing it is free as pretty limited in terms of information and I will likely uninstall if I can’t get the hive video feed to work (granted it was night when I was playing around) but the skep image looks great on my phone and I like the anatomy portion. It also links out to Haagen-Dazs (yes the ice cream), a company in clear support of the honeybee.
BeesMe: This free app is pretty simple with logically organized basic beekeeping information. What sets this app apart is its month by month description of what to be doing in the hive. Of note, it is out of the UK, so some of the recommendations may not be applicable to your local. It also has a forum to facilitate interaction with other beeks.
Hive Management Tools
Beekeeper Lite: This free app is designed to help track your hives and inspections/observations. You can add multiple hive locations, add hives, and track details of visits, including pictures etc. I added my three current hives and can see how this could be helpful, however, I can’t figure out how to delete locations or hives and the data does not appear to be backed up anywhere, so you would risk losing seasons worth of data if you deleted app etc. It also doesn’t appear downloadable, so if you are recording observations in pursuit of Journeyman or Master Beekeeper, this might not be the right platform.
There is another similar app, Hive Manager, that is $14.99/year. It looks to be much more detailed in terms of data recorded.
Another online hive management tool with associated app is beetight.com. You can sign up for free and manage up to 6 hives online but not via the app. More hives or want the app? Upgrade to the Pro version, which includes the mobile app and you can add up to a 1000 hives (holy guacamole!), for $15/year. Lots of cues about what to observe, do and record. I am going to use the beetight.com online tool this year [and uninstall the beekeeper lite and beetight.com app] to see how it plays out in the real world. Stay tuned! BBE-tech has also assembled an indepth evaluation of these tools.
BeeCalc: Handy calculators for common beekeeper math. Just plug in your numbers to find out answer like how much honey and wax to expect from a super, how much frame wire you might need based on umber and frame depth and generally useful metric conversions (temperature, distance, weight etc). from the beekeeping.org website.
Beeyond the Hive
BeeSmart: A free app designed to help you plan the best garden and landscaping for your pollinator friends. This app is free and includes geo-location specific plant recommendations: for bees to hummingbirds, bats, beetles and butterflies. Enter your zip code, then choose a target pollinator, color, sun requirement, soil type (e.g. loamy, acidic)and plant type (e.g. annual, tree, vine). From here the app provides you with a list of NATIVE plants for your region that meet your criteria. You can then click on the plan and learn more about it and also add it to your favorites. Definitely useful tool for garden and yard planning. The list will seem shorter since it focuses on native plants (read: I love lavender but it doesn’t come up for my region).
Honey Health: Repository of information about honey applications in health and beauty. I would caution against relying on this app for quality information. I think they are stretching the facts of honey too far. That said, the About Honey portion of the app contains useful information. I do wash my face with honey regularly and use it as an acne spot treatment (thanks to Crunchy Betty) but I won’t be turning over my every ailment to this liquid gold any time soon. There is better research and resources out there for medicinal benefits of honey than this app, in particular the use of honey on bed sores and slow healing wounds and pollen for attenuating seasonal allergies. But, face it, honey tastes delicious, feels good in the mouth and why wouldn’t you find a reason to add it to your daily life.
There are also apps for candle making and other DIY crafts.
Honeybee Mapper: This app from the savethehives.com group supports their efforts to build a national database of hives, designed to further research into Colony Collapse Disorder and other honey bee health issues. The app has an updated roster of podcasts and honeybee research articles, links for schools (ecology, stewardship and behavior topics) and bee photo gallery. This might be a useful tool for local beekeeping groups to utilize – not much in the way of registered hives in my neck of the woods though. The app doesn’t appear to have the information on beelining that is on website, so take a detour and check that out too. I think my main utilization of this app will be for the meta-search results. I have something similar delivered to my email daily but think this on demand version suits me better.
Just for Fun
Cute as Can Bee – Picture Me: This app has nothing to do with keeping bees and everything to do with getting a few laughs and maybe intrigue some people into learning more about bees, or at least you (or completely creep them out). Basically you take a photo of yourself (Selfie!), the free app then makes a story all about you complete with tinkling music and thick plot line (joking). A great way to pass time and you can bet my Mom is going to get a copy of this. Picture me…..
Disco Bees: A game app centered on lining up like objects in a row to clear them (a la Candy Crush, Bejeweled, Chuzzle, Connect 4, Tic-Tac-Toe….). It is a bit trickier on the eyes as the shapes are hexagon honeycombs and while the levels I have played thus far are pretty easy, it is still rewarding to see the bees do the waggle dance in celebration. Mindless, yes, but cute bee graphics, a great way to bring up the waggle dance and maybe built a few new neuronal pathways. Pretty sure adult beekeepers are their target demographic given the flower power hipbee character, Euro 80s Punk bee level and reference to Notorious BIG – “Mo Honey Mo Problems”. Among the cleverly named levels, are two about Zombees on Earth and Mars … how very timely. More info https://www.zombeewatch.org/ It’s free and a way to pass the time waiting at the DMV or for the more active months of beekeeping….
Bee Leader: Another free-bee game, sort of like Angry Birds or Robot Unicorn (missed that one? Too bad.) I found it hard to control (maybe I need to work on my coordination) and grew weary quickly. Cute graphics and quite a few levels though. It does teach about pollination although the bee will chose red flowers at the same frequency of other colors, which we know is not always true.
Honey Boo Boo – just kidding!
So which apps will I bee keeping?
I would love to hear about your beekeeping app and website experiences!