This past weekend was a whirlwind of pink, glitter and sequins. Barbie meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
My daughter's BFF's birthday is in January and since the former was on the other side of the pond when she turned five, far from all her friends, BFF's mom and I teamed up to organize a joint birthday bash. For obvious reasons, like my daughter already having a little party in NY, I didn't want to get caught up in the craziness of party organizing and entertainers. We decided to keep it small, quiet and as simple as possible. We planned to do it at BFF's house, to invite just the few five year old girls of each class and to spice it up and make it a little girly, we called it a princess pizza party. big deal for someone who asked the world to abstain from giving pink presents when she found out she was expecting a girl.
So anyway, going along with the totally casual feel of it all, I printed out some free printable invitations with a crown on it, handwrote the info (smiling at the thought of the hours usually dedicated to photoshopping the perfect invitation) and hand distributed them at kindergarden. BFF's mom had some peel off nail polish from the States, she ordered a pink cake, we ordered some pizza, I rented the pinkest, girliest Barbie movie I could lay my hands on (because we envisaged total mayhem with 12 girls and no specific organized activity), I bought some pink princess paper plates and napkins and we were set. Ready to roll.
Well, girl after girl after girl showed up and with them - totally unexpectedly - crown after crown after crown. Some had blonde wigs with platinum highlights attached, others had buttons on them that lit them up. There were wings and magic wands. There were party dresses and party shoes. There was a lot of twirling and checking each other out and looking into mirrors. There was squealing and sighing. When the nail polish came out it was total frenzy. First came hands, followed by shoes being scattered around and panty hose being torn off. My friend and I became the most sought-after manicure and pedicure stations in Milan and little brothers got involved and painted too. Even the tomboy of the group, who was a little horrified when she arrived, succumbed and had her toe nails painted. One of my daughter's presents was a Princess dress, a triumph of polyester and plastic, ruffles and frills. It never came off for the rest of the week end, and neither did the nail polish. Until last night. Ugh.
However, the party was a success, my little girl was happy and so was I.
So when I decided to bake I craved something that was a little more grown up, with NO pink or frills. And guess what? The kids loved it. So did we.
As you may have noticed by now, because I do not have time to flip through cook books at home, most of my recipes come from you these days. And what a lucky girl that makes me! Thanks to Magda at My Little Expat Kitchen, her lovely photo tutorial and detailed instructions, I managed to make my first really exotic dessert! I am no expert but they tasted pretty authentic to me.
250gr phyllo dough with 12 sheets (1 package, thawed)
100 gr walnuts plus 50g to sprinkle on top
1tbsp brown sugar
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
250gr caster sugar
225 ml water
½ medium-sized lemon, cut into wedges
1 large cinnamon stick
A few notes before I begin.
I pretty much halved the amounts because my phyllo dough package was 250gr instead of the 450gr suggested. It however contained 12 sheets so it worked out fine in a 35x25 baking pan. I did not have 100gr walnuts so I mixed in some pecans. Finally, I did not have lemon for the syrup and used a little ground cinnamon in it because I did not have a cinnamon stick. I also just realized I think I used the 450ml water required by the original recipe for the syrup but I am not sure. Sorry! Last but certainly not least, do not be afraid of phyllo dough. I had never worked with it before and was terrified of it drying out, breaking or ripping. It did not dry out following the simple instructions below and half of the sheets were already broken when I took them out of the package. It wasn't a problem, the end result was great anyway.
Chop the nuts coarsely and place them in a bowl with the sugar and cinnamon. Mix. Put the butter into a saucepan and melt. Clear a large work surface and roll out one sheet of phyllo dough at a time. Keep the others rolled up and covered with a damp tea towel and work as quickly as possible. Brush the whole surface with the melted butter, then place about 1 tbsp of the nut mix on the edge of the short end of the sheet and roll it up. Wrinkle the roll by gently pushing on both edges inwards and place in the baking pan seam side down.
Do this with all 12 sheets and while you are doing it preheat your oven to 175°C. When you are finished, pour the rest of the butter over the rolled sheets. Put the pan on the lower rack of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, making sure the saragli turn golden and not too dark. When they are ready let them cool completely before proceeding. When they have cooled down, cut the rolls into 3 equally small pieces using a sharp knife and being careful not to break the phyllo.
Once the saragli have cooled you can start making your syrup, because you must pour the hot syrup over cool saragli. Put water, sugar, lemon and cinnamon in a sauce pan and bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly so the sugar dissolves. When it starts boiling turn the heat down and let simmer uncovered until it thickens, approximately a half hour.
Pour the hot syrup over the saragli. It should not cover them totally, just about two thirds. Now let them soak up the syrup for at least three hours, even better for the night. Do not refrigerate or cover. Don't expect the saragli to soak up all the syrup. Take them out of the pan, place on a serving platter and sprinkle with the left over chopped nuts.