Tag Archives: Al Sicherman

Choclava, this time with the chocolate…..

In what can only be considered a glitch in the space/time continuation, I managed to post a recipe for chocolate baklava WITHOUT ACTUALLY INCLUDING THE CHOCOLATE. I have correct that glaring/mind-boggling/insane  omission in this re-post. This is also more – much, much MORE!  – to my personal baklava/paklava/choclava story, so stayed tuned for further installments.

In the 1980’s chocolate finally came into it’s own in a way that has stayed the course.

Choclatier Magazine, Vol 1, Number 1 - I've got that

Chocolatier Magazine, Vol 1, Number 1 – I’ve got that

It was a chocolate happy decade….like anything chocolate can be UN-happy! In this  premier, charter issue of Chocolatier Magazine was the first place I saw the words ‘chocolate’  and ‘baklava’ together, two great things are are even greater together.Was I a charter subscriber? Oh, YES I was. Do I have years worth of back issues that are now commanding fairly high prices on e-Bay? Hmmm, maybe some photocopying is in order, and then…….but first, back to


This is a word that has a happy sound.

The recipe I’m going to share is from the cookbook Caramel Knowledge, because the ’80’s gave us more then one version of the chocolate baklava, and although I remember making them, I never noted which one was THE ONE.  Sometimes there’s more then one, and that’s OK, too.


1 # frozen filo dough

1# walnuts

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

3 ½ sticks unsalted butter, divided

8 (1 –ounce) squares semi-sweet chocolate (or 1-1/3 cups chips)


3 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Thaw the filo (take it out of the freezer the night before)
  2. Chop the walnuts very fine. Add sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  3. Trim the stack of filo sheets to the size of your raised edge baking pan – 11 x 17 or 11x 15, whichever you’ve got. Cover the stack of filo with a barely damp towel, and keep it covered while working. Dried out filo can get pretty messy……
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  5. Melt the remaining butter with the chocolate.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°
  7. Brush baking pan with melted butter. Lay on one sheet of filo. Brush filo with chocolate/butter. Top with another filo sheet, brush with chocolate/butter. Repeat until you have 10 sheets of filo in the pan.
  8. After the 10th sheet is brushed with butter/chocolate, sprinkled evenly with the nut mix.
  9. Now filo with chocolate butter, and then a second one…
  10. Another ½ cup of nuts all around on top of the chocolate butter…
  11. Continue sprinkling ½ cup of nuts on every other sheet on top of the chocolate butter.
  12. The last 2 or 3 sheets should have no nuts, just chocolate butter.
  13. Chocolate butter on top of the top sheet.
  14. With a sharp knife, cut the cholava. Cut it before it’s baked or you’ll end up with a very large pan of really tasty crumbs. Really. A very messy pan of very tasty bits that can be served over ice cream, but will not look good at all on a serving plate. Make a series of parallel cuts one inch apart down the length of the pan, then make diagonal cuts 2 inches apart from the side to make the classic diamond shaped pieces. Or make squares.
  15. baklava-diagram

    This is a diagram on what the straight line/diagonal lines should look like. Or not. But if you want more then one GIANT serving, cut it before it goes into the oven and gets all crispy on you.

  16. Smooth out the top layer.
  17. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes
  18. Lower oven temp to 300° and bake for another hour.
  19. Make sugar syrup :
    1. In large saucepan stir together sugar, water and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved.
    2. Cook over high heat – without any more stirring – until mixture comes to a boil
    3. Lower heat and continue boiling for 20 minutes
  20. When the cholava is done and out of the oven and still hot, spoon about two thirds of the syrup over it
  21. About an hour later when the first part of the syrup has soaked in, spoon the rest on.
  22. Allow it to rest several hours before serving. If you didn’t cut it into pieces before you put it into the oven, go and buy some ice cream now and use the chocolaty/nutty/cinnamony/crispy/ buttery goodness as a topping…..
    1. “I am told that baklava will keep for several weeks if merely covered with plastic wrap and not refrigerated. It can also be frozen, I am informed. I don’t know. I didn’t have that much left.” Al Sicherman
    2. Ditto. KMW

Al Sicherman. Caramel Knowledge. Harper & Row, 1988.p.220.

Caramel Knowledge

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Filed under Books, Perception ways, Recipe, The 1980's

Caramel Knowledge

Caramel Knowledge is a cookbook from the 1980’s,Caramel Knowledge

not to be confused with the movie Carnal Knowledge,a product of the ’70’s….

Carnal Knowledge

Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margret and Candice Bergen

I bought the book for the title. ANYONE who could get away with a title like that is a friend of mine, and I would support that friendship by buying his books. But since the author, Al Sicherman,

Al Siderman

Al Siderman

is in Minnesota, still working at the Star Tribune we’ve never actually met.

It was in Caramel Knowledge that I first learned of  The Theory of Cooking Relativity

But I remembered it wrong. So after I tell you what I actually read, the words that have remained on the pages all these many years, then I will tell you MY theory, with the words that have been in my head (and coming out of my mouth ) for many of these same many years.

It starts with popovers. Al has a a no-fail popover recipe that someone has all sorts of trouble making.

Popovers - I've only tried them once, and since they came out 'meh' I haven't tried them again, even though Al has offered me a fail safe recipe. Maybe someday, maybe never - either way, I,m OK with it.

Popovers – I’ve only tried them once, and since they came out ‘meh’ I haven’t tried them again, even though Al has offered me a fail safe recipe. Will I try again?  Maybe someday, maybe never – either way, I,m OK with it.

A reader of Al’s, Esme Evans, suggested

Evans Theory of Relative Competence: Every time you figure out how to cook something new reasonably well, you cease to be able to cook something you had thought you had mastered.” p. 43.

She has examples – fallen cakes after mastering baklava; good pie crust = unable to separate eggs (making a lemon meringue pie  becomes a  trail….)

There’s a certain amount of sense in this, which is how in my brain I came up with The Theory of Cooking Relativity.

The theory states: Each person has a set point of culinary competence, which varies with each person. Some people can be extremely good at lots of things  – think Bobby Flay or Julia Child – this is the high end of the relative scale. There are a few – a very few – who are not very good at most things . You know – the ones who are not up to the challenge of Campbell’s soup.

Open can. Dump and add water. Heat. Easy, yes and yet sometimes.....

Open can. Dump and add water. Heat. Easy, yes and yet sometimes…..when good soup goes rogue…

Most everyone else fall somewhere in the middle. Some people are extremely good at one or two things – signature dishes. Others are relatively good at lots of things – no blue ribbons, but no horror stories.  This is where Evans Theory of Relative Competence is most apparent.

What all this means is  – there IS a cooking gene, and not everyone has it. Some people are born to cook, and some are born to set the table. What’s important is knowing where you are in the spectrum, and that there IS a spectrum, and we’re not all at the same place.

The  band Swing Set just showed up at the Kiskadee Coffee Company…time to stop and smell the coffee – and listen to the jazz.


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Filed under Books, Perception ways