This week's prompt for Finish the Sentence Friday was "The best and worst parts of blogging are …"
As a food blogger, I find that the worst part about blogging is the self-imposed guilt. It is very strange to create something that you and your family really enjoy, to then feel like you can't repeat it because if you do, that's a day where you don't have something new to post. That's OK on occasion, but you start to feel bad if it happens repeatedly which, of course, it does, unless you make a habit of eating dessert every night and mixing drinks to go with dinner so you at least have something to post. It's even worse if you live on your own and don't have a bunch of people to cook for – then you have to throw leftovers into the equation. Not all leftovers are suitable for re-purposing. I'm sure that most people really don't care how often we blog, but we can't help but feel like we're disappointing someone if we don't keep to a regular schedule. Speaking of which, between two bridal showers, an uptick in work, and the crazy weather we've been having the past few weeks, I haven't been posting much. Sorry!! See what I mean? I was specifically asked to make things for the showers that I have already made and posted (Cream-Filled Kadayif, Chocolate-Toffee-Almond Paklava, etc.), so what's a girl to do?? I did actually bake and decorate cookies for the showers, too - that was fun for a change. Had some weather issues with the icing though. I've only iced cookies one other time, so it wasn't too bad for an unexpected addition ...
The other thing I don't particularly like about blogging is being inundated with posts about the same things over and over again. If I see another macaron, cake pop, or anything in a jar, I'm going to scream. I have never eaten a macaron and would love to try them, but I'm so sick of seeing them, I can't bring myself to do it.
I'm also very annoyed by bloggers who host giveaways but never post the results. Was it some sort of scam? Did they forget? Is the lack of an announced winner a ploy to drive traffic to their site – people who keep going back to see if they've (anyone has) won??
On the plus side, I have "met" a lot of wonderful people through blogging, some of whom I now consider friends – even though we have never actually met. I love interacting with other bloggers and readers equally. Other bloggers are a source of support and information, while non-blogging readers are a great source of inspiration. As much as I love to receive comments on my posts, I have really been enjoying an influx of direct e-mails from readers lately and have been having a great time "chatting" with everyone.
I have also really enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in recipe challenges through blogging, and it certainly doesn't hurt that companies like Marx Foods provide product samples for inspiration along with their challenges, and Quirk Books provides me with cookbooks to review. I have also come across giveaways that I would not have known about if not for blogging and have scored a few prizes as a result.
What I like best about food blogging is that it gives me a creative outlet to try crazy things. Just the other day, a reader sent me an article and photograph of The Twilly. In honor of National Hot Dog Day (7/23), Pittsburgh Willy's in Chandler, Arizona, served up (for one day only), a hot dog smeared with peanut butter, sprinkled with bacon, and served in a split Twinkie for a bun. The name is a combination of the Twinkie and the restaurant's signature hot dog, the Billy Willy. Although I think the cream from the Twinkie would be gross with that, I have to admit that it piqued my curiosity. It also piqued my imagination, so having a package of phyllo in the fridge, peanuts in the cabinet, and bacon crying out to be used, I decided to play around and come up with something new …
Peanut (hold the butter), Bacon, and Chocolate Paklava
6 slices of bacon (see notes)
2 c unsalted (or lightly salted) dry roasted peanuts, divided
1 T sugar
3.3 oz bar of Dove milk chocolate (see notes)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 lb phyllo
1 ½ c sugar
¾ c water
fresh lemon juice
Cook the bacon until crisp, either on the stove or in the oven. Either way, remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, then allow the grease to cool for a few minutes. Pour some of the grease through a strainer lined with either a paper towel or a coffee filter (I love keeping coffee filters on hand for things like this) into a measuring cup or other heat-proof vessel so that you can use about 1T of the filtered grease.
When making Paklava, I was always taught to add a bit of Crisco to the butter to aid in crisping the dough, so I decided to swap out the Crisco in this case with that 1T of bacon grease. Go ahead and add that to your butter, bring it to a simmer and skim the foam from the top.
In your food processor, pulse 1c of peanuts with the 1T of sugar. When the peanuts are broken down to a size you like, toss in the bacon (reserving one slice for garnish) and give it another pulse. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
Add the second cup of peanuts to the food processor, along with the chocolate, and again pulse until you end up with a size you like. Some people like their filling chunky, but I prefer it on the smaller side. I find that it holds together better that way. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
I was first going to use an 8x8 pan for this, but decided to switch to my "spinach pie" pan, which is about 11½" x 14". Just don't go much bigger than that or you will either need a second pound of phyllo and more butter, or you will have a very short Paklava.
Brush the tray with melted butter, then start layering in the phyllo, one sheet at a time, buttering every second layer. You can fold or tuck the dough as necessary to fit your pan, just keep in mind that you will want to alternate the sides where you are tucking so there are no low spots. If it starts to become unbalanced, don't worry about it, just bunch up a sheet or two (or tear and layer) to fill that spot.
When you have about 10 layers in the pan, butter the top and sprinkle evenly with the peanut/chocolate mixture, then continue layering. When you have another 6-8 layers, butter the top and sprinkle evenly with the peanut/bacon mixture and continue layering to the top, buttering the top well.
Using a sharp knife, slice from one corner diagonally across the middle to the other, then slice parallel rows in whatever size you would like you pieces to be. I thought it best to go smaller with this version. Now rotate the tray so you can slice a diagonal in the opposite direction and cut parallel rows out from that slice, creating a diamond pattern.
Bake at 350° for 30-40" until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Bring the water and sugar up to a boil, then squeeze in the juice from half a lemon and reduce to a simmer for 1-2". You don't want to cook it much beyond that, or it will turn from a syrup to a candy once it cools.
Spoon the syrup over the cooled Paklava, then remove one corner piece form the tray and prop a dish towel or pot holder under the opposite corner so that the syrup drains into the corner you just removed the piece from. Use a spoon to scoop up the syrup there and re-hit any spots you may have missed, going back over the edges, etc. When you are certain you have covered the entire tray, you can spoon out any excess syrup and remove the prop from the other side. You want enough syrup to nicely coat your pastry without it being too soggy or cloyingly sweet.
For garnish, I chopped a few extra peanuts and sprinkled that on the tops of some while the syrup was still wet. I also removed the fatty parts from the nice meat on that reserved strip of cooked bacon and diced that to add a little piece to the tops of the rest.
NOTES: So far so good. I brought these to work, and they are meeting with very positive response ... once people work up their nerve to try them. Apparently, the thought is off putting to some. I thought everyone loved peanut butter and bacon?!? ;) What I'm thinking is that there could be more bacon, and there should definitely be less chocolate. I was expecting the chocolate to be a bit player, but it is really more pronounced than I was expecting, so I would cut back to 2 oz at a maximum. You really want the bacon to be the star here.
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