I am a baker first, a writer second – and what’s baking away in my oven rarely coincides with the words sautéing on the page. In most cases, I’m bustling around my kitchen to escape these very musings. Baking is my art. My kitchen is my studio where I practice and play. At its denouement, my art is devoured, without regret. My passion lies in the crafting, my delight in the sharing. My kitchen is bomb shelter and Band-Aid, my respite when I’m overwhelmed and my surefire reason for procrastination. It’s my voice, my meditation, my recreation and only occasionally my vexation.
Conversely, when I write, I’m tortured; I lash myself to my desk, yearning to be anywhere else, struggling to create order from the chaotic ruminations pacing around my head. I type words to release them from their cage, allowing them to organize and settle into coherent ideas on the page. The process is cathartic, painfully honest and deeply personal, but never easy. It’s an exorcism of sorts.
Born from the same mother, yet conceived in different moods at separate times, my baking and my writing are two distinct children. My baking is my golden child; my writing, the black sheep. I love and need them both, but in different ways. Consequently, and unlike most food blogs, my musings rarely relate to the recipe on the page.
Here, you will never read a 500-word memoir about apple picking as an introduction for my classic apple pie. If this eccentric mash-up of a blog bothers you, there are thousands of other food blogs to satisfy your tastes.
Two-Bit Tart unconventionally chronicles what’s in my head and in my oven on any given day. It’s a candid account of my attempts to decipher life through my love of food and words; a window into an imperfect woman and chef chronicling her vices – culinary or otherwise.
M’hanncha is made from rolled phyllo pastry, stuffed with nuts, spices and orange flower water coiled to look like a snake.
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 ¾ cup almond flour, toasted and cooled
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional for brushing phyllo
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 2 Tablespoons orange flower water, divided
- 6-8 sheets phyllo dough
- 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- ⅓cup honey
- sliced toasted almonds, chopped walnuts, or powdered sugar for decoration
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a 10” springform pan with parchment.
- Place the walnuts in a food processor with the granulated sugar and process until the mixture resembles sand.
- Add the almond flour, powdered, sugar, melted butter, egg, cinnamon, cardamom and 1 tablespoon of the orange flower water to the food processor. Process until the mixture is a combined dough.
- Unroll the phyllo dough and place it on a work surface. Cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Remove one sheet of the phyllo and place it on your work surface, with a long side closest to you. Lightly brush the phyllo with melted butter.
- Take a golf ball sized piece of dough and roll it into a log about ½ inch in diameter. Place the roll of filling on the buttered phyllo, about ½ inch from the edge in front of you. Continue to form rolls of the dough and place them end to end, gently pressing them together until you have a log of filling that extends across the long side of the phyllo sheet.
- Gently roll the phyllo sheet around the log of filling. Brush the top and sides lightly with melted butter to keep the phyllo roll flexible. Starting from the center, coil the first roll around itself inside the pan.
- Continue rolling logs of dough in the buttered phyllo and placing them end to end to form a tight coil until you have used up all of the paste and the pan is full. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg yolk and water mixture. Bake until crisp and golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, heat the honey to loosen it slightly. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon orange flower water. Brush the honey mixture over the warm pastry. Cool slightly, dust with powdered sugar and additional nuts, if using. Slice into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
Phyllo dough can be a pain in the ass to work with. If it dries out, you’re done. If it gets wet, you’re done. While working with one sheet, it’s important to keep the rest of the phyllo covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Don’t stress if your phyllo tears a bit or comes apart when you are peeling off a sheet. It will not matter in the final product. Work gently and slowly and you’ll be fine.