Thursday, March 24, 2011


Ingredients for the Bastilla
1 pound chicken breasts, skinned and boned
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups water
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
3 eggs
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed, or warka
4 T butter, melted
1 T granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped blanched

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Ingredients for the warka dough (in lieu of phyllo dough)
8 ounces high gluten bread flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cups water
1 T cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
extra virgin olive oil for dough
3 T vegetable oil (for brushing the pastry leaves on their shiny side)

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparing the warka:
Combine the two flours and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Turn the machine on and off once to sift. With the machine on, add almost l cup of the water and the vinegar. Once the dough forms a smooth ball, add the oil through the tube. Process the dough for 30 seconds. With the machine still running, slowly pour in the remaining water and process another 30 to 45 seconds, or until you have a smooth liquid batter. Pour batter into a 1 quart container, cover and refrigerate overnight ideally.

Set a deep pot of water on the stove and bring to a fast boil. Choose a non-stick skillet that sits snugly over the pot and secure with string. Before making the first pastry leaf, use a silicon brush to oil the skillet then wipe it dry with a paper towel.

Use a bristle brush to stir up the batter. Before making each leaf, stir the batter, lift up the brush thick with batter and quickly brush the batter evenly over the skillet. Use a circular motion to create a thin film-like layer. If necessary, repeat stirring and applying a thinner second layer across the circle in order to coat any empty spaces. Don’t worry about lacy edges or tiny cracks in the center. Cook the leaf for about 2 minutes, or until it turns completely white, the edges begin to curl, and it is still supple. Note that the pastry is only cooked on one side.

Use your fingertips to lift the pastry off the skillet from one of the sides, transfer to a paper towel, shiny and cooked side up, quickly brush all over the shiny side with oil, cover with another paper towel and gently press to remove excess oil. Leave the paper on the pastry.

Stir up the batter and make another pastry leaf as described above, and repeat oiling and covering with paper towels. Stack each leaf with its paper towel over the previous one. When all the batter is used, slide the stack (paper and leaves) into a plastic bag to keep them from drying out. The package can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days, or you can double wrap and freeze.

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Preparing the Bastilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large stock pot, add the chicken, water, parsley, cilantro, cinnamon stick, ginger, black pepper and saffron. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until chicken is tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove chicken from stock and allow to cool enough to handle. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Strain the stock, discarding solids left in the strainer, then bring it to a boil over medium heat. Lightly beat eggs and pour slowly into the stock, stirring until curds form, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, add the chicken and almonds to the stock/egg mixture.

In a small bowl, mix the white sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Remove the phyllo from its box, unwrapping the plastic and unfolding the sheets or if you are doing the warka dough recipe unwrap leaves. Keep the sheets/leaves covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying out. Brush one sheet of dough with butter, then place another sheet on top of it. Lay 4 sheets one on top of the other, with butter in between each layer. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the top sheet of phyllo or warka leaves.

With a sharp knife, cut the sheets lengthwise into thirds and cut each length crosswise into fifths, making 15 sections, each approximately 4- x 3 1/2-inches in size.

Place a level teaspoon of the filling in the center of each phyllo/warka section. Working with one section at a time, gather the corners of the phyllo/warka over the filling and twist them gently to create a purse-like shape. Transfer the pastries to a parchment lined sheet pan.

Bake the pastries in the lower third of a preheated 375 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until they are golden.

Sift the powdered sugar-cinnamon mixture over the baked pastries.

Serves 10


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