Family recipes are the heart of Sitto’s Bakery
–by Jennifer Ruple
PUBLICATION DATE: 04.18.17
For former restaurant owners and caterers, Corinne and Chuck Cassis, the decision to open a bakery was easy. “After we left the restaurant business, people still requested our Lebanese pastries because they go so beautifully with everything,” said Corinne Cassis. “In addition, Lebanese pastries are time-consuming, and people just don’t have the time to make them these days.”
In 2011, the husband and wife team started Sitto’s Bakery, a home-based business where they make Lebanese foods and pastries such as their popular pita chips, 40 Layer Baklawa, Gh’raybeh (butter cookies) and Ka’ick ib Ajwi (date cookies). “These are the pastries that we grew up with,” explained Cassis. “Sitto is Arabic for grandmother, and that’s how both of us learned to cook. Everyone loved being at my grandmother’s home because she would feed us. She knew that food would bring everyone together and keep everyone happy.”
Sitto’s Bakery products can be found year-round on Saturdays at the Toledo Farmers Market. As the summer season approaches, Sitto’s will be found at other area farmers
markets – Sylvania on Tuesdays, Westgate on Wednesdays, and Perrysburg on Thursdays.
Cassis recommends having all ingredients measured and ready to go because you will need to work quickly. “Phyllo dough waits for no one. Also, make the syrup a day ahead and allow it to come to room temperature before pouring over the baklawa.”
2 packages phyllo dough, room temperature
3 cups melted, rendered butter or ghee
1 pound walnuts, finely chopped
1 pound pecans, finely chopped
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
Heat oven to 350 F. Place rack in upper oven.
In a mixing bowl, combine nuts, sugar and orange blossom water. Set aside.
Open 1 package of dough and smooth out flat. Lay one sheet of dough on baking sheet and brush with butter. Repeat with remaining sheets (20 in each package). Spread nut mixture evenly over dough. Over the nut mixture, repeat process with the second package of dough.
With a very sharp knife, cut baklawa into diamond or square shapes. Make sure to cut all the way through, or they will be difficult to remove from pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. Lower temperature to 250 F and bake for 1 hour, until tops are light golden brown.
Remove and place on cooling rack. Let rest for about 5 – 10 minutes then ladle syrup over each piece. Quickly remove each piece from pan otherwise they become soggy.
8 cups sugar
4 cups water
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
In a large pot, bring water and sugar to a hard boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Add lemon juice and simmer for 2 -3 minutes.
Turn off heat and add orange blossom water. Let cool. Store in a covered container until ready to use.
Fatayer (Spinach Pies)
Yield: 40 pies
“Fatayer are made year-round. Since they are vegan, they are often made leading up to Easter. They are a great grab and go meal or snack and children love them,” said Cassis.
6 ½ cups flour
1 cup pastry flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 package dry yeast
3 teaspoons canola, olive or corn oil
4 cups warm water, about 110°. (Have a few more cups handy if needed.)
6 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups sweet onions, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons lemon salt or ¾ cup fresh lemon juice
Seeds from one pomegranate (optional)
Proof the yeast with water and oil about 10 minutes.
In a mixer with dough attachment, sift flour and salt together. Add water and mix gently until dough doesn’t stick and is baby- skin smooth. You may need to add more water. Don’t over mix.
Cover and let the dough rise at least 1 hour in a warm place until doubled in size.
In a large mixing bowl, combine thoroughly all ingredients except spinach. Add spinach and combine. Let stand 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
Separate dough into golf-ball size pieces. Cover and let rest another 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 450 F. Place racks on middle and top shelves. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray.
Pat or roll out dough balls to ⅛ inch thickness. Place a heaping tablespoon of mixture in center and tightly pinch triangles closed. Place triangles on baking sheets.
Place on middle shelf in the oven until bottoms are light brown, about 12 minutes depending on your oven. Place on top shelf or broiler for tops to brown or leave on the middle shelf to ensure the dough does not burn. Remove from baking sheet onto cooling racks and brush tops with oil. Serve room temperature or cool.
Mujadara (Lentils and Rice)
Another vegan dish that is low in fat and easy to prepare. “This dish is best when made ahead of time, which allows the flavors to meld, and served at room temperature or slightly warm. Because I really enjoy sautéed onions, I always double the amount of onions,” said Cassis.
1 cup lentils
3 ½ cups water
2 large sweet onions, 1 diced
and 1 thinly sliced
1 cup rice
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup olive oil
Lift (pickled turnips) for garnish, if desired
In a large bottom sauté pan, brown sliced onions until they are almost caramelized. Wash lentils and remove any small stones.
In a stock pot, place lentils, salt and water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, wash the rice.
Add diced onion and rice to lentils and bring back to a boil. Add about 4 tablespoons of the oil from the sautéed onions, stir and cover cooking over low heat for an additional 17 minutes. Season to taste.
Pour lentils and rice onto a serving platter. Top with the sautéed onions and oil. Garnish with pickled turnips for color and taste.