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Greekfest volunteers spend months prepping desserts for Fort Wayne festival

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The dessert menu

-Baklava is filo crust with chopped walnuts, butter and honeyed syrup.

-Kataifi is shredded filo with butter, chopped walnuts, cinnamon and cloves topped with honey syrup.

-Karidopita is a spiced walnut honey cake.

-Kourabiedes is butter and egg yolk shortbread-type cookie flavored with brandy and dusted with powered sugar.

-Melomakarona is an orange-flavored cookie spices with cinnamon then dipped in honey and sprinkled with nuts.

-Paximadia is a greek biscotti and is very popular around breakfast time.

-Tsoureki is a braided sweet bread made with milk and eggs, sugar, butter and imported Greek flavorings. This dessert is very popular around the holidays.

-Loukoumades is a fried dumpling covered with warm honey, cinnamon and brown sugar.

-Karidopita is a spiced walnut honey cake.

-The dessert sampler comes with baklava, kataifi, karidopita, melomakarona, paximadia and kourabiedes for $12.

Learn about traditional Greekfest desserts and make your own baklava

Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 7:41 am

Maybe you go to Greekfest for the dancing or maybe it's for the music, but what about the food?

Greekfest features a slew of traditional Greek food from stuffed grape leaves to kabobs, but this year The News-Sentinel decided to catch up with the ladies cooking up the thousands of servings of baklava and other desserts at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

Deanna Gountras, chairperson for Greekfest this year, said the women who volunteer at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church as well as the Daughters of Penelope begin baking in mid-April to ensure they have enough time and enough desserts.

“It takes quite a bit of time. First of all we start by getting all of our ingredients together then we make a schedule. We start making baklava; we make little ones and big ones then we move on to our cookies,” she said.

Once all the food prep is done, the large group of ladies then begin packaging the nearly 12,000 individual pieces of baklava in addition to the other variations of cookies.

The festival spawned from humble beginnings at the church's old location off South Anthony Boulevard then moved to Northcrest Shopping Center until its present location at Headwaters Park.

Eva Collis, a longtime church member and volunteer, has been involved in Greekfest since the first year it began.

“The popularity of Greekfest has just boomeranged,” she said.

From family games to dancing children, Collis said Greekfest offers a unique look into Greek culture.

After moving to the United States from western Greece at the age of 9, Eva moved to Fort Wayne after she married her husband. She was surprised by the close Greek community.

“For a long time we were the only ones here from our part of Greece and now there are younger couples getting involved,” Collis said. “Our church and culture is a very important part of our lives.”

Make your own baklava

Ingredients for baklava:

1 lb of phyllo

1 lb of chopped or coarsely ground walnuts

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 tsp of cinnamon

1 tsp of grated orange rind

1 lb of melted butter (more or less depending on personal taste and texture)

Ingredients for syrup:

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cup water

Juice from half a lemon

Lemon rind

Orange rind

One cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

1 cup honey

Directions for making the Baklava:

Mix walnuts, granulated sugar, cinnamon and orange peel together. Butter a 9x13 pan with pastry brush.

Layer 8 to 10 sheets of phyllo on the bottom of the pan and be sure to butter between each layer.

When you are layering the bottom of the pan, have extra phyllo overlapping the side pan (similar to when you're making a pie). This will ensure the walnut mixture will not leak out of the sides.

Then begin alternating layers of butter, walnut mixture and phyllo until the layers nearly fill the shallow pan.

When you finish with the walnut mixture, tuck the overlapping sheets on top of the walnuts just like you would a pie.

Then top the layers with 8 to 10 layers of phyllo, alternating between melted butter and phyllo.

Once you have finished with your final layers of phyllo, cut the baklava.

When you cut the baklava, cut it halfway through the dessert to make sure syrup that you will add later gets on the top and bottoms layers without settling at the bottom of the pan.

For a traditional Greek cut make sure to cut the baklava in a straight line down the longest part of the pan then cut diagonally across the more narrow length of the pan.

Then butter the cut baklava generously.

Before you bake it, sprinkle water on top of it to make sure the phyllo doesn't flake.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until it turns golden brown

Once the baklava is cooking, then start making the syrup.

Directions for making syrup:

Combine all ingredients except for honey and bring to a boil for 10 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

Then slowly add the honey, stir and simmer for five minutes.

Then let the syrup cool

Pour syrup along cutlines and allow the syrup to absorb then reapply as needed.

This recipe is adapted from the traditional bulk recipe Greekfest volunteers use. If you would like this recipe or to see similar traditional Greek recipes make sure to check out the cookbooks available at Greekfest for $25.