Light Banana Bread

Brownie Box | Light Banana Bread

Would you believe me if I said that I can never get banana bread recipes right? Whenever I have overripe bananas on hand I prefer making pancakes, muffins, or ice cream because I used to dread ending up with a failed banana bread. No matter how many recipes I tried, the result is always the same: a cooked outside with a dense/raw center. But I recently decided to give it another try, after all it should be in every baker’s repertoire.


In a desperate attempt to bake the perfect loaf, I tried Joanne Chang’s recipe from her book Baking with Less Sugar. While, yes, the technique of whipping the eggs and heating bananas are extra steps to a seemingly easy banana bread recipe, they made me wonder if the end result will be successful. And to my surprise it turned out perfect from the first time! Moderately sweet, airy, tender and fool-proof. I added a streusel-ish topping consisting of walnuts, oats, and cinnamon to give an extra chew, but you can leave it out if you prefer a simpler version.


Recipe adapted from Baking with Less Sugar


• 80g (¾ cup) raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
• 175g (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp kosher salt
• 3 large eggs, room temperature
• 80g (6 tablespoon) sugar
• 70g (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
• 4 medium very ripe bananas
• 90g yogurt
• 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 tbsp rolled oats
• 2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
• 2 tsp coconut oil
• 2 tsp honey

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 325°F (165°C). Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 9″x5″ (23×13 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. Put the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
4. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil. Be sure to pour it carefully to avoid deflating the air in the batter.
6. In a microwave safe bowl, mash 3 bananas with a fork (I prefer leaving a few chunks) and microwave for one minute until they are hot. Alternatively, cook in a saucepan on medium-high heat until soft and mushy for 2 minutes. Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Mash the remaining banana and add it to the mixture.
7. Add the banana mixture to the egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.
8. Fold in your dry ingredients and nuts by hand with a rubber spatula until combined, making sure that there are no white streaks in the batter. Then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
9. Mix the oats, walnuts, coconut oil, and honey in a separate bowl and sprinkle over cake batter.
10. Bake for 55-60 minutes until the top of the banana bread is golden and springs back when you poke the center.
11. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before turning it on a wire rack.
12. Banana bread can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 day, or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two weeks then thawed overnight at room temperature.

Note: If you have a loaf pan that’s smaller than 9″x5″ pour less of the batter in the pan and bake the remaining mixture in a muffin pan.

Hazelnut Cognac Torte


For the longest time, I thought that torte and cake are used to describe the same thing. But there is a fine distinction between both terms, and if you’re curious to know how then keep on reading!



Torte is technically a type of cake that uses little or no flour and high quality ingredients (think ground almonds, liqueur, or jams and fruits), therefore making it denser and heavier than a regular cake. Because of its texture, tortes are generally sweeter and shorter in height.


My grandma bakes this fool-proof torte on a regular basis – she even recommends swapping the hazelnuts with pistachios. The addition of cognac really enhances the nutty taste without overshadowing it.

My favorite thing about this dessert is its chewy edge and unexpectedly moist center. Don’t hesitate to spread some chocolate ganache on top (if the choco-hazelnut combo is your thing).

300g (2 cups) whole hazelnuts, skin on
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
150g (1 stick + 3 tablespoon) butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g (1/2 cup) flour
1½ baking powder
2 tablespoon cognac

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line a 10″ (25 cm) round cake pan, set aside.
2. Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind in short quick bursts until they turn into coarse meal. Turn off the processor if the meal starts to clump together, that means that they’re overground.
3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until pale and creamy.
4. With the mixer still on, add in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Mix for another 3 minutes on high.
5. Add the flour, baking powder, and ground hazelnuts. Beat for a few seconds until mixture is homogeneous.
6. Turn the mixer on low and pour in the cognac.
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Barazek Ice Cream

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

I remember having black sesame ice cream for the first time at a Japanese restaurant in NYC and I immediately fell in love with the intense nutty flavor. At first I thought it was a very odd ice cream choice, especially that its color is a muted dark grey, but it ultimately became one of my favorite ice cream flavors.

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

The idea of making white sesame ice cream came up when I had a lot of Barazek cookies from my previous post (read more about these sesame pistachio cookies here), and I wanted to create a recipe that incorporates them. I looked at the ingredients list: sesame, honey, butter, milk, pistachios – and it occurred to me that I could make white sesame ice cream and add in bits and pieces of crunchy Barazek in it. To make this dessert even more impressive and special, I roasted a handful of whole shelled pistachio with butter and honey.

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

Honey Roast Pistachios Topping:

100g raw shelled pistachios
1 tbsp honey
10g unsalted butter

Toasted Sesame Seed Ice Cream: (Makes 1 Litre – Recipe adapted from Milk and Honey)
80g sesame seeds
240ml whole milk
3 tsp tahini
1 tsp vanilla extract
500ml heavy cream
6 egg yolks
120g caster sugar
15-20 Barazek cookies, broken into pieces

Make the topping:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
2. Melt the butter and honey in small pan. Remove from the heat and mix in the pistachios.
3. Spread them out on the parchment paper and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven, stir, and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

Make the ice cream:
1. Toast sesame seeds in a shallow frying pan over medium heat. Stir or shake the seeds often while toasting them until golden.
2. Pour the toasted seeds into a small saucepan. Add the milk, 250ml of the cream, tahini and vanilla extract and bring to a boil.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the mixture cool down to room temperature then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight to infuse the flavor.
4. Once the mixture has chilled, strain it through a fine sieve and discard the seeds, reserving the milk-cream. Pour it into a saucepan with the remaining 250ml of cream and bring to a boil.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale (almost white in color). Turn the mixer on low and carefully pour the hot cream mixture in a thin line.
6. Place the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon (8-10 minutes). Pour into a clean bowl and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold (around 4-6 hours).
7. Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once you’re done with the churning, mix in the barazek pieces and transfer into a container. Top with honey roast pistachios.
8. Freeze until firm enough to scoop.

Barazek (Sesame Pistachio Cookies)

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

I don’t know where to start describing Barazek to people who are not familiar with this traditional Syrian pastry. The title of the post makes it seem like a simple recipe, but it’s definitely not your average everyday treat. The buttery crunchy texture of the thinly spread baked dough is contrasted with chewy toasted honey sesame seeds on one side and pistachios on the other side. They inevitably remind me of long lazy afternoons in Beirut, drinking arabic coffee with the extended family, and devouring these wickedly addictive cookies.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Damascus is known for creating the best barazek that are typically bought in tin boxes with other delicious sweets that the city is famous for. They’re made from butter (or ghee), flour, sugar, milk, and ground mahleb – a spice made from ground cherry stones. The dough is then coated with honey syrup, sesame seeds, and pistachios.

My family used to get these bite sized cookies from a sweet shop called Semiramis and I distinctly remember them having a very deep golden color with a serious sesame flavor. Lately I’ve been itching to try my luck in making them from scratch (especially that Syria feels like a world away), so I tried my best to recreate the same texture and taste here. It was a very tough process because of all the recipe variations available: some called for eggs, others called for adding semolina, rose water, cream of tartare, even vinegar! It’s quite the dilemma.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

After a lot of tinkering in my kitchen, I felt hopeless at times when the end result was not at all what I was aiming for, and at other times I felt like I conquered the world when the barazek turned out  just as good as the ones we used to get from Damascus. None of my friends or family believed me when I said that each bite made a good reason to spend a ridiculous amount of time making them (this recipe yields 90 cookies!). But let me assure you that they’re worth every effort and you can always freeze them for later cravings. I never tried freezing the dough, but I’m sure that it freezes just as well as any other cookie recipe.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Makes approx. 90 cookies, 4cm- 1.5in diameter – They taste batter the next day!

1/4 cup organic honey
1/4 cup water

200g (1½ cups) white sesame seeds
175g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1g (½ tsp) baking powder
¼ tsp ground mahlab (optional)
312g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
2.5g (1 tsp) active dry yeast
80ml (1/3 cup) skimmed milk
40g (1/3 cup) chopped or slivered raw pistachio

Honey Syrup:
1. Combine honey and water in a small saucepan.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until honey dissolves (Around 3 minute).
3. Remove from heat and let it cool down.

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar (or use your hands).
3. Add ground mahlab and baking powder and mix.
4. Add yeast and flour and mix until homogeneous. Gradually add the milk to form a smooth hard dough (you might use less milk to avoid a tender dough).
5. Cover dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper
7. Pour enough honey syrup on a medium sized plate just to cover the surface and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top (don’t use all the sesame, just enough to cover the syrup). Place the chopped pistachios on another shallow plate.
8. Shape about a teaspoon of dough into a ball and flatten slightly with the palm of your hands.
9. Dip one side into pistachios, flip and press the other side with the sesame mixture using your fingers to press the dough into a flat disc.
10. Place the cookies sesame side up on the baking sheet about an inch (2 cm) apart.
11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the edges are a deep golden color.
12. Store in an air tight container up for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.

No-Bake Granola Bars

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

These no-bake healthy and energizing granola bars have my favorite ratio of oats, nuts, and dried fruits.

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

You can get really creative with the recipe by adding more oats or a mashed banana, omitting the nuts, mixing in chocolate chips, drizzling melted chocolate on top, or adding more honey for a sweeter taste. You basically have complete control of what you’re using in the mixture as long as you stick to the same ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. What I also love about this recipe is that it doesn’t require turning on the oven because the honey, coconut oil, and nut butter holds all the ingredients together ensuring insanely delicious and chewy bars.

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

They’re great as a topping for your morning greek yogurt bowl or as an afternoon snack. But I found it incredibly hard to stop nibbling on them all day (and then feel bad about it), that’s why I always freeze them individually and let them thaw in the fridge for when I need them!

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

Recipe adapted from Bowl of Delicious – Makes 12/15 bars


4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp organic honey (or other sweetener, such as molasses, agave, maple syrup)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)
1 cup organic old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup sliced walnuts
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
½ cup chopped dried apricots
1 Tbsp chia seeds


1. Melt the coconut oil, honey, and cinnamon over medium heat and bring to a boil.
2. Let it bubble for a minute then turn the heat down to low, and stir in the vanilla, almond butter, and oats. Stir to coat.
3. Add the nuts/seeds, shredded coconut, and dried apricots, then mix until fully incorporated.
5. Continue cooking on low heat for 2 minutes then remove from heat.
6. Meanwhile, line a 6″x8″ (15 x 20 cm) baking dish with parchment paper, leaving the sides of the paper long.
7. Add the mixture to the dish; press with the back of a wooden spoon so it is evenly spread out.
8. Fold the parchment paper wrap over the granola so the top is covered (get more if necessary). Press the granola aggressively, so it is as packed as you can make it. You can use the wooden spoon, the palm of your hands, a dish/cup, or a glass mason jar. Just make sure it is well packed and evenly distributed!
9. Place in refrigerator and allow to cool completely – at least two hours up to overnight.
10. Remove granola from parchment paper –  it should be in one big block. Cut into bars, and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge for about 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

I recently read a quote by Salvador Dali that said: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” That really struck me and made me think about how important is it to forgive yourself when trying to achieve perfection since nothing is perfect and we are all just a work in progress.

We shouldn’t expect too much of ourselves, and our standards in perfection are not set in stone: they’re different from one individual to another, constantly changing over the years. Perfection is out there – it inspires and guides us towards a journey full of experiences that help us improve ourselves while recognizing our flaws. Just know that it will always be out of reach.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

I was hesitant about posting these handmade strawberry rhubarb hand pie pictures because they’re not “perfect” by my standards. Some of of the pies are barely sealed others are oozing out the filling but they tasted really good. It’s all about that tender, flaky crust that puffs up into beautiful layers.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

I’ve always been fascinated by rhubarb and I love using these tall red celery looking stalks in baked goods. The ratio of crust in these hand pies is much higher that the filling so you’ll definitely get more crust in each bite especially considering that rhubarb shrinks a lot when baking, much more than strawberries. Just don’t try to overstuff the pies because you’ll end up with messy and runny pies like mine, but hey– there’s always beauty in imperfection.

Recipe adapted from Hint of Vanilla – makes about 12-15 hand pies

Pie Dough:


For Pastry:
430g all-purpose flour
3g kosher salt
15g granulated sugar
230g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
250mL cold water
62g cider vinegar
100g ice

For Filling:
200g fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
300g strawberries
80g light brown sugar
12g cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp kosher salt
1 large egg

For Assembly:
1 egg
1 Tbsp whole milk
raw sugar, for sprinkling

1. Stir the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter. Work quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain.
2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup. Sprinkle two tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix with a bench scraper until fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
3. Divide the dough into two flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.
4. Prepare the filling by combining the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl, toss to combine then stir in egg. Place in the fridge.
5. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C)
6. Generously flour your work surface. Place one chilled, unwrapped dough on the flour, keeping the other disk refrigerated while you work. Gently roll your dough out from the center until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into six 4″x5″ rectangles. Gather dough scraps, and shape into rectangles as well. If the dough becomes difficult to work with at any point, chill for a few minutes in the freezer on a baking sheet before continuing.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay rectangles on parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly beat egg with milk for egg wash in a small bowl.
8. Brush edges of rectangles with wash, place 1-2 tbsp. filling in center of each rectangle. Fold one short side of dough over the other, encasing the filling. Crimp edges using a fork. Transfer pies to parchment paper-lined baking sheets and chill 20 minutes.
9. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits with a knife or prick tops with a fork.
10. Repeat with other disc of dough and remaining filling.
11. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until pies are golden, about 30-35 minutes; let cool on wire rack before serving.

Blueberry Lemon Scones


Dreamy blueberry lemon scones with a perfect balance of crisp exterior and light soft center.


They’re buttery, flaky, tart yet sweet, delicious, and so easy to make. In fact, these scones are ready in less than an hour– baking time included. I love how fast they come together although they might seem like a lot of work (which is a good thing if you’re trying to impress your friends).

I’ve had my share of failed scone recipes: too chewy, cakey, dry, or crumbly.  And I learned that the method of making scones is important because it affects their texture. So here are a couple of things to keep in mind when making these:

  • All your ingredients should remain cold. No exception! Butter cubes have to be freezing!
  • Whatever you do, do not overwork the butter. Kneading softens the butter and converts the protein in the flour to gluten, which results in chewy scones. So work fast and handle the dough as little as possible.
  • Place the tray of scones in the refrigerator before baking to ensure that they remain cold. Cold dough in high oven temperature result in flaky tender scones!


Blueberry-Scones3Pair them with fruit jam, clotted cream, or whipped ricotta honey spread… my weakness.

Lemon Blueberry Scones (adapted from Pastry Affair)

2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
Zest of 2 small lemons
Pinch of salt
8 tbsp. (113g, 1 stick) butter, cold and cubed
60 ml (½ cup) heavy whipping cream
1 large egg, cold
1 cup frozen blueberries (or freeze fresh blueberries to hold their shape while baking)

3 tbsp. melted butter
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Using a pastry cutter (or two knifes), cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse sand.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream and egg then pour into flour mixture.
4. Mix until it just comes together as a dough.
5. Transfer dough to a work surface covered in parchment paper and form into a shallow rectangle (about 1”/2.5 cm thick) using your hands.
6. Press ½ cup of blueberries into the dough.
7. Using the parchment paper, fold the dough in half along the long side. Shape again into a rectangle and press remaining blueberries into the top of the dough.
8. Using the pastry knife, cut dough into four equal rectangles. Then cut each rectangle diagonally, making 8 scones.
9. Place scones on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon turbinado mixture.
10. Place tray in the fridge for 15 minutes.
11. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.