Bey To Bay: Toscakaka Cake

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It took me awhile to write this post. I don’t even know how to start describing my obsession with this incredibly delicious Swedish cake. It’s the type of cake that you want to bake over and over again, show off at gatherings, and eat at least two slices with a cup of coffee. It’s simply a wonderful recipe that you want to keep all to yourself and not share with anyone else.

But it would be selfish of me to find a cake recipe that brings so much joy and not share it on the blog (I didn’t develop the recipe after all!). I came across this Toscakaka cake several years ago here and I’ve been making it ever since. The contrast of the crunchy caramel almond layer with the thick buttery soft cake layer that instantly melts in your mouth is completely addictive. It’s a really big hit among my friends and family – so when my talented and coffee-obsessed best friend Jeremy came up with the idea to try a coffee and cake pairing post, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine our creativity.

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For the pairing, we wanted something light but lively to complement the buttery depth of the toscakaka. Jeremy’s work frequently takes him to the Hudson Valley, so he picked up a bag of Honduras Pacavita Reserve at The Pantry in Cold Spring, a small-batch shop that only recently started roasting but releases some of the best coffees around. Central American varietals are known for their balanced flavor profiles, and a light to medium roast unlocks all sorts of wild flavors that are also smooth and not overwhelming—just what we wanted.

Pourover is Jeremy’s method of choice for delicate coffees like this. His standard setup is a classic Chemex with a Stagg kettle by Fellow Products, brewing at 200 degrees. The paper filter smoothes out the edge and grittiness, bringing out all those subtle complexities of the coffee. The profile of the Pacavita couldn’t have blended more beautifully with the toscakaka. The herbal-lemon note sponged right into the cake’s moist body, layering on an entirely new effect, while the mild cocoa note married the crunchy almond topping seamlessly.

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Note: This is our first collaboration in our “Bey to Bay” series. More on that in our second post! Stay tuned 🙂

Recipe from Poires au Chocolat, paired with Organic Reserva Pacavita coffee from The Pantry

Cake:
70ml milk
1 tsp lemon juice

75g unsalted butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

Almond Topping:
150g flaked almonds
125g unsalted butter
125g packed light brown sugar
50ml whole milk
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional, could replace with vanilla extract)*

1. Preheat oven to 320°F (160°C). Grease a deep 9″ round cake tin with a removable bottom with melted butter and line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Toast the almond flakes on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes until they’re a light golden brown, then set aside.
3. Melt the butter for the cake in a medium saucepan then pour into a bowl and leave to cool (keep the pan to use later). Stir the lemon juice into the milk and leave to sit (or use 75ml buttermilk).
4. Whip the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a stand mixer on high for 4 minutes (be careful not over-whip) until the mixture is light in color and thick (when you remove the whisk, the trail should stay visible for at least 5 seconds).
5. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg bowl then gently fold in with a big metal spoon or large spatula. Drizzle half of the milk over the top and fold in. Repeat with the next 1/3 of flour, the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour. Finally drizzle half of the melted butter over the top, fold in, then repeat with the remaining butter. Be very gentle but thorough, scraping the bottom – it’s easy to get little pockets of flour but you need to conserve as much volume as you can. Carefully transfer to the tin by scraping it gently out from as little height as possible.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set and golden. A toothpick should be able to be removed cleanly.
7. While it bakes, make the almond topping: Place the butter, sugar, milk, salt and espresso powder into the saucepan and stir as the butter melts. Keep heating for a few minutes – it should bubble and thicken slightly. Stir in the almonds and set aside. When the cake is ready, turn the oven up to 390°F (200°C), remove the cake to a rack and spoon the glaze over the top. Spread the almonds out into an even layer. Place back into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until the glaze is darkened and bubbling. Cool for a five minutes then slide a knife around the edge of the tin to loosen the sides and remove the cake to a rack.

It keeps well in an airtight container for two to three days.

Za’atar Honey Butter Rolls

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There are countless ways I use za’atar while snacking or cooking, and if you love it as much as I do then you would totally understand why I want use it in almost everything including these soft honey bread rolls.

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I’ve baked these bread rolls a couple of times especially at dinner gatherings because not only are they easy to make but also every person who tastes them says that they’re light, fluffy, and airy. I just love a good home made bread recipe that always gives consistent and reliable results. So after mastering the basic recipe I decided to add za’atar in the dough (that always seems to be a great idea to me). The result is incredibly delicious – the combination of the sweet honey and earthy thyme flavor makes it so hard to eat just one roll!

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Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

240ml (1 cup) whole milk, 110°F
21g (2¼ tsp) instant dry yeast
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
85g (¼ cup) honey
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
60g (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ teaspoon salt
450g (3½ cups) bread flour
45g (½ cup) za’atar

30g (2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature very soft
15g (1 Tablespoon) honey
Extra za’atar for sprinkling

1. Pour warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar on top of the milk. Give it a light stir with a spoon and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The mixture will be frothy.

2. Turn on the stand mixer running on low speed, gradually add the honey, egg, egg yolk, melted butter, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Beat for 1 min and add remaining ½ cup of flour. Beat for another minute on low speed. The dough should be thick, slightly sticky and pulling away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If the dough is too sticky add more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.

3. Form dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes, then place into a large bowl greased with olive oil and coat all sides of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a slightly warm oven to rise until doubled, about 2 hours. For this, I turn on the oven to 200°F (93°C) for a minute only then turn it off. I also place a bowl for boiling water to increase the level of humidity and keep the oven lights on (helps create a warm environment),

4. Once doubled in size, punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Remove dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough scraper, cut the dough in half. Cut each half into 8 evenly sized pieces for a total of 16 pieces (the balls have to be equal in size to bake uniformly). Shape into balls and arrange in a greased 9×13 baking pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size and puffy, about 1 hour.

5. 30min before baking, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Bake the rolls for 20min until the tops are golden brown and the edges of each roll look cooked. While the rolls bake, mix the topping ingredients. Remove the rolls from the oven when they are done and brush a generous amount of honey butter onto each warm roll and sprinkle with za’atar.

6. Cover leftovers and keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Warm up in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 10 minutes.

Make ahead tip/overnight: After dough has risen two hours in step 3, punch down the dough inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 4.

Rhubarb Financier Tart with Rose Water

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This is what I consider a perfect spring time treat. The combination of the tart rhubarb, hint of rose, and lightly sweetened almond cake got me hooked the first time making this wonderful financier cake last spring. So when I first spotted rhubarb at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, I immediately bought a pound to bake this again since I never got around posting the recipe last year.

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I absolutely love the bright colors of the rhubarb stalks that add a wonderful gradient of colors on the cake ranging from crimson red, pink, to light green. Serve the tart anytime of the day, as a breakfast treat, afternoon snack, or a light dessert with vanilla whipped cream.

Recipe adapted from Hint of Vanilla

Roasted Rhubarb
450g rhubarb, split lengthwise
20g granulated sugar

Financier Batter
250g unsalted butter
120g almond flour
120g all-purpose flour
280g icing sugar
288g egg whites
2 tsp rose water
Extra sugar for sprinkling before baking
Icing sugar for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (one for roasting the rhubarb and another for the cake). Spray a 9-inch tart ring with non-stick spray.

Trim the rhubarb ends and cut into strips. Place on one of the baking sheets sprinkle the granulated sugar over. Roast the rhubarb until it is tender, but still has a bite and some structure to it – about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the financier, lower the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C).

To start, place the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter cook until the liquid becomes a light brown color and the milk solids on the bottom of the pan are a dark brown. Remove from the heat and pour the brown butter in a clean bowl to cool slightly. This should yield about 206 g of brown butter. If you have more than that, reserve the excess for other uses.

Meanwhile, sift the almond flour, all-purpose flour, and icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg whites and rose water, then beat with paddle attachment just until everything is incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients. Once the brown butter is no longer hot (warm is okay), slowly pour it into the almond and egg white mixture with the mixer on low speed.

Pour the financier batter into the tart ring. Arrange the rhubarb on the financier trimming the ends to fit the tart ring. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over top the rhubarb. Bake until the batter is golden brown underneath the rhubarb and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs sticking to it – about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

To finish, dust the tart with sifted icing sugar and serve.

Ma’amoul Mad bil Tamer

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Ma’amoul mad literally means ma’amoul spread in Arabic. It’s a slightly tweaked version of the regular semolina date cookies I posted in January, where the date filling is spread between two pieces of dough and cut into squares or diamonds before baking. I changed the ratio of the fine to coarse semolina for the dough to hold its shape when sliced. You’ll also notice that I used clarified butter called samneh in Arabic instead of regular unsalted butter for a couple of reasons that I listed below.

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Unlike most types of oils and fats that are composed of 100% fat, butter is an emulsion of roughly 80% butterfat, 15% water and 5% milk proteins. Butter has a low smoking point when melted because the proteins burn quickly, and it’s also prone to turn rancid fast from the high water content (Source: Serious Eats). When butter is clarified (i.e. milk proteins removed and water evaporated to get pure butterfat) the resulting samneh has a high smoking point and a longer shelf life. That’s why it’s so commonly used in Arabic sweets.

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This version of ma’amoul is way faster and easier to make than the individual ones, and it tastes just as good with a crumbly semolina crust filled with melt-in-your-mouth date paste spiced with mahleb and scented with orange blossom and rose water. It goes without saying that the higher the quality the dates the better the end result.

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Clarified butter – Instructions from Serious Eats
You can clarify any quantity of butter for future use. For this recipe, I used 300g of unsalted butter (roughly 2.5 sticks). Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Cut the butter into pieces and melt in a heavy-duty saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil (the milk protein will foam the surface). Once boiling, turn the heat to medium and let the butter simmer for roughly 10 minutes: first, the white foamy surface will break apart then the milk proteins will sink to the bottom and the boiling will begin to slowly cease.

Once the butter stops boiling, remove from the heat and pour through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or a coffee filter into a heatproof container to remove the browned milk solids. Let cool, then transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use. Clarified butter should keep for at least 6 months in the refrigerator.

Date Filling
600g high quality soft medjool dates, pitted, peeled and white interior skin removed
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water
½ tsp ground mahleb
50g (2 Tbsp) clarified butter samneh, room temperature

Semolina Dough
340g (2 cups) coarse semolina flour (Smeed)
160g (1 cup) fine semolina flour (Farkha)
30g (2 Tbsp) granulated sugar
½ tsp instant dry yeast
½ tsp ground mahleb
210g (1 cup) clarified butter samneh, room temperature
2 Tbsp rose water
2 Tbsp orange blossom water (1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon)
Icing sugar (optional)

Make the date filling:
Mix the cleaned dates, rose water, orange blossom water, ground mahleb and clarified butter with your hands until a homogeneous paste is formed. Cover date paste with plastic wrap and set aside until later use.

Make the semolina dough:
In a large bowl mix the coarse semolina and fine semolina, sugar, yeast, and ground mahleb. Add the clarified butter and rub mixture together with the palm of your hands until the mixture is grainy and the butter is fully absorbed in the flour (about 5 minutes). Cover in plastic wrap and let it sit on the kitchen counter overnight or at least 2 hours.

After resting the dough, add the rose and orange blossom water, mix again and cover with plastic wrap leaving it to rest for another hour.

Preheat oven to 360°F (180°C). Brush a 9″x13″ rectangular baking pan or glass pyrex dish with clarified butter. Divide the semolina dough in half and cover the other half to prevent it from drying out. Roll out the first dough to roughly 9″x13″ inch and transfer to the baking dish (I find it easier to roll it between two sheets of wax paper). Use a bench scraper to smooth the dough and make sure that it’s evenly leveled. Repeat the same process with the date paste and the second half of the semolina dough.

Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the unbaked ma’amoul into 1.5″ vertical strips, making sure to slice all the way to the bottom of the baking dish. Then, slice diagonally in a crossways pattern, to create diamond shapes (alternatively, cut crosswise to make rectangles). Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the edges are a light brown.

Take out the pan from the oven and let cool completely (preferably overnight). Dust the pieces of ma’amoul with icing sugar only before serving. Store in an air tight container up to a month or freeze up to 3 months.

Chocolate Pear Cake

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The recipe of this post comes from Emiko Davie’s Florentine cookbook. It is a one of a kind book that beautifully captures the magic of Florence’s markets, trattorias and streets. Emiko’s writing weaves stories of the city’s history and culture with an authentic collection of meticulous regional Italian recipes that are beautifully captured through photography.

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The Torta di Pera e Cioccolato cake particularly caught my attention since I’ve tried combining both of these ingredients in a dessert before and I was not very impressed with the result. So I decided to give it another try – mainly because Emiko’s recipes are meticulous and so reliable!

This is not a flourless cake as it contains almond flour, and it’s not as decadent as the flourless chocolate tahini recipe I posted a few weeks ago, but it does have a melt in your mouth texture that makes it really hard to just eat one slice. Remember, the quality of chocolate matters significantly – the better the chocolate, the better the cake!

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Recipe from Florentine by Emiko Davies

50g granulated sugar
500ml water
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths lengthways
150g dark chocolate
90g unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
90g caster (superfine) sugar
90g almond meal
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon cocoa powder for dusting cake pan
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Combine the granulated sugar with the water in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the pear slices and poach for 10-15 minutes, or until tender but not too soft (a knife should easily penetrate the flesh without any resistance). Drain and let the pear cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Grease a 9″ round springform cake tin and dust with the cocoa powder.
3. Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie. When melted, remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until the butter has melted. Add the caster sugar and almond meal, stirring to combine. When the mixture is cool, add the 3 egg yolks.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, then gently fold them into the chocolate batter. Pour the chocolate mixture into the cake pan. Arrange the pear pieces on the top of the batter, pushing them slightly in. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before unmolding from the pan and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Coconut Mastic Macaroons

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I tried a variety of coconut macaroon recipes in the last couple of months but none of them made me want to make them again, until I saw this recipe for irresistibly golden coconut macaroons. I was so intrigued but the technique that requires cooking the coconut batter on the stovetop before shaping into balls and baking (that was definitely a first!). It resulted in macaroons that are delicately crunchy on the outside and incredibly moist and chewy on the inside.

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What I love about this recipe is that it’s very adaptable, and you can adjust it based on your favorite tastes. Naturally, I made a couple of tweaks to Claire Ptak’s original recipe and added in freshly ground mastic to the batter. The refreshing smell the mastic paired with coconut is my favorite combination of all time! You can get really creative with this by adding a piece of almond in the center, dipping half of the cookies in dark chocolate, mixing in chopped dried fruits, or just bake them plain!

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Recipe adapted from Violet Bakery Cookbook
Makes 20 tablespoon sized macaroons

4 large egg whites
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 tbsp honey
200g (1+1/3 cups) unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp ground mastic (about 4 pea sized mastic resins)

1. Preheat the oven to 355°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with two parchment papers (to prevent the bottom of the macaroons from burning).
2. Grind the mastic resins in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle with a pinch of granulated sugar. Measure all the ingredients into a medium heavy-bottomed pan and place over medium low-heat, stirring constantly. As the mixture warms up, reduce the heat to low and stir until the mixture dries out and holds together into a cohesive mass. Let the mixture cool down before proceeding with the next steps (it will be easier to shape the macaroons).
3. Using a tablespoon, scoop individual portions of the mixture on to the lined baking sheet, leaving enough space between each one so they have room to expand.
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes until the macaroons are puffed and golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet before serving or storing. They will keep well for one week in an airtight container, or frozen up to a month.

Sfouf bi Debes (Carob Molasses Cake)

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Sfouf is the most popular recipe on my blog: it’s a semolina anise seed tea cake that’s fluffy, moist, incredibly flavorful and vegan. The baking time is actually longer than the time it takes to mix all the ingredients together; it’s no wonder why it is the most viewed page on this site!

This version of sfouf is made with carob molasses (also known as debes el kharrub in Arabic) instead of refined white sugar. It’s a healthy and popular alternative to regular turmeric sfouf especially during Easter lent.

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Since the carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region, carob molasses is widely consumed in Lebanon. The pods of the carob fruit are mashed with water to release their sugar, then strained and boiled down until a dark thick syrup is formed. In fact it is very common in these regions to make syrups from fruits and there’s an incredible variety ranging from pomegranates, dates, grapes, to mulberry, prickly pears, and figs.

Carob molasses has a very distinctive earthy flavor that’s almost reminiscent of cocoa. That’s why it’s a great alternative to chocolate in many recipes, especially when you taste it in its raw form (I think it looses the rich cocoa taste when baked). So there you have it: an even healthier vegan sfouf cake that’s naturally sweetened. Feel free to experiment with other types of molasses if you can’t find carob at your local food market.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp tahini paste
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp anise seed
2 cups fine semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground anise seed
1 cup carob molasses
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup toasted white sesame seeds for decoration (you can also substitute with pine nuts or halved blanched almonds)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF) and grease a 11″ (28cm) round tin pan with the tbsp of tahini.
2. Seep anise seeds in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain and set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, toast the white sesame seeds in a non stick pan on medium high heat until fragrant and barely golden. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, baking powder, and ground anise seeds until homogeneous.
5. Slowly add the anise tea, carob molasses, and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain. The batter will be slightly thick.
6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.

7. Bake for 30-35 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Let cool in the pan completely before inverting onto a wire rack.
10. Cut into square or diamond shapes, and store in an airtight container (cake can be frozen up to 3 months).