Blackberry Muffins

blackberry muffins 7
Blackberry muffins are great for breakfast or as a mid-day snack. They are healthy because they do not contain a lot of butter and sugar, and blackberries are low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, making them one of the best fruits for a balanced diet – and these muffins are loaded with them!blackberry muffins 5 blackberry muffins 4I also omitted the crumble that the original William Sonoma recipe called for because I didn’t want them to turn out too sweet. By the way did I mention how much I adore their recipes? They are just foolproof! The results are always picture perfect.blackberry muffins 3

These muffins taste reaaally good, and what’s amazing about them is the center that is slightly dry, contrasting with the bursting, juicy blackberries. This actually prevents super soggy muffins. You don’t want that.

You can always substitute the blackberries with blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. Remember to treat soft berries very gently because they will break and bleed in the batter. If the berries that you bought are too soft, follow this technique: Wash the berries, pat them dry, then place them on a baking sheet in the freezer for ≈ 15 minutes. This will firm up the berries before mixing them in the batter.

blackberry muffins 6

Ingredients: (Recipe from William Sonoma) – Makes 16 muffins.
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 egg room temperature, beaten
5 Tbs.(70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk (check substitute)
2 cups fresh blackberries or 2 1⁄2 cups frozen unsweetened blackberries, unthawed

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C)
2. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter, or line with paper liners.
3. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt.
4. Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter, and buttermilk.
5. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
6. Sprinkle with the blackberries and gently fold in with a large rubber spatula just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Take care not to break up the fruit. Do not overmix.
7. Fill the prepared muffin cups with the batter, filling each to the rim of the cup.
8. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (25 to 30 minutes).
9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sfouf (Semolina Anise Tea Cake)

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Sfouf is by far one of my favorite Lebanese desserts. It’s a moist cake characterized by its intense yellow color from the turmeric spice. It is made from semolina, flour, oil, sugar, and aniseed which gives it a distinctively awesome taste. Some people say it has a “magical” taste – and hey, I don’t disagree. It is also very easy to make, you just have to mix all the ingredients in a single bowl, pour the batter in a cake pan, and garnish the cake with slices of blanched almonds before putting it in the oven.

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Lebanese sweets are usually heavy with sugar, cheese (like kashta), and lots lots of butter! But this spongy cake is light and slightly sweet with a dense melt-in-your-mouth texture. After tasting it from renowned Lebanese bakeries, restaurants, and even home-made cakes, I found out that typical Sfouf are dry and lack the unique turmeric/aniseed flavor. So after reviewing and adapting my grandmother’s recipe, I finally found the perfect balance of ingredients for an insanely moist, rich, and flavorful cake. The secret ingredient is the addition of brewed anise tea to the batter. Typical recipes call for plain water or milk, but I found that freshly brewed tea enhances the taste and texture of the cake.

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The cake is traditionally cut into squares or diamond shapes in the baking pan, that’s why it is called Sfouf, meaning “Rows” in Arabic. After taking the first bite, I knew that this is THE recipe to follow every time I plan on baking Sfouf. And it tastes so much better the next day! It’s unbelievably good!

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Let me take you through the step-by-step recipe – as usual 🙂

anise seed
This is aniseed. It smells awesome. So will your cake.
brewing
Make some Anise tea by mixing boiling water with the seeds and letting it steep for a few minutes.
tea
Transfer tea to a bowl and let it cool.
anise powder
Finely ground aniseed using a spice grinder.
semolina
Mix the fine semolina (above) with the flour, turmeric powder, ground aniseed, and baking powder. Then add the tea and oil.
tahini pan pan 2
Cover the cake pan with some Tahineh (Sesame Paste)
batter
Pour the cake batter into a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan. You can also use a rectangular pan.
batter3
Decorate it. Lovely.
after
Bake it.
cake 1
Turn it on a wire rack and cut into squares.
after 2
And that’s the best part. Yum.

Makes ≈ 26 squares.
Preparation time: 25 minutes.
Baking Time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients:
2 cups boiling water
2 Tablespoons aniseed

2 cups fine semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 tablespoon finely ground aniseed (you can use a spice grinder)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons Tahineh (sesame paste)

Blanched Almonds, halved (for decoration – you can substitute with pine nuts or 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds)

Directions:
1. Boil water then add the aniseed and let steep for 10 minutes.
2. Strain tea and put aside to cool a little bit.
3. Preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF)
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, turmeric powder, ground aniseed, and baking powder until homogeneous.
5. Add sugar to the tea until dissolved.
6. Add oil and tea/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients, then mix well. The batter will be slightly thick.
7. Cover the bottom and sides of a 28 cm (11 inch) round pan (or a rectangular pan) with Tahineh.
8. Decorate with blanched almonds (or substitutes – above)
9. Bake for 40 min, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
10. Let cool in the pan for 30 min then invert on a wire rack.
11. Cut into square or diamond shapes, and store in an airtight container.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cointreau Cupcakes

Bittersweet Chocolate Cupcakes Brownie Box

I had many requests to post a chocolate cupcake recipe– so here it is! After trying three or four recipes this year, this one instantly became my favorite chocolate treat and I didn’t look up another recipe again.

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The cupcakes are moist, light, and moderately sweet with a refined taste and texture. Typical chocolate buttercream frostings are heavy with butter and sickly sweet, but this whipped ganache frosting is a winner. It’s actually THE reason why these cupcakes are so successful: it’s almost mousse-like and flavored with orange liqueur which enhances the intense chocolate flavor (hey–a little booze won’t hurt!). You can also substitute it with rum, brandy, vanilla extract, or omit it completely.

halved

halved2

bain marie
ganache

Start with melting the butter and dark chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. Add sugar, eggs, and water and mix until homogeneous.

dry ingredients

Sift the cocoa powder and the flour in a bowl, and pour in the chocolate mixture.

paper liners

Divide the mixture evenly among cupcake liners, about 3/4 full.

cupcakes baked

Bake until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cake.

ganache cooled

Make the chocolate ganache and refrigerate for an hour or until it reaches a “spoonable” consistency.

whipped ganache

Whip it with a whisk or a stand mixer. Note: Make sure the ganache is chilled well before whipping.

cupcake 2

And finally pipe ganache onto cupcakes!

Makes ≈ 22 cupcakes.
Preparation time: An hour and a half (with ganache frosting). Baking Time: 20-25 minutes.

Ingredients:
(Adapted from Cupcakes, a fine selection of sweet treats)
Cakes

150 g (5½ oz, 2/3 cups) unsalted butter, chopped
200g (7 oz, 1½ cup) dark chocolate chips
285 g (10 oz, 1¼ cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
185 ml (6 fl oz, 3/4 cup) water, room temperature
185 g (6½ oz, 1½ cup) self-raising flour (check substitute here)
30 g (1 oz, 1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder

Frosting (Whipped Ganache)
200 ml (6½ fl oz, 3/4 cup) cream
250 g (9 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Optional: 1½ tablespoons Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur) – Or Rum, Brandy, Vanilla extract.

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F/Gas 2-3)
2. Line standard muffin holes with paper cases.
3. Place the butter and chocolate chips in a small heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
4. Stir the chocolate constantly until it is melted.
5. Add sugar, eggs, and water to the melted chocolate mixture. Mix well.
5. Sift the flour and cocoa into a large bowl.
7. Pour in chocolate mixture and stir until well combined.
8. Divide the mixture evenly among the case (3/4 full).
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cake.
10. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

Making the Whipped Ganache:
1. Finely chop the chocolate. Place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil.
3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Then slowly whisk until smooth and shiny.
4. Add Cointreau (or optional flavoring) and mix until fully incorporated.
5. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour– or until the mixture is at a “spoonable” consistency.
6. Whip mixture with a whisk or the beater attachment of your mixer for 1-2 minutes on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
8. Pipe chocolate ganache onto cupcakes.