Orange Bundt Cake

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Today marks the one year anniversary of Brownie Box! I still remember how excited I was to write my first blog post about my favorite brownie recipe (I still feel that way before publishing new posts). With 20 posts, 25,715 total blog views, and 227 followers on Facebook, I’m really looking forward to start a new chapter in my “baking diary”. The most popular post this year is the Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe with almost 4,000 views! I want to thank my friends and the amazing baking community for trying out my recipes and encouraging me to keep baking. I also want to thank my wonderful mom who’s always supporting me every step of the way – she’s my number one fan!

In the past year I:
– celebrated my 23rd birthday
– moved to New York City
– landed a full time job at Ralph Lauren
– ran my first 5k
– fell in love with Pilates (hey new body!)
– perfected a flourless chocolate cake recipe – post coming up soon!
– learned how to bake delicious Arabic Sweets

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To celebrate this occasion I baked a classic family recipe: orange bundt cake. Sometimes I can’t stand the sight of nutella, cream cheese frosting, or chocolate cupcakes. But this cake is so light, moist, and zesty that you never get bored of it and almost always end up having a second or third piece. I also wanted to try out the new bundt cake pan that I bought a few months ago.

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The cake had a beautiful fluted decorative shape but it rounded at the top – so it was not flat when flipped. You can always trim the cake at the bottom to level it, but I really liked its shape that way. My friend told me it looks like a giant doughnut. I was really amused 🙂

Ingredients:
• 4 large eggs, room temperature
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
• 1 cup fresh orange juice
• 1 tablespoon orange zest
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 2 ½ cups flour
• 2 tablespoons baking powder
• pinch of salt
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
2. Brush a 24 cm/9 inch bundt cake pan with melted butter and dust it with flour (to prevent the cake from sticking to the pan).
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed then slowly pour in the granulated sugar.
4. Keep beating for 3-5 minutes until the mixture doubles in volume.
5. Add the orange juice, orange zest, and vegetable oil and mix with spatula until just combined.
6. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt over the to the egg mixture and mix with spatula until just combined.
7. Pour the batter into the cake pan.
8. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
9. Dust cake with powdered sugar before serving.

Bohsalino (Pistachio Paste filled with Kashta Cheese)

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Bohsalino reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen and how dedicated she is as a cook and baker. I always watch her prepare this Lebanese dessert when she visits Lebanon. It used to look so complex to me: grinding the pistachios, magically turning them into a sweet paste, and sandwiching it with creamy kashta (fresh Lebanese cheese, which can be substituted with Ricotta cheese). I am still fascinated by the whole process and how good it tastes! I’m not lying when I say that I can live on bohsalino instead of chocolate. That’s a dangerous statement don’t you think?

For some reason this dessert always seems to be a mystery to me. No one but my grandma makes it. When I tell people about it most of them have no clue what I’m talking about; that’s because it’s not as popular as other Middle-Eastern desserts such as sfouf, knafeh, or baklava. So I decided to write a post about bohsalino, because I want to be able to whip up a big plate whenever I want and tell the whole world that they are missing out a fabulous dessert, possibly one of the best ever.

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This fall, I called my grandma to ask for the recipe so that I could figure out how to make it. Like most grandma recipes, there was a list of ingredients, approximations of quantities, and inexact instructions. When I asked her: “How long do I cook the semolina?”, “How much heavy cream do I add to the kashta?”, or “How much rose water do I need for this recipe?!” She simply replied to me to figure it out “3al nazar” (common Arabic expression that means add to taste or ‘visually’). I had no choice but to make it through trial and error, and write down the exact quantity of ingredients for consistent results.

Bohsalino is very rich with flavor additives such as rose water, orange blossom water, and mastic. The latter is a well known ingredient in Arabic, Greek, and Turkish cuisines. Mastic (miskeh or arabic gum) are very aromatic resin drops mainly used in pastries, breads, puddings, and desserts because it enhances the taste of the ingredients. You can buy mastic in Greek/Middle-Eastern/international stores, or online.

I divided the recipe into separate sections to make it easier for assembly at the end.

1. Prepare the semolina paste by combining it with butter over low heat.

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2. Prepare the sugar syrup, which holds the dry ingredients together and forms a paste.
3. Grind the unsalted pistachios in a blender to get a fine texture.

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4. Mix these three together to get a sweet pistachio semolina paste, and roll it out using a rolling pin.

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5. Prepare the kashta cheese mixture, which will be spread out on top of the paste.

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6. Add the second paste on top of the cheese to close it off, and trim the edges.

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7. Finish off with some decorations on top.

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Here’s the recipe for Bohsalino. It’s easy, quick to prepare, and excellent for a crowd.

Ingredients and Directions:
Sugar Syrup:
1 cup water
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup rose water
¼ cup orange blossom water

• Place the water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
• Turn off the heat and stir in the rose water and orange blossom water.

Semolina Paste:
1 cup semolina
113 grams (1 stick) cold butter

• Combine semolina and butter in a small saucepan, and place on low heat.
• Keep stirring until the butter melts and the semolina becomes a bit lighter in color. (about 5 minutes)
• Pour the mixture over the sugar syrup and mix with wooden spoon.
• Place it aside (or in the fridge) to cool.

Pistachio Semolina Paste:
Semolina Paste (above)
500 grams unsalted pistachios (shells removed)

• Place pistachios in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process the pistachios until they are finely ground.
• Transfer to a big bowl and reserve ¼ cup on the side for decoration.
• Add the semolina paste to the big bowl and mix to form a firm and smooth paste. (If the mixture is too liquid, add semolina to harden it)

Kashta Cheese Mixture:
4 medium drops of mastic
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
500 grams kashta (or ricotta cheese)
3 tablespoons heavy cream (or 5 tablespoons if you using ricotta cheese)
1 tablespoon rose water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
Rose petal jam (for decoration – optional)

• Grind mastic drops and sugar in a mortar and pestle until it turns into powder.
• Sift the mixture to get rid of clumps.
• Mix the kashta cheese with the mastic powder, heavy cream, rose water, and orange blossom water.
Reserve ¼ cup on the side for decoration.

Assembly:
• Divide the pistachio semolina paste in 2 halves.
• Cut out two sheets of wax paper, large enough to cover a 32 cm (12.5 inch) serving plate.
• Sandwich one half of the paste between both sheets of wax paper.
• Press the paste down with a rolling pin and move it from the center out. Roll into a 32 cm (12.5 inch) circle and then transfer to round serving plate.
• Trim the edge of the paste to form a circle.
• Spread the cheese mixture over the first layer of pistachio paste.
• Roll out the second half – following the same instructions as above – and place on top of the kashta cheese mixture to close it off. Trim the edges.
• Add the reserved ground pistachio on top and spread out to cover the whole surface.
• Add the reserved kashta cheese in the center and on the sides using a small spoon.
• Decorate with rose petal jam (optional).

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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I never really thought about making homemade ice-cream until I came across a superb book called The Chocolate Bible. After going through the whole book over and over again (it never gets boring) I decided to try the custard based vanilla bean ice cream recipe – as well as other chocolate recipes.

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Custard based ice cream is also known as French-style ice cream; it’s thick, silky, and very scoop-able because of the addition of egg yolks which thickens the mixture. American style ice cream is not as dense, and it’s far quicker to prepare since it doesn’t require cooking a custard base; it is simply a combination of milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring.

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For the custard, you first start cooking the milk, vanilla, and egg yolks over low heat for a few minutes and add the whipping cream at the end. After chilling the mixture for two hours, you pour it in an ice cream maker which will simultaneously freeze the mixture while churning (to aerate it and avoid ice crystals to form). The result was so wonderful: the ice cream was rich and creamy, it tasted exactly like Häagen-Dazs! Can you imagine how impressed everyone would be when they find out that you whipped out a delicious traditional vanilla bean ice cream from scratch?! You will feel special, I’m telling you ;).

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Serve this ice cream with Fudgy Brownies, Chocolate Ganache, Apple Tart, or chunks of chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies… My mouth is watering while writing this post, so I’m going to jump right ahead with the ingredients and instructions.

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Ingredients: (from The Chocolate Bible)
• 5 egg yolks
• 125 grams (½ cup+2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
• 500 ml (2 cups) milk
• 1 vanilla pod, split
• 50 ml (¼ cup) whipping cream

Instructions:
1. Beat the egg yolks and 60 grams (5 tablespoons) of the sugar until pale, yellow, and creamy.
2. Pour the milk into a saucepan; add the remaining sugar.
3. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod – using the point of a knife – into the milk. Add the pod in the saucepan and slowly bring it to the boil.
4. Whisk 1/3 of the hot mixture into the eggs and sugar mixture, stirring well to combine. Then pour this mixture into the remaining hot milk.
5. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over low heat until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (~10 to 15 minutes. Do not allow to boil).
6. Stir in the whipping cream and remove from the heat immediately; strain into a bowl.
7. Stand a bowl in crushed ice and place in fridge for two hours until the mixture is cold.
8. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn for 30 minutes.
9. Remove the ice cream from the machine and transfer it to the freezer before serving.