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.

Orange Blossom Peach Pie with Whipped Labneh

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When I visit the farmer’s market on Sundays, I always buy a couple of necessary things like grape tomatoes, goat cheese, fresh farm eggs, herbs, mushrooms, berries, and of course tree ripened peaches. I can’t get enough of peaches during the summer time and they make wonderfully seasonal sweet pie fillings.

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The combination of the sweet peaches and buttery, flaky dough is a perfectly classic American baked good. I decided to add a twist to it by including orange blossom water in the filling and serving it with whipped honey’d labneh on the side. Distilled from the essence of orange tree flowers, orange blossom water adds a delicate and refreshing floral scent and taste that elevates the pie to an almost otherworldly fruit dessert.

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Pie Crust:
Yields two 9″ (23 cm) pie crusts. Recipe Adapted from Pastry Affair

315 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
226 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, freezer cold, cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 tbsp + 2 tsp ice water
1 tsp white vinegar

Egg wash (1 whole egg + 2 tsp water)
Demerara sugar

• In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
• Add half of the cold, cubed butter and rub the butter and flour between your fingers until it resembles coarse sand. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor or mixer with a paddle attachment)
• Add the second half the cubed butter and rub in into the flour, but leave it in larger pieces (approximately the size of a hazelnut).
• Gradually add the ice cold water and vinegar and mix the dough together until the dough holds together when squeezed in your hand. Add more water one teaspoon at a time if needed.
• Place the dough on parchment paper and use the paper to press the dough into a disk. To make the dough uniform, fold the dough in half, using the paper. Press down and fold in the opposite direction. Repeat until the dough appears uniform.
• Cut the dough in half, and shape into two disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour – preferably overnight (or up to 2-3 days). Pie dough can be also kept in the freezer wrapped tightly up to 3 months.
• Working quickly, roll out the first disk on a lightly floured surface into a 14″ (35 cm) round for a 9″ (23 cm) pie pan. Wrap dough lightly around a rolling pin and transfer to the pie pan. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to allow a 1″ (2.5 cm) overhang.
• Pour the strained peach filling (see recipe below) into the pastry shell.
• Roll out the second pie crust to top the filling and create small slits to allow venting. Or create a decorative lattice top.
• Brush the pie crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with demerara sugar. Refrigerate the pie for 20-30 minutes.
• Meanwhile, place a large baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 375ºF (190ºC).
• Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 80-90 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Peach Filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2.5 pounds peaches, around 8 small peaches sliced (peeling is optional)
1/3 cup orange blossom honey
Zest of half an organic lemon
2 tbsp orange blossom water (Mazaher)

• Mix the sugar and corn starch in a large bowl until homogeneous. Add the sliced peaches, honey, lemon zest, and orange blossom water and gently mix with a spatula until homogeneous.
• Let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes, then strain the mixture before pouring it into the pie shell.

Whipped Labneh:
1/2 cup labneh (see recipe here)
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp orange blossom honey
1/2 tsp orange blossom water (Mazaher)

• Using a hand mixer, whip all the ingredients until airy. Serve cold dollops of whipped labneh with warm peach pie slices.

Pomegranate Cake with Tangerine Rosewater Syrup

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Semolina flour is one of those incredibly versatile ingredients that’s always worth having on hand. I’ve used it in desserts like Halawet el Jibn, Bohsalino, and even Sfouf cake (which is the most viewed recipe on my blog!)

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In today’s post, I baked a simple semolina lemon butter cake and paired it with two seasonal fruits: pomegranate and tangerine. The juicy pomegranate seeds that are sprinkled on top of the cake batter add a subtle crunch to each bite and the tangerine syrup is mixed with rosewater, giving a bolder citrus taste. The result is an insanely moist cake with a hearty texture, slightly chewy edges, and refreshingly bright flavors that reminds me of warmer weather.

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Ingredients:

Cake:
¼ cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
185g butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
150g (2/3 cup) sugar
150g (1 cup) flour
80g (½ cup) semolina
½ cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Syrup:
125ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
60ml (¼ cup) water
2 teaspoon rosewater

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line one 8″ (20cm) round cake pan with parchment paper.
2. Mix yogurt with lemon juice, set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter with lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
4. Fold in the flour, semolina, and yogurt-lemon into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula. Mix until just combined.
5. Spread the thick batter into prepared pan, top with pomegranate seeds then sprinkle demerara sugar evenly.
6. Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir the tangerine juice, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over high heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolved. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Take off the heat, stir in rosewater, and strain into a jug.
8. After taking the cake out of the oven, let it stand in the pan for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack top side up. Pierce cake all over with a skewer and pour about 3/4 of the syrup over hot cake. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and extra syrup.

Optional:
 Sprinkle extra pomegranate seeds before serving.

Light Banana Bread

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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.

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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.

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Recipe adapted from Baking with Less Sugar

Ingredients:

• 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

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

Directions:
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.