Olive Oil Cake with Persimmons

oliveoilcake_persimmons-3.jpg

OliveOilCake_Persimmons-2

For my birthday last year, my friend and I went to our favorite Italian restaurant in Brooklyn called Lillia. It was 11pm at night, we had ordered two Americanos and a slice of olive oil cake served with whipped cream and fresh persimmons. I still remember the taste of that wonderful cake because not only was it a fond memory, but I was also intrigued by the simplicity of the dessert. It wasn’t fancy at all and tasted like a homemade cake my mom would do – except it had an unexpected hint of olive oil and my favorite fall fruit of all time. I’ve made a couple versions of olive oil cakes since but none of them come close to this fantastic recipe.

oliveoilcake_persimmons-4-e1512670803398.jpg

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes one 9″ (23cm) cake

300ml (1¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
250g (1 cup +2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar; plus more for pan and finishing touch
240g (2 cups) cake flour*
28g (⅓ cup) almond flour or fine-grind cornmeal (I used almond flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
60ml (¼ cup) amaretto, Grand Marnier, or other liqueur
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
60ml (¼ cup) fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 small eggs, at room temperature

*Substitute cake flour by sifting together three times 238g (1+3/4 cups) all-purpose flour and 24g (1/4 cup) cornstarch.

Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Drizzle bottom and sides of pan with detachable bottom with oil and use your fingers to coat. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and smooth to eliminate air bubbles; coat parchment with more oil. Generously sprinkle pan with sugar and tilt to coat in an even layer; tap out excess (do not skip this step!). Whisk cake flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine and eliminate any lumps. Stir together liquor, lemon juice, and vanilla in a small bowl.

Using an electric mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if working with a stand mixer), beat eggs, lemon zest, and 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until mixture is very light, thick, pale, and falls off the whisk or beaters in a slowly dissolving ribbon, about 3 minutes if using a stand mixer and about 5 minutes if using a hand mixer. With mixer still on high speed, gradually stream in 1¼ cups oil and beat until incorporated and mixture is even thicker. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with amaretto mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold batter several times with a large rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of bowl. Gently scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with more sugar.

Place cake in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 350°F (176°C). Bake until top is golden brown, center is firm to the touch, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40–50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 15 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edges of cake and remove ring from pan. Slide cake onto rack and let cool completely. For the best flavor and texture, wrap cake in plastic and let sit at room temperature at least a day before serving.

Advertisements

Halloumi Mint Scones with Heirloom Tomato Spread

Here’s a recipe for crumbly cheesy halloumi scones that are delicious for breakfast or served as a side at the dinner table. Throw in some chopped mint in the dough for a refreshing herbal note and serve hot straight out of the oven. I always eat halloumi cheese with tomatoes, so I was inspired to make the tomato spread on the side. The Heirloom variety is the best because of their complex, wine-like, sweet taste that’s less acidic than the regular ones. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do – Sahtein!

halloumiscones-3.jpghalloumiscones-5.jpg

Scones:
300g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, cold
15g (1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
15g (3 tsp) baking powder
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
½ lemon zest
¼ cup chopped mint
140g (5oz) grated halloumi
112g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
180ml (3/4 cup) cold buttermilk
1 large egg, cold

Egg wash:
1 small egg
pinch of fine grain sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Add the cold cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pour the mixture in a large bowl and lightly mix in the grated halloumi.

3. In another bowl, beat the cold buttermilk and egg. Slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and gently fold just until all of the flour has been moistened. Do not overwork the dough. Dump the dough out on to a large piece of parchment paper and gently pat the dough out until it’s a 1″ (2.5cm) thick rectangle.

4. Transfer to a large baking sheet and rest for 20 minutes in the fridge. Cut the dough into 9 squares using a knife and space them out on the baking sheet. You can freeze the dough at this point if you are planning to make these a few days in advance.

5. For the topping, beat together the egg and salt. Lightly brush the tops of the dough with the mixture being careful not to drip on the sides (or it will prevent the scones from rising). Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway, until the scones are golden brown.

6. Rest the scone for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes, Serve warm the same day.

Heirloom Tomato Spread:
1kg (2 LB.) Heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped
50g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
Pinch of crushed red peppers (optional)
Add ins
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp pomegranate syrup

1. In a large saucepan, combine the chopped tomatoes, sugar, salt, and crushed red peppers. Set over medium heat and cook uncovered, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until most the tomatoes are glossy and thick and most of the liquid has cooked off, approximately 2 hours.

2. Press through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the tomato skins and stir in the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. Let cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Bey to Bay: Cornmeal Peach Whiskey Cake

This is the second post for the Bey to Bay coffee and pastry pairing collaboration project with my dear friend Jeremy Kelley. We grew up on opposite sides of the world (Beirut x Bay Area) but with the same Mediterranean climates and ingredients. Follow along our posts and our hashtag #BeytoBay on Instagram!

peachcornmealcake.jpg
peachcornmealcake-14.jpg

As we head into fall season, this is the last chance to use up perfectly ripe summer fruits. And what better way to end summer than with a boozy fruity cake? I’m such a fan of a simple cake like this one that might seem sophisticated at first but is in fact very easy to put together and I’m sure you’ll be making this again and again with different seasonal fruits. Moist, buttery, with a barely there crunch, it’s a cross between a coffee cake and a cornmeal bread. The peach slices are soaked in whiskey and sugar overnight to infuse the flavors and enhance the peaches’ sweetness. Then they are arranged on top of a whipped cornmeal cake batter and baked until fragrant, golden in color, and the sides barely pulling away from the pan. Serve it warm with great coffee (more on that below), or with some more fresh fruit, whipped cream or maybe even a delicious scoop of crème fraîche ice cream if you’re feeling adventurous.

PeachCornmealCake-15PeachCornmealCake-6

We wanted a really special coffee that would take the soft, delicate flavors of the cake to yn,the next level but still be light on the palate. Jeremy went with an Ecuador La Papaya by Sey Coffee, which just opened their new roastery in Bushwick. These beans were grown at some of the highest altitudes on earth, giving them a really unique flavor profile of botanical complexity. Its light pomegranate notes and herbal hints of vanilla and blossom were getting infused the butteriness of the cake’s crumbs and brought out the taste of whiskey. This shift of flavor in your mouth from start to finish made the entire pairing highly addictive. We couldn’t stop wanting more.

peachcornmealcake-12.jpg

Topping:
4 medium firm peaches (can also sub with other seasonal fruits like 300g of pitted cherries, strawberries, raspberries)
1½ Tbsp whiskey or bourbon
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Cake:
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
160g unbleached all-purpose flour
85g fine cornmeal flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
zest of ½ a small lemon
110g granulated sugar
110g packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp whiskey or bourbon
150ml whole milk, room temperature
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Soak the peach slices in whiskey and sugar for at least 4 hours preferrably overnight. The next day, drain the peaches from their juices and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter a 9″ (23cm) round cake pan, butter and flour the pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Set aside. Beat butter with the sugars on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition and beat in whiskey. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined.
4. Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Arrange the peach slices on top, pressing some down into batter. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until edges begin to pull away from pan and top springs back when lightly touched, around 50 minutes.
5. Let cool in the pan for 20 min then carefully turn out onto a wire rack (it’s fragile when warm). Let cool completely before serving.

Rhubarb Cream Scones

RhubarbScones4.jpg

RhubarbScones2.jpg

A wonderful seasonal recipe that results in tender yet flaky scones. The addition of heavy cream and egg to the mixture increases the amount of fat in the dough making them richer and softer on the inside than their British counterpart. Always remember to handle the dough as little as possible to avoid a tough or cakey scone!

Scones:
160g rhubarb
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

300g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour, cold
65g (5 Tbsp) granulated sugar
15g (3 tsp) baking powder
¼ tsp fine grain sea salt
½ lemon zest
85g cold butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
240ml (1 cup) cold heavy cream
1 large egg, cold
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Topping:
1 small egg
½ tsp granulated sugar
pinch of fine grain sea salt
Demerara sugar for sprinkling

1. Mix the rhubarb and sugar in a small bowl and let it sit for at least an hour (you can do this overnight too).

2. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cubed cold butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (alternatively, you can use a food processor to cut the butter). Strain the rhubarb from any liquid and toss in the flour butter mixture.

3. In another bowl, beat the cold heavy cream, egg, vanilla. Add this to the flour and butter mixture and fold gently just until all of the flour has been moistened. Do not overwork the dough. Dump the dough out on to a large piece of parchment paper and gently pat the dough out until it’s about 1″ thick rectangle.

4. Transfer to a large baking sheet and let it rest for 15 minutes in the fridge. Cut the dough into 9 squares using a knife and space them out on the baking sheet. You can freeze the dough at this point before baking if you are planning to make these a few days in advance.

5. For the topping, beat together the egg, granulated sugar and salt. Lightly brush the tops of the dough with the mixture being careful not to drip on the sides (this will prevent the scones from rising). Wait for one minute to set then sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake for 15 minutes rotating halfway until the scones are golden brown.

6. Rest the scone for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes, Serve warm the same day.

Za’atar Honey Butter Rolls

ZaatarRolls.jpg
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.

ZaatarRolls-2.jpg
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!

ZaatarRolls-3.jpg

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

Rhubarb_Financier-2

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.

Rhubarb_Financier-3Rhubarb_Financier-4Rhubarb_Financier-7Rhubarb_Financier-8

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

Maamoul_Mad-1.jpg
Maamoul_Mad-2-edited

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.

Maamoul_Mad-4

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.

Maamoul_Mad-5Maamoul_Mad-7

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.

Maamoul_Mad-11

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.