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.

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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).

Hazelnut Cognac Torte

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For the longest time, I thought that torte and cake are used to describe the same thing. But there is a fine distinction between both terms, and if you’re curious to know how then keep on reading!

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Torte is technically a type of cake that uses little or no flour and high quality ingredients (think ground almonds, liqueur, or jams and fruits), therefore making it denser and heavier than a regular cake. Because of its texture, tortes are generally sweeter and shorter in height.

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My grandma bakes this fool-proof torte on a regular basis – she even recommends swapping the hazelnuts with pistachios. The addition of cognac really enhances the nutty taste without overshadowing it.

My favorite thing about this dessert is its chewy edge and unexpectedly moist center. Don’t hesitate to spread some chocolate ganache on top (if the choco-hazelnut combo is your thing).


Ingredients:
300g (2 cups) whole hazelnuts, skin on
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
150g (1 stick + 3 tablespoon) butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g (1/2 cup) flour
1½ baking powder
2 tablespoon cognac

Directions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line a 10″ (25 cm) round cake pan, set aside.
2. Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind in short quick bursts until they turn into coarse meal. Turn off the processor if the meal starts to clump together, that means that they’re overground.
3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until pale and creamy.
4. With the mixer still on, add in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Mix for another 3 minutes on high.
5. Add the flour, baking powder, and ground hazelnuts. Beat for a few seconds until mixture is homogeneous.
6. Turn the mixer on low and pour in the cognac.
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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Today’s recipe is slightly adapted from Flourless: Recipes for Naturally Gluten-Free Desserts. I stumbled upon this book while shopping at Anthropologie and I completely loved the idea of baking desserts that rely on simple ingredients, natural sweeteners, and bold flavors – minus the flour. Oh, and the food photography is absolutely gorgeous.

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Slightly underbaked, these chocolate brownies really melt in your mouth as soon as you take a bite. I threw in a teaspoon of orange zest to the batter, because who doesn’t love that flavor combination? It’s my absolute favorite.

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It’s too tempting to have them around the house, so I whipped up a few batches for two dinner parties last week to avoid eating the whole thing by myself. I also look for any excuse to bake.


Ingredients:
(Recipe adapted from Flouless) – Makes about 16 brownie squares

5.3 oz (150g) high quality dark chocolate (I used Green & Black’s organic Dark 70%)
½ cup (155g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup (50g) Dutch process cocoa (such as Droste) + more for sifting
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line an 8″ x 8″ (20 cm x 20 cm) square pan with parchment paper.
2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the dark chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth and shiny.
3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl.
4. Add the brown sugar, eggs, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and orange zest. Stir well to combine.
5. Spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, until the brownies are dry on top. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 1 hour.
7. Gently lift the parchment paper out of the pan after cooling to remove the brownies then refrigerate for another hour.
8. Remove from the fridge and cut into 16 squares using a serrated knife.
9. Dust with cocoa powder and serve at room temperature.

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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Traditional biscotti never appealed to me. I always found them to be plain, way too crunchy, and sometimes tasteless. It wasn’t until recently that I completely changed my mind when I had an anise biscotti at a local neighborhood bakery. Their version of the cookie is crunchy from the outside yet chewy from the inside with a perfect balance of sugar and liquorice flavor. It was biscotti love.

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I sort of became obsessed with these anise flavored cookies, and was dreaming about them everytime I grab a cup of almond milk latte from that bakery. Then it hit me – I should be able to bake delicious biscottis from scratch that are not dry and rock hard! So I looked up a few recipes, played around with the ingredients, varied the baking time, and basically ended up with these incredible double chocolate almond biscotti:

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Not bad, huh?

Here’s the thing about biscotti that you must know before attempting to try this. The dough is baked twice to ensure a crispy yet chewy texture: once in a long log form and then in sliced form. Also, most original recipes only call for eggs as an adhesive ingredient, but recipes using butter (such as this one) yield softer and delicate cookies due to the added fat. So it all comes down to your preference!

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I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome and I seriously did NOT expect them to be THAT delicious! That’s the best part of baking 🙂

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Makes about 14 biscotti

Ingredients:
57 g (¼ cup) butter, room temperature
150 g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
190 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
45 g (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
115 g (4 ounces- about 1 cup) slivered or chopped raw almonds
80 g (¼ cup) bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F° (180 C°).
2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Mix in the vanilla extract.
5. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt over the mixing bowl. Mix with a spatula until it’s all incorporated– do not overmix. The dough will be slightly sticky.
6. Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.
7. Shape the dough into a log 12-inches (30 cm) long by 3-inches (7 cm) on a parchment lined baking sheet.
8. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough cracks on top and begins to brown.
9. Take out of the oven and cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes.
10. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into ½-inch slices (1 cm). Place the slices cut side down onto the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes on each side for a soft texture. For a crunchier texture, bake for 8-10 minutes.

Homemade Croissants

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I’ve always been very curious about baking and the art of pastry. That’s mainly why I started this blog– to pursue my passion, take risks, experiment with different recipes, and write about the most successful ones. It’s not just about sharing recipes, but also building a portfolio and documenting my progress over time.

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Homemade croissants have been on my to do list for a very long time and I finally had some free time– and by free time I mean a whole weekend!– to prepare them. I was kind of nervous and worried that they won’t be successful on my first trial because I don’t have a professional pastry background or anyone to guide me through the whole process. But after reading several blog posts and watching a few videos about making croissant, I felt like I was ready to give it a shot. I fell across Top with Cinnamon’s homemade croissant recipe, and I after seeing her gorgeous pictures and step by step gifs, I had to try it out.

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The process of making the layered yeast-leavened dough is time consuming. It basically involves layering the dough with ALOT of butter through a “rolling and folding” technique. If done right, the croissants will have crispy flaky exterior and a tender layered interior when baked. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing and eating the result of your hard work! 😀

Note: I posted my detailed hourly schedule for preparing croissants at the bottom of the page!

Preparing the dough

Ingredients: Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
1 cup (250 ml) cold milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) boiling water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
3 ¾ cup (500 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 oz/ 250 g) butter, frozen, then left at room temp. for 20-30 minutes

Directions:
1. Have all your ingredients measured and ready.
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2. Pour the milk and boiling water into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and sugar, leave for 5 minutes until frothy.

3. Add in the flour and salt to the milk, incorporate it with your hands into a shaggy ball.

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5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.

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6. When your dough has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, take your frozen butter (which has been left at room temperature for 20 min), and grate onto a piece of cling film

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7. Disperse the butter, and flatten into a 8″ x 5″ (20 x 13 cm) rectangle. Fold up in the cling film and pat together well (make sure it’s nicely compacted).  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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8. Once the butter has been chilling for 25 minutes, tip the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle.

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9. Unwrap the chilled butter block and place into the center of the dough. Fold the dough into thirds over the butter. Seal all the edges by pinching the dough together.

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10. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, use the rolling pin to make regular indentations in the dough. Roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle. (I used toothpicks as a reference for the measurements).

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11. Fold into thirds like a business letter. Wrap the dough in cling film, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  (steps 10+11 make “one turn” of the dough).

10. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap and complete 1 turn (repeat steps 10+ 11, roll out dough then fold again). Re-wrap in the cling film, refrigerate for 1 hour.

11. Fold two more times, so you have done a total of 4 turns.

12. Cut the dough into quarters. Wrap the quarters tightly in cling film and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, or freeze for up to 3 months (if you freeze it, let the dough defrost in the fridge overnight before shaping).

Shaping the dough

1. Remove one quarter of dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16″ x 6″ rectangle.

2. Cut into thirds, forming 3 smaller rectangles. Cut each of these rectangles in half diagonally forming 6 triangles.

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3. Take one triangle of dough (putting the others in the fridge to prevent the butter from melting).

4. Pull on the corners of the shortest edge, to even up the base of the triangle. Then gently stretch the dough a little

5. Cut a small slit in the base of the triangle, stretch it, then roll the dough up.

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You can add different fillings to the croissants, like chopped chocolate, zaa’tar, or almond paste.

7. Place it, tip side down, onto a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the triangles, placing them 2″ (5 cm) apart.

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8. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise in a cool place for around 2-3 hours ( if you’re making these the night before, you can actually shape them and leave them to rise in the fridge overnight instead).

You can also freeze the shaped croissants on the baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and leave in the freezer for up to 3 months, then defrost in the fridge overnight and proceed as below.

Baking the croissants:

1. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C).
2. Brush the croissants with a beaten egg using a pastry brush and put into the oven.
3. Immediately lower the temperature to 400°F (200°C), and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until well browned and puffy.
5. Let cool on a wire rack.

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All of these steps might seem daunting at first, that’s why I wrote down my personal schedule for making homemade croissant. This will help in not missing any step! Bon Appétit!

Time Schedule:

• Day 1
8:00 AM
Place butter in the freezer.

8:00 AM
8:10 AM
Measure ingredients.

8:10 AM
Combine cold milk, boiling water, yeast, and sugar together.

8:15 AM → 8:20 AM
Mix in the flour and salt, then mix to form a ball. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, and refrigerate for an hour.

8:30 AM
Take out the butter from the freezer.

8:50 AM → 8:55 AM
Grate the butter, shape into a rectangle, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

9:30 AM → 9:35 AM
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, add the block of butter, complete turn 1, and refrigerate.

10:30 AM
Turn 2.

11:30 AM
Turn 3.

12:30 PM
Turn 4 – Cut the dough into quarters and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough for at least 8-12 hours. You can continue baking at 9 PM, or wait until the next day to complete the rest of the steps.

• Day 2
8:00 AM 8:20 AM
Roll out a quarter of a dough, cut into triangles, and shape into croissants.

8:20 AM 10:20 AM
Leave the croissants to rise.

10:00 AM
Preheat the oven to 450°F (22o°C).

10:20 AM 10:25 AM
Brush croissants with beaten egg

10:25 AM
Bake in the oven, following the instructions above.

10:50 AM
Croissants are done!

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Orange Chocolate Cookies

A lot of people ask me about my favorite basic cookie recipe, and these orange chocolate cookies is one of them.

First of all, the combination of chocolate and orange is my weak point; I absolutely love using these two ingredients in almost everything. Second, the cookies are so soft, buttery, and delicious that they are just… happiness in its pure form.

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In this post, I really want to stress on the importance of weighing your ingredients on a kitchen scale. After baking these cookies twice – once using a scale, and the second time using cups- I noticed that a slight difference in the amount of ingredients you add to your mixture changes the texture of the dough dramatically. I had a harder time shaping and flattening the dough when I measured my ingredients in volume and because of that it took me twice the amount of time to finish making them. At the end I was so frustrated because I could’ve easily used a scale for accurate and consistent results.

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Think about it, when you fill a cup with let’s say chocolate chips the amount in volume depends on several factors: the style of the cup, the size of the morsels, and how tightly you’ve packed it in. But you don’t have to worry about these inconsistencies when you start weighing your ingredients.

Despite all of that, I included in this recipe measurements in cups and spoons because I know that a lot of readers don’t own scales. However, if you are serious about baking regularly and trying out different recipes then I really recommend that you invest in a kitchen scale, no matter how basic.

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Ingredients: Makes about 24 biscuits
• 100 g (1 stick, ½ cup) soft unsalted butter, room temperature
• 40 g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
• Zest of ½ medium orange, finely grated
• 125 g (1 cup) flour, sifted
• 2 g (½ tsp) baking powder, sifted
• 100 g (½ cup) dark chocolate

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375 °F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Beat the soft unsalted butter with a hand mixer until creamy.
3. Slowly add the sugar and grated orange zest, beating until the mixture is light. Blend in the sifted flour and baking powder.
4. Using two teaspoons form the dough into balls about the size of a whole walnut and place on the baking sheet. Flatten dough with the palm of your hand.
5. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the biscuits are golden. Remove from the oven and cool on rack. (Don’t overbake!)
6. Melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave or over a bain-marie.
7. Dip each biscuit halfway into the melted chocolate and place on a new parchment paper. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until the chocolate hardens.