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

Chocolate Roll with Chestnut Cream and Marrons Glacés

1-CakeRollChestnuts

I named this cake “Chocolate Roll” because first I’m very kind of late to post a Bûche de Noël recipe and second, the cake is so fabulous that there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t make it any time this winter season.

2-CakeRollChestnuts

3-CakeRollChestnuts

When I was a kid we always had Chestnut yule logs during the holiday season and it was my favorite thing to eat. I decided to recreate that exact cake for this year’s annual family Christmas Eve dinner. However, I couldn’t find chestnut paste in any local Lebanese market – so I looked up a couple of make-from-scratch recipes and the process turned out to be so much easier than I expected! It’s basically a mix of roasted chestnuts and sugar syrup puréed in a food processor. The most time consuming part is roasting and peeling chestnuts but I didn’t mind it because the taste is absolutely divine. I went with Yossy Arefi’s flourless chocolate cake recipe that I found on Food52 and filled it with the homemade chestnut cream and chopped marrons glacés. The last step is to cover it with rich dark chocolate ganache and refrigerate it for a couple of hours before serving.

4-CakeRollChestnuts

I’ve baked this cake three times in the last two weeks. The combination of the airy bittersweet cake, cold sweet chestnut cream, and unexpected marrons glacés pieces got me completely hooked. It also looks so elegant when sprinkled with powdered sugar and decorated with some leaves.

Chestnut Paste is incredibly rich and delicious when made from scratch and it can be used in countless ways from pastry filling to mousse and ice cream. Now that I’m done writing this long post, I’m going to have another slice of cake with a shot of espresso.

Enjoy!

5-CakeRollChestnuts

Ingredients and Directions:

Roasting and Peeling Chestnuts (for this recipe you’ll need 200g peeled and roasted high quality chestnuts, approximately 20 whole chestnuts.)

1. Preheat your oven to 425° F (220°C). Carefully make a long slice across the rounded top of the chestnuts with a sharp serrated bread knife. Be sure to cut through the shell only.
2. Place cut chestnuts in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer.
3. Once the water begins to simmer, remove the chestnuts from the water using a slotted spoon or a strainer and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.
4. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells begin to peel back where you cut into them.
5. Remove sheet from the oven, place roasted chestnuts in a bowl and cover with a towel for 15 minutes to allow them to steam. Then proceed to peeling them.


Chestnut Cream Filling
• 200g peeled, roasted chestnuts
• 90ml (1/3 cup) milk
• 68g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
• 80ml (1/3 cup) water
• 2 tablespoons Brandy
• 1 Vanilla Bean
• 120ml (1/2 cup) cold heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks
• 3 whole Marrons Glacés cut into small pieces

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer chestnuts with milk until soft about 10 minutes.
2. To make the sugar syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer until the sugar dissolves.
3. Drain chestnuts and puree in a food processor with the sugar syrup until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cool, 30 minutes.
4. Fold in the rum, de-seeded vanilla pod, and whipped cream.


Flourless Chocolate Cake
• 6 egg yolks
• 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 40g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
• 5 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 375° F (180°C) and line a 9″x13″ (25 x 35 cm) jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar on high until the mixture is pale and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla then the sifted cocoa powder.
3. Wash and dry the bowl and whisk, then beat the egg whites on medium high until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
4. Stir 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the egg yolks to lighten everything up. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared jelly roll pan and bake until the cake springs back and is dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes (the cake will deflate).
6. Turn it out onto a clean kitchen cloth that has been dusted with cocoa powder. Using the edge of the towel, gently roll the cake into a long cylinder. Let the cake cool completely in the towel while you prepare the ganache.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
• 170g (6 oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 180ml (3/4 cup) heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream to a bare simmer, then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until smooth and let sit at room temperature until it cools to a spreadable consistency.

Putting it all together
1. Gently unroll the wrapped cake.
2. Spread the chestnut cream over the top and dot with marrons glacés.
3. Using the towel, roll the cake back into a tight cylinder and transfer to a large plate.
3. Spread the cooled ganache over the cake.
4. Drag your spatula or knife over the surface to give it a “barky” look.
5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Finish by decorating the plate with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Light Banana Bread

Brownie Box | Light Banana Bread

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.

14

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.

2

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.

Braided Easter Bread

1

Each year for the Easter holiday, my mom bakes small raisin bread rolls that are usually braided in 2 or 3 strands. It’s a family tradition that’s been around for many years, so I wanted to post a similar recipe that’s bit less sweet and dense but just as good. I came across a very similar breaded raisin bread recipe in Kamran Siddiqi’s book Hand Made Baking that uses honey as a sweeter instead of refined sugar. What also caught my attention is that the whole dough is braided into one big circular loaf instead of several small loaves. So I decided to give my mom’s classic recipe a twist and the result is spectacular! It’s a slightly sweet and fluffy bread with a brioche-like texture that’s dotted with juicy raisins soaked in apple juice.

2

We traditionally serve this bread for the Greek Orthodox Easter (which is a different day than western Easter). It is actually based on the Julian calendar–introduced by Julian Caesar–instead of the Gregorian calendar, and it’s always the first Sunday after the first full moon AFTER the spring equinox which will be April 4th this year. That’s an easier way to remember it. I actually had to look up this information, because my friends always ask me why we celebrate Easter on a different date… Well there you have it.

3

The steps in this recipe might seem daunting at first, but believe me it’s not as hard as it seems. It just needs a little bit of patience – and that is the hardest part for me. You basically mix some warm water, yeast, oil, eggs, honey, flour, and raisins together and wait for the dough to double in size then put it in the fridge overnight. The next day you’re going to punch the dough down, braid it into a beautiful round loaf, wait for it to double in size again, and then bake until it’s golden. The loaf will be slightly flaky on the outside and delightfully tender in the middle. You can even use some leftovers stale pieces for French Toast!

4

Braided Easter Bread (recipe adapted from Hand Made Baking)

Ingredients:
¾ cup (180ml) warm water (100°F/38°C)
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
5 Tbsp (75ml) vegetable oil
1/3 cup (80ml) honey
3 large eggs, room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
3¾ cups (470g) all purpose flour
1 cup (160g) raisins, soaked in simmered apple juice for 5 minutes then patted dry

Egg wash:
1 small egg
1 tsp water

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, pour the warm water and then add the yeast and sugar. Let it sit for 5 minutes without stirring until a foamy surface forms. Then stir until the yeast dissolves in the water.
2. Add the vegetable oil, honey, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt into the yeast mixture and whisk until homogeneous.
3. Stir in the flour and raisins with a wooden spoon.
4. Tip the mixture on a floured surface and knead with your hands for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour until it just comes together.
5. Shape the dough into a round and put it in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning it a few times to coat it with the oil.
6. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours. (I like to preheat the oven for a minute or two to place the bowl in it). The dough will double in size.
7. Remove the damp towel and cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
8. The next day, take out the dough from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for an hour to come to room temperature.
9. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
10. Punch down the dough and divide it into three equal portions.
11. Roll out each portion into 20″ (50 cm) ropes. Lay them parallel to each other, pinch one end together and braid the pieces, then pinch the other end. Roll the long braid into a circle to form a round loaf.
12. Transfer the loaf to the lined baking sheet.
13. Whisk the small egg with 1 tsp of water and brush it all over the loaf. Wait for the egg wash to dry for 5 minutes then brush it again.
14. Place the loaf in a warm place and let it rise for one hour until it doubles in size.
15. After 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and adjust the rack to the center of the oven.
16. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway, until the braided loaf is a deep golden color and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
17. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer on a wire rack to cool completely.
18. Store in a plastic bag or tupperware for 3 days (this bread can be frozen too).

Blueberry Oat Muffins

2

While Autumn’s here and the weather is getting colder, I couldn’t help but reach for the last bag of organic blueberries from the freezer to bake an end of summer treat. I wasn’t planning on posting a blueberry muffin recipe on the blog because I never found one that’s good enough to share with you. Whenever I bake with blueberries I end up with muffins that are either too moist or too dry. However these babies… these are exceptional. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed them.

3
6

I purchased the One Girl Cookies book on a whim last week while visiting one my favorite bookstores in Soho. The charming photography and collection of recipes caught my attention although I was concerned that no weight measurements are given in any of the recipes. Ever since I started using a scale to measure ingredients I noticed better results in the kitchen and never looked back to using cups. Eventually, I got over my skepticism and bought the book anyway. Let’s just say that these muffins did not disappoint!

7

Nearly every blog claims that their blueberry muffins are the best or the tastiest but when it comes down to it, the idea of a perfect muffin is relative to each person’s taste and this recipe comes exceptionally close to mine. They’re crispy around the edges, yet fluffy and soft in the center dotted with juicy blueberries. I did a few minor changes to the ingredients list, like adding more blueberries and lemon zest, using low-fat sour cream, and omitting the crumb topping to make them slightly healthier. They’re great for breakfast with a spoonful of jam or simply left plain!

1

Recipe adapted from One Girl Cookies – Makes 16 regular sized muffins

Ingredients:
2/3 rolled oats
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick, 85 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup low-fat sour cream
¼ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
2 ¼ cups frozen blueberries

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line muffin pan with 16 paper liners.
2. Process the oats in a food processor until they are powdery. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), beat together the softened butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix for 1 minute.
5. Add the low-fat sour cream, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest then mix for 30 seconds.
6. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix for 10 seconds.
7. Take the bowl off the mixer and fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula.
8. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them to the rim. Sprinkle with rolled oats.
9. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for 35 minutes or until the top of a muffin is golden and springs back when lightly pressed.
10. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

chocolate-soufle2
Valentine’s day is coming up soon and these light and decadent chocolate soufflés are perfect desserts for a romantic tête à tête dinner. They’re easy to prepare and bake, but they have to be eaten as soon as they are out of the oven or they will deflate quickly (Unfortunately, my soufflés deflated within 5 minutes of taking pictures). An ideal soufflé has crusty exterior and a super airy, cloud-like melting interior texture that has enough chocolate flavor to satisfy your cravings.

chocolate-soufle5

chocolate-soufle1

Running your thumb around the tops of the ramekins opens a narrow channel between the mixture and the rim, which allows the soufflés to rise cleanly and evenly.

I am really fascinated by the science/chemistry involved in making chocolate soufflés. After doing a little bit of research I found out that the most important step in this recipe is beating the egg whites properly because this helps trapping air bubbles in the egg foam. When the soufflés are in the oven, the air expands and puffs up the small cakes. Now the best way to beat eggs whites is to have them at room temperature and place them in a clean* stainless steal bowl. Then whisk them with an electric mixer or in a stand mixture while gradually adding sugar until soft peaks form. Follow the rest of the instructions below!

*clean bowl with lemon juice and carefully rinse and dry.

chocolate-soufle4

Ingredients: (from the Chocolate Bible)
• 30 grams (50-70%) chocolate
• 30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
• 120 ml water
• 1 egg yolk
• 20 grams cornflour
• 6 egg whites
• 90 grams caster sugar
• Icing sugar, sifted for decoration

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (355ºF)
2. Brush six 8 cm (3 inches) ramekins with butter and dust evenly with caster sugar, tipping out the excess.
3. Finely chop the chocolate and place in a bowl.
4. Stir cocoa powder and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
5. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate, stirring until smooth, set aside until cool.
6. Blend in the egg yolk then the cornflour.
7. Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk until frothy. Add 30 grams of the sugar a little at a time, whisking until the egg whites are smooth and shiny. Gradually add the remaining sugar, whisking until stiff peaks form.
8. Whisk 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Use a spatula and carefully fold in the remainder in two separate batches.
9. Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins; smooth the surface with the spatula. Run your thumb around the tops of the ramekins to open a narrow (5mm) channel between the mixture and the rim.
10. Cook for 15 minutes, or until risen. As soon as the soufflés come out of the oven dust with sifted icing sugar and serve immediately.

Orange Bundt Cake

orange bundt cake brownie box4
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

orange bundt cake brownie box
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.

orange bundt cake brownie box2
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.