Olive Oil Ricotta Semolina Cake with Roasted Quince

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I’ve been playing around with this recipe for quite some time now and made several versions of it with different winter fruits. The addition of the semolina and high quality olive oil in the batter makes a tender and light cake that’s complex in flavor. It’s studded with quince, that’s slightly roasted in orange blossom water to keep it firm to the bite, and crunchy blanched almonds – adding yet another contrast of textures and flavors. In the cold long winter days, this fruit dessert is guaranteed to brighten and uplift your mood.

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Recipe extensively adapted from Food52

Roasted Quince:
2 large quince (450g)
80g sugar
25g water
Zest of a small lemon
1½ tablespoon orange blossom water

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. Peel quince and cut each into 8 thick slices (roughly 450g total). Place the slices in a baking pan. Cover with sugar, water, zest and orange blossom water.
3. Cover the tray with aluminum foil and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the quince is starting to soften.

Cake:
2 large eggs, room temperature
200g granulated sugar
245g ricotta cheese
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
180g flour
80g fine semolina flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
– Confectioner’s sugar and a handful of blanched almonds for decoration
1. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour a 9″ (23cm) springform cake pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale about 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, oil and lemon zest. Pour the cheese mixture into the whipped eggs and mix until combined.
3. Sift all of the dry ingredients directly over the wet ingredients. Mix with a large spatula gently until just combined, using a folding motion.
4. Pour the batter into the cake pan and spreading it out evenly. Arrange the roasted quince slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles until the top of the cake batter is covered. Sprinkle with blanched almonds.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the edges are pulling away from the pan, and a cake tester or toothpick comes out of the cake cleanly. Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out to finish cooling on a rack.
6. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Blueberry Lemon Scones

Blueberry-Scones

Dreamy blueberry lemon scones with a perfect balance of crisp exterior and light soft center.

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They’re buttery, flaky, tart yet sweet, delicious, and so easy to make. In fact, these scones are ready in less than an hour– baking time included. I love how fast they come together although they might seem like a lot of work (which is a good thing if you’re trying to impress your friends).

I’ve had my share of failed scone recipes: too chewy, cakey, dry, or crumbly.  And I learned that the method of making scones is important because it affects their texture. So here are a couple of things to keep in mind when making these:

  • All your ingredients should remain cold. No exception! Butter cubes have to be freezing!
  • Whatever you do, do not overwork the butter. Kneading softens the butter and converts the protein in the flour to gluten, which results in chewy scones. So work fast and handle the dough as little as possible.
  • Place the tray of scones in the refrigerator before baking to ensure that they remain cold. Cold dough in high oven temperature result in flaky tender scones!


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Blueberry-Scones3Pair them with fruit jam, clotted cream, or whipped ricotta honey spread… my weakness.

Lemon Blueberry Scones (adapted from Pastry Affair)

Ingredients:
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
Zest of 2 small lemons
Pinch of salt
8 tbsp. (113g, 1 stick) butter, cold and cubed
60 ml (½ cup) heavy whipping cream
1 large egg, cold
1 cup frozen blueberries (or freeze fresh blueberries to hold their shape while baking)

3 tbsp. melted butter
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Using a pastry cutter (or two knifes), cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse sand.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream and egg then pour into flour mixture.
4. Mix until it just comes together as a dough.
5. Transfer dough to a work surface covered in parchment paper and form into a shallow rectangle (about 1”/2.5 cm thick) using your hands.
6. Press ½ cup of blueberries into the dough.
7. Using the parchment paper, fold the dough in half along the long side. Shape again into a rectangle and press remaining blueberries into the top of the dough.
8. Using the pastry knife, cut dough into four equal rectangles. Then cut each rectangle diagonally, making 8 scones.
9. Place scones on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon turbinado mixture.
10. Place tray in the fridge for 15 minutes.
11. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Mango Sorbet

Mango Sorbet | Brownie Box Blog
What I usually do when my fridge is abundant with ripe mangoes (which is rarely the case) is whip up this fast and easy fruit sorbet. You see, a close family friend recently sent me a big box of fresh mangoes that he grows in his own back garden in Florida (is it just me or is anyone else extremely jealous here?!). Naturally my first instinct is to create a very simple dessert that enhances the wonderful and refreshing taste of mangoes.

Mango Sorbet | Brownie Box Blog
Sorbets are a combination of fresh fruit juice and sugar syrup. The latter sweetens the fruit juice and affects the sorbet’s texture– you don’t want it too icy or slushy but creamy and smooth instead. To reach that consistency, the ratio of fruit to syrup has to be just right; I read a great tip on The Kitchn that involves floating a large egg – yes and egg! – in the sorbet mixture before churning it in the ice cream maker. If the egg sinks below the surface then you need to add more sugar and if the egg is completely afloat, then you need to desaturate the mixture with either fruit juice or water. The sugar levels are balanced when you see a 1 inch (2.5 cm) size of an egg shell on the surface. Obviously this method might not work on all fruit sorbets since some fruit juices can be too thick, but it’s a good tip to keep in mind.

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I want to point out that every fruit is different and every sorbet mixture needs more or less sugar (less sugar for very sweet pineapples, for instance). Also, thicker fruit juices might need to be diluted with water to get a silkier structure. It’s all about understanding the science and process of creating sorbets from scratch (here’s another great read!).

Did you ever try making homemade sorbet? I’d love to hear about your trial and errors!

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Ingredients
5 cups of sliced/diced mangoes (about 4 small/medium mangoes)
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Freeze ice cream maker at least 24 hours before making the sorbet.
  2. Dice the mangoes into bite-sized pieces ∼ around 5 cups.
  3. Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, and stir a few times until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water (2-4 minutes). Remove from heat and cool.
  4. Combine the mangoes and ¼ cup of the simple syrup in a blender or food processor and blend until the fruit is liquified.
  5. Strain the mix if the mangoes are too fibrous to remove any solids (you can use a cheese cloth or towel paper). Gently stir with a spoon as you strain.
  6. Test the sugar levels with the egg-float test that I described earlier and make the necessary adjustments. If the egg completely sinks then add more sugar syrup, and if the mixture is too thick then add more water.
  7. Stir the lemon juice.
  8. Cover the sorbet base and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour or overnight preferably.
  9. Pour the chilled base into the ice cream maker and churn to get a consistency of a thick smoothie (15-20 minutes).
  10. Transfer the sorbet to a freezable container and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours, until the sorbet has hardened. Can be stored up to a month.
  11. Let the sorbet soften for 10-15 minutes in room temperature before serving.

Mango Tart

Mango Tart
The first signs of spring are finally here! It’s been a very long and cold winter in New York City, and nothing makes me happier than the thought of warmer days ahead. Lately I’ve been craving (and day dreaming) of fruit based sweets and pastries – blueberry galettes, pomegranate pavlovas, raspberry ricotta mille-feuille, plum crumble cakes, and blackberry mascarpone cheesecake popsicles! – Ouf my baking list keeps getting longer and longer!

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My absolute favorite is this fabulous mango tart recipe, which I developed from different classic family recipes. I adapted both recipes of the buttery crumbly crust and sweet vanilla cream from my mother’s family book of desserts, and combined them together with the mango slices to create a delicious tart that really makes an elegant statement.

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Also, the timing of making this dessert couldn’t be more perfect since not only is today the first day of spring and mother’s day, but my mom is also visiting me from Lebanon! I’m just so excited because I really look forward to bake and cook with her, she is my biggest inspiration.

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The result – as you can see – was spectacular. It’s true that it takes more time to cut the mango into super thin slices and rearrange them precisely on the round tart, but the result is beyond worth it!

Crust
Ingredients:
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250 g (2.5 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons icing powdered sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¾ teaspoon baking powder

Directions:
1. Mix the egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl.
2. In another bowl mix the butter, icing sugar, flour, and baking powder until combined.
3. Add the egg yolks to the dry ingredients and mix by hand until it all comes together and shape into a disk.
4. Refrigerate the dough for 30 min.
5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF)
5. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 29 cm (11.5″) circle then transfer to a tart pan with the same dimensions. Press down the dough with the palm of your hand to level it (the crust will be thick).
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes in the oven until golden and the edges are lightly brown.
7. Let cool on wire rack.

Vanilla Cream
Ingredients:
4 cups whole or skimmed milk
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, mix the milk, flour, and lemon zest. Stand for 10 minutes.
2. In another bowl, mix the eggs and sugar with a hand mixer until pale and double in volume.
3. Strain the milk mixture into a saucepan to get rid of any clump. Add the egg mixture.
4. Using the point of a knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and place it in the saucepan along with the pod.

6. Place the saucepan on low heat and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon.
7. Take off the heat and let cool until room temperature then place in the fridge until cold.

Assembly
1. Peel two medium mangoes and slice the mango halves off the pit, then into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
2. Spread vanilla cream over pastry crust and smooth with a spatula.
3. Start placing the thin mango slices on the outer edge of the tart and work your way in, slightly overlapping the rows.

Blackberry Muffins

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Blackberry muffins are great for breakfast or as a mid-day snack. They are healthy because they do not contain a lot of butter and sugar, and blackberries are low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, making them one of the best fruits for a balanced diet – and these muffins are loaded with them!blackberry muffins 5 blackberry muffins 4I also omitted the crumble that the original William Sonoma recipe called for because I didn’t want them to turn out too sweet. By the way did I mention how much I adore their recipes? They are just foolproof! The results are always picture perfect.blackberry muffins 3

These muffins taste reaaally good, and what’s amazing about them is the center that is slightly dry, contrasting with the bursting, juicy blackberries. This actually prevents super soggy muffins. You don’t want that.

You can always substitute the blackberries with blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. Remember to treat soft berries very gently because they will break and bleed in the batter. If the berries that you bought are too soft, follow this technique: Wash the berries, pat them dry, then place them on a baking sheet in the freezer for ≈ 15 minutes. This will firm up the berries before mixing them in the batter.

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Ingredients: (Recipe from William Sonoma) – Makes 16 muffins.
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 egg room temperature, beaten
5 Tbs.(70 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk (check substitute)
2 cups fresh blackberries or 2 1⁄2 cups frozen unsweetened blackberries, unthawed

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C)
2. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter, or line with paper liners.
3. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt.
4. Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter, and buttermilk.
5. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
6. Sprinkle with the blackberries and gently fold in with a large rubber spatula just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Take care not to break up the fruit. Do not overmix.
7. Fill the prepared muffin cups with the batter, filling each to the rim of the cup.
8. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (25 to 30 minutes).
9. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature.