Cherry Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

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If you’ve got a spare half an hour, make this incredibly moist summer loaf cake which is slightly adapted from Yossi Arefi’s Sweeter off the Vine book. The delightful combination of poppy seeds, zesty lemon, crunchy streusel and juicy sweet cherries makes it a perfect cake for breakfast or an afternoon pick me up. Because of its richly dense and moist texture, the cake slices freeze really well when wrapped individually and are perfect for a last minute treat.

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Ingredients:

Streusel:
35g (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp old-fashioned oats
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
30g (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened

Cake:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ tsp salt
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
120 ml (½ cup) canola oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
225g (1 cup) full fat plain yogurt
60ml (¼ cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 2 small lemons
250 g (1+2/3) pitted fresh sweet cherries*

*Cherries can be substituted with berries or stone fruits.


Directions:
• Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and flour a 9”x5” (23cm x 13cm) loaf pan.
Streusel: In a small bowl, stir the flour, oats, sugar, poppy seeds, and salt together. Add in the butter and use your fingertips to mix until small crumbs form. Set aside.
Cake: In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt together.
• Add the sugar to a large bowl and grate the zest of the the two lemons (about 1 tbsp) directly into the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until evenly distributed.
• Add the oil, eggs, yogurt, lemon juice and whisk to combine.
• Add the flour mixture all at once and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in half of the cherries into the batter.
• Pour the batter into the prepared loaf panned scatter the remaining cherries on top. Sprinkle the streusel in an even layer over the cherries. Bake the cake until puffed and golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.
• Let cool completely before slicing.
• Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap each slice individually and freeze for up to 2 months.

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Chocolate Roll with Chestnut Cream and Marrons Glacés

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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.

Flourless Almond Ricotta Lemon Cake

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When I wrote this post yesterday afternoon I was listening to some classical Arabic songs by Fairuz and Abdel Halim Hafez (my best friend Wihane can back me up on this because she called me and noticed the background music). I remember my childhood days when I used to beg my mom to turn off “that boring music” but I take that back. As a Lebanese expat, I sometimes feel out of place in NYC and the American culture in general so I guess that’s what drove me listen to music that is familiar and that is grounded in middle eastern culture. I decided to forget all preconceptions I had about classic Arabic music and just focus on the rhythms and meaningful lyrics. Abdel Halim Hafez’s songs in particular are incredibly rich and they go on for up to an hour! Can you believe that? It’s also quite interesting how different melodies are repeated throughout the same song, rendering distinctive characters each time yet tying the whole song together. Is that an expat thing, reminiscing on old Arabic music and the good old days?

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Anyway! Back to this lovely Almond Ricotta Lemon cake: it is undoubtedly my favorite recipe this winter season. In fact, I love it so much that I lost count of how many times I baked it within the last two months! It’s THAT good. You guys, my grandma even wrote it down in her recipe book and bought a kitchen scale just to make this cake, which is A FIRST for sure. That makes me feel proud of myself.

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It’s a mixture of whipped butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla bean, almond meal, ricotta cheese, and of course lots and lots of lemon zest. The first time I did this I thought the cake will turn out very dense because it is flourless – but to my surprise it is the lightest, moistest cake I ever tasted. It also has a beautiful, irresistible ground almond texture that melts in your mouth bite after bite.

Ingredients:
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
225g granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3 tablespoons lemon zest (Around 2 medium to large lemons)
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
225g almond meal
320g high quality fresh ricotta cheese

Optional:
Flaked almonds for decoration
Icing sugar for dusting

Direction:
1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C  (325°F). Line the base of a 9″ (23 cm) round cake tin with baking paper and set aside.
2. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest in an electric mixer and beat for 10 minutes until pale and creamy.
3. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and gradually add the egg yolks one at a time continuing to beat until fully combined.
4. Add the almond meal and beat to combine, then do the same with the ricotta cheese.
5. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl with a hand-held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the cake mixture. Repeat with the rest of the egg whites.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top, decorate the cake with almond flakes (optional).
7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked and firm to touch. Allow to cool completely in the cake tin.
8. Dust with icing sugar before serving. Store in the fridge.

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Christmas Fruit Cake

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Can you believe it’s almost 2014? Where did time fly?! I haven’t posted a recipe here in over 5 months! But I’m back just in time for the biggest holiday of the year.

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It’s that time of year again when people start shopping, wrapping presents, decorating their homes, cooking, and of course baking Christmas cakes! I’ve been wanting to share this recipe at the beginning of the month; I finally got my act together and prepared all the ingredients ahead of time.

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This cake, paired with coffee, is my weak point. It has a perfectly balanced taste of sweet dried fruits, dark brown sugar, and brandy. The secret to a richly moist cake is the amount of brandy you add to it: my mom bakes it a week before Christmas Day to mature it, and brushes the top of the cake with brandy at regular intervals. Woah! That’s an insane amount of liqueur. I prefer sticking to this recipe which is equally tender.

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Dried fruits are soaked in honey, brandy, and spices overnight to create juicy bursts of fruits.

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Baking pan is lined with two thicknesses of baking paper and batter is leveled with metal spatula.

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Ingredients: (Adapted from Women’s Weekly Cookbooks)
1 cup dried currents
2 cups dried raisins
1 cup dried dates, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup Brandy (liqueur can be substituted with rum, sweet sherry, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

250 grams (2.2 sticks/ 1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1+3/4 cups (300 grams) plain flour, sifted
2+1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons orange zest
Handful of blanched whole almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons extra brandy

Directions:

1. Chop dried raisins, dates, and apricots to the size of the currents. Toss with brandy, honey, and spices in a small bowl.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight or up to two days.
3. Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
4. Line base and sides of deep 19-cm (7.5 inches) square cake pan with two thicknesses of baking paper, bringing paper 5 cm –2 inches– above side of pan.
(Can also be baked in a deep 22 cm – 9 inches– round cake pan).
5. Beat softened butter and dark brown sugar in a small bowl with electric mixer until just combined.
6. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until just combined between additions.
7. Transfer mixture into a large bowl, add dried fruits, and mix by hand or wooden spoon.
8. Sift flour over the mixture, add the orange zest, and mix well.
9. Scrape and spread mixture into the pan.
10. Drop cake from a height of ~ 15 cm/5 inches onto the kitchen counter or the floor to settle mixture into the pan and to get rid of air bubbles.
11. Level surface of cake mixture with wet metal spatula. (Optional: decorate top with blanched whole almonds)
12. Bake cake in oven for 1 hour. Give the cake quarter turns during baking to avoid uneven browning.
Note: Cover cake loosely with foil during baking if it starts to over-brown.
13. Remove from the oven, brush top with extra brandy, and cover pan tightly with foil; cool cake in pan.
14. Cake can be served the same day, or stored for several days to create an even more moist cake (read storage tips below).

Tips:
• Nuts can be added to the fruit mixture ~1 cup / 125 grams blanched whole almonds or walnuts chopped coarsely.
• Dust cake with powdered sugar before serving.
• For storage: Turn cake upside down onto wire rack and peel the paper away from the sides, leaving the base paper in place. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and then foil to keep airtight, and place in a sealed plastic bag in a cool dry place. Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 months, or frozen for up to 8 months.