Brioche with Mahleb Date Paste and Walnuts

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There’s something about making brioche from scratch that brings comfort and pleasure: the rich smell of butter and yeast, the pillowy soft dough beneath your hands, the quiet hours of the kitchen, the dark golden loaf rising in the oven. The whole process calms me and makes me forget about stressful weekdays and the constant buzz of people in this chaotic yet charming city.

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The flavors I used here are inspired by K’aak bi M’aamoul, these little round semolina cookies filled with dates, nuts, and orange blossom water. They remind me of home – Beirut – and my family’s traditional recipes. What I love about this combination is  the thick pockets of mahleb date paste layered with crunchy walnuts and the soft aerated brioche dough.

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A freshly baked warm slice of buttery brioche brings a smile to my face but if you end up with leftovers the next day, go ahead and make french toast. The bread is naturally sweetened with dates so there’s no need to douse it with honey or maple syrup.

Brioche dough recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook
Makes two 9″x4″ (23 cm x 10 cm) loaves

Ingredients:

Date Paste
250g pitted medjool dated
30g butter
3 Tbs water
1 tsp orange blossom water
¼ tsp ground mahleb

Make the Date Paste:
1. Place the dates and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, and stir until the dates get really soft.
2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Blend until a smooth thick paste is formed. Cover and set aside.

Roasted Walnuts
1 cup, chopped roasted walnuts (reserve a handful to sprinkle on top of the loaves)

Brioche
372g bread flour
8g instant yeast
45g granulated sugar
5g fine sea salt
186g eggs, room temperature
63 g whole milk, room temperature
170 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/8th inch dice
1 small beaten egg with a dash of water  (for the egg wash)

Make the Dough:
1. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray.
2. For the brioche, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly.
3. Add all of the remaining dough ingredients except for the butter and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
4. Add the butter a few pieces at a time, incorporating after each addition before adding the next. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and push the dough off the hook. Mix for a total of roughly 20 minutes on low speed. (it is ready when the dough is elastic and holds together in one piece)
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the left side over to the right, the right over to the left, then the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top so you have a “package” with the seam at the top. Place the dough seam-side down in the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it ferment for 1 hour.
6. Repeat the folding process, place it back in the bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours).

7. Grease a 9×4 inch (22 x 13 cm) loaf pan. Line the tin with parchment paper, making sure to let it slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.
8. Remove the brioche from the refrigerator and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Work with one piece of dough at a time while keeping the other half in the refrigerator.
9. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a rectangular shape, about 10 x 15 inch (25 x 40 cm).
10. Spread half of the date filling onto the brioche using an offset spatula, reaching all the way to the edges but leaving half an inch (1.3 cm) of dough bare on one of the long sides. Sprinkle with half of the chopped walnuts.
11. Brush the bare part with water. Starting from the other long side, roll up the dough tightly and evenly. Refrigerate the dough for 15-20 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet.
12. Using a large knife, make a cut in the dough log. Place the right half of dough over the left, then repeat until you have a “braid” of dough. Gently press the ends of the dough together them together, then place in the prepared loaf pan.
13. Place a piece of oiled plastic wrap lightly on the surface of the brioche and let it proof in a warm place for 2 hours. (Note: I turn the oven for a minute and place boiling water in a cup to add some steam – make sure the oven is not too hot!). Take the brioche dough out of the oven.
14. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly brush the brioche with egg wash, sprinkle with more walnuts, and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
15. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing. (Repeat the process for the second brioche dough).

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.

No-Bake Granola Bars

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

These no-bake healthy and energizing granola bars have my favorite ratio of oats, nuts, and dried fruits.

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

You can get really creative with the recipe by adding more oats or a mashed banana, omitting the nuts, mixing in chocolate chips, drizzling melted chocolate on top, or adding more honey for a sweeter taste. You basically have complete control of what you’re using in the mixture as long as you stick to the same ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. What I also love about this recipe is that it doesn’t require turning on the oven because the honey, coconut oil, and nut butter holds all the ingredients together ensuring insanely delicious and chewy bars.

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

They’re great as a topping for your morning greek yogurt bowl or as an afternoon snack. But I found it incredibly hard to stop nibbling on them all day (and then feel bad about it), that’s why I always freeze them individually and let them thaw in the fridge for when I need them!

No-Bake Granola Bars | Brownie Box

Recipe adapted from Bowl of Delicious – Makes 12/15 bars

Ingredients

4 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp organic honey (or other sweetener, such as molasses, agave, maple syrup)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp almond butter (or peanut butter)
1 cup organic old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup sliced walnuts
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
½ cup chopped dried apricots
1 Tbsp chia seeds

Directions

1. Melt the coconut oil, honey, and cinnamon over medium heat and bring to a boil.
2. Let it bubble for a minute then turn the heat down to low, and stir in the vanilla, almond butter, and oats. Stir to coat.
3. Add the nuts/seeds, shredded coconut, and dried apricots, then mix until fully incorporated.
5. Continue cooking on low heat for 2 minutes then remove from heat.
6. Meanwhile, line a 6″x8″ (15 x 20 cm) baking dish with parchment paper, leaving the sides of the paper long.
7. Add the mixture to the dish; press with the back of a wooden spoon so it is evenly spread out.
8. Fold the parchment paper wrap over the granola so the top is covered (get more if necessary). Press the granola aggressively, so it is as packed as you can make it. You can use the wooden spoon, the palm of your hands, a dish/cup, or a glass mason jar. Just make sure it is well packed and evenly distributed!
9. Place in refrigerator and allow to cool completely – at least two hours up to overnight.
10. Remove granola from parchment paper –  it should be in one big block. Cut into bars, and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge for about 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Butternut Squash Scones with Dates and Walnuts

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Let’s talk about scones shall we?

I’m no expert at scones, but I learned a few tips and tricks that will help you make great scones every time. And since I go completely crazy over butternut butternut squash every fall, I decided to post a recipe that combines a few of my favorite things. So here it is a light and flaky scone recipe with a subtle hint of butternut squash, walnuts, and sweets dates.

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The first thing to keep in mind when making these is to handle the dough gently and as little as possible. Start off by sifting the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice. Yup, twice. Why do you ask? Sifting helps in breaking up existing clumps which will produce lovely light pastries. It also blends the dry ingredients which gives more consistency and therefore better results.

Then proceed in grating the frozen butter and mixing it with your fingers until it resemble crumbs. When adding in the chilled wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, you don’t want to mix it more than it all just coming together or the scones will turn out chewy. As soon as the dough comes together, tip it onto a floured surface and form it into a thick round circle, and slice it into eight wedges. If you prefer small scones (like the ones pictured) then continue reading the directions below. Now, the dough may be sticky and that’s totally okay. If it is too sticky, I found that putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes makes it easier to handle.

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It is very important to keep the whole mixture cold all the time because you don’t want the butter to melt. These cold bits of butter will create pockets of air when they’re in the oven, therefore making the scones airy, light, and flaky. If you have some extra time, chill the sliced wedges for 20 minutes before placing them in the oven: this will help in making the scones flakier and rising higher.

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Serve the scones as soon as they’re out of the oven with some jam, butter, or cheese!

Ingredients: Makes about 24 mini scones

1 large egg, cold
1/2 cup butternut squash or pumpkin puree*, chilled
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
310g (2+1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
55g (1/4 cup) packed brown sugar
113g (1/2 cup, 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, frozen
175g (1 cup) chopped dates, tossed in flour (to avoid pieces to stick together)
100g (1 cup) chopped walnuts

*To make butternut squash puree, simply cut a squash in half, discard the seeds, and bake in a 400°F (200°C) preheated oven until tender (about 45-60 minutes). Scoop the softened squash in a blender and puree until smooth.

Directions:

1. In a small bowl combine egg, pumpkin, yogurt, and vanilla extract and mix well and keep refrigerated.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices twice. Mix in the sugar.
4. Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate the frozen butter into flour mixture and mix with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
5. Stir the chilled wet ingredients into flour mixture. Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until just combined then turn out onto a floured surface.

For regular sized scones:
Using the palm of your hand, shape the dough into a 7″ (18 cm) circle, 1″ (2.5 cm) thick, and cut into eight equal wedges. Then transfer each wedge to a lined baking sheet spacing them apart and brush with cream or egg wash (a mix of 1 tablespoon of water or milk with a whole egg). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just golden then cool. Serve immediately.

For mini scones:
Pat the dough with the back of your hand and shape into a large rectangle, about 10″ (25cm) long, 7″ (18cm) wide, and 1″(2.5cm) thick. Straighten the sides with a dough scraper. Cut the rectangle into 3 long rectangles, and then each into small triangles using diagonal cuts. Place them on a baking sheet 1/4 inch (1cm) apart. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until just golden then cool. Serve immediately.