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.
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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.

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.