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.

Roasted Mango Rum Buttermilk Ice Cream

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I don’t usually look up mango recipes online, but whenever I have a lot of one particular fruit in my fridge then I try to come up with a new recipe that brings out its natural flavors. I made a marvelous Mango Lime Curd spread two weeks ago, so I decided to go in another direction and make a boozy tropical ice cream that reminds me of frozen summer cocktails on the beach.

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The process of roasting the fruit at the beginning of the recipe reduces its water content and caramelizes its natural sugars, therefore packing in an intense mango flavor. I also added a generous amount of rum in the ice cream base because alcohol lowers the freezing point and keeps the ice cream very creamy and easy to scoop without any ice crystals. The result is a rich, luscious, and incredibly addicting mango rum ice cream that is nearly impossible to just have just one spoonful.

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What I love about this recipe is that you can substitute the mangoes with any other seasonal fruit like cherries, peaches, blueberries, strawberries or apricots.
Recipe adapted from Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit desserts for every season.

Ingredients:
1.5 pound (700g) peeled and sliced mangoes
1/3 cup (75g) granulated sugar
1½ Tbs rum

2 Tbs light honey
1/4 cup rum
1 tsp lemon juice

1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

*Substitute by combining 1 cup milk with 1 Tbs of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let stand for 10 minutes until thickened.

Directions:
• Pre-heat oven to 400°C (200°F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• In a small bowl, toss the mango slices with the sugar and rum, and transfer to the lined baking sheet.
• Bake the mangoes for 40 minutes, until bubbling. Take out of the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
• Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender with the honey, rum, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth, and pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl to remove any fibers.
• Stir in the buttermilk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract then chill the mixture for 4-12 hours in the fridge. When the mixture is cold, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Transfer to a freezer safe container, cover, and freeze until firm – at least 5 hours. Keeps for 5-7 days.

Orange Blossom Peach Pie with Whipped Labneh

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When I visit the farmer’s market on Sundays, I always buy a couple of necessary things like grape tomatoes, goat cheese, fresh farm eggs, herbs, mushrooms, berries, and of course tree ripened peaches. I can’t get enough of peaches during the summer time and they make wonderfully seasonal sweet pie fillings.

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The combination of the sweet peaches and buttery, flaky dough is a perfectly classic American baked good. I decided to add a twist to it by including orange blossom water in the filling and serving it with whipped honey’d labneh on the side. Distilled from the essence of orange tree flowers, orange blossom water adds a delicate and refreshing floral scent and taste that elevates the pie to an almost otherworldly fruit dessert.

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Pie Crust:
Yields two 9″ (23 cm) pie crusts. Recipe Adapted from Pastry Affair

315 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
226 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, freezer cold, cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 tbsp + 2 tsp ice water
1 tsp white vinegar

Egg wash (1 whole egg + 2 tsp water)
Demerara sugar

• In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
• Add half of the cold, cubed butter and rub the butter and flour between your fingers until it resembles coarse sand. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor or mixer with a paddle attachment)
• Add the second half the cubed butter and rub in into the flour, but leave it in larger pieces (approximately the size of a hazelnut).
• Gradually add the ice cold water and vinegar and mix the dough together until the dough holds together when squeezed in your hand. Add more water one teaspoon at a time if needed.
• Place the dough on parchment paper and use the paper to press the dough into a disk. To make the dough uniform, fold the dough in half, using the paper. Press down and fold in the opposite direction. Repeat until the dough appears uniform.
• Cut the dough in half, and shape into two disks, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour – preferably overnight (or up to 2-3 days). Pie dough can be also kept in the freezer wrapped tightly up to 3 months.
• Working quickly, roll out the first disk on a lightly floured surface into a 14″ (35 cm) round for a 9″ (23 cm) pie pan. Wrap dough lightly around a rolling pin and transfer to the pie pan. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to allow a 1″ (2.5 cm) overhang.
• Pour the strained peach filling (see recipe below) into the pastry shell.
• Roll out the second pie crust to top the filling and create small slits to allow venting. Or create a decorative lattice top.
• Brush the pie crust with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with demerara sugar. Refrigerate the pie for 20-30 minutes.
• Meanwhile, place a large baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 375ºF (190ºC).
• Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 80-90 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Peach Filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2.5 pounds peaches, around 8 small peaches sliced (peeling is optional)
1/3 cup orange blossom honey
Zest of half an organic lemon
2 tbsp orange blossom water (Mazaher)

• Mix the sugar and corn starch in a large bowl until homogeneous. Add the sliced peaches, honey, lemon zest, and orange blossom water and gently mix with a spatula until homogeneous.
• Let it sit in the fridge for 20 minutes, then strain the mixture before pouring it into the pie shell.

Whipped Labneh:
1/2 cup labneh (see recipe here)
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp orange blossom honey
1/2 tsp orange blossom water (Mazaher)

• Using a hand mixer, whip all the ingredients until airy. Serve cold dollops of whipped labneh with warm peach pie slices.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

I recently read a quote by Salvador Dali that said: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” That really struck me and made me think about how important is it to forgive yourself when trying to achieve perfection since nothing is perfect and we are all just a work in progress.

We shouldn’t expect too much of ourselves, and our standards in perfection are not set in stone: they’re different from one individual to another, constantly changing over the years. Perfection is out there – it inspires and guides us towards a journey full of experiences that help us improve ourselves while recognizing our flaws. Just know that it will always be out of reach.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

I was hesitant about posting these handmade strawberry rhubarb hand pie pictures because they’re not “perfect” by my standards. Some of of the pies are barely sealed others are oozing out the filling but they tasted really good. It’s all about that tender, flaky crust that puffs up into beautiful layers.

Strawberry Rhubarb Hand Pies | Brownie Box

I’ve always been fascinated by rhubarb and I love using these tall red celery looking stalks in baked goods. The ratio of crust in these hand pies is much higher that the filling so you’ll definitely get more crust in each bite especially considering that rhubarb shrinks a lot when baking, much more than strawberries. Just don’t try to overstuff the pies because you’ll end up with messy and runny pies like mine, but hey– there’s always beauty in imperfection.

Recipe adapted from Hint of Vanilla – makes about 12-15 hand pies

Pie Dough:

Ingredients:

For Pastry:
430g all-purpose flour
3g kosher salt
15g granulated sugar
230g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
250mL cold water
62g cider vinegar
100g ice

For Filling:
200g fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
300g strawberries
80g light brown sugar
12g cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp kosher salt
1 large egg

For Assembly:
1 egg
1 Tbsp whole milk
raw sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:
1. Stir the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter. Work quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain.
2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup. Sprinkle two tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix with a bench scraper until fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
3. Divide the dough into two flat disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.
4. Prepare the filling by combining the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl, toss to combine then stir in egg. Place in the fridge.
5. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C)
6. Generously flour your work surface. Place one chilled, unwrapped dough on the flour, keeping the other disk refrigerated while you work. Gently roll your dough out from the center until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into six 4″x5″ rectangles. Gather dough scraps, and shape into rectangles as well. If the dough becomes difficult to work with at any point, chill for a few minutes in the freezer on a baking sheet before continuing.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay rectangles on parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly beat egg with milk for egg wash in a small bowl.
8. Brush edges of rectangles with wash, place 1-2 tbsp. filling in center of each rectangle. Fold one short side of dough over the other, encasing the filling. Crimp edges using a fork. Transfer pies to parchment paper-lined baking sheets and chill 20 minutes.
9. Brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits with a knife or prick tops with a fork.
10. Repeat with other disc of dough and remaining filling.
11. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until pies are golden, about 30-35 minutes; let cool on wire rack before serving.

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.