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.

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.

Mango Lime Curd

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This smooth and luscious mango curd is perfect for topping tart slices, spreading on toast, or just serving it on the side with pastries. The sweetness level totally customizable, and it depends on how sweet the mangos are. Personally, I like a curd that’s tart and not too sweet. Store the curd in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to a year.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:
425g mango slices
¼ to ½ cup light honey (depending on how sweet the mangoes are)
¼ cup lime juice
Zest of one lime
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
55g butter (¼cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:
• Puree mango slices, honey, lime juice, zest and salt in a food processor, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
• Add yolks and puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal or glass bowl, pressing on solids with the back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.
• Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk the puree until thickened for 12-15 minutes.
• Set the bowl on a moist towel and whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Transfer to a glass jar, cover and refrigerate.

Karabij (Semolina Rosewater Pistachio Cookies)

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I’ve always been curious about the science of baking. Understanding how ingredients work together to create specific baked goods is so fascinating and that’s what keeps me driven to try out new recipes and techniques. For example, when I think of a simple pie crust recipe, so many questions rush through my mind: Should I use American butter, European butter, or vegetable shortening? Do I need a fork, pastry cutter or stand mixer to blend in the cold butter? Ice cold water, vinegar, or vodka? Ceramic, aluminum or glass pie dish? Not one technique is “correct” or the best – it’s all a matter of using your best judgement and understanding how all these factors result in unique outcomes.

Baking is like a fun guessing game: you never know what you’re going to end up with. Once you get the basic principles of how ingredients work together, then you feel so liberated to experiment with recipes and use your creative imagination to create almost anything. So when people ask me how I got into baking, or why I’m so passionate about it, that’s usually my answer. Baking makes me feel happy, powerful, and liberated. I love that word.

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So I’m sharing a Karabij recipe today. For those of you who are not familiar with these cookies, they’re typically traditional Lebanese cookies made with a semolina butter rosewater dough that’s filled with a sweetened pistachio paste. I’ve been baking a lot with semolina and pistachios lately. They’re two of my favorite ingredients – and I really can’t wait to play around with some baking techniques to (hopefully!) create a completely new recipe for my next post.

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Make about 35-40 cookies (mine were about 1″ wide and 2.5″ long / 2.5cm x6cm)

Semolina dough:
200g semolina flour (or farkha, finer wheat)
100g farina flour (or smid, coarser wheat)
10g powdered sugar or 1 tablespoon
100g (1 stick) melted butter
26g (2 Tbsp.) rose water
26g (2 Tbsp.) water

Pistachio paste:
100g (3.5 oz or 1 cup) ground pistachio
60g (5 Tbsp.) powdered sugar
15g (1 Tbsp.) rose water
10g melted butter

• Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
• In a medium bowl, mix the semolina flour, farina, and powdered sugar.
• Add the melted butter and mix well. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for an hour.
• Mix in the rose water and water then cover with the damp cloth or kitchen towel and leave the dough to rest for another 30 minutes. If the dough is still crumbly, add water until it just comes together.
• In a small bowl, mix the ground pistachio, powdered sugar, rose water and melted butter until homogeneous and forms a dough. Cover with damp cloth or kitchen towel, set aside.
• Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C).
• Scoop one tablespoon of the semolina dough and roll into a log between the palm of your hands then flatten it to form a thin dough.
• Scoop approximately 2 teaspoons of the pistachio dough and put the filling down the middle. Shape the cookie into rounded logs or fingers with rounded edges.
• Fill and shape the remaining dough and transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven.
• Bake the cookies for 25 minutes until golden (don’t bake too long or the cookies will harden!) If you prefer a reddish toasted top, place the sheet for 5 minutes under a broiler at the end of the baking time.
• Take out the baking sheet and let the cookies cool down completely. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
• Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up 3 months.

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.

Blueberry Lemon Scones

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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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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.