Bohsalino (Pistachio Paste filled with Kashta Cheese)

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Bohsalino reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen and how dedicated she is as a cook and baker. I always watch her prepare this Lebanese dessert when she visits Lebanon. It used to look so complex to me: grinding the pistachios, magically turning them into a sweet paste, and sandwiching it with creamy kashta (fresh Lebanese cheese, which can be substituted with Ricotta cheese). I am still fascinated by the whole process and how good it tastes! I’m not lying when I say that I can live on bohsalino instead of chocolate. That’s a dangerous statement don’t you think?

For some reason this dessert always seems to be a mystery to me. No one but my grandma makes it. When I tell people about it most of them have no clue what I’m talking about; that’s because it’s not as popular as other Middle-Eastern desserts such as sfouf, knafeh, or baklava. So I decided to write a post about bohsalino, because I want to be able to whip up a big plate whenever I want and tell the whole world that they are missing out a fabulous dessert, possibly one of the best ever.

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This fall, I called my grandma to ask for the recipe so that I could figure out how to make it. Like most grandma recipes, there was a list of ingredients, approximations of quantities, and inexact instructions. When I asked her: “How long do I cook the semolina?”, “How much heavy cream do I add to the kashta?”, or “How much rose water do I need for this recipe?!” She simply replied to me to figure it out “3al nazar” (common Arabic expression that means add to taste or ‘visually’). I had no choice but to make it through trial and error, and write down the exact quantity of ingredients for consistent results.

Bohsalino is very rich with flavor additives such as rose water, orange blossom water, and mastic. The latter is a well known ingredient in Arabic, Greek, and Turkish cuisines. Mastic (miskeh or arabic gum) are very aromatic resin drops mainly used in pastries, breads, puddings, and desserts because it enhances the taste of the ingredients. You can buy mastic in Greek/Middle-Eastern/international stores, or online.

I divided the recipe into separate sections to make it easier for assembly at the end.

1. Prepare the sugar syrup, which holds the dry ingredients together and forms a paste.
2. Cook the coarse semolina flour and butter over medium heat to reduce the gritty texture.

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3. Grind the unsalted pistachios in a food processor.

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4. Mix these three together to get a sweet pistachio semolina paste and then roll out into a 12.5″ circle.

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5. Prepare the kashta cheese mixture, which will be spread out on top of the paste.

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6. Add the second paste on top of the cheese to close it off, and trim the edges.

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7. Finish off with some decorations on top.

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Here’s the recipe for Bohsalino. It’s easy, quick to prepare, and excellent for a crowd.

Ingredients and Directions:
Sugar Syrup:
1 cup water
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup rose water
¼ cup orange blossom water

Stir the water and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once it starts boiling, add the lemon juice and continue boiling the mixture for another 2 minutes. Take the saucepan off the heat, stir in the rose and orange blossom water, and set aside to cool.

Pistachio Semolina Paste:
1 cup coarse semolina (not semolina flour)
113 grams (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
500 grams raw unsalted shelled pistachios (shells removed)

Combine the coarse semolina and butter in a small saucepan and place on low heat. Stir until the butter melts and the semolina becomes a bit lighter in color (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour mixture in a large bowl.

Grind the raw pistachios in a food processor until finely ground and reserve ¼ cup on  for later use. Add the rest of the pistachio flour to the semolina paste and mix with until homogeneous.

Slowly pour in the sugar syrup while mixing with wooden spoon just until a firm dough is formed (you will end up with extra syrup). It’s important not to work slowly and be careful not to pour all the syrup at once or you will end up with a gooey pistachio paste that doesn’t hold its shape*. Once your dough is ready, place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Kashta Cheese Mixture:
4 medium drops of mastic
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
500 grams kashta (or ricotta cheese)
3 tablespoons heavy cream (or 4 tablespoons if you using ricotta cheese)
1 tablespoon rose water
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
Rose petal jam (for decoration – optional)

Grind mastic drops with the sugar in a mortar and pestle until it turns into powder. Sift the mixture to get rid of clumps. Mix the kashta cheese with the mastic powder, heavy cream, rose water, and orange blossom water. Reserve ¼ cup on the side for decoration.

Assembly:
Divide the pistachio semolina paste in 2 halves. Cut out two sheets of wax paper, large enough to cover a 32 cm (12.5″) serving plate. Sandwich one half of the paste between both sheets of wax paper. Press the paste down with a rolling pin and move it from the center out. Roll into a 32 cm (12.5 inch) circle and then transfer to round serving plate.

Spread the cheese mixture over the first layer of pistachio paste. Roll out the second half of the dough and place on top of the kashta cheese mixture to close then trim the edges. Add the reserved ground pistachio on top and spread out to cover the whole surface. Pipe the reserved kashta cheese on top and decorate with rose petal jam (optional).

*Troubleshooting tip: If you added too much syrup and the dough is too soft or sticky,  slowly add coarse semolina to the mixture and re-heat again until the gritty texture is gone and the dough is smooth and shiny.

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Moist Orange and Lemon Syrup Cupcakes

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This is my favorite Orange and Lemon Syrup Cupcake recipe. It’s light, fluffy, incredibly moist, and bursting with citrus taste. It’s not topped with frosting, so it’s very light and not too sweet. The zest is a very important ingredient because it gives a wonderful flavor: using a grater, just scrape the outer colored skin of the orange and lemon (don’t grate the white part because it has a bitter taste).

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It is a very easy recipe, it took me less than an hour to do these cupcakes. Seriously, you just need to mix all the ingredients together, fill the cupcake liners with the mixture, then make simple syrup for the baked cupcakes. So if you’re too lazy to work in the kitchen or simply don’t have time to whip up something yummy and homemade, this is the perfect recipe.

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I was really surprised at how moist and fluffy they are. At first I was skeptical about pouring a lot of syrup on the cupcakes because I was afraid that they will turn out too sweet. But it actually enhanced the orange lemon flavor and gave the cakes a super tender and light texture.

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Bon Appetit 🙂

Ingredients: (adapted from the book Cupcakes, a fine selection of sweet treats)
125 g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
230 g (8 1/2 oz , 1 cup) caster sugar, superfine
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (1 big lemon)
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (1 big orange)
3 large eggs, room temperature
125 ml (4 fl oz, 1/2 cup) milk
185 g (6 1/2 oz, 1+1/2 cups) self-raising flour, sifted (or check this substitute)

Lemon Syrup
100 ml (a little less than 1/2 cup) water
115 g (4 1/4 oz, 1/2 cup) caster sugar, superfine
Zest of 1 lemon, thinly sliced (or grated)
Zest of 1 orange, thinly sliced (or grated)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F / Gas 4)
2. Line 18 muffin holes with paper cases.
3. Place the butter, sugar, and lemon and orange zests in a saucepan
4. Stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved
5. Transfer to a large bowl
6. Add the eggs, milk and flour and beat with electric beaters until just combined (I used a wooden spoon instead)
7. Divide the mixture evenly among the case.
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake
9. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool
10. To make the lemon syrup, place the water and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved
11. Add the lemon and orange zests, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionnally or until golden and syrupy.
12. Strain the syrup, pour over a little of the syrup on each cake (You can also decorate with some reserved strips of zest).

Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake

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My sister turned 25 this past weekend and she came all the way from Switzerland to celebrate her birthday with friends and family. And what was I supposed to do the day before her birthday? Oh yes. Bake my first layered cake. Did you think that I was going to let my mother buy a cake from a patisserie?

I always bake vanilla or chocolate cakes for birthdays, so I decided to try something completely new. I found this gorgeous Strawberry Shortcake recipe at The Candid Appetite. I must admit, I really enjoyed looking (gawking) at the step-by-step pictures. They were really helpful in understanding the process of whipping up the cake batter, baking it into two separate pans, making the syrup, then perfectly assembling the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. I read the whole post twice and I thought– hey this is easy, the cake will be done in no time! Well it was not that drama free. It took me about 4 hours to finish everything, but then again it is my first time baking a layered cake that I’ve never tested before– for a birthday party. I only had this one chance to make it perfect. You see, I don’t have all the equipments: just one mixing bowl, and one 23 cm (9 inch) cake pan. So I had to clean the mixing bowl about 3 times and bake the cake batter in two separate batches…  It’s definitely easier to have all the baking equipments and your ingredients ready before starting.

The sponge cakes required beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form then folding them into a sugar/egg yolk mixture. I’m so happy that they came out beautifully on my first try! Next, I had to evenly brush the Rum Syrup on the baked cakes. It might seem like a lot of syrup at first, but it really gives the cake a great flavor, so don’t skip this step! For the whipped cream, I put my metal whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes to make sure that the cold cream will whip up perfectly. Then I swathed the sponge cakes with dollops of whipped cream and slices of deep red strawberries. I finished it all off with more strawberries at the top (you can also add sliced almonds on the sides of the cake). Yum. It’s a really light and slightly sweet cake, perfect for the spring season!

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No birthday should pass without a fine bottle of champagne (Not bad huh?).
I thought it would be nice to share with you all a few pictures of the cake.

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Ingredients: (adapted from The Candid Appetite)

Sponge Cakes (yields two 23 cm-9 inch cakes)

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup (200 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140 gr) cake flour, sifted (I used a substitute here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • About 4 cups (600 gr) of fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced (reserve 8 whole berries for the top)
  • 2 cups (90 gr) sliced almonds for decoration (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 160 degrees Celsius (325 F)
  2. Separate the eggs into two mixing bowls.
  3. Start by beating the egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored.
  4. Beat in sugar gradually.
  5. Add water and vanilla extract.
  6. Mix in the sifted cake flour/ or its substitute (above)
  7. In another bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Then add salt. Beat mixture until whites form stiff peaks.
  8. Fold the whipped egg whites mixture into yolk mixture, carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites. Do not over-mix.
  9. Pour the batter into two 23 cm / 9 inch pans lined with parchment paper.
  10. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  11. Allow the cakes to cool on a cooling rack, then invert the cakes.
  12. Place one of the layers on a serving plate or stand. Brush on the Rum Syrup (recipe follows) evenly and heavily onto the first layer. Dollop with a spoonful of the whipped cream (recipe follows) and spread evenly over the cake layer. Arrange the strawberry slices over the cream. Top with another spoonful of cream and spread once again.
  13. Top with the second layer of sponge cake, and brush with more of the Rum Syrup. Place a large dollop of the whipped cream. Spread out evenly over the top. Using an offset spatula cover the cake completely with the whipped cream. Smooth it out, removing any excess cream.
  14. Cover the sides of the cake with the sliced almonds. Arrange reserved strawberries at top of cake. Store in the fridge.

Rum Syrup (yields 1 cup)

  • 1 cup water (250 ml)
  • 1 cup sugar (200 gr)
  • 1/4 cup rum (60 ml)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat.
  2. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes more.
  4. Remove pan from heat, and stir in rum.
  5. Let cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled completely, the syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Whipped Cream (yields 3 cups)

  • 3 cups (750 ml) very cold heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (80 gr) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large mixing bowl, pour the heavy cream and mix on low-medium speed for several minutes.
  2. Once the cream has frothed and slightly thickened, add the sugar and vanilla.
  3. Continue to whip on medium-high until soft peaks form. Don’t over mix or the cream will turn buttery.