Sfouf bi Debes (Carob Molasses Cake)

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Sfouf is the most popular recipe on my blog: it’s a semolina anise seed tea cake that’s fluffy, moist, incredibly flavorful and vegan. The baking time is actually longer than the time it takes to mix all the ingredients together; it’s no wonder why it is the most viewed page on this site!

This version of sfouf is made with carob molasses (also known as debes el kharrub in Arabic) instead of refined white sugar. It’s a healthy and popular alternative to regular turmeric sfouf especially during Easter lent.

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Since the carob tree is native to the Mediterranean region, carob molasses is widely consumed in Lebanon. The pods of the carob fruit are mashed with water to release their sugar, then strained and boiled down until a dark thick syrup is formed. In fact it is very common in these regions to make syrups from fruits and there’s an incredible variety ranging from pomegranates, dates, grapes, to mulberry, prickly pears, and figs.

Carob molasses has a very distinctive earthy flavor that’s almost reminiscent of cocoa. That’s why it’s a great alternative to chocolate in many recipes, especially when you taste it in its raw form (I think it looses the rich cocoa taste when baked). So there you have it: an even healthier vegan sfouf cake that’s naturally sweetened. Feel free to experiment with other types of molasses if you can’t find carob at your local food market.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp tahini paste
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp anise seed
2 cups fine semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground anise seed
1 cup carob molasses
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup toasted white sesame seeds for decoration (you can also substitute with pine nuts or halved blanched almonds)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (355ºF) and grease a 11″ (28cm) round tin pan with the tbsp of tahini.
2. Seep anise seeds in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain and set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, toast the white sesame seeds in a non stick pan on medium high heat until fragrant and barely golden. Set aside to cool.
4. In a large bowl, mix the fine semolina, flour, baking powder, and ground anise seeds until homogeneous.
5. Slowly add the anise tea, carob molasses, and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain. The batter will be slightly thick.
6. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.

7. Bake for 30-35 min, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Let cool in the pan completely before inverting onto a wire rack.
10. Cut into square or diamond shapes, and store in an airtight container (cake can be frozen up to 3 months).

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.

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.

Pistachio Baklava

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The intense smell of melted butter began to swirl in my tiny apartment. I peeked into the oven to assure that the little diamond shaped baklava pieces were nicely bronzed and crisp. I knew it was time to take them out. Placing the pan on the stove, I quickly reached for the cold rose flower and orange blossom sugar syrup and poured it slowly between the cracks of the baklavas. As soon as the syrup hit the crisp phyllo dough, a satisfyingly loud sizzle took me aback. I marveled at the bubbly golden surface that looked insanely delicious and wondered how I’m going to get through the next couple of hours waiting for them to cool down. I sprinkled some leftover crushed pistachio nuts on the glazed pastries and immediately started taking pictures on my phone to send to my family in Beirut.

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A few minutes later, my mom inundated me with questions “Is the phyllo dough crunchy? Are they too sweet? Do they taste like REAL baklavas?” I could tell from her voice that she was filled with skepticism about the idea of baking Lebanese baklava at home. But let me assure you that these delectable pastries tick all the criteria of a really good baklava: browned buttery crackly top, thick middle layer of lightly sweetened ground nuts, and chewy bottom with just the right amount of sugar syrup oozing out with each bite. I’m not comparing its taste to the best Lebanese sweet shops who have decades of experience in baking these delicacies, but these come pretty close. It’s a worthwhile weekend baking project that will surely impress people and put a beaming smile on your face.

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Recipe adapted from Wandering Spice

Ingredients:
Sugar Syrup
400g (2 cups) granulated sugar
240ml (1 cup) filtered water
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp rose flower water
½ tsp orange blossom water

Nut Filling
450g (3 cups) high quality whole shelled unsalted raw pistachios
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp rose flower water
4 tbsp sugar syrup
240 ml (1 cup) clarified butter (recipe below)

Clarified Butter
226g (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, cubed

Decoration
2 tbsp. ground pistachios

Directions:

1. Remove phyllo dough from the fridge and thaw according to package instructions.

2. Prepare the syrup: place sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Allow the syrup to boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes until it reaches a light, syrupy consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the rose flower and orange blossom water. Set aside to cool down completely and store in fridge (this step can be made a couple of days in advance).

3. Place the pistachios and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Slowly pour 4 tbsp. of sugar syrup and the additional ¼ tsp of rose flower water into the mixture. Continue pulsing until the pistachios are finely ground. Reserve 2 tbsp. for decoration.

4. To clarify the butter: Line a sieve with paper towel and place over a bowl. Melt the cubed butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam. Using a spoon, skim the foam from the top and discard. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the melted butter into the lined sieve. Leave at room temperature.

5. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) and line the bottom of a 9″x13″ (23cm x 33cm) baking dish with baking paper – I used a glass pyrex.

6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut the stack of dough (20 sheets) in half to fit the size of your baking dish (40 sheets total). Place a clean, damp cloth on top to keep them from drying out.

7. Generously butter the bottom and sides of the lined pan with clarified butter. Lay one sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush clarified butter onto it. Add a second sheet of phyllo and brush with butter. Continue stacking and brushing sheets until you have 20 sheets on the bottom of the pan.

8. Pour the ground pistachio mixture on top of the phyllo stack, and spread out evenly throughout the pan.

9. Repeat the buttering and layering process with 20 more sheets on top of the nut mixture. Once done, refrigerate for 10 minutes to allow the butter to firm up and hold its shape.

10. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the raw baklava into 1.5″ vertical strips, making sure to slice all the way to the bottom of the baking dish. Then, slice diagonally in a crossways pattern, to create diamond shapes (or, just cut crosswise to make rectangles).

11. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the tops of the baklava have puffed and are golden brown.

12. Pour the cold syrup between the cracks of the baklava diamonds – it will sizzle. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top. Set aside to cool and serve at room temperature. Store covered in a container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Pomegranate Cake with Tangerine Rosewater Syrup

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Semolina flour is one of those incredibly versatile ingredients that’s always worth having on hand. I’ve used it in desserts like Halawet el Jibn, Bohsalino, and even Sfouf cake (which is the most viewed recipe on my blog!)

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In today’s post, I baked a simple semolina lemon butter cake and paired it with two seasonal fruits: pomegranate and tangerine. The juicy pomegranate seeds that are sprinkled on top of the cake batter add a subtle crunch to each bite and the tangerine syrup is mixed with rosewater, giving a bolder citrus taste. The result is an insanely moist cake with a hearty texture, slightly chewy edges, and refreshingly bright flavors that reminds me of warmer weather.

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Ingredients:

Cake:
¼ cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
185g butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
150g (2/3 cup) sugar
150g (1 cup) flour
80g (½ cup) semolina
½ cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Syrup:
125ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
60ml (¼ cup) water
2 teaspoon rosewater

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line one 8″ (20cm) round cake pan with parchment paper.
2. Mix yogurt with lemon juice, set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter with lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
4. Fold in the flour, semolina, and yogurt-lemon into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula. Mix until just combined.
5. Spread the thick batter into prepared pan, top with pomegranate seeds then sprinkle demerara sugar evenly.
6. Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir the tangerine juice, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over high heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolved. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Take off the heat, stir in rosewater, and strain into a jug.
8. After taking the cake out of the oven, let it stand in the pan for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack top side up. Pierce cake all over with a skewer and pour about 3/4 of the syrup over hot cake. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and extra syrup.

Optional:
 Sprinkle extra pomegranate seeds before serving.

Light Banana Bread

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Would you believe me if I said that I can never get banana bread recipes right? Whenever I have overripe bananas on hand I prefer making pancakes, muffins, or ice cream because I used to dread ending up with a failed banana bread. No matter how many recipes I tried, the result is always the same: a cooked outside with a dense/raw center. But I recently decided to give it another try, after all it should be in every baker’s repertoire.

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In a desperate attempt to bake the perfect loaf, I tried Joanne Chang’s recipe from her book Baking with Less Sugar. While, yes, the technique of whipping the eggs and heating bananas are extra steps to a seemingly easy banana bread recipe, they made me wonder if the end result will be successful. And to my surprise it turned out perfect from the first time! Moderately sweet, airy, tender and fool-proof. I added a streusel-ish topping consisting of walnuts, oats, and cinnamon to give an extra chew, but you can leave it out if you prefer a simpler version.

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Recipe adapted from Baking with Less Sugar

Ingredients:

• 80g (¾ cup) raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
• 175g (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp kosher salt
• 3 large eggs, room temperature
• 80g (6 tablespoon) sugar
• 70g (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
• 4 medium very ripe bananas
• 90g yogurt
• 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:
• 2 tbsp rolled oats
• 2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
• 2 tsp coconut oil
• 2 tsp honey

Directions:
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 325°F (165°C). Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 9″x5″ (23×13 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. Put the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
4. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil. Be sure to pour it carefully to avoid deflating the air in the batter.
6. In a microwave safe bowl, mash 3 bananas with a fork (I prefer leaving a few chunks) and microwave for one minute until they are hot. Alternatively, cook in a saucepan on medium-high heat until soft and mushy for 2 minutes. Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Mash the remaining banana and add it to the mixture.
7. Add the banana mixture to the egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.
8. Fold in your dry ingredients and nuts by hand with a rubber spatula until combined, making sure that there are no white streaks in the batter. Then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
9. Mix the oats, walnuts, coconut oil, and honey in a separate bowl and sprinkle over cake batter.
10. Bake for 55-60 minutes until the top of the banana bread is golden and springs back when you poke the center.
11. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before turning it on a wire rack.
12. Banana bread can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 day, or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two weeks then thawed overnight at room temperature.

Note: If you have a loaf pan that’s smaller than 9″x5″ pour less of the batter in the pan and bake the remaining mixture in a muffin pan.

Apple Rum Raisin Walnut Loaf

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Freshly ground cinnamon, apple cider, dried fruits, roasted nuts, spiced rum. That’s the lovely smell of Fall and damn it is GOOD.

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I’m kicking off fall baking season with the classic Apple Rum Raisin Walnut Loaf. It is one of my favorite cakes, and seriously the reason why I love fall. It is an unbelievably moist cake swirled with cinnamon coated apples, crunchy walnuts, and bursts of rum soaked raisins. In other words, pure happiness.

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Now that the weather is cooling down and the colors of the leaves are changing, the best thing for you to do is to bake this loaf and fill your apartment with a cozy autumnal smell. Then cuddle up on the couch and enjoy a hearty piece of cake while sipping some tea or coffee. Nothing gets me more excited than baked good– I hope you do too!

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On a side note, you can follow me on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates (don’t forget to let me know if you have any recipe requests!).

Ingredients:

100g (2/3 cup) dried raisins
75ml (1/4 cup) Rum or Orange Liqueur
300g (2 ¼ cup) all purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
150ml (1/2 cup+2 tablespoons) walnut oil or vegetable oil
170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
400g (about 3 medium) apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
Zest of 1 lemon
100g (1 cup) chopped walnuts

Directions:

1. Bring to a boil the dried raisins and rum in a small saucepan, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C).
3. Grease and line a 18×9 cm (3.5″ x 7.5″) loaf cake pan.
4. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, and baking powder and set aside.
5. In a large bowl beat together the oil and the sugar with a hand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
6. Add the sifted ingredients and beat just until incorporated. Fold in the raisins, apples, lemon zest, and walnuts with a spatula.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top with a spatula.
8. Bake for 90 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
9. Let cool for 15 minutes then turn onto a wire rack.