Friday, March 20, 2009

Basbousah for Carmen

My friend Carmen got married last month. Her new husband is Egyptian, and for the last couple of years we've been talking about how much she loves his cooking, and about the merits of Middle Eastern food in general. This recipe, adapted from Joan Nathan, is one of their wedding presents. I'd like to think it's got a little touch of both of their cultures in it: semolina and almonds for him, and a drop of miel para la iyalocha. (Maferefun Ochun!) A honey-glazed cake for a happy home, with lots of love from me and Bill.

2 cups cream of wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
2 dozen blanched almonds (available in Middle Eastern stores)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 cups water
2 tablespoons orange flower water (or vanilla or even 1/2 cup lemon juice or orange juice -- if you use fruit juice, zest the rind of the fruit before you juice it and add a little minced zest to the cake batter. I added a shot of grand marnier to the syrup for an orange-infused basbousah last night, and it was divine.)

whipped cream for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the cream of wheat and baking powder in a bowl. Add the sour cream, sugar and melted butter and mix well.

2. Grease a 10 inch round cake pan and dust with the bread crumbs. Pour in the filling and pat down until it is even. Make a diamond design by scoring the mix with a knife. Put one blanched almond in the center of each diamond. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes, until golden on top.

3.In the meantime, bring the sugar, honey and water to boil in a saucepan and let simmer until it is a thick syrup. Add the orange flower water or other flavoring.

4. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup over it. Let stand until cool. Serve each diamond-shaped piece of cake with whipped cream.

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