Tag Archives: zest

Syrupy almond-semolina cake – revani or basbousa

Revani cake

Some time in the late-1990s, I cut this recipe out of a newspaper. The writer was definitely Andy Harris, the paper was possibly The Independent. I went through a phase of making it loads then, I don’t know, it just seemed to get forgotten. I’ve no idea why, as it’s great. Just my sort of thing – quite dense and textured thanks to its use of almonds and semolina and moist thanks to a flavoursome syrup poured over after baking.

The name Harris used was revani, and he wrote about it as a Greek cake. Actually it’s a common through much of the Eastern Mediterranean, Levant, Maghreb and Middle East and is also known by the alternative spelling ravani, and by other names such as basbousa, hareesa/harisa, namoura and kalbelouz. Some versions appear to feature coconut. I don’t fancy this as syrup is spiced up with cinnamon, cloves and orange and in tandem with the flavour of almonds, I think the coconut would be a bit much.

I’ve added a little orange blossom water to the original recipe. In part to boost that orangey-ness, but also as I find it’s the sort of ingredient that gets pushed to back of the cupboard and forgotten until it’s a decade over its best-before date. So I want to keep using it. Harris’s recipe featured brandy, but I don’t have any, I’m not sure what it would add, and I’m pretty certain that when this cake it made in Muslim nations it wouldn’t contain any booze.

Fitting in with my interest in feast day foods too, it may also eaten by Coptic Christians in Egypt and beyond for their Great Lent and Christmas celebrations. Though this info seems to be lurking on Wikipedia, unverified, and repeated elsewhere by lazy bloggers. Oh, oops. I’m struggling to confirm it, and don’t know any Copts.

Syrup
350g granulated sugar
700g water
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)

Cake
200g granulated sugar
225 g unsalted butter
6 medium eggs (about 300g beaten egg)
110 g plain flour
175 g semolina
1 tbsp baking powder
110 g blanched almonds [or ground almonds, see below]
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp almond essence
Extra blanched almonds to decorate

1. To make the syrup, dissolve the 350g sugar in the 700g water in saucepan over a low heat.
Revani cake syrup
2. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and orange zest and juice and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Take the syrup off the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the orange blossom water, if using.

Revani cake ingredients

4. In a large bowl, or with a food mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and light.
5. Beat the eggs with the vanilla and almond essences, then gradually add the egg to the creamed mixture, incorporating well.
6. If using blanched almonds, chop them finely – either by hand or in a food processor. Alternatively use ground almonds – you won’t have quite such an interesting texture but it’s easier. I used a mix this time round – 40g ground almonds and 70g blanched almonds, chopped.
7. Sieve together the flour, semolina and baking powder. Add the chopped almonds/ground almonds.
7. Add the flour mix to the creamed mix and blend well.
8. Preheat the oven to 180C.
9. Grease a rectangular tin, about 32x20cm.

Revani cake batter

10. Spoon the batter into the tin, smooth it, and put in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until firm and browned.

Revani cake - score a diamond pattern

11. Remove from the oven and score a diamond pattern in the top with a sharp knife.

Revani - pour syrup over, straining out the spices

12. Pour the syrup onto the warm cake – through a sieve or strainer to catch the spices and zest.

Revani - decorate with blanched almonds
13. Decorate the diamonds with a blanched almonds.
14. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature for tea or as a dessert. The latter can be souped up by being served with honey-sweetened Greek yogurt or poached fruit.

Revani, basbousa

A note on photography
When I thought I’d broken Fran’s camera last week, actually I’d just broken the lens thread. Phew. So we got a new (well, second-hand) lens. It’s an 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3, so Fran could use it more for landscapes and stuff.

I’m not a photographer, and struggled enough to learn how to use the kit lens effectively, but now I’m struggling again. I can’t quite get in close enough, suspect I won’t be able to rely on the autofocus as much, and doubly suspect I probably could do with a faster 35mm or 50mm prime lens or something with a better macro. Gawd knows. It’s all changed so much since I got my photography O-level in 1986….

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Filed under Baking, Cakes

Maritozzi con la panna recipe

Maritozzi con la panna

A while back, we went on a field trip and scoffed maritozzi con la panna at Regoli. They are reputedly Rome’s best. They are indeed delicious, albeit a bit OTT with the whipped cream (panna montata. Not to be confused with hannah montana).

Seeing as I made splits the other day, and splits and maritozzi con la panna are basically both variations on the enriched dough cream bun, it seemed fitting that I try and make maritozzi too. Me living in Rome, and them being a local speciality and all. My version isn’t quite so generous with the cream as Regoli’s, though how much you use is really up to you.

Maritozzi ingredientsLemon zest

My research took me to numerous recipes on Italian websites1. The basic gist really is an enriched dough, some with milk instead of water, some with oil or butter, all with egg and/or egg yolks.

My recipe is a kind of hybrid, though relatively authentic in that it contains the key flavourings of candied peel, citrus zest, raisins (or sultanas) and pine nuts. Some of the recipes I found use a biga, but I decided to use the sponge-and-dough technique. Here’s the nice active sponge:

Nice active sponge for maritozzi

For this recipe I agonised with professional-style recipe calculation 2, bakers’ percentages and scaling weights. Then I made a schoolboy error and left a key ingredient out of the dough. Then I burnt the buns.

So I made a second batch too – and tried to remember all the ingredients and tried to not burn them. (In my defence, my oven has fierce bottom heat, even when I use multiple sheets for some shielding, so it’s hard to get nice colour on top without the bottoms getting a little bruciato…)

This recipe makes 10.

Ingredient Bakers’ percentage Quantity (g) Notes
Sponge:
Strong white flour 10 43 Aka manitoba
Milk 47 224 Warmed
Yeast 5 22 Fresh. If using ADY, use 11g, instant, easyblend use 9g
Caster sugar 5 22
Dough:
Strong white flour 60 258 Aka manitoba
Plain flour 30 129 Aka all-purpose, or Grano tenero 00
Salt 1 4
Caster sugar 7 30
Butter 12 52 Melted and cooled. Or oil. See ‘Options and decisons’, below
Egg yolk 8 34 Separate a few eggs, beat the yolks then weigh off on electronic scales
Zest 1 4 Lemon, orange or mix
Pine nuts 8 34 Aka pinoli
Raisins or sultanas 8 34 Soaked in hot water for 10 minutes or so, squeezed out
Candied peel, chopped 8 34 Orange or citron or both

Method

1. Make up the sponge by combining the first four ingredients: the milk (warmed to about blood temp), yeast, sugar, flour. Whisk together.
2. Leave the sponge, covered, to ferment. You want it nice and bubbly. Time will depend on the warmth of your kitchen or chosen location. With all that yeast and sugar it won’t take too long – around 20 minutes.
3. When it’s nice and active, add the rest of the ingredients (except the pine nuts and fruit) and bring to a dough. Do by hand or with a mixer with dough hook. If the dough feels a bit dry and tight, add a little more tepid liquid – either water or milk.

Adding the fruit and pine nuts to maritozzi dough
4. When you’ve achieved a nice smooth dough, stretch out, then add the fruit and pine nuts. Fold it over and knead again.
5. Put the dough in a clean bowl and leave to prove again. Prove until doubled in size. Again, time will vary.

Dough, before 1st proveDough, after 1st prove
6. Gently deflate the dough, to regulate the structure. (This is called “knocking back” in Britain, but all that business with thumping it with your fist is far too violent – you don’t want to lose all the inflation.)
8. Form a ball and rest for 10 minutes.
9. Divide the dough into 10 pieces, each weighing 85g or thereabouts.
10. Form the pieces into balls, then allow them to rest again for 10 minutes.
11. Form the balls into cylinders by turning over (so the rougher base is upwards), flattening and rolling up. You can roll the ends to a tighter point if you want. You might want to also pinch the seam (on the underside) closed so it doesn’t open up again.

Shaping a finger roll 1: ballShaping a finger roll 2: ball, undersideShaping a finger roll 3: ball, squashed/rolled outShaping a finger roll 4: ball, squashed/rolled out and rolled upShaping a finger roll 5: cylinder, rounded endsShaping a finger roll 6: cylinder, pointed ends
12. Place on a lined baking sheet, and leave to prove again, until doubled in size and soft to the touch.
13. Preheat oven to 200C.
14. Bake until nicely browned on top, around 15 minutes. (Again, depends on your oven.)

Final prove, beforeFinal prove, after
15. While they’re baking, make a stock syrup with 50g sugar and 50g water, brought to the boil together. This is optional (see Options and decisions, below).
16. When the rolls are baked and still warm, brush with the syrup.

Fresh from ovenGlazed
17. Leave to cool entirely on a wire rack.
18. Whisk 500g whipping cream to stiff peaks. (You might need more, but healthy types might get upset if I put “whisk 1 litre” of cream…)
19. Split each roll long-ways and fill with cream, with piping bag.
20. You can also serve with a sprinkling of sieved icing sugar (see bel0w).

Maritozzo crumb - plenty of fruit and pine nuts

Options and decisions

The last two steps are involve some decisions, depending on you how you want to present your calorie bombs. Although some of the photos you’ll find online have the creamed piped with a star nozzle, many of the maritozzi I see in Rome have the cream smoothed off (with a palette knife presumably). I think I prefer the latter.

As for the icing sugar, this is why I said the stock syrup glaze was optional. If you’re going to sieve icing sugar all over (again, this is very popular for the presentation of cakes and pastries in Rome), the glaze could arguably be seen as useless. So you could either not bother with the glaze, or you could even brush the rolls with beaten egg, egg yolk or even milk (full-fat) before baking, to give them varying degrees of golden crust as they bake.

Maritozzo con la panna - and with icing sugar

As for the butter – if you want to be more wholeheartedly (southern) Italian with this recipe, replace the butter with good quality olive oil , which some of the recipes I’ve looked at use. Some also use sunflower oil, or similar.

One final option – you can also add some vanilla essence when making up the dough. Maybe a teaspoonful, around 6g.

Enjoy!

Footnotes

1. Here are some of the recipes I looked at online, all in Italian: Giallo Zafferano (Italy’s biggest online recipe resource); Alice (a cookery channel; this one uses a biga and some “qb”); Arturo (another cookery channel, related to Alice); Cookaround (a forum); PaperBlog (an online magazine); La Cuochina Sopraffina (a blog, though this one seems to be missing some vital info); Paciulina (another blog); also the book La Cucina di Roma e del Lazio by Maria Teresa di Marco and Marie Cécile Ferré.

2. This style of recipe calculation is very handy if you’re trying to accurately scale up quantities, and for doing costings. You start by adding up all the bakers’ percentages (ie, all the ingredients given as a percentage of the total flour used. Comprehensively explained here). In this case, that gives me 215. You then divide the total dough required by that figure to give you a “recipe factor”.

Here, the total dough I want for 10 buns each made with 90g of dough is 900g. Add a little extra (2%) for loss/wiggle room, giving a total desired dough weight of 918g. 918 divided by 215 gives a recipe factor of 4.3 (rounded).

Then, multiply the bakers’ percentage by the recipe factor to give the ingredient weight (which you can also round, obviously).  The total of these ingredient weights should be the total dough. As I rounded a few figures up, the total weight of ingredients here is 924g.

So If you wanted to do 30 buns instead, simply work out a new total dough weight, ie 90g x 30 = 2700g. Add 2% for loss, giving g. 2754 divided by 215 gives a recipe factor of 12.8 (rounded), etc.

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