Springing Forward

Spring is time for growth and renewal. But the world and the weather have been volatile this past week as we moved into this new season.

Growth is painful. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been in a funk for the last year. I left one job and took another, my father died, our daughter married, our son moved home to the US, and my house is a complete mess. BUT through all of this turmoil and upheavel, I have continued to cook.

I may print some of my cooking adventures out to cleanse myself, but not all at once. You as the reader won’t appreciate my purging, only I would.

So here’s to spring, new growth, moving on and putting away the Christmas decorations this Easter weekend.

Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake

I am a big fan of The Splendid Table. It is an American Public Media radio broadcast that can also be found on most podcast libraries. Lynn Rosetto Kasper has the best radio voice ever! I could listen to her all day. She is charming to her guests and to us, her listeners. Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake from the author Anissa Helou from her cookbook Sweet Middle East was featured last month. She describes it as a “delectable syrupy sponge cake topped with mixed nuts.”

I was drawn to the nuts as ingredients in the recipe. I have a stash of nuts in the freezer and my husband has been noshing on them lately.  The rest of the ingredients I did not have in my pantry: semolina, baker’s sugar, orange blossom water and rose water. I was not in a mood to go out searching store to store for these ingredients, so I went online.  King Arthur Flour had everything I needed in one location. What a wonderful website and a great reference for baking.

Go to The Splendid Table website for the recipe  and you will see that it is a pretty easy cake to put together. Flour, butter, sugar, yogurt, baking soda and of course NUTS.

The fragrant sugar syrup on the other hand was challenging. The orange blossom and rose water were extremely fragrant and seemed to be competing with each other as flavors. Once they settled down it was better.

Patty’s Points:

1.Timing. The cake has to set for 3 hours before baking, so plan accordingly.

2.Syrup. Even though the author recommends putting the syrup on the cake for it to soak in, I do not recommend doing that. The syrup was overpoweringly sweet and fragrant, just as the author stated. It was so sweet that it took away from the flavor of the cake and the nuts.

It is also quite possible that I overcooked the syrup and it wasn’t the proper consistency to soak into the cake. My husband and I liked the cake, but the syrup made the cake too sweet. I would recommend serving the cake, plain, with the syrup on the side and maybe with some plain or vanilla yogurt as a dollop.

3.Ingredients. Simple to make with complex ingredients. I had never purchased these ingredients before, ever. Semolina flour is used with breads or dough, like pizza, to give them extra crunch. Baker’s sugar is very fine. I used to shrug it off when I saw it in recipes and made my own by processing regular sugar. But this had such a lovely quality of fineness that I’ll think differently about it in the future.

Orange blossom water and rose water.  I’d heard of rose water but never orange blossom water. I actually saw an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown where he made rose water from chemical-free roses at home. This web post from Pam in the Garden follows the Alton Brown step-by-step process of making rose water. Orange blossom water and rose water I have seen as ingredients for baklava, but I’ve never had them on hand before. The uses for the fragrant waters go beyond food and are beneficial to skin and health enhancers.

4.Nuts. Despite the recipe directions to add the nuts prior to baking, they run the risk of burning. I would recommend adding them halfway through the baking time to prevent the char.

We had a blizzard hit here two days ago and I’ve been sick in bed all week so writing this blog helped me leap out of the doldrums. Thanks for reading. Be fearless and keep cooking.

 

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