A while back, I introduced a local cake made from nut flour, the basbousa. I’ve become so addicted that baking one has pretty much become my Friday morning ritual…after a double espresso, that is. It’s so easy to throw together, though, you could even start before that first cup is brewed.
This basbousa is a little more rustic than the traditional version. Instead of adorning the pieces with neatly placed whole almonds, I opted for the less fussy scattering of coarsely chopped pieces, guaranteeing the crunch and amazing flavor of toasted almonds in each bite.
Pour another espresso, plate up a couple of pieces of warm basbousa and some fruit, and open up that newspaper. It’s the weekend; start your own tradition!!!
Pistachio Cardamom Rose Basbousa
Almonds get all the attention, but I’ve always been partial to walnuts. The halves look like little brains, and I kind of like that they aren’t sweet. Of course they taste good with chocolate (brownies and fudge anyone?), but add coffee and the faintest hint of cinnamon and we’re talking near perfection.
You’ll be surprised how light and tender the crumb of this cake is – delicate as the flavors themselves. You could easily go the healthy route (skip the mocha frosting) and serve it for breakfast or for tea, but then it would just be coffee walnut cake, and you would miss out on the chocolate and the affinity that these flavors have for each other. Besides, who am I kidding? Frosting has rarely stopped anyone from eating cake for breakfast.
Mocha Walnut Cake
Each weekend, I try to get out and explore another facet of this small country. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a boozy brunch now and then, too, but if that’s all I did with my weekends, no amount of working out could keep the weight off. More importantly, I’d have squandered an opportunity to experience the culture and history of a place I’d lived in for a full year.
One of those adventures also led me to a tasty discovery, basbousa. Normally made with semolina, the woman running the museum cafe assured me that their version was gluten, dairy, and egg free. It was so moist, tender, and sweet without being cloyingly so. Sadly for me, the fact that yogurt is dairy got lost in translation.
Unfortunate reaction aside, the dessert did lead to another delicious experiment with nut flours — this time pistachios — inspired by a flavor combination borrowed from an Eid favorite, gulab jamun — cardamom and rose. The result, Pistachio Cardamom Rose Basbousa, isn’t authentic Arabic, but to me, it captures the spirit of this island and the cultural melting pot that it has become over thousands of years.
Here’s the challenge: the recipe has you cut the basbousa before drizzling it with the rose syrup to make cutting/serving easier. It also means that, in mere minutes, once the basbousa has cooled, practically nothing is left to slow your consumption except will power and good friends. Okay, at least you might feel a bit more cultured than you would after a boozy brunch…
If I’m making breakfast for family and friends, I’ll make something sweet, because I like to bake, especially for company. When it’s just me, though, I usually make something on the savory side. Back when I could eat eggs and dairy, I would make a pretty mean frittata or omelet. Nowadays, its a tofu scramble with whatever is left in my vegetable drawer at the end of the week.
This morning, with a bunch of cilantro and an avocado, I didn’t exactly have the makings for a scramble, but I did have the inspiration for a flavorful hash. Yes, a tofu scramble would be a lot healthier, but after a 25km hike with a 10 kilo pack, I decided to treat myself to this Chorizo Hash. Don’t skip or skimp on the avocado! It really balances the acidity and spice of the chorizo nicely.
It seems I’m on a bit of a breakfast kick lately. One thing I’ve noticed this last couple of months traveling is that no matter how nice the hotel, they generally don’t have many, if any, options for someone like me. If you have time, you could try to find a non-hotel restaurant open for breakfast, but good luck finding one with options that are gluten free and dairy free and egg free. How am I supposed to fuel up for a busy day on a cup of coffee, glass of OJ, a banana, and if I’m lucky, a rasher of bacon or a sausage link? Finding a tofu scramble on the menu in Philly was a huge win, but it was out of the way and I had to hunt for it.
I guess it bugs me, because I’ve learned how easy it can be to make breakfasts pastries that don’t contain all those off-limits ingredients. So easy, that today we’re taking the humble blueberry muffin up a notch. Ladies and gentleman, may I present the Blueberry Doughnut with Almond Crunch Streusel.
…But only when it comes to my plate.
Generally, I avoid most breakfast pastries. If they don’t have gluten, someone has inevitably snuck in an egg or two for leavening or butter for flakiness.
The freezer aisle options aren’t bad, but I want a real waffle – crisp on the outside and light and airy on the inside, with indentations deep enough for my blueberries to play hide and seek in. Aren’t you worth the extra ten minutes?
I know, it’s been a while… Let’s just say life has been a little crazier than usual this past two months.
Though I did get creative with a hotel room microwave and Lekue steamer, I missed my oven and the stress relief that baking brings.
And, what better way to celebrate my return to the kitchen than a little something chocolate (with a kick)!
Mexican Chocolate Doughnuts
I’ve never had a Cinnabon. I’ve never wanted one. But ever since passing the stand in the mall while Christmas shopping, I’ve had a craving for a light, pillowy cinnamon roll. Unfortunately, I’ve never had much luck with baking yeast breads and rolls since going gluten free. I always thought it was the flour… until now. Turns out that I just needed to tweak the way I was proofing them. Amazing!
Now, I’m not usually one for sweets at breakfast. I’d much rather have a savory and more substantial dish like a hash or tofu scramble or dinner leftovers, but I have to admit that once I smelled these babies baking, I knew I wasn’t waiting till the afternoon for a sweet.
The minute the leaves start to turn and air becomes crisp, our cravings are reignited. Moist, dense, pumpkin-y, and headily spiced, for a few short months the dark loafs seem to appear everywhere – in break rooms, coffee shops, and school bake sales. Once they’re sliced, they’re gone. Don’t expect anyone to save a piece for you. This isn’t the last chocolate chip cookie, people. If you want some, you better squirrel it away now.
Since almost every home cook has a pumpkin bread recipe, I humbly add my less sweet, more delicately flavored version. No one will know it’s GFV…but that’s not its only secret. Just remember to hide some for yourself.
Summer is ending, and as I wandered the neighborhood farmers’ market, I selfishly filled my basket with at least a half dozen end of season zucchini as if I would never see (and taste) them again. It was foolish, of course. Mid-way through the week, I’d sautéed it, stuffed it, and added it to a curry and still had half my haul left. It would be a shame to let it go to waste.
My mother used to make zucchini cake every time my grandfather sent us home arms laden with the bounty from his garden. It wasn’t the frosting or chocolate chips, rather it was the tender, emerald-flecked crumb that made me beg for seconds. I’ve taken her recipe and turned into a slightly healthier muffin proudly displaying it’s gorgeous green heritage.
Spiced Zucchini Muffins