I've been looking for Egyptian and Middle Eastern sweets recently to make for new doctors at my work place. I figured I had better practice a few times before making it for them to make sure I could prepare the recipes properly.
Turns out this was a fabulous idea.
Practice makes perfect, am I right?
Practice also means eating a lot of delicious treats because, well, quality control obviously.
Basbousa is my new favorite and NOT just because it's really fun to say. The semolina flour makes for a wonderfully different texture. Plus... it's really easy and quick to whip up which makes me love it even more.
(Ever so slightly adapted from SBS Food)
2 1/2 cups coarse semolina
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9 X 13 pan (or large round tart pan) with parchment paper, set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir together semolina, coconut, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, and vanilla.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well mixed - if it is too dry and crumbly then stir in a bit of milk to bring it together - it should be quite stiff (almost like a cookie dough rather than a cake batter).
Press it into the prepared 9 X 13 pan (or tart pan). Score squares or diamonds into the dough, pressing very firmly. Top each square (or diamond) with a blanched almond, pressing in firmly.
Bake at 375 for approx 35 - 40 minutes, until top is golden brown.
Before removing from oven, prepare syrup.
Prepare syrup - In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stir together the sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let come to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and almond extract.
Remove cake from oven and place on wire rack. Gently cut along the scored lines while the cake is still in the pan. (DO NOT remove the cake from the pan at this point!)
Slowly drizzle or spoon the hot syrup over the hot cake. It may seem like a lot of syrup but the cake will soak it all up.
Let cool completely. (I find letting it come to room temp then covering it and placing it in the fridge overnight is the best but a couple of hours of soaking in the syrup will also work.)
Once it has sat you can simply run a knife along the score lines again and serve.
A couple of notes - the original version calls for 1 tsp of rosewater in the syrup. Living in a small town I don't have access to this so I subbed in the small amount of almond extract after researching what some good subs would be. Next trip to the city I am picking up some rosewater to try this with. I imagine it would taste that much more authentic!
Also - the caster sugar that is called for in the cake is different than regular white sugar. You can buy it (if you don't live in Lillooet because, why would that be available in Lillooet? *sigh*) OR you can make it yourself VERY VERY VERY easily. Simply place 1 cup of regular white sugar into a blender and pulse until it is fine - 30 seconds of pulsing should about do it. *Voila* substitute caster sugar. It really does make a difference in the cake.