Saturday, 7 April 2007

What the Basboosa??

Alright, it's true, the thought of basboosa being a word you shouldn't say in front of children did cross my mind when I stumbled upon it whilst researching a recipe for sugee cake which incidentally happened to be what my mum had a longing for. Interestingly, the Middle-Eastern sweet basboosa and the traditional Kristang sugee cake both bear striking similarities in the ingredients used, method of preparation and flavour but vary in the way they are presented and served.

The primary ingredient in both cakes is semolina, which is coarsely ground durum wheat also used in the production of pasta, couscous and certain breads. The unique quality of semolina makes it a prime ingredient in cakes because it not only results in a moist, sandy crumb but it also lends an interesting mealy texture with a nutty taste, not unlike that of ground almonds.

I am a big fan of flourless cakes but I sometimes find them too heavy and cloying. Take for example, the flourless orange-almond cake made by pulverizing boiled oranges (peel, pith and all) and then blending this with ground almonds, sugar and eggs - it's great but I sometimes find it difficult to enjoy any more than a thin slice at a time. It seems such a shame for a cake with all the right ingredients to not appeal to a greater audience apart from those who are gluten-intolerant and/or those who enjoy heavier-textured cakes. Similarly, the Middle-Eastern version of the semolina cake is flat and dense, soaked to dripping with a rose-scented syrup and is served in small portions as an after-meal sweet but I wanted a cake that is lighter in its texture but still substantial enough to serve with a cup of tea as a mid-morning or - afternoon snack so I set forth to gather recipes for several different cakes using semolina and worked out one which called for less sugar, and eggs, a touch of flour and a lemon-scented syrup to finish (so bearing closer semblance to its Greek cousin revani but a far cry from the traditional sugee cake recipe which requires an alarmingly large number of egg yolks and amount of sugar).

The cake ended up so simple to make (that it was laughable!) and it baked up so beautifully I could not help but beam with great pride and joy. I have to add, the scatter of toasted sliced almonds on top of the cake was a last minute decision as I thought it looked slightly bare left unadorned, though in retrospect, it looked just as stunningly delicious spotting a gleaming tan with flecks of candied zest after the lemony syrup* was applied. And believe me, when this cake is made right, you will be rewarded with a superbly textured cake, heady with the fresh scent of citrus making it the perfect tea-time treat or a splendid dessert accompanied with a thick cream or yogurt with some freshly-cut summer fruit and berries. Scrumptious!

*the lemon syrup provides just the right touch of sweetness to the finished cake in my opinion but my parents who seem to have lost their sweet tooth with old age found the cake too sweet. I suppose there is no harm in doing without the syrup and increasing the amount of sugar in the cake batter ever so slightly.

4 eggs separated
75g sugar
zest of 1 large orange
1tsp vanilla extract
160g semolina
130ml orange juice
50ml milk
75g self-raising flour, sifted
50g ground almonds
125g butter, melted and cooled
(makes a 20cm round cake)
pre-heat oven to 180C and line the base and sides of a 20cm springform pan with baking paper.
mix the semolina with orange juice and milk in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Combine the flour and ground almonds in a separate bowl.
whisk the egg yolks, vanilla, zest and 50g of sugar using a stand-up mixer or a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
mix the semolina mixture to the yolk mixture gently so as not to deflate the mixture.
fold the melted butter through this mixture - it is not necessary for it to be completely incorporated at this stage.
whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar in a clean bowl until firm shiny peaks are formed.
fold 1/3 of the whisked egg whites into the above mixture to lighten it before folding in the remaining egg whites.
pour batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
160g sugar
50ml water
simmer the sugar, water, zest and juice for 3-5 minutes or until a slightly viscous consistency (like maple syrup) is observed.
brush syrup all over the warm cake and allow it to rest for at least 3 hours before serving.

1 comment:

fatboybakes said...

omigod, i can almost hear nigella lawson speaking as i read your description of the flourless orange cake etc etc...(that's a compliment)