37. Moroccan Basboosa (Semolina Slice)

Basboosa Baby

Lauren of Arabia

J’adore Morocco, the heat, the people, the beauty, the adventures into the Sahara and camping out under the stars. The food and desserts are amazing. I ate many a tagine and honey soaked sweets when we visited Marrakesh.

into the desert we go

Food Heaven

Having purchased the worlds largest bag of semolina I needed a recipe to put it to good use. I have vaguely horrific memories of semolina pudding every day for as part of of our school dinners and me disliking it so much I pretended to sneeze into my bowl so I could have it removed. But the dinner nannies soon wised up to my rouse and refused to let me get away with refusing semolina.

Thankfully my taste palette has refined somewhat since I was 6years old. I now even eat peas and broccoli!

Basboosa all lined up and ready to go

Basboosa is a middle Eastern dessert and seems to be from Morocco and Egypt too. It reminds me of Baklava which I love and you may remember me attempting to make from scratch…

Thankfully Basboosa doesn’t involve the shelling of hundreds of pistachios or the creation of millions of layers of paper thin filo pastry! This is one quick bake the I will be definitely repeating in the future!

Sugar and water to bubble into a syrup

I began with the syrup. Unfortunately I didn’t have an orange flower water so I ad libbed and utilised the lemon and orange extracts I have in my cupboard. I think rose water would work just as well too.

The key to this bake is sugar. And LOTS of it. The syrup requires a lot of simmering to reduce it to about 2 cups worth but it still seemed very watery to me. I put faith in my Marks and Spencer recipe and hoped for the best.

1 KG of semolina!!!

While the pan bubbled merrily on the stove I measured out 1kilogram (yes 1 KG!) of ground semolina! (I checked about 4 times that I had read this right as it seems like a massive amount and just about fitted into my biggest mixing bowl!

Precariously full bowl of sandy semolina

Adding in the sugar the mixing bowl was precariously full and could only be mixed with my bare hands, a spoon would just have tipped things over the edge completely!

Butter and milk on the stove

Then to gently warm the milk and butter on the stove until the butter melts completely.

Thoroughly melted butter and milk

Once it’s thoroughly melted (and hopefully a little less frothy than mine) it’s  ready to add to the semolina. This was a delicate process. There didn’t seem to be enough liquid to bring the dry semolina and sugar together into a paste at all.

Bind us together – oh butter sugar and semolina

Nevertheless I perservered and gingerly (the milk was a bit hot) took to mixing it by hand again until lo and behold I had a semolina paste!

Pastey Semolina

Tipping the bowl upside down into my greased and lined deep baking dish the semolina required a little coaxing to flatten it out completely into all the corners.

bowl shaped semolina paste – into the tray you go

Once it was relatively flat I smoothed the surface with a wet hand and squashed it down into the tin to avoid any bubbles or gaps in the bake.

Flattened and smoothed semolina

Taking the syrup off the stove  (I added a dash more orange extract as I realised I had added it too early and it may have mostly evaporated…) popped it into the fridge to chill it, ready for it’s next job.

Syrupy and ready for a good chilling

With a sharp unserated knife I attempted to score the semolina into equally sized diamond shapes (this befuddled my brain somewhat so I ended up with all sorts of shapes and sizes).

Zig zags in the semolina (supposedly diamond shaped)

I popped the tray in the oven then quickly realised I forgot to pop the almonds onto each diamond! Quick as a flash I studded each piece with a blanched almond and threw it back in the oven.

Studded Semolina – check out those blanched almonds (better late than never)

Then a cup of tea and a spot of Mary Poppins is all you need to do whilst the bakes for an hour and a half! (Mary Poppins is optional but it was choice du jour)

Soaked in Syrup

Once the semolina is golden brown and firm to touch it’s ready for a final slice with sharp knife and a good drowning in chilled orange syrup. I poured half of the very liquid syrup over the baked semolina and worried that it was a bit too much! It definitely required a break for absorption! Half an hour later I poured the rest of the syrup over and let the Basboosa relax and take it’s time to drink up the sweet orange flavour.

Totally soaked basboosa

Once it’s all absorbed it’s ready for eating! I REALLY loved this bake. It’s baklava-esque and shortbread-ey. Just the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. It has quite a distinctive crumbly texture which some may not enjoy, I suppose it could be a bit dry if you didn’t pour all of the syrup over it too.

But as it’s a wheat derivative it has CARBS and is full of SUGAR so this is a perfect pre run treat. (I’m now running what I had always considered to be beyond my wildest dreams… 10 miles! Who’da thunk it? Admittedly this was by accident as I got hopelessly lost one afternoon/evening but I now know that I can do it! And I now have a freezer stocked full of this sugary pick me up.)

Basboosa Baby

This recipe makes a LOT of Basboosa, about 23 pieces – or more if you cut it into smaller pieces. It is very sweet so you probably don’t need a huge slice but it also keeps really well. Once the syrup crystalises it has a lovely glittery sugary crunchy top too. 🙂

I hope you like it as much as me!

Things I used to make Basboosa…

  • 1 kg ground semolina
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar (550g)
  • 1 cup milk (250ml)
  • 125g butter
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds (40g)

Syrup

  • 3 cups water (750ml)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar ((330g)
  • 2 teaspoons of orange extract  (or Orange blossom water/rose water)
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon extract

Equipment

  • one 20cm x 30cm x 5cm baking tray
  • oven at 140 degrees c (fan assisted oven) 160degrees C normal oven

 

22. Blood, Sweat and Baklava – Greece

This is without doubt the most epic bake that I have ever attempted. I’ve eaten Baklava in Greece, Turkey and Morocco. It is divine and very moreish with its honey soaked pastry. It’s one of my favourite sweet treats. I’ve been planning on attempting it for a while but was a bit hesitant to attempt Filo pastry from scratch as every book, including my Greek cookery book, said to buy it ready made pastry!

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Baklava

Undeterred I asked my foodie friends for some advice on Twitter and was very kindly assisted by @bakingelements who sent me a Michel Roux Filo recipe from his ‘Pastry’ book. Thank you so much for your help. Without those photos I couldn’t have done it!!

Filo requires a lot of time and patience. It’s really not for the faint hearted. The dough itself is quite a basic concoction, flour, water, salt mixed in the food processor with a dough hook. Seems simple enough…

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Then pour in oil while its mixing and wait until its all combined.

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It becomes rather sticky and stringy at this point.

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My new food processor was thoroughly christened in sticky dough in the process too… Cotton buds to the rescue!

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Then it required about 5 minutes of extra working on a cornfloured board. I had to add a lot of extra flour as it was SO incredibly sticky

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When it was worked sufficiently I measured it precisely (can you believe it? With scales and everything!) into 60g chunks. They had to rest in a cool place for 2hours on a floured tray covered in cling film so it didn’t dry out.

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Pain in the pistachios

This gave me enough time to de shell and husk a whole bag of pistachio nuts. (Note to self. Please buy nuts without their shells in the future.) This is 45minutes of my life I will never, EVER get back. I broke a couple of nails and showered the kitchen in shells when in desperation I smashed the nuts with the stick bit of the pestle and mortar. Not to mention the nips and cuts the little blighters gave me.

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Mixed Nuts

Into the food processor 1lb of mixed nuts I threw, the damn pistachios, whole almonds and walnuts. A quick whizz to chop them up and I added sugar, cloves, cinnamon and some pre chopped almonds.

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To help speed up the chilling process I popped the pastry into the fridge for a bit whilst prepping the pastry board and a vast supply of cornflour.

Now for the tricky and even more time consuming bit. Michel Roux had sensibly instructed me to prepare 60g balls of dough so I had manageable chunks to roll out. However I was also working with 2 separate Baklava recipes which suggested working with a round cake tin and a rectangular tray. Whilst trying to stretch this delicate pastry out I realised there was no way on earth I was ever going to get it to the length and width needed to fit such a long tray and of course roll it to the required 0.5mm thinness!!

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Still a bit too thick...

I decided to use a smaller square tin and ad lib from all 3 recipes that I was following. I greased and lined the tin in preparation.

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The first piece of rolling was lovely, dusting it with flour and gently rolling it out. I can’t believe I actually thought ‘brilliant this is going to be fun’. I lost count of how many sheets of Filo I rolled but as soon as you kind of get it to the right size and try to pick it up, it stretches, so its too big for the tin! Then it tears! And somehow your supposed to brush it with butter evenly too whilst it crinkles up and become more of a patchwork quilt. I had to trim bit here and there and add extra bits to cover the holes but I got there in the end.

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The first fantastically even and smooth layer. Look it reaches the edges (almost)!

I realised that 60g was too much per layer so had to divide each chunk into 4 to get the right thinness and to ensure I had enough layers to go round. I have feeling you’re supposed to let the pastry rest after rolling it but I didn’t have the time. I also had to stretch each piece to fit inside the tin so it was really practicable either.

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The actual amount of dough per layer pre rolling

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Post rolling (not quite a square...)

I also missed the step in the recipe that said you’re supposed to start with 8 layers of pastry on the bottom before you add any layers of nuts and sugar. I had 2 bottom layers and there was no going back. I was in Baklava lasagna mania and only had 2 hours to finish the whole thing.

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So so thin

I’m not sure how much butter I used but I had to refill the pan 3 times along the way.

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Excuse the messy Filo jigsaw

My theory was 2 layers of pastry then a layer of nuts. I attempted to butter both sides of the Filo that was to sit on top of the nuts, which is probably totally unnecessary but the paranoia of dry Filo was setting in. Each time I added a layer I had to cover the pan in cling film too to stop it drying out too.

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The top layer with 8 layers of Filo and a generous butter coating!!

Before cooking it I took my sharpest knife and cut it into cubes

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Precarious cutting through many layers.

I popped it in the fridge (but forgot the cling film!!) then set about simmering the syrup of honey, lemon juice, sugar, water and cinnamon. I added some rose water too.

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Start of syrup.

The Baklava needed 35mins of baking while the pan simmered. I almost burnt the syrup as I wanted to reduce it further and salvaged it by dunking the hot pan into cold water to stop it cooking.

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Nicely caramalised... Definitely not burnt.

Once the Baklava was crisp and golden it was ready to be drown in thick syrup.

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Crisp and golden Baklava

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Syrup soaked

I added a garnish of chopped nuts (I still have a bag left over so probably wouldn’t make as much next time) and some more syrup to top it off. Apparently it needs 4 hours to cool so I wrapped it in a towel and carried it to my friends house for our pudding. It definitely didn’t last long enough to cool for 4 hours!!

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Toppings

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Baklava Heaven

I was hoping after all the time and effort it would be ok and it really really was. The syrup soaked into every layer making a gorgeously sticky delight! Even with less pastry on the bottom it held together and cooked all the way through!

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Piles and piles of Baklava

I’m happy with my Filo experiment. I generally hate making pastry and this almost killed me. There was a lot of energy spent in making this so I don’t feel guilty in the slightest that I ate 2 massive pieces in one go. It did take an entire day to make but what an achievement! Now I’ve made Filo once I know I can do it but perhaps I might buy some ready made if I was going to attempt it again.

I’m now going for a lie down 🙂

*Recipes taken from:

Filo Pastry Michel Roux – Pastry Requires: 400g plain flour; 6g fine salt; 330ml water heated to 50 degrees C; 30ml olive oil; cornflour to dust

Baklava Recipe  Requires: 1 quantity of Filo Pastry; 1lb chopped nuts, cloves, cinnamon, 1 cup of butter, 1/3 cup of sugar

Syrup: 1 cup water; 1 cup sugar; 1/2 cup honey; 1 cinnamon stick; (I added an extra sprinkle of ground cinnamon); 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and I added 1 tablespoon of essence of rose water too.

The Traditional Greek Cookery Book Toubis Edition 2006

 

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