Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi explore a region of rich, cross-cultural culinary traditions in Jerusalem.
Semolina cakes soaked in syrup are so numerous all over the Middle East and vary in so many ways it is hard to find a single definition or an accurate enough name to fit. Some cakes have coconut in them; some have yogurt; some bakers prefer flavoring them with citrus syrups, others with flower blossoms; some use sugar and others honey. In any case, the moist yet light texture and the aromatic flavors are what it’s all about.
These cakes will keep well for at least five days if wrapped carefully in parchment paper or aluminum foil; as a matter of fact, they improve with time. You can serve them with the yogurt as a simple dessert, or without it if you are just having them with a cup of tea. Instead of two 1-lb loaves, you can make a single large loaf, which will take at least 20 to 30 minutes longer to bake.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the oil, orange juice, marmalade, eggs, and orange zest until the marmalade dissolves. In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined. The mixture should be runny.
- Grease and line two 1-lb loaf pans (8½ by 4½ inches) with waxed paper. Divide the filling evenly between them. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until a skewer inserted in a cake comes out clean and the tops turn an orangey brown.
- Near the end of the baking time, place the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, start brushing them with the hot syrup using a pastry brush; you’ll need to do this in a few goes, allowing the syrup to soak in for a minute or two before you carry on brushing with more syrup. Make sure you use up all the syrup and it is all absorbed into the cakes.
- Once the cakes have cooled down a little, remove them from the pan and leave to cool completely. Serve with the Greek yogurt, flavored with a drop of orange blossom water.
Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem, copyright © 2012 Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamini. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.