‘The name of this dish means “bread of the royal palaces” and a royal dessert it is indeed,’ food writer and cook Reem Kassis says of this Palestinian dessert recipe. ‘A vestige of the Ottoman rule over Palestine, this luxurious dessert is actually very easy to make. Toasted bread is soaked in flavoured sugar syrup then topped with cream and pistachios. While it sounds very simple, the flavours are anything but.’ From her new book ‘The Palestinian Table, Authentic Modern Middle Eastern Home Cooking – 150 delicious, easy-to-follow recipes inspired by three generations of family tradition’ published by Phaidon.
Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 5-10 minutes
Makes one 9-inch/23-cm round cake
For the base
Vegetable oil, for greasing
5 oz/150 g ready-prepared toasted bread, such as melba toast
1¼ cups (9 oz/250 g) superfine (caster) sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 oz/25g butter
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
For the topping
9 oz/250 g mascarpone cheese (or use ricotta for a lighter version)
½ cup (4 fl oz/125ml) heavy (double) cream
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1 cup (4 oz/120 g) unsalted pistachios, coarsely ground
Preserved lemon blossom flowers, raspberries, strawberries, or pomegranate seeds (optional)
1. Lightly grease (use a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil) a 9-inch/23-cm round springform pan and set aside.
2. Put the toast into a large bowl and crush with your hands into small bite-size pieces. Alternatively, pulse to a very coarse crumb in a food processor. Set aside.
3. Put the sugar, 1¼ cups (10 fl oz/300 ml) water, and lemon juice into a small, heavy pan, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3–4 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, add the butter and orange blossom water, and stir until the butter is melted.
4. Pour the syrup over the toast, mixing very well with a spoon, until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to the greased pan, smoothing out into an even layer, and set aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment, whip the mascarpone, heavy (double) cream, and orange blossom water together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy with stiff peaks, about 1 minute. Avoid over mixing.
6. Evenly spread out the cream mixture over the bread base, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the pistachios over the cake. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving, until the cream is set.
7. To serve, remove the cake from the springform pan and place on a cake platter (do not attempt to remove the springform pan base). If using, top with preserved blossom flowers, raspberries, strawberries or some pomegranate seeds for colour.
You can buy The PALESTINIAN TABLE by Reem Kassis, published by Phaidon here. It makes a fabulous Christmas gift.