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With the recent events affecting some of the world’s loveliest cities, and the violence that is overtaking some of the world’s oldest civilizations… I thought it would only be appropriate to look for healing and love through something that brings all people together…dessert.

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Last week two beloved cities were rocked by terrorist attacks. In both Beirut and Paris innocent people were targeted and killed. Families, shopping at a market in Beirut, around the rush-hour before dinner. Youngsters in Paris, out and about enjoying a lovely fall evening. All victims of politics and never ending wars, which they had no part in. Just a few days earlier, hostages were beheaded in Kabul, including a nine-year old girl. A funeral was bombed in Iraqi, the mourners turned into victims within seconds. And it should be remembered, that just last year at this time, terrorists attacked a school and killed more than one hundred teachers and children in Peshawar. Too many innocent people have died this year, all victims of a relentless hatred that seems to be engulfing the world.

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All the while hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Kurdish families have fled their beloved homes, risking everything they have to find a safe refuge for their children and families. Thousands of desperate Afghans, most of them young teenagers, are fleeing to Iran daily to begin a perilous journey to escape the violence in Afghanistan that is worsening by the day. The images of the refugees, walking through Europe, begging for a chance for life is if anything, a reflection of a world in which the suffering of our fellow man can no longer be ignored.

Because as Warsan Shire so movingly put it,

 You have to understand that no one puts their children on a boat unless the water is safer than the land.

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Indeed it is a time, I would say, to be somber. A time to be grateful. A time to reflect on the world we have created. A world in which a passport determines the worth of an individual.

But most of all this is a time to remember. To remember the common humanity that connects us all.

And what better way then dessert. From Kabul to Paris, I can confidently say that something sweet, decadent, elegant, is a sure way to mend broken hearts and homes.

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I only wish I could share a slice of this cake with a Parisian, and personally thank the people of Paris for this light lovely versatile sponge cake. Or have the pleasure of watching an Afghan child lick a spoon of this creamy  frosting made from rich strained yogurt. Or enjoy the delight I would imagine a Syrian woman would express of the lovely fragrance of the dried roses that decorate the top layer of this cake.

How I wish I could erase their pain and suffering, with a simple sweet dessert.

But for now all I can do is share a recipe. But to me, this recipe goes beyond measurements and ingredients. It is a reflection, of the magnificent things we can create through compassion, tolerance and diversity.

Recipe:

Garnish

-1/2 cup dried rose petals

-1 1/2 cups Afghan Pistachios (These have a pink and green color)

-2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Honey Syrup:

-1 cup Honey

-1 cup Water

-1 Tablespoon Rosewater

  1. Bring honey and water to a simmer, on stovetop at medium low temperature.
  2. Turn stovetop off, and mix in the rosewater.
  3. Let this cool before brushing on the Joconde

Joconde (Sponge Cake for French Opera Cake)

(Joconde recipe from “Paris Sweets” by Dorie Greenspan as reprinted from The Splendid Table. Originally found at Joe Pastry.)

-6 large egg whites, at room temperature

-2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar

– 2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds

-2 1/4 cups (225 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

– 6 large eggs

– 1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour

-3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly

  1. To make the cake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line two 12 1/2-x15 1/2-inch (31-x-39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. (This is in addition to the quantity in the ingredient list.)
  2.  Working in a clean dry mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the whites into another bowl.
  3.  In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almonds, confectioners’ sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat on low speed only until it disappears. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture, then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
  4.  Bake the cakes for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. Put the pans on a heatproof counter, cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the cakes over and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, turn the parchment over and use it to cover the exposed sides of the cakes. Let the cakes come to room temperature between the parchment or wax paper sheets. (The cakes can be made up to 1 day ahead, wrapped and kept at room temperature.)

(My note: I used a 9 ½ inch ring mold to make a round shaped cake. Once the Joconde had cooled, I used the mold to cut four round shaped cakes, and then proceeded to layer the cakes)

Cream Filling

-16 ounces of Strained Yogurt (Chakkah or Labneh)

-8 ounces of Turkish or Iranian Kaymak (or Mascarpone)

-Zest of one Lemon

-8 cups of powdered sugar

-1 tablespoon Rosewater

  1. With an handheld mixer whip together the strained yogurt, mascarpone, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. If the yogurt is too thick you can squeeze in a little lemon juice.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time
  3. Gently fold in the Rosewater

 

Assembly:

  1. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each layer of Joconde with the Honey Syrup. Then fill the layer with the cream filling. Just enough so that it can serve as “glue” for the next layer. The Chakkah (Yogurt) cream may ooze out a little; this is ok, as this will help the coconut and pistachios to stick to the cake.
  2. Apply a light think layer of the cream to the bottom half of the cake. Gently press the coconut and pistachios to the bottom half of the cake.
  3. Lightly brush the top layer of the cake with the Honey Syrup. Then sprinkle the rose petals on top. You can drizzle two tablespoons of the syrup on top of the rose petals.
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