orange-pistachio semolina cake

orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land
orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land

Hello lovely people,

I’m back in Seattle after seven glorious weeks in Europe. And by glorious I mean crazy chaotic and jam-packed with work! I think I might be constitutionally  incapable of being realistic about my own limitations. If a project sounds fun/interesting/novel/challenging, I feel compelled to say yes. Sleep and sanity and be damned.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I got to discover beautiful Bordeaux. And collaborate with talented artists. And people-watch in Paris. And eat amazing food from my favorite chefs. And see friends. And make new ones. And drink a little too much deliciously funky French champagne. 

So there’s not much to complain about.

orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land

But I landed in Seattle sort of flattened from all those weeks of living out of a suitcase and navigating the stress of travel abroad. (Not once, but twice, for example, restaurants I had booked for my retreat guests lost our reservation. One for 12 people on a Saturday night during fashion week in Paris!) 

So since I got home, I’ve tried to be extra kind to myself. I’ve been making space for ample amounts of sleep. (I actually just woke up from a long Friday afternoon nap, which is unheard of for me.) Plenty of water and nourishing food. Runs through the fall foliage. Lots of laughter and connection with friends and family. And just generally more pleasure. You know--all those things we know we should be doing but don’t.

orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land

I have a mountain of images from my trip to sift through and I can’t wait to share them with you! But as part of taking my foot off the gas for a moment, I decided to opt for something a little easier this week. This superb cake was left over from a cooking class I taught at Book Larder. It wasn’t really on my agenda to shoot it and put it up on the blog. But then I woke up the day after my class and realized I had a delicious, fully-baked cake in my possession and that it would be pretty easy-peasy to shoot and share it.

Now don’t go thinking I’d throw any old junk up here on the blog; this cake is ridiculously good. I hadn’t made it in a couple of years and had forgotten how truly fantastic it is. So when I cut myself a slice in class, topped it with a mound of delicately floral orange blossom whipped cream and took a bite, I was momentarily transported to heaven.

orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land

In line with this week’s theme of keeping things easy, this cake comes together with very little fuss. No egg whites to whip up. No need to remember to bring your ingredients to room temperature. You don’t even need a mixer. So if you also want to be extra nice to yourself this weekend, this cake is for you!

I’ll be back soon to share new work from my Paris and Portugal trips with you. In the meantime, I’ll be spending my weekend cooking, listening to records, watching the rain come down, and hopefully fitting in a nap or two.


Orange-Pistachio Semolina Cake

  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice (zest the orange before juicing and reserve zest)
  • 3/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups fine semolina
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter

To serve

  • 1 recipe Orange Blossom Whipped Cream (below)
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped pistachios

 

*Note: This cake is better the next day, so make it in advance if you have time. Leave it covered out of the refrigerator overnight. 

orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar, water, cinnamon stick and a small pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has thickened slightly, 5-6 minutes minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the orange juice. Set aside to cool until the cake is done.

Butter an  8” x 8” square or 9” round cake pan. 

Combine the pistachios and sugar in a blender or food processor. Process into a fine powder. Sift the pistachio sugar, flour, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and semolina into a large bowl. (The pistachios won't fit through a fine-mesh sieve, so if you don't have a medium-mesh sieve, use a fork or whisk to aerate your ingredients and remove lumps.) Add 1 teaspoon of the reserved orange zest and whisk to combine. Use your fingers to break up any remaining lumps.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan then transfer to a medium bowl. Heat the milk in the same pan over medium-low heat until it feels warm to the touch. Add to the bowl with the butter and whisk to combine. Add the milk and butter to the semolina mixture and stir to combine, making sure there are no pockets of dry semolina at the bottom of the bowl. 

Pour the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
 
When the cake is done, remove the cinnamon stick from the syrup. Pour the cooled syrup over the hot cake. Let the cake sit until the liquid has been fully absorbed and the cake has cooled to room temperature. Cut the cake into roughly 3-inch squares or diamonds. Top slices with Orange Blossom Whipped Cream and sprinkle with chopped pistachios before serving. 

Makes 8-10 servings.


Orange Blossom Whipped Cream 

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (preferably superfine), or to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoon orange blossom water

 

Place the cream, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the orange blossom water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until the sugar has mostly dissolved. (You can also whip the cream with a hand blender or by hand with a whisk.) Taste and add more orange blossom water and/or sugar if desired. Beat until soft peaks form and serve.

Makes about 2 cups.

orange pistachio semolina cake || Image: Olaiya Land

a week in bordeaux

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Hello Lovely People!

The past month has been a bit of a crazy whirlwind! I landed in Paris and a couple days later headed down to the countryside outside Bordeaux where I spent a week helping my friends Eva, Carey and Elise with their food and photography workshop. We arrived just as summer was fading into fall and it felt like there couldn’t be a more perfect time to be there.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

We visited a chateau dating from the 16th century, drank some beautiful wines and visited Bordeaux’s vibrant Marché des Capucins. We cooked for 14 people in a tiny galley kitchen and shared meals around a table decorated with fall foliage and tiny apples picked from the garden. We spent afternoons wandering among the rows of grape vines and picking wild peaches and figs along country roads with Didier, our local foraging expert (which is how I discovered, after all these years, that I actually do like figs!). 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

The best part though, was making new friends and sharing ideas with all the wonderful women who led and attended the workshop. I am ever grateful that my life includes travel to new corners of the globe and the opportunity to meet and learn from creative and talented people from all over the world.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Since I left Bordeaux, I’ve been criss-crossing Paris leading a culinary tour and shooting for the guide I’m working on. Yesterday, I landed in Lisbon and have been running around town with my friend Filipe, getting ready for the arrival of our retreat guests tomorrow. (I always get butterflies the night before they get here!) So basically, it’s been four weeks of crazy, wonderful chaos and doing the things I love most. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

I should sign off now and get some sleep so I’m ready to welcome all our guests tomorrow. But I haven’t posted in awhile and wanted to drop in and say hi and share some images from my week in Bordeaux.  

I’ll be back as soon as things slow down a bit with images from Paris and Lisbon. In the meantime, you can follow along on my adventures via my Instagram stories!

XO,

Olaiya

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

double-ginger blackberry plum pie

Image: Olaiya Land

Pie is a surprisingly divisive topic. I’ve seen perfectly sane bakers on the verge of a fist fight over whether the best crusts are made with butter or lard. I’ve heard pastry chefs talk mountains of trash over other chefs’ under-baked or over-browned pies. I’ve seen people almost in tears because of a soupy filling, ready to throw in the towel and give up pie-making forever.

I get it. Pie is not the easiest baked good to master. The different water and pectin content of fruit makes the filling tricky. A golden, flaky crust takes patience and attention to detail. I understand why so many of you are intimidated to bake up a pie of your own. 

But I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t be.

Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not going to go so far as to say that pie is easy. There are about a dozen steps for baking a lovely one. To do it right takes the greater part of a morning or afternoon. But a bubbling-hot pie, fresh from the oven is a thing of beauty. And a still warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures. 

In this respect, pie is like a lot of other great experiences. It’s daunting and takes work and sometimes feels unattainable. Like actually understanding wine. Or finally buying a pair of jeans that make your ass look amazing. Or finding that perfect someone to grow old and grey with. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Or venturing to a glorious city like Paris on your own--which is precisely what I’m currently doing. Despite the fact that this is my favorite city in the world, and that I’ve been here more times than I can count, and that I actually enjoy being alone, I feel out of sorts and awkward. I woke up feeling like this whole trip was a bad idea and that I’d be much happier at home in my own bed. 

Luckily, I’ve had these exact same feelings often enough to know that they aren’t true. They’re just my mind trying to trick me into playing it safe. 

But guess what? Life is entirely too short for always playing it safe. There are too many inspiring people to meet and too many new places to discover. And too many luscious pies to bake.

Image: Olaiya Land

So I’m here to remind you that if you think there’s something spectacular on the other side of your dreams, it’s always worth the discomfort it takes to get there. Even if the thing or person (or pie) turns out not to be as life-changing as you’d hoped, the journey will leave you that much richer.

So I want you to bake yourself a gilded beauty of a pie before the late-summer fruit is all gone. (To help you on your way, I’ve got step-by-step instructions for you below.)

Even if your pie turns out a little more “rustic” than you’d hoped, it will be a delicious reminder that life is too short to let fear come between you and your dreams.

Image: Olaiya Land

Double-Ginger Blackberry Plum Pie

  • 1 recipe flaky pie dough (see below)
  • 2 lbs firm-ripe plums (I used Italian prune plums, but any mix of plums will work)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1½ oz. (1/4 cup) candied ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 oz blackberries (about 2 cups)

Flaky Pie Dough

  • 1 lb + 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (or 3 tablespoons cream or milk), to glaze
  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar (regular old sugar will work, too)

 

*Notes: I straddle the Great Pie Crust Debate by using both butter and lard in my crust. The butter adds flavor, but also extra flakiness as the water in the butter is transformed to steam in the oven and creates little pockets throughout the dough. The lard creates flakes as well, adds tenderness and, due to its higher melting point, makes the dough easier to work with. I render my own leaf lard or buy it from Bob's Quality Meats or Rain Shadow Meats here in Seattle. If you don’t want to use lard, I recommend an all-butter crust (just sub butter for the lard in this recipe)--it will be delicious and only a bit harder to work with. If you work quickly and your ingredients are super cold before you begin, you shouldn't even notice any difference.

- Freezing your lard before you begin will make it easier to cut into pieces.

- Some varieties of plums can release a lot of juice once you sprinkle sugar on them. If your plums give off a lot of liquid, you’ll need to pour most of it off before baking to avoid a soggy crust and loose filling.

- If you manage to save some pie for later, don’t refrigerate it! This ruins the beautiful, flaky texture of the crust. Just tuck it under a dish towel and leave on the counter overnight.  

Image: Olaiya Land

Before you begin, make sure your butter, lard and cold water have been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If the weather is warm or your kitchen tends to be toasty, chill your flour as well.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Separate the pieces of chilled butter and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Do the same with the lard. When all the pieces of fat have been coated in flour, pick up a piece of butter or lard between your thumb and first two fingers. Slide your thumb over the butter or lard while pressing down on it in order to form a long, thin strip. Drop this strip back into the bowl so it becomes coated with flour. Continue until all the pieces of butter and lard have been flattened. Some of the flakes will break and the dough will take on a slightly crumbly or sandy appearance, which is just fine. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to re-chill the fat.

Image: Olaiya Land

Drizzle the cold water and vinegar onto the chilled flour and fat mixture, tossing constantly with a flexible silicone or rubber spatula or a large spoon. Continue adding water until the mixture is moist enough to form a dough when you pinch it together. If you have used ¾ cup of water and the dough seems dry, give it a few more turns with your spatula or spoon and then pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough. Squeeze it and see if it wants to come together into a dough.  If it is too crumbly and won’t form a dough, add a bit more water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the mixture forms a dough when you pinch it together.

Turn out the dough (it will be shaggy) onto a large work surface and gather it together into a ball. Do not knead it as this will toughen the dough. Divide it in half with a bench scraper or knife. Form each half into a ball and then flatten each ball into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap or parchemnt and chill for at least an hour before rolling. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or placed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to 2 months.  If frozen, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Image: Olaiya Land

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Place the dough into a pie plate. Lift and press it into the edges of the plate.  Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim and crimp the edges of your crust and place the pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut out a circle roughly 1 inch larger than the top diameter of your pie plate.  For a latticed pie, cut this circle into wide strips.  Place the strips on a plate and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Image: Olaiya Land

When you are ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.  

Cut the plums into quarters if they're large or halves if they're small, discarding the pits. Place the plums in a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice and ½ cup of the sugar. Set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes. Pour off the juice from the plums, discarding all of it except for ½ cup. Toss the peaches (and ½ cup juice) with two tablespoons of the cornstarch, the candied and dried ginger and a pinch of salt. 

Place the raspberries in a medium mixing bowl and toss with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of sugar. 

To fill the pie crust, pour half of the plum mixture onto your well-chilled or frozen bottom crust. Arrange half of the blackberries over the plums. Top with the rest of the plum mixture and then the rest of the blackberries. Place the dough strips from the refrigerator on top of the berries, weaving them into a lattice pattern. Trim the edges to overhang by ¾ inch. Fold the top edges of the lattice over the bottom crust, tuck the edges under and crimp. Place the filled and topped pie back in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. 

(I know, I know. There’s a lot of chilling and freezing and waiting around. But taking the time to par-freeze your pie will help keep your crust from slumping in the oven.)

Brush the top crust with the egg wash (or cream or milk) and then sprinkle with the sugar. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the crust is dark golden brown, about 45-60 minutes longer.  I like my crust deeply caramelized.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before serving. (The longer you let it cool, the easier it will be to slice.)

Serves 6-8.

Image: Olaiya Land