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 be damned.
I’m not complaining. 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.
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, restaurants I had booked for my retreat guests lost our reservation. One for 12 people on a Saturday night during Paris fashion week!)
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.
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. 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.
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
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.
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.