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Sephardic Syrup-Soaked Semolina Cake - Tishpishti
Yield: About 24 (2-inch/5 cm) pieces

2 cups fine semolina meal or farina
(or 1 cup semolina meal and 2 cups all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup ground almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons orange juice or orange blossom water
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
(or 1 teaspoon orange zest and 1 teaspoon lemon zest)
Pinch of salt
2 cups sugar syrup, cooled (instructions below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C). Grease a 13-by-9-inch (33 x 23 cm) baking pan or 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan.

2. Combine the semolina or farina, nuts, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the oil, juice or orange blossom water, and zest. Stir in the semolina mixture.

3. Beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the salt, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the batter to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining whites.

4. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup evenly over the warm cake. Let the cake cool and absorb the syrup. Cut into diamond shapes or squares.

Variation (kosher for Passover)

Tishpishti de Muez (Middle Eastern Nut Cake): Omit the baking powder. Substitute 1 cup matza cake meal for the semolina and increase the amount of nuts to 2 cups. Or omit the semolina and oil, substitute 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda for the baking powder, reduce the amount of sugar to 3/4 cup, and increase the amount of nuts to 2 cups.

Sugar Syrup
Yield: About 1-1/2 cups

2 cups sugar (or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup honey)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all of the ingredients in a heavy 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, without stirring, until the mixture is syrupy or registers 212 degrees (100 C) on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator.

Variations

Cinnamon Syrup: Add 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Orange Syrup: Just before removing the syrup from the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon orange blossom water. Or add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest with the sugar.

Rose syrup: Just before removing the syrup from the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon rose water.

 

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