Jun 30, 2013

Umm Ali


Umm Ali (pronounced ooom-Ali) literally means ‘the Mother of Ali’ in Arabic.  It is a traditional Egyptian dessert, served hot, and can best be described as the Arab version of bread pudding.
The history of this dessert is hilarious.  Picture it, two wives married to the same man.  One decides she wants to be Top-Wife and has the other wife murdered.  To celebrate she serves Umm Ali to the people of Egypt.  Sounds like The Young and the Restless meets Top Chef if you ask me.
A long, long time ago, Umm Ali (the first wife) was married to Ezz El-Din Aybek, ruler of the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt.  Along comes wifey #2, Shagaret El Dorr who decides the throne is only large enough for her (assumedly ample) derriere and has Umm Ali axed.  To ‘celebrate’ her solo wife status Shagaret aka Cruella di Ville summons her chefs to create the utmost delectable dessert to serve to Egypt.  And when I say Egypt, I mean the whole dang country, not some teeny, tiny, hicktown…nope, holy friggen EGYPT. 
The chefs’s ultimately come up with a pastry dish flavored with milk and honey and name it after their obviously preferred boss, you know the non-murdering one, Umm Ali.
If dessert wasn’t bad enough to celebrate this poor woman’s demise, Cruella, ahh sorry, Shagaret also adds a gold coin to the plate.  Dessert AND money?  Man she must have known they hated her, who could say no to that?!
Typically this dessert is made with puffed pastry that has been pre-baked, however with this recipe I’m using croissants.  There are many versions out there, but think of this dessert as a blank canvas.  Use whatever spices, nuts, or toppings your family prefers.  If you cannot find rose water in your area, swap it out for orange essence and orange zest, or vanilla extract with cinnamon.  The possibilities are endless.  I even considered using chocolate milk with a shooter of Bailey’s but then one could really get side tracked and I figured it’s best to share the original version with you first.
Ramadan Kareem if you are celebrating!

Umm Ali
200 grams croissants (about six 4” croissants) day old and stale
50 grams white sugar
2 teaspoons rose water
1 liter low or full fat milk (skim is not recommended)
100 ml heavy cream
100 grams assorted nuts (any combo, I used almonds, cashews, and pecans) toasted and chopped
75 grams dried mixed berries (or raisins)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees F).  Spray a medium sized (I used 9x13 inch) baking dish with non stick spray.  Tear croissants into large pieces and cover the bottom of the dish.  *Note: you will only need one baking dish although I've shown two below; I ended up tripling the recipe since I had so many extra croissants.

In a medium sized saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil.  Remove from heat and slowly add sugar.  Stir to dissolve.  Add rose water.
Pour milk mixture directly over the torn croissants.
Sprinkle with the toasted/chopped nuts and dried berries.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Serve warm, preferably with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

recipe adapted from IICA
Umm Ali history sourced from Eat Like an Egyptian

Jun 27, 2013

Soft n' Frosted Sugar Cookies

Congratulations, you now have your go-to cookie recipe for kiddie birthdays, school parties, treats for those obscure people who claim they don't like chocolate (personally I don't believe them), or when you are just plain in need of the perfect soft sugar cookie.  And let me tell you they are easy to throw together, affordable, and when decorated with food coloring and sprinkles, they are dressed for any party.

I think I had the most fun planning the color of the frosting and sprinkles to match my serving dishes.  How very Sandra Lee, I know.  Well, minus the matchy matchy outfit, coordinating kitchen curtains, and her booze-a-licious cocktail concoctions.  If I wasn't pregger, that last one might be a different story.

This recipe came from a very close family friend, my Mom's best friend growing up (and still today!) Chris.  Chris is the ultimate dream co-worker for anyone with a sweet tooth.  She works as a communications officer for the Pennsylvania State Police (911 emergency, how can I help you?).  Almost weekly she bakes up amazing desserts for her co-workers, simply for the pure reason she loves to bake.  And like me, she loves to share and spread the love.  And it's always best to get treats out of the house asap to avoid any late night binging. 

I made these for my son's last day of school.  Okay so he's 2 and the kids probably have no idea it's their last day...or it's summer...or that they were home made with lots of love but it doesn't matter.  I'm sure the teachers appreciated them at least and and Lord knows they need all the love we can give them.

Soft n' Frosted Sugar Cookies
makes about 5 dozen (depending on how big you scoop em')
printable version


For the Cookies:
2 cups granulated sugar
8 ounces butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

For the Buttercream Frosting:
8 ounces butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream (milk is fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

gel food coloring


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Add the eggs (one at a time) and vanilla extract to the butter mixture, beat until incorporated.  Alternately add the flour and buttermilk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour.

This is my new favorite tip!  To avoid a kitchen flour catastrophe from the mixer, cover with a kitchen towel before turning on when adding flour.  This works great when making frosting with powdered sugar too.

Give your dough one last mix using a rubber spatula making sure there is no flour left at the bottom of your bowl.

Using a cookie scoop, place roundfuls of dough about 2 inches apart on either a greased or lined cookie sheet.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden in color.  Mine took 11, so it will just depend on your oven.

Remove from oven and allow cookies cool for 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the buttercream frosting, first sift your powdered sugar to remove any lumps.  It's great if you have a little extra help with this step

Cream together butter and sugar.  The mixture will be lumpy.

Add the heavy cream and vanilla extract and beat on high until you've reached a smooth and creamy consistency. 

Also good to have a taste tester at the point

If you are going to color your frosting, separate into bowls (depending on how many colors you want to make).  Add the gel food coloring slowly until you've reached the desired color. 

Using an offset spatula, generously frost the cookies and sprinkle with loads of sprinkles (who doesn't like sprinkles, come on!)

Jun 4, 2013

Malibu Rum Glazed Kiwi & Coconut Cake


If you're dreaming of a tropical getaway on a plate, this cake is for you.  Come to think of it, I should have stuck a little umbrella in it....And who knew kiwi's could provide so much moisture?  The sweetness of a kiwi cake is somewhat similar to that of a banana-based cake, but kiwi's provide much more tartness and has somewhat of a denser and heavier texture, even with the addition of baking soda and baking powder.  I think the moisture of the kiwi keeps the cake from rising too much (actually it didn't rise much at all) but in the end, the cake is sweet and has a unique texture of all its own.  Almost a fruit-cake quality.

I was approached by Zespri a few weeks ago and asked if I would help create some kiwi recipes for their social media.  I was beyond flattered and excited as kiwi's are one of my favorite fruits, and hello aren't they just gorgeous?!
The Zespri brand originated in New Zealand back in 1966 and is owned by over 2,500 growers.  Kiwi production constitutes a huge part of the country's economy with its farmers selling over 100 million trays each year! 

Sustainability and protecting the environment is a top priority for Zespri.  So important in fact, they've developed their own growing system that maintains not only consistent size, appearance, and taste for their kiwi's, but also uses environmentally considerate methods to grow, cultivate, store and ship their fruit.

Zespri sent over a beautifully wrapped box filled to the brim with perfectly ripe and candy-like sweet kiwis, which my son was convinced was all for him...as usual.

Kiwi's are not only a tasty pretty treat, they're also packed with loads of healthy goodness. Here's a list of Zespri's top ten reason's to go Kiwi:

  1. Vitamin C - One serving of kiwifruit has 240% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C! This flu-fighter also wards off the effects of aging and stress, and powers up the immune system.
  2. Fiber – Rough makes you smooth – two kiwifruit contain more fiber than a bowl of bran cereal. Fiber promotes
    a healthy heart, regular digestion, and helps lower cholesterol levels.
  3. Potassium – A serving of kiwifruit has more potassium than a banana. A great fit for active lifestyles, potassium
    maintains fluid and electrolyte balance and releases energy during exercise.
  4. Low Glycemic Index – Kiwifruit is an excellent addition to any weight-conscious diet as well as being diabetes friendly. With a low glycemic index (52), this low-fat, low-carb fruit makes a satisfying snack.
  5. Antioxidant – Kiwifruit is an antioxidant all-star! Antioxidants attack free radicals and harmful by-products in your body, reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
  6. Folate – Kiwifruit contains close to 10% of the recommended daily value of folate, vital for the health of mother and child during pregnancy, and for the prevention of birth defects.
  7. Magnesium – Two kiwifruit have a healthy 30 mg of magnesium, which powers up energy levels and improves nerve and muscle function.
  8. Lutein – This phytochemical found in kiwifruit helps to prevent age-related blindness and protect eyes against environmental stress and high-energy light.
  9. Zinc – Important for boys and men because it helps produce testosterone. Everyone else needs the zinc in kiwifruit for healthy hair, skin, teeth and nails.
  10. Vitamin E - Kiwifruit is one of the few low-fat sources of this potent cleanser and antioxidant. It also helps to lower cholesterol and boost the immune system.
Zespri Kiwi's, the ultimate super-food.

Malibu Rum Glazed Kiwi & Coconut Cake
makes one 9" loaf
printable version


For the cake:
1 1/2 cups cut Zespri kiwifruit (about 5 large kiwi's, a little more or less is okay)
1 cup brown sugar
zest of one large lemon
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 applesauce
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (or any kind of coconut you can find)
2 tablespoons Malibu Rum

For the glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Malibu Rum

1 peeled and sliced kiwi, for garnish

Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9" loaf pan. Line pan with waxed paper.

Peel and chop Kiwi. Place into medium sized saucepan. Add brown sugar and lemon zest.

Bring mixture to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove from heat.

With a hand mixer, combine egg, oil, applesauce, and Malibu Rum.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add baking soda to the kiwi mixture and stir until it bubbles. 

Pour fruit mixture into egg mixture and stir to combine.

Fold in the dry ingredients to the fruit and egg mixture.


Fold in the walnuts and coconut. Stir until just combined.  I found these Ginger Coconut Walnuts which blended perfect with the recipe!

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Top with sliced kiwi's.  Bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.


Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Once the cake has cooled, prepare the glaze. Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add the Malibu Rum and whisk until smooth and shiny. Place cake (still on wire rack) on top of a cookie sheet with edges. Pour glaze evenly over cake, allowing excess to run down into the cookie sheet (makes for easy clean up).

Allow glaze to harden, slice and serve!

Recipe adapted from Cafe Enchantee
Kiwi's lovingly provided by Zespri