Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tahini Cake for Lent

Recently I hosted a Greek Independence Day dinner (see full post here). For dessert I offered grapes and a parfait of yogurt, honey (from our own hives) and toasted pistachios, but I also wanted to offer a baked item as well. The challenge is that I needed to offer an item that fit within the dietary requirements of Greek Orthodox Lent: no dairy or eggs (yes I know the yogurt is dairy, but I knew I breaking the rules for that one).

I made this tahini cake, not quite knowing what to expect. For those not familiar with it, tahini is sesame paste. You've probably eaten it in hummus and maybe in that creamy sauce you sometimes get with falafel, but it's not something many people (myself included) think of as a dessert ingredient.

So this cake was an exciting discovery. It tasted like peanut butter (but without peanut butter allergy issues, for those who are concerned about that)! The recipe called for candied fruit, so I used some candied kumquats I made earlier this year. If you have good quality candied fruit, use it, but if not, double the amount of dried fruit instead.

Tahini Cake
Makes one 9x12 baking pan - this is a pretty dense "cake" (it's more like a bar cookie), so you'll likely want to cut it into small 2"x 2" pieces. This recipe is adapted from the cookbook The Complete Book of Greek Cooking. This cookbook is a great resource for Greek food lovers: it's a community cookbook professionally published in 1990 by a Greek Orthodox church in Hempstead, NY.

Make sure your tahini is fresh: Taste it, do you want to eat it? Then it's fine for cooking. Tahini can go "off" or turn rancid pretty easily. Store your tahini in the fridge to ensure longer life.

  • 1 cup (12 ounces by weight) tahini
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or bourbon (a new world touch for sure)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup (6.75 ounces) flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup orange juice (I used grapefruit juice and didn't notice a grapefruit-y flavor)
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (I used dried cherries)
  • 1/2 cup glacĂ© fruit (I used candied kumquats - don't use that super sweet stuff from the supermarket. If you don't have access to great candied fruit, use dried fruit instead)
Preheat your oven to 350. Prepare a 9" x 12" pan: grease the bottom and sides and line the pan with parchment or waxed paper.

Beat the tahini with a mixer to aerate it a little (it won't fluff up like butter would, just soften it up). Pour in the sugar and keep beating to combine. Add the baking soda to the brandy and then pour the mixture into the tahini. Beat to blend.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon and salt.

Beat in the flour mixture and orange juice alternately to the tahini. When all the flour and orange juice have been added, add the fruit and nuts. The batter will be very thick.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes until deep golden brown. Cool in the pan on a rack. When cool, cut into small pieces and dust with confectioner's sugar if desired.

1 comment:

bedroom dresser said...

I also had made this last Lent. It is the only thing that we ate for couple of days before Easter.

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