In homes throughout Amman, Jordan, this simple cake called hareeseh is consumed often. Similar versions can be found most anywhere in the region. Its unique and delicious aroma comes from the tahini (sesame paste) used to brush the pan instead of butter. It makes for a wonderful dessert or late afternoon snack with mint tea.
Hareeseh – Yogurt Cake
- 8-inch square metal baking pan
- Medium bowl, wooden spoon
- small saucepan
- 4 tsp Tahini
- 1 cup Plain low-fat yogurt
- ⅔ tsp Baking soda
- 1½ cups Semolina #1 (fine)
- 5 tbsp Sugar
- 4 tbsp Butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 16 Pine nuts or blanched almonds
- ½ cup Sugar syrup, (see notes)
- Powdered sugar
- Kaymak (see notes)
- Prep – Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Smear tahini over bottom and sides of a baking pan. Combine yogurt and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- Assemble – In a medium bowl, combine semolina and sugar; mix well. Add butter into the yogurt and pour it all over the semolina. Mix everything to a stiff, well blended dough. Spread dough evenly in the baking pan. Do not pat it down. With a thin knife, cut dough into 4 squares each direction. Place a pine nut or almond in the middle of each square.
- Cook – Bake 40 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown and top is golden. Remove from oven and immediately run a knife along the cut lines and pour the syrup over the hot cake. Return to oven and bake 4-5 minutes. Serve warm or cold sprinkled with powdered sugar and next to a dollop of kaymac, if desired.
- To make sugar syrup, bring 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Dissolve sugar. Skim surface. Lower heat to medium, add 1 tbsp lemon juice, and simmer until the syrup seems sticky, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp rose water, if you have it. Can be refrigerated for months.
- Kaymak is similar to creme fraiche or clotted cream. For this decent approximation of the real thing, take 1 cup whole milk yogurt drained to 1/4 cup. Beat together with 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese. Keep chilled.