What was once a Soframiz review is now a Sofra vs Kareem’s curiosity post

I’m always of two minds when it comes to Middle Eastern cooking.

On the one hand, I know that I love Middle Eastern food.  There’s a restaurant a couple of towns away from me called Kareem’s, where I learned how wonderful and diverse Middle Eastern food really was.  It’s more than hummus, kabobs, and baklava.  I discovered muhammara, ma’moul, kanafa, and so much more.

But enjoying middle eastern food doesn’t necessarily mean that I feel an urge to cook it at home.  I’ve learned a few wonderful recipes over the years, but I just never make them.

For the longest time, I only owned one Middle Eastern cookbook in my personal library.

I now own two books.

Soframiz, by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick, is a title that I waffled about picking up a copy.  The recipes are from/inspired by Sofra Bakery and Cafe, a locally acclaimed Middle Eastern restaurant.

9781607749189

Full disclosure – I haven’t been to Sofra yet.  I know I’m ridiculous considering how not-far-away it is from me.  I almost didn’t pick up the cookbook.  But my older sister has been there, and she was quick to tell me to give it a go.  (And I’m sure that she wants to borrow it for herself.)

Skimming through the cookbook, there’s something adventurous about all the recipes.  True, there’s the ubiquitous recipe for shakshuka.  However, more often than not, there are recipes that I’ve never even heard of like cheese borek with nigella seeds (borek appears to be a type of pie).

Some recipes that have peaked my interest?

  • tahini brioche loaves
  • asure (breakfast grain pudding)
  • olive oil granola
  • yufka (unleavened bread dough)
  • chicken shwarma with garlic sauce and greens
  • chicken and walnut borek
  • tahini shortbread cookies
  • milky walnut fig baklava (I would love to know how Sofra’s baklava compares with Kareem’s.  So far, Kareem’s is my favorite.)
  • almond rose cake
  • kunefe (Also curious as to how Sofra compares with Kareem’s on dessert.)
  • orange blossom lemonade
  • tahini hot chocolate

So far, I’ve only made the shwarma spice mix.  I haven’t used it for real shwarma but I have experimented cooking with it a little.  It’s quite warming on the tongue, and perfumed.  Very bold flavor, maybe too bold.  I made a batch of spiced chickpeas stewed in tomatoes, and some spiced meatballs.  While both were enjoyable, I’m considering simplifying the spice mix.  I’ll probably make the chicken shwarma recipe from the book before cementing my decision.

The photos are downright delightful looking.  I would love for someone to make all that food for me to taste.  (I guess I should really just hoof it over to Sofra, right?)  I’m having trouble finding a photo that I don’t think looks appetizing.  The food take center stage, free from any unnecessary background noise, and free from any insane photoshopping.  (To this day, I don’t like food photos that are heavy on the contrast.)

There are really no bad points to Soframiz.  I guess I can thank my sister for nudging me to pick up a copy.

Having said that, will I really step out of my comfort zone and cook from Soframiz?  I’m not really sure.

(I will, however, make the lemonade.  I don’t care of it’s the wrong season for it.  I even bought lemons already.  I can’t lie:  I really like the orange blossom lemonade at Kareem’s.  I don’t have the recipe, and I haven’t been able to replicate it on my own.  I’m insanely curious to see how the Soframiz recipe will compare.)

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Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  

Reference Links:

http://www.sofrabakery.com/

http://www.kareemsrestaurant.com/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/258239/soframiz-by-ana-sortun-and-maura-kilpatrick/

nutmeg cake with orange blossom syrup

I baked this weekend! Exciting, isn’t it? I even took pictures and edited said pictures.

 

nutmeg cake with orange blossom syrup

Anyway, my friend Tammy (whose lovely photos of some of my foods grace my food entries) was having her annual lamb dinner (with non-lamb options for people like me). Nearly all of her guests brought something to nibble on, including myself.

The newest cookbook that sits on my bookshelf is Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it!

Pros: It came together pretty easily.

Cons: My cake was half the height of the cake in the book photo! I was pretty sure that I had my eggs and butter at room temperature, and I tried really hard not to over-mix. On top of that, my syrup could have been bolder.

I think I might try cake flour next time and see if it gives a better result. However, please don’t think this means that this was a bad cake! For a total experiment, it still yielded pretty tasty results (and it was not too sweet, thankfully).

adapted from Warm Bread and Honey Cake

6 oz all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 loose tsp nutmeg (I used freshly grated)
1 stick of butter, softened
4 1/2 oz brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp milk
6 Tbsp orange blossom syrup

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 1-lb loaf pan.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Sift this.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until creamed and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs loosely in a small bowl with the vanilla. Add the egg to the butter mixture bowl in two batches, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Then use a whisk to fold in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk.
(So, you’re adding 1/3 flour mixture, 2 Tbsp milk, 1/3 flour mixture, 2 Tbsp milk, and the final 1/3 flour mixture.)

Pour into the loaf pan, and bake for 40-45 minutes (or until a tester is inserted and comes out clean).

Remove the pan from the oven, and poke several small holes into the cake (making sure to poke all the way through to the bottom). Slowly pour the syrup over the cake. Let it cool about 5 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. After that, wrap the cake well in plastic wrap and let the flavors meld for a day before serving.

Orange Blossom Water Syrup
make about 1 1/2 cup

Put 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup water, and 1 tsp lemon juice into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Take the pan off the  heat and let it cool about 5 minutes.

Add orange blossom water to your liking (I ended up using 1 1/2 Tbsp for the cake… but I now think that it should be 2-3 Tbsp).

Use the syrup on cake, in tea, and anything else that suits your fancy!

~Mikan