What is Basbousa?
Basbousa literally translates to “just a kiss”, is basically a syrupy semolina “cake,” with a prominent buttery flavor, a signature pleasantly sandy texture, made super moist with a generous shower of sugar syrup. It originated in Egypt, but is also popular throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean under different names and variation. It’s sometimes covered in nuts and a dollop of cream.
FOR THE LIGHT SOAKING SYRUP:
250g (1¼ cup) granulated sugar
350g (1½ cup) water
Small squeeze of lemon juice
FOR THE BASBOUSA BASE:
500g (3 cups) medium grind white semolina
150g (⅔ cup plus 1 tablespoon) ghee, melted
50g (⅓ cup packed) unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
150g (⅔ cup) whole milk
100g (⅓ cup) heavy sugar syrup (recipe below)
250g (1¼ cup) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ghee, for brushing over the basbousa (optional)
150g raw nuts, like hazelnuts or almonds, blanched and coarsely chopped (optional)
Fresh eshta (country clotted cream), for serving, optional
FOR THE HEAVY SUGAR SYRUP:
70g (⅓ cup) granulated sugar
40g (2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) water
A drop of lemon juice
TO MAKE THE LIGHT SOAKING SYRUP:
Start by making the syrup as it needs to cool down to room temperature before using. In a medium saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and squeeze of lemon juice.
Set the saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently stir the mixture, as it heats, being careful not to get any sugar granules up the sides of the pan. Continue stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring mixture to a full boil, then remove immediately from heat. Set syrup aside to cool completely before using.
TO MAKE THE BASBOUSA BASE:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 210C (410F). Grease a 34cm (13 inch) round pan with ghee; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine together the semolina and melted ghee, stirring really well with a rubber spatula, to coat the semolina grains with the ghee. It is very important to make sure that every grain is well coated.
If desired, process the coconut in a food processor or spice grinder until very fine. Stir into the semolina/ghee mixture until well combined.
In a 4-cup microwave-safe measuring cup (or small bowl), combine together the milk, heavy sugar syrup (recipe below), and sugar.
Heat in the microwave until very warm; about 90 seconds. Whisk the mixture really well until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Pour the warm milk mixture over the semolina mixture, and using a rubber spatula, fold gently just until no dry pockets of semolina remain. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the pan over the counter several times to smooth out.
Transfer the pan to the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes to rest (but no longer than 1 hour), until the batter has thickened up and is no longer a loose fluid. If you shake the pan, it shouldn't jiggle. Sprinkle the nuts, if using, over the surface of the batter, pressing it in to adhere.
Bake for 22 to 27 minutes or until the basbousa's surface is deep golden brown in color.
As soon as the basbousa comes out of the oven, quickly pour the cooled Light Sugar Syrup all over the basbousa. The syrup should soak in, in a matter of a few minutes.
Once soaked in, brush the surface of the basbousa with 2 tablespoons of ghee, if desired.
Allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes, before cutting into squares and serving.
TO MAKE THE HEAVY SUGAR SYRUP:
In an extra small saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and drop of lemon juice. Set over high heat.
Try to avoid stirring it as it heats to prevent crystallization from happening. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes or until the syrup thickens and reduces down to 100g (⅓ cup).