depending upon the country in which it is made, or the ethnic group who is making it, these sweet little squares go by different names and sometimes contain ingredients such as shredded coconut and, in the sefardi way, ground nuts and spices. typically, each square is adorned by a single whole blanched almond or a small mound of finely ground pistachio added before serving. this version is a lebanese-type one and is made in thin squares; it goes by the name of nammoura. it can also be called basboussa, tishpishti, revani, gâteau de semoule or hrisa. one of my favourite things about this cake is that tehini (sesame) paste is used to coat the pan instead of butter which gives an amazing final flavour to the cake. of course, you can still use butter but it won't be the same.
the cake is comprised of two components — the att'ar or syrup and the cake itself. the whole cake takes a little forethought as you need to make the syrup first and let it cool to room temperature since the cake uses part of this syrup as the sweetener. once all put together, the cake rests for several hours for the syrup to be fully absorbed and the flavours to mingle.
nammoura can be made either in thick squares or thin ones. this one is thin, my personal preference. if you want them thick, then double the ingredients and follow the same directions. for this version, you'll need a 6 ½ or 7 inch pan, either square or circular. i wouldn't use an 8 inch pan as it will be too large for this amount and result in a cake which is hard and too thin. look at the dollar stores or grocery stores for disposable aluminum smaller ones if you don't have this size baking tin. if you do double the recipe, use an 8 or 9 inch pan for thick squares or the larger 9 by 12 inch pan for thin ones.
טשפשטי ~ هريسة او نمورة او بسبوسة
sweet little cake squares made from semolina, these are utterly delicious. each square is accented by a nice single almond and the taste of nutty sesame paste. the corner pieces are the best! a must for afternoon snacks or "tea", make sure you start in the morning as it needs to sit for several hours before serving. they will keep, covered, on the counter for only a day or two — if there are any remaining!
makes 16 small squares
ingredients for syrup:
1 2/3 c white sugar
3/4 c water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp orange flower water, opt
combine sugar, water and lemon juice only and bring to boil. once the sugar is all dissolved, lower the heat to low, or enough heat to maintain bubbling.
cook the syrup for 10 minutes and remove from heat. add the orange flower water if using. the syrup should be a very thin syrup. it will thicken slightly on cooling.
once cooled, start the cake.
ingredients for cake:
1 c fine semolina
2 tbsp ground almonds, opt.
3 tbsp shredded coconut, opt.
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 heaped tsp baking powder
1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c full fat yogurt
3 oz cooled syrup
tahini sesame paste or butter
blanched whole almonds,
enough to equal number of squares OR
3 tbsp finely ground pistachio*
combine the semolina with the other dry ingredients. the ground almonds and coconut are optional but very good.
add the softened butter and cream it with the dry ingredients. add the yogurt and blend again with mixer.
add the syrup last and blend well.
you can add everything together all at once but you need a big bowl, as it gets messy when you start to blend everything together.
preheat oven to 350F.
take the tehini paste or butter and add enough to coat the pan you are using. make sure to coat the pan well with the tahini. you should be able to see it shmeared on.
place the batter in the pan and spread it evenly.
now take a knife and mark your squares by scoring. you do not want to go all the way through. this is just to mark the squares.
place a single almond in the middle of each square and press it in slightly. *if using finely ground pistachio, skip this step and see end of recipe.
bake the cake for 35 minutes @ 350F.
remove cake from oven. raise the heat to 375 F.
take a knife and cut through all the squares.
return the pan to the oven for another 20 to 25 minutes or until it's golden brown.
remove from oven and while still hot, pour the cold att'ar (syrup) over the squares.
let it sit for several hours to absorb. this is essential! don't eat before!! *if using finely ground pistachio to decorate each square, let the syrup absorb fully and just before serving place about 1/4 heaped teaspoon of it in the middle of each square.
serve with coffee or tea or whatever drink makes you happy.