Ravani is a semolina cake drenched in luscious sweet syrup with Middle Eastern roots, also referred to as Basbousa. The treat has many variations all over Greece, Turkey and the Middle East, and has been a very popular dessert in Turkey since Ottoman Period.
Some make it with coconut flakes, others add almonds, and in Greece we do both; but what makes it so special is the beautiful and aromatic spices we add.
We add masticha.
Masticha is originally from a small and picturesque island of Greece called Chios. The collection of mastic drops is hard labor, but it’s a labor of love. Its unique aromas and taste — similar to pine and cedar — make it popular around the world.
I was first introduced to ravani as a child. As a little girl, I was always spending time in the kitchen.
Being my parents’ “little helper” made me feel so special. Ravani was one of my favorite dishes to make — I was always so excited and impatient to see the results which, by the way, were always the same: delicious! The treat has many steps; however, the execution is luckily very easy. Moreover, the typical recipe can be amended as you’ll see below.
The Greeks from Istanbul have one specific recipe, and that’s where I got inspired from. These people are amazing cooks with great knowledge of spices and desserts. The cuisine of Istanbul is a combination of different cultures, like Jewish, Middle Eastern and Greek. Since the Byzantine Period, the Greeks of Istanbul were better cooks than the rest of us. Their style of cooking is focused on comfort, with beautiful aromatic spices mainly influenced by Turkey.
As a gluten intolerant I had to substitute the semolina with almond flour, and coconut flakes with the hint of orange. Fluffy, aromatic and topped with luscious pastry cream, this is a heavenly dessert!
4.5 oz sugar
3 oz almond flour
2.4 oz gluten free all purpose flour
1.7 oz unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the syrup:
8.8 oz sugar
1 oz honey
an orange peel
1 teaspoon mastic powder or 7 oz mastic liqueur
For the pastry cream:
3 egg yolks
3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mastic powder or 1 tablespoon mastic liqueur
1 teaspoon orange zest.
Make the pastry cream first:
- In a medium bowl,beat egg yolks well.
- Stir in milk.
- In a sauce pan,under medium heat,mix sugar,cornstarch and salt.
- Gradually,stir in a small amount of milk of milk mixture.
- Add the mastic powder,the vanilla extract and orange zest.
- Keep on whisking until your cream gets nice and thick.
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven at 350 F.
- In a medium bowl,beat the egg yolks with 3.5 oz of the sugar,until you get that pale thick cream.
- Add the almond flour,baking powder,coconut flakes and the all purpose flour.
- In a different bowl,beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar until you get a stiff meringue.
- Add the meringue into the egg yolk-sugar mixture in two batches and fold carefully. Be gentle,so the cake will not deflate.
- Pour the batter into a well greased 8 inch cake pan and bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
For the syrup:
- In a heavy bottom sauce pan, add all the ingredients for the syrup and bring it to a boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Take the cake out of the oven,don’t let both the syrup and cake cool. Pour carefully the syrup in the cake. It may seems a lot of syrup but it will absorb it fast.
- Let it cool.
- When it’s cooled down completely,topped it with the pastry cream and some whip cream.
Contributed by and all photos courtesy of Margarita Anastasiou