If You Haven't Tried this Egyptian Sweet, You’re Missing Out - Basbousa Recipe
By: Caroline Umphlet / Arab America Contributing Writer
The Arab World sure does know how to make sweets, from kunafa to baklawa to Om Ali. They all are lovely in their own way with great variations across the region. Basbousa is a famous Egyptian sweet loved by millions. It is a sweet spongy delicacy made from semolina or farina that is completely drowned in sugar syrup. Basbousa is most comparable to a cake texture, but not necessarily the same.
Basbousa originates from Turkish cuisine in the Ottoman Empire and became popular in Egypt. It was supposedly cooked for the first time in the 16th century to celebrate the conquest of Armenia.
There is a sweets shop on almost every corner in Egypt selling basbousa. Additionally, there are also rolling carts and stands that sell basbousa on the streets. It is quite common to see it as an option on restaurant menus for dessert as well.
Although basbousa is readily available all over Egypt, it is also eaten at events and celebrations. Muslims and Christians alike serve it at religious holidays. During the holy month of Ramadan and Eid, parties are filled with trays of basbousa as well as at Lent celebrations. Weddings and birthday parties often have basbousa as well.
Basbousa actually has many alternative names across the Arab World. The Lebanese name is “namoura.” Palestinians refer to it as “harisseh,” as well as in the Maghreb (Western North Africa). Alexandria, a city on the Northern coast of Egypt, has a slight difference in dialect compared to Cairo or other parts of the country. Consequently, they call it “harisseh.” In Turkish it is known as “revani.” Regardless, all the different names refer to the classic sweet and light desert that we know and love.
Some Egyptians use the word “basbousa” as a term of endearment towards loved ones. Saying “basbousty” essentially translates to English as “my sweet.”
Authentic Egyptian Basbousa Recipe
Ingredients for the Basbousa
- One and a quarter cup of basbousa flour (semolina)
- Half a cup of ghee, melted
- One tablespoon of honey
- Half a cup of sugar
- Half a cup of yogurt
- Coconut flakes
- A tablespoon of baking powder
Ingredient for the Syrup
- One cup of sugar
- One cup of water
- Juice of half a lemon
- Two tablespoons of honey
- Half a teaspoon of vanilla
- Orange flower water or rose water (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
- Mix together the dry ingredients: semolina, sugar, coconut, and baking powder
- Mix together the wet ingredients: ghee and honey
- If they are not homogeneous, you can melt the mixture until they are
- Mix the dry and wet ingredients together
- Decorate with almonds, pistachios, or any nuts you prefer
- One almond on each square is a common pattern
- Some people decorate after the basbousa comes out of the oven
- Line the baking sheet with tahini and ghee beforehand
- Put the dough into the tray and distribute it evenly (wetting your hands with water before this ensures that the dough does not stick to your hands)
- Bake in the oven for no longer than 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown
- Prepare the syrup while it is baking
- Put sugar and water in a pot and stir them well
- Heat the mixture on the stove to a boil
- Add lemon juice, vanilla and two tablespoons of white honey
- Leave it on a low heat and boil for 5 minutes
- Take the basbousa out of the oven and pour the syrup over it
- Leave it until it cools down (do not cool it in the refrigerator)
- Finally you cut the sheet up evenly either into squares or diamonds
- serve warm or room temperature
According to most bakers, basbousa tastes better after sitting overnight or for a day because it has more time to soak up the syrup completely.
Variations of Basbousa
This sweet is amazing on its own, but there are a few items that pair greatly with it. Of course, tea or turkish coffee is commonly enjoyed besides any Arab sweet.
Another popular Egyptian way to enjoy basbousa is putting a dollop of eshta, a vanilla-like cream, on top. Additionally, countries bake basbousa with differing degrees of granulation, density, syrup, and flavors. Sometimes, there is cream in the middle and also topped with different kinds of nuts. Egyptians tend to use almonds or hazelnut while in Lebanon and Syria, they use pistachios. Basbousa is definitely a favorite in the Arab region and you’re sure to love it too.
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