Sponge cake with arak liqueur and cassis cream filling

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Blumen style 131The Arack (araq) is the name of an Arab alcoholic spirit (40–63%) from the anis drinks family(ouzo, pastis, raki). It is a clear, colorless, unsweetened anise-flavored distilled alcoholic drink (also labeled as an Apéritif) and the traditional alcoholic beverage of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, and Iran.

Blanche_absinthe_loucheArak is usually mixed in approximately 1/3 arak and 2/3 water in a traditional Levantine water vessel, called barik, (bariq) then the mixture is poured in small, ice-filled cups (named “Raki” in Turkey). This dilution causes the clear liquor to turn a translucent milky-white color; this is because anethole, the essential oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not in water. This results in an emulsion, whose fine droplets scatter the light and turn the liquid translucent, a phenomenon known as louching. In restaurants, when a bottle of arak is ordered, the waiter will usually bring a number of glasses along with it for this reason. Arak is commonly served with mezza, which could include dozens of small traditional dishes. In general, arak drinkers prefer to consume it this way, rather than alone. It is also well consumed with barbecues, along with garlic sauce.

Research suggests that the branches of arak tree (another names are toothbrush tree or mustard tree, miswa etc.) contain a number of medically beneficial properties. It is a popular chewing stick throughout the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the wider Muslim world and besides it has antiurolithiatic properties (its tonic is a well known medicament against kidney stones). Its fibrous branches have been promoted by the WHO for oral hygiene use. No need to fear that the arak liqueur does taste of toothpaste, but rather fresh anis and pungent flavour!

The recipe of the arak liqueur cake with cassis cream filling

Ingredients for the cake:

6 oz butter

6 oz caster sugar

3 eggs

6 oz almond flour

90ml Crème de Cassis

For the filling:

4 heaped tbsp redcurrants

2 tbsp caster sugar

200 ml cream

gelatin

For the icing: 5 oz icing sugar

4 tbsp Crème de Cassis plus Arak liqueur + 1 oz icing sugar mixed with a few drops of water for piping

Methods:

Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease and line 2 x 7 inch sandwich tins. Use the all in one method to make the sponge layers, whisk all the cake ingredients together using an electric mixer until smooth. Divide the cake mix evenly between the 2 tins and bake for 25 minutes until golden and risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Turn out the cakes on a wire rack to cool. Make the filling by heating the redcurrants and sugar together in a small pan and cook until the redcurrants start to go soft, this will take about 10 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan and it should set like jam.

In a deep mixing bowl, beat 1 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and Cassis liqueur over cream; beat until soft peaks return. Do not overbeat. Soak gelatin in luke warm water and heat until it’s melted. Add redcurrant jam to cream fold everything together carefully. Let cream set for a while.

For the icing mix together the liqueurs and the icing sugar until you get a fairly thick spreadable icing. In a separate bowl mix the icing sugar and water for the piping, this needs to be very thick so it will hold its shape when being piped. To assemble the cake place one half on a plate or cake stand and spread with the redcurrant cream and place the other cake on top. Spoon the icing over the top and spread evenly with a palette knife. Spoon the piping icing into a small piping bag and decorate the cake however you like.

The arak tree -(Salvadora persica),- is a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk, seldom more than one foot in diameter. Its bark is scabrous and cracked, whitish with pendulous extremities. The root bark of the tree is similar to sand, and the inner surfaces are an even lighter shade of brown. It has a pleasant fragrance, as well as a warm and pungent taste. The leaves break with a fine crisp crackle when trodden on. In Pakistan these ancient, majestic and sturdy trees are more closely associated with graveyards similar to the cypress tree in English culture.

Arak is not to be confused with the similarly named liquor, arrack (which in some cases, such as in Indonesia—especially Bali, also goes by the name arak). Another similar-sounding word is aragh which in Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia is the colloquial name of vodka, and not an aniseed-flavored drink. Raki, Mastika and ouzo are aniseed-flavored alcoholic drinks, related to arak, popular in Turkey, Bulgari, Cyprus, and Greece, respectivelyToothbrush tree 007

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