You also must have plenty of patience to make it, which is why I’ve failed making this dessert so many times before.
Literally translated Qalb El Louz means ‘heart’ of almonds is a orange blossom- perfumed, semolina based and sugar syrup-soaked dessert.
The name I’m assuming is down to the ground almond layer running through the centre or how you strategically place the whole almond on each slice before baking.
One thing I do know is that this over the top sweet dessert is in the hearts of many Algerian and non-Algerian, including me.
I’m informed Almonds are not that cheap to get hold of in Algeria, which could be why this dessert only seems to appear on dessert tables during special occasions such as Ramadan and the two EIDs when our hearts are more inclined to get their bodies a sugar fix!
Depending on a family’s budget the almonds are often replaced with walnuts which are cheaper in Algeria or omitted altogether.
The Night Before:
Take 500 grams extra coarse semolina and 200 grams homemade vanilla sugar, using you right hand, mix together.
Add 125 grams melted, slightly cooled butter and rub as you would when making pastry, into the semolina sugar mix.
Next up, orange blossom water. Orange blossom water is a must it can’t be substituted with rose water as orange blossom water gives this dessert it’s much-needed bitter flavour to offset all the sweetness. Gradually mix in 1/4 cup as you did the butter using your hand.
Cover and chill the mixture overnight in your refrigerator. This went in about 430pm, you need to leave it at the very least 12 hours.
The next mornings take your semolina mix out of the fridge and leave it on the countertop while you prepare the rest of the Qalb El Louz components.
First up, butter your tin(s). I used a 20cm round tarte tatin pan and a 20cm square baking tin. Traditionally 1 large shallow round tin would be used. If you know where I can get hold of it in the UK, please leave me a comment.
Melt 115 grams butter then prepare almond filling by mixing together 130 grams ground almonds, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon melted butter. Set filling aside and leave the rest of the melted butter to cool in the pan, we will use it later.
Make sugar honey syrup: 1 litre water, 300 grams homemade vanilla sugar, 1/4 cup runny honey, 1/4 cup orange blossom water. Bring to boil then reduce slightly and let it bubble away for 10 minutes. You don’t want the syrup to be too thick. It should be just a little thicker than water. Set aside to cool.
Using your hand break up the semi-solid semolina ‘dough’ by rubbing together between your fingers. Gradually add 1/4 cup regular tap water the same method as used the evening before.
Sprinkle a thin layer of semolina to cover the pan, gently press (don’t compact) and smooth out using the back of a spoon.
Now if your following my way of using two pans, add half of the cinnamony ground almonds you prepared earlier and smooth out. Sprinkle a slightly thicker layer of semolina mix over the almonds until it’s fully covered. Again gently press and smooth out. Repeat process for your other pan. Using a knife gently cut/score your slices by going 3/4 down. Put a whole almond on each slice. Not finished yet…..
That butter you melted earlier, we are going to use it to ‘paint’ our qalb el louz. But by this point if it’s completely solidified give it a quick re-heat, I’m talking 5-10 seconds.
At this point you think, really? but yes reeaaallly.
When it comes to making Qalb El Louz also known as h’rissa or chaymia in other parts of Algeria, baking method must be by Gas Oven.
I have made this sweet countless times before and never got it quite right. An electric oven doesn’t care that you want your Qalb El Louz to have a deep golden top and to remain pale but still cooked underneath.
So, if you are planning to make this dessert without a gas oven I strongly recommend you ask a favour from family, friend, neighbour to use their gas oven and in turn you will supply them some of the result.
Bake Gas Mark 5 in the lower half of your oven for up to 1 hour. Then……
As soon as it comes out of the oven re-score the cuts your made earlier then pour on the syrup. The Qalb El Louz will begin to sizzle and hiss, that’s normal. You will need anywhere between 75%-90% of the syrup depending on the absorption quality of your semolina. Leftover syrup can be used to sweeten porridge or a cup of tea.
Traditionally Qalb El Louz is served after a meal along with a cup of mint tea. If you don’t like or don’t have mint tea a nice alternative is Earl Grey as it compliments the flavours of the dessert quite well.
Now if you were thinking wooohooo we can finally have a slice you would be er, mistaken. Leave the Qalb El Louz to soak up syrup and set up overnight or at the very least 4 hours before attempting to cut a slice.
I am told it’s ok if when you take a slice it cracks on the surface, but for photo purposes I made sure to leave my Qalb El Louz overnight and took out each slice before picking ‘the one’, by this point my other pan of Qalb El Louz had already been semi devoured.
To tell you how good this Qalb El Louz is, my husband ranked it high saying it was as good as the locally famous one in his home town! and his silent approval was that he ate 2 slices within minutes of each other, in the past he has never finished 1.
- For the 'cake'
- 500 grams extra coarse semolina
- 200 grams homemade vanilla sugar
- pinch of salt
- 125 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons orange blossom water
- 1/4 cup water - to be used on baking day
- 130 grams ground almonds
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For the syrup
- 1 litre water
- 300 grams homemade vanilla sugar
- 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup (or less i.e. according to taste) orange blossom water
- whole almonds
- 100 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
- In a large bowl put coarse semolina, salt and sugar, using you right hand, mix together.
- Add butter and rub as you would when making pastry, into the semolina sugar mix.
- Gradually mix in orange blossom water as you did the butter using your hand.
- Cover and refrigerate over night.
- Butter tin(s) liberally with room temp butter.
- Pre-Heat Oven Gas Mark 5
- Prepare almond filling, in a small bowl mix ingredients together, set aside.
- Make syrup, put all syrup ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring only until the sugar as dissolved then do not stir anymore. Reduce temperature slightly and leave to bubble away for 10 minutes. Set aside leave to cool.
- Using your hand break up the semi-solid semolina ‘dough’ by rubbing together between your fingers. Gradually add water the same method as the evening before.
- If using 2 pans - sprinkle a thin layer of semolina to cover each pan, gently press (don’t compact) and smooth out using the back of a spoon.
- Add half of the cinnamony ground almonds to each pan and smooth out. Sprinkle a slightly thicker layer of semolina mix over the almonds untill fully covered. Again gently press and smooth out. Using a knife gently cut/score your slices by going 3/4 down. Put a whole almond on each slice.
- Paint melted cooled butter on top then bake in lower half of oven for 1 hour or until deep golden brown.
- Remove from oven re-score the cuts you made earlier then pour on the syrup, you will need anywhere between 75%-90% of the syrup depending on the absorption quality of your semolina.
- Leave to soak up the syrup and set up overnight. Serve with mint or earl grey tea.
- Homemade vanilla sugar: leftover vanilla pods put into your sugar bowl and leave a week or so.
- Don't be shy with the syrup you think it's too much but it needs it for the texture to be correct.
*updated 2012 post