This month’s challenge is hosted by Jason from Daily Candor who challenged us to bake a peculiar-looking and peculiarly named hrapouša (hrah-PO-choo-sha) cake (or Dolska torta, or “Dol cake”). Created by the villagers of the tiny town of Dol on the Dalmatian island of Bra, the cake seems to have been named for the rugged stones from the nearby caves, and is known locally to be a bit of an aphrodisiac. It has won considerable acclaim within Croatia, and every year the town of Dol hosts the Night of Hrapouša competition which draws over a thousand attendees.

The cake is very different from other cakes in terms of both texture and flavor. The bottom layer is a fragrant almond-based sponge with orange-vanilla notes, while the top is a lemon-scented fragile brittle made of walnuts. It is extremely rich, and even those of us with a major sweet tooth can handle only a thin slice or two. Fortunately, it keeps at room temperature for a good week, and for several months if frozen immediately after making.

HRAPOUSA

Ingredients:

250g / 9oz / 1 3/4 cups whole almonds (roasted or raw)

400g / 14oz / 3 1/2 cups walnuts (halves and pieces)

600g / 1 1/3lb / 3 cups granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoon kirsch or other cherry-flavored liquor

1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon

6 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 480°F / 249°C / Gas Mark 9 1/2. Pulse the almonds in food processor to yield a meal.
  • Take the zest and juice from ½ orange, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, cherry-flavored liquor and 200g sugar.

  • Mix gently until it is homogeneous. Separate the 6 eggs, adding the egg yolks directly into the mixer bowl.
  • Retain the whites separately: 4 whites in one large mixing bowl, the remaining 2 in another medium bowl.

  • Mix ingredients from step 2 with yolks until batter is uniform. Pour into another bowl if using stand mixer.
  • Clean out your standing mixer bowl and place the 2 egg whites in the bowl. Beat well until stiff peaks form.

  • Add half of the beaten egg whites and half of the almond meal to the batter. Fold it in gently to incorporate.
  • Add remaining almond meal and egg whites, stirring gently. Pour the batter into a 20 cm spring form pan.

  • Drop oven temperature to 392°F /200°C immediately after placing cake inside and bake as per scheduled:
    for 5 minutes at 392°F /200°C, then for 15 minutes at 350°F / 176°C and for 15 minutes at 320°F / 160°C.

  • Begin checking the cake approx. 5 minutes after lowering the temperature to 320°F / 160°C / Gas Mark 3.
  • When a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, remove cake from the oven and leave to cool.

  • If the center has swollen due to baking, press gently with the back of a wooden spoon to flatten its surface.
  • While the cake is baking, place remaining 4 egg whites, 400g / 2 cups sugar and the walnuts in a large pot.

  • Turn up the burner to medium-high heat and stir the mixture aggressively for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Make sure that the bottom of the pot does not scorch. Stop when the liquid takes on a beige/caramel color.

  • Add zest and juice of ½ lemon and remaining ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract to the walnut-caramel mixture.
  • Stir to spread uniformly throughout mixture. Pour resulting walnut mixture over bottom layer of the cake.

  • Make the top even with the back of the wooden spoon and place the cake back in the oven at 320°F /160°C.
  • Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the top takes on a golden color. Allow cake to cool for 90 minutes.

  • Then gently remove cake from spring form pan, peel off the parchment paper. Servings: Makes 12-16 slices.
  • Cake can be stored at room temperature for 5-6 days or cover in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

With the scare surrounding animal borne diseases like Salmonella and Foot and Mouth Disease over the past few weeks, the Mauritian population has been shunning meat and poultry in favour of less suspicious sources of animal protein such as fish and seafood. Many have abandoned the meat section for safer plant based preparations. Tofu is one such healthy option that has been attracting more interest these days. Commonly known as teokon in Mauritius, this soya derivative makes a good substitute for both vegetarians and vegans. You will find it in the vegetable section of most supermarkets next to fresh produce and noodles. Though I almost always add tofu to a rougaille/tomato based sauce, I deviated from my usual method of preparation with this stir-fry recipe from BBC GoodFood. The marinated crispy tofu cubes – piled on layers of crunchy veggies and strands of rice vermicelli – pack loads of nutritious elements in a single bowl and will surely make you forget about any dangerous bacteria that has been driving everyone crazy lately.

TOFU VEGETABLE STIR FRY

Ingredients:

For the Tofu Marinade

195g extra-firm tofu

2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

2 cm piece ginger, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the Stir-Fried Noodles

85g vermicelli rice noodle

3 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 spring onion, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

2 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

100g pak choi/ brede tom pouce

50g fresh bean sprouts

1 large red pepper, sliced

50g corn kernels, drained

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Juice of 1/2 lime, freshly squeezed

1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander

Method:

  • Drain the tofu by placing on several sheets of kitchen paper on a plate, with several more on top.
  • Put a heavy weight on top of the tofu and leave it for at least 15 minutes. Cut the tofu into cubes.

  • Make the marinade by mixing together remaining ingredients. Put the tofu cubes in small bowl.
  • Add marinade, cover and leave for 30 to 60 minutes. Cook noodles as per package instructions.

  • Drain and sit them in a bowl of cold water. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add the tofu cubes.
  • Fry tofu cubes till hot and crispy. Before removing tofu from pan, add any remaining marinade.

  • Let it sizzle for 10 seconds. Place the cooked tofu on a warm plate; cover with foil to keep warm.
  • In a frying pan or wok, heat oil over high heat. Add the spring onion, garlic, red chilli and ginger.

  • Stir constantly for about 1 minute, then add bean sprouts, pak choi, peppers and corn kernels.
  • Stir for another 1 to 2 minutes, then add the cooked noodles. Toss well, then add the soy sauce.

  • Add lime juice and mix until well combined. Remove from the heat and divide between 2 bowls.
  • Top each bowl with tofu and drizzle over any juices. Sprinkle with the coriander before serving.

Eat healthy, eat safe!

I just realized that I do not have a single decent straightforward recipe for a basic chocolate sponge cake on this blog. It eludes me how such a situation came to be but I immediately set into the kitchen to rectify this unimaginable blunder. My go-to recipe for a no-fuss sponge with all its inherent light and fluffy character is the chocolate sponge from The Australian’s Women Weekly. Featured in its 100 classic cake recipes book, this basic recipe might become your reference for a reliable chocolate sponge as it has been mine for years.

CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Cake

3 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar

1/4 cup (35g) corn flour

1/4 cup (35g) plain flour

1/4 cup (35g) self-raising flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

300ml heavy cream, whipped

For the Coffee Icing

3 teaspoons instant coffee

2 tablespoons full cream milk

11/2 cups (240g) icing sugar

1 teaspoon softened butter

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Lightly grease two deep 20-cm circular cake pans.
  • Line bases with baking paper. Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer until thick and creamy.

  • Transfer the mixture to large bowl. Meanwhile, triple-sift dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Using a balloon whisk or metal spoon, fold into egg mixture. Divide the batter between pans.

  • Bake about 25 minutes. Turn out immediately onto a baking paper-covered wire racks to cool.
  • Meanwhile, combine coffee and milk and stir till dissolved. Sift icing sugar into medium bowl.

  • Stir in butter and coffee mixture to make a firm paste. Stir the mixture over simmering water.
  • Stir until icing is spreadable. Place one sponge on serving plate, spread with whipped cream.

  • Top with second sponge and spread its top with the coffee icing; stand until set before cutting.
  • Sponge suitable to freeze before filling but is not suitable to microwave. Makes 10-12 servings.

Chocolate Sponge Cake

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PrerrnaMirchi
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