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Happy Women’s Day, my dear bloggers!

Today we celebrate the achievements of women all over the world and from all walks of life – from the dedicated homemaker to the independent career woman – who deserve to be honored for their significant contribution in shaping our present and future. As a spouse, daughter, sister, mother, co-worker or friend, a woman has an influential role in society, which is still unfortunately not acknowledged by many. While issues of gender bias and abuse persist at large, we still hesitate to take steps to raise awareness and empower women to recognize and stand up for their rights.

This year’s campaign theme, Be Bold for Change, aims at bringing the contribution of male and female to equal value and closing the gender gap but is it an impossible dream? We are always under constant pressure to comply with the norms society imposes on us that we fail to express our true selves. I deem myself lucky to have escaped this coercion, having always been free to speak my mind and do what I feel right. Today, I choose to be bold and take some time out for myself. To recover from my horrible period cramps and post viral symptoms and to bake a simple chocolate cake from Nigella Lawson, one of my baking inspirations and a remarkably gifted woman.

CHOCOLATE OLIVE OIL CAKE

Ingredients:

50g cocoa powder, sifted

125 ml boiling water

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

150g ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 pinch kitchen salt

150 ml regular olive oil

200g white caster sugar

3 eggs, room temperature

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C/325ºF. Grease a 23 cm/9-inch spring form cake tin with a little oil.

  • Line the base of the tin with baking parchment. Measure and sift the cocoa powder in a bowl.

  • Whisk the boiling water into the cocoa till you have a smooth and chocolatey but runny paste.

  • Whisk in vanilla extract, set aside to cool. Combine ground almonds with baking soda and salt.

  • Put sugar, olive oil and eggs in a mixer with paddle attachment, beat vigorously for 3 minutes.

  • You should have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream. Turn the speed down a little.

  • Pour in cocoa mixture. When all is scraped in, slowly tip in the ground almonds and scrape it.

  • Stir it a little with a spatula. Pour batter into the prepared tin. Bake cake for 40 to 45 minutes.

  • Bake until the sides are set and the centre on top still looks slightly damp. Cool for 10 minutes.

  • Serve the chocolate cake cut into thin slices with vanilla ice cream, like a pudding. Serves 8-10.

Nigella’s Olive Oil Chocolate Cake

In my mind, Chinese desserts relate mostly to ground rice or jelly based confections, which project a rather healthy image in their overall composition and presentation, and therefore not exactly what the sweet tooth in me would find terribly appealing. To celebrate the year of the rooster, I wanted a proper dessert, one with enough calories and sugar to qualify as a ‘sweet treat’ and yet stay true to its roots as part of traditional Chinese cuisine. And when I stumbled upon these beauties on KirbieCravings, I immediately knew that this would be on my dessert table for CNY this year.

Chinese pineapple cakes are more of shortbread cookies filled with homemade jam and baked to golden perfection. While they are believed to have originated in Taiwan, these crumbly cookies have become immensely popular across South East Asia, being packaged and sold as square shaped, bite-size biscuits. As I was quite adamant about baking them in my pretty flower patterned molds, my cakes did turn up with a few cracks but somehow that was enough to distract me from the buttery, melt-in-the-mouth sensation as I bit into my first pineapple cake.

CHINESE PINEAPPLE CAKES

Ingredients:

For the Pineapple Filling

2 cans crushed pineapples, drained

1 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup + 1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Pineapple Pastry

250 grams cake flour

60 grams icing sugar, sifted

1/4 cup fat free milk powder

1/4 cup custard powder

180 grams cold unsalted butter

2 egg yolks, room temperature

Method:

  • In a medium, nonstick saucepan, add the drained crushed pineapples. Bring to a simmer on the stove.
  • Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, until most of the excess liquid evaporates and mixture thickens.

  • Stir in the sugar, corn syrup and honey. Cook for about 40 minutes till it is thick with very little liquid.
  • Stir in the flour and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Pour filling into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.

  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. To make pastry, add all ingredients except egg yolks into food processor.
  • Mix for about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks in and pulse for about 1 minute, until smooth dough forms.

  • Scoop out 1.5 tablespoons dough balls and shape between palms to form round balls and set these aside.
  • Take the pineapple filling from fridge and scoop out into 1 tablespoon filling and shape them into balls.

  • Make enough filling balls to match the dough balls. Lightly grease inside of the square molds with oil.
  • Take a sheet of plastic wrap and stretch it over a flat surface, keeping the plastic as smooth as possible.

  • Take one of dough balls and place it on top of the plastic wrap. Press it down until it spreads out thinly.
  • It should be shaped into a thin round of dough to be just big enough so that it will wrap over the filling.

  • Place filling ball in the middle of the round. Lift one side of plastic wrap, peel the round from that side.
  • You should be able to easily peel plastic off and bottom side of the round should be completely smooth.

  • Lift round completely from plastic wrap and cover pineapple filling with dough sealing the edge on top.
  • Try to smooth it as much as possible. Place dough ball inside square with the bunch up ends facing up.

  • Carefully push and spread dough until it spreads out across the square mold and fits inside completely.
  • Place mold, with smooth side facing up, on a baking sheet lined with silicone mat or parchment paper.

  • Preheat oven to 350 oF. While your oven is heating up, finish making the rest of your pineapple cakes.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes until top turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.

  • After about 15 minutes, gently push cakes out molds. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature.
  • Store any uneaten pineapple cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week. Makes 12.

There is no easy way to say what we’re about to say but we sadly have to tell you that the Dec 2016 challenge will be the last daring kitchen challenge. Through the past two years we have tried everything we could think of to breathe life back into the daring kitchen but sadly the interaction and the number of members who actually take part in each challenge have been on a steady decline. We no longer see the point in asking hosts to put all that time and effort into making, photographing and writing challenges only to have a handful of people take part in them. It is really no one’s fault but unfortunately it seems that the time for the daring kitchen has come to an end.

It has been a true pleasure to be part of the daring kitchen for all those years and an honor to run it in the past two. We just have one last favor to ask of you, we need your in help moving the archive. We are planning to move all the daring kitchen archives to a wordpress blog – for each recipe, the text needs to be copied, the images and pdfs saved, then everything rebuilt on wordpress. It will be a huge job, but worth the effort – we can then share the url and password with anyone who wants to pitch in, then publish once it is ready and rolling.

If you would like to help, leave a comment here or send an email to Rachael (rachael@pizzarossa.me) or to Sawsan (thechefindisguise@gmail.com). Finally, we would like to thank each and every one of you. The daring kitchen has been an amazing community through all these years. We have learnt so much from each other and there aren’t enough words to express our gratitude for the kindness and support that you all showed us through these past two years.

This final Daring Kitchen Challenge is hosted by Francijn Brouwer, from Netherlands who blogs on “Koken in de Brouwerij” and has previously hosted challenges including “Stuffed Speculaas” and “Baumkuchen”. This month she challenges everyone to bake oliebollen, commonly called Dutch Donuts. Nearly every Dutch person eats oliebollen on New Year’s eve. Everywhere in The Netherlands you will find mobile oliebollen bakeries during the winter months.

The historical roots of oliebollen can be traced back to the Batavians and Frisians around the start of this era. At that time they were not round but flat, cooked in a small amount of oil and were called oliekoeken. In the middle ages a tradition was born of giving the poor people oliekoeken when they came to wish you a happy new year. Only in the wealthy 17th century people started to use more oil, and make these round oliebollen. Olie (pronounced: ow-ly) means oil and Koeken (singular: koek, pronounced: cook, cooken) is something like big cookies.

The cheapest oliebollen are just plain without filling and the worst are cooked in too cold or old oil, and are soggy. As I usually steer clear of fried stuff, I might have skipped this challenge, had it not been our very last chance of baking together with my fellow Daring bakers. I deliberately scooped my oliebollen smaller than the regular ice cream scoop size to create mini versions which I served warm with mango & pineapple jam on the sides.

OLIEBOLLEN

Ingredients:

300g / 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

200g / 1 1/2 cup plus 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour

10g / 3 teaspoons instant yeast

10g / 1 1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

25g / 2 tablespoons caster sugar (light brown)

3g / 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

150ml / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown beer

175ml / 3/4 cup water (room temperature)

175ml / 3/4 cup milk (room temperature)

50g / 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)

1 small egg, room temperature (beaten)

200g (7 oz., or 1 1/3 cups) raisins (without clumps)

1 small apple or half a big apple (firm variety)

Method:

  • In a large mixing bowl mix flours and yeast with a whisk. Add salt, sugar and cinnamon, and mix again.
  • Add beer, water and milk, melted butter, and egg. Attach the paddle to your mixer (or the dough hook).

  • Mix the ingredients thoroughly until the dough becomes elastic, a few minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime cut the apple in small cubes. Add raisins and apple to dough, mix well with a spatula.

  • Put a wet towel over the bowl, and let the dough rise for about an hour until it is nearly doubled in size.
  • Put the oil in your deep fryer. Heat it to 180°C / 355°F. Have a timer handy to keep track of frying time.

  • To get ready for cooking: place baking tray on the counter and cover it with two layers of paper towels.
  • Have something ready to place scoops/spoons on so as to not cover your working counter with grease.

  • Once dough has doubled in size and the oil is hot, dip your ice scoop in the oil to avoid it from sticking.
  • Fill with dough, leveling against the side of the bowl. Take care to include reasonable amount of filling.

  • Release the dough ball carefully into the hot oil, by sticking the scoop into the oil and pulling the lever.
  • Start timer and observe the oliebol. It will start floating around, and after some time, should turn over.

  • If the oliebol does not turn over, help it by flipping it when the frying time is halfway over, using a fork.
  • After five minutes of frying, take it out of the oil and put it on the tray with paper towel. Wait a minute.

  • Cut it through the middle with a sharp knife and check the centre of oliebollen for a bread-like texture.
  • If you are satisfied with the doneness of the texture, start again, but now with a few oliebollen at once.

  • Keep frying till no dough is left, and make sure the oliebollen are all same size for even cooking times.
  • Oliebollen are best when eaten when they are still hot and crunchy and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

  • Makes 25 oliebollen (each around 6cm / 2.5″ in diameter). Do not store oliebollen in the refrigerator.
  • Oliebollen freeze very well. Just put them in an airtight container and you can enjoy them for months.

Daring Bakers December 2016 Challenge

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