The Stylish Baker dishes up glam recipes for Diwali

Cookbook author Faaiza Omar shares her easy recipes for Greek-inspired rose and nut cookies and spiced chai ice-cream pops

12 November 2020 - 07:30 By Toni Jaye Singer
'The Sweet Life' is self-taught baker Faaiza Omar's first cookbook.
'The Sweet Life' is self-taught baker Faaiza Omar's first cookbook.
Image: Supplied

Whether you’re drooling over her chic fashion or her delectable desserts, a quick scroll through Faaiza Omar’s Instagram account makes it clear why she’s also known as The Stylish Baker.

Baking has long been a passion for Omar, who splits her time between Joburg and Nelspruit. So much so that what started as a quest to perfect the macaron — that notoriously tricky French confection — blossomed into a part-time career.

In addition to her day job as a skincare therapist, she runs an online baking supply school and pastry school together with her sister.

To the delight of her many social media followers, Omar has just released her debut cookbook, The Sweet Life (Human & Rousseau, R450).

It features more than 80 easy-to-follow recipes for delicious treats ranging from petit fours and cheesecakes to ice-creams and sorbets, making it a great resource to have on hand when you’re planning a celebration.

Many of the sweet dishes would be wonderful to serve during Diwali, which kicks off on November 14.

Here are two recipes Omar believes would be a fitting choice for this Festival of Lights:

KOURABIEDES

“When I was young and Eid came around, we’d always bake a version of these cookies. Ours would be flavoured with vanilla and pistachios, and crescent shaped,” says Omar.

“When travelling in Greece, I tried authentic kourabiedes in Athens. Traditionally made using almonds, these melt-in-your-mouth rose and nut cookies are usually baked for special occasions or festivities.”

Kourabiedes.
Kourabiedes.
Image: Supplied/'The Sweet Life'

Makes: 30 cookies

Ingredients:

125g butter, softened  

¼ cup icing sugar 

½ tsp vanilla essence 

1½ tsp rose water plus extra, to spray 

2 tbsp rose petals, crushed  

 ¼ cup pistachio nuts, roasted and finely chopped  

1¼ — 1½ cups cake flour, sifted  

To decorate:

½ cup icing sugar 

3 tbsp rose petals, finely crushed

Method:

  1. Preheat a Thermofan oven to 170°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 7 minutes until pale.
  3. Add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla essence, rose water, rose petals and pistachios, mixing until well combined.
  5. Lastly, add the cake flour and combine well to make a smooth dough. The dough should not be sticky.
  6. Roll the dough into balls using 1½ tsp of dough and place the cookies onto the lined baking tray. Bake for about 8—10 minutes in the oven. The cookies should be pale and not brown.
  7. Once baked, remove the tray from the oven and immediately roll the cookies in the icing sugar. Place the cookies on a wire rack and spray lightly with rose water.
  8. Combine the remainder of the icing sugar with the rose petals, and roll the cookies in this mix.

SPICED CHAI ICE-CREAM POPS

“Traditionally, spiced tea (masala chai) is made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs,” explains Omar.

“The spices used in chai vary from region to region, and among households in India. The most common spices are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper. My mother-in-law has a good chai spice mix I’m fond of.”

Spiced chai ice-cream pops.
Spiced chai ice-cream pops.
Image: Supplied/'The Sweet Life'

Chai spice is readily available at Indian grocery stores, but you could also make your own using Omar's quick recipe (see below). Either way, you'll need some to whip up these frozen treats.

Makes: 12

Times: 45 minutes plus 4 hours refrigeration

Ingredients:

1 cup milk 

2 cups fresh cream 

¾ cup castor sugar 

2 tbsp milk powder 

1 tbsp chai spice 

1 black tea bag 

1 tsp vanilla essence 

75g pistachio nuts, roasted and roughly chopped 

Chocolate glaze:

500g 55% dark chocolate, melted 

5 tbsp canola 

Pistachio nuts, chopped

Method:

  1. To make the ice-cream, place the milk, cream, castor sugar, milk powder and chai spice in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Combine, add the tea bag and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes before straining into a glass bowl.
  2. Add the vanilla essence and, using a stick blender, blend the mixture.
  3. Cover the surface with cling wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.
  4. Once the mixture has chilled, transfer it to the bowl of an ice-cream maker and churn for about 30 minutes (depending on the appliance — see the manufacturer’s instructions).
  5. Once the ice-cream is ready, add the roasted pistachios and churn for a few minutes just to combine.
  6. Transfer the ice-cream mixture into the popsicle moulds and place them in the freezer overnight.
  7. The next day, remove the frozen popsicles from the moulds and store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.
  8. For the chocolate glaze, blend the chocolate and oil together in a mixing bowl using a stick blender.
  9. Remove the popsicles from the freezer. Dip each one into the chocolate glaze and sprinkle over a few chopped pistachios.
  10. Return the dipped popsicles to the freezer until ready to serve.
  11. Remove from the freezer 5 minutes before serving.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHAI SPICE

In a mixing bowl, place 2 tsp each of ground cardamom, allspice, ground nutmeg and ground cloves with 4 tsp of both ground cinnamon and ground ginger. Combine and store in a small airtight glass jar.