Hotcake For One

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As like every Saturday, I took a route less travelled. That morning was colour and fairytale light and a whimsical plate. The perfect respite welcomed me at Paddy Hills, one of my favourite local hideaways for moreish brunch fare, ambience (and not going to lie, the lighting is always perfect for photographs). The light. Almost as if the window behind me had the slightest blue filter. Why is it that I remember these things and not actual important things like the bus routes back home?

Every time I venture out alone in search of a particular foodthing or breakfast dish (for I’m the sort who wakes up way too early to wait for brunch, though that’s always welcome on the social agenda), I savour every little component that arrives at the table. Food is meditation. Every sit-down is an analysis, a reconnection with the humble plate. A cup of coffee is a bit of serendipity, its acidity meaning more than just caffeine. It precedes the awakening of senses; always a bit of displeasure before every reward. Just like my laboratory internship that started in July– each new theory or paper encountered is an adventure for the senses. Every moment is to be savoured, every experiment a full-on thrusting into the meat of the mind.

Having tried many a hotcake before, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for the one at Paddy Hills, but it’s by far the best one I’ve tried. Golden, crisp edges encased a cake-like, fluffy interior, leaning towards pound cake on the density spectrum. Its perfect texture was proven by the soft drag of my fork’s prongs along the edge, followed by the total lack of resistance as they sank into the domed surface. It was then that I decided I just had to recreate something similar at home, and that’s exactly what the following morning demanded. With the mother’s new stash of gluten-free coconut flour at home, I have also included a gluten-free version for any of you who swing that way for personal health reasons. It took a couple of tries to get as close as possible as I could to what I enjoyed. The original recipe I followed online included the unusual addition of Japanese mayonnaise, which apparently is what the Jap folk use in their sky-high, souffle-like pancakes. Unlike American mayonnaise, the Japanese version is typically made with apple or rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, and uses egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Perhaps its the chemical structure of the soy vegetable oil they use or the underlying sweetness that lends a hand to the delish result. It did turn out with a desirab;e ratio of texture and flavour, though next time I shall try it without the mayo and look out for the slightest of differences.

It must be taken into account that the size of your pan (mine is about 4.5 inches wide), as well as how close your pan is to the kiss of heat, affect the final result. There’s nothing more gratifying than a big, fat hotcake on your plate.

It was a Sunday morning and the café came to me instead. Here goes.

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Hotcake For One (adapted from this lovely lady)

Ingredients

1/4 cup cake flour

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (substitute with coconut flour for the gluten-free version, but take away 2 tbsp)

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

4 tbsp white sugar

2 tsp Japanese mayonnaise (substitute with American/homemade mayo if you have that on hand)

1 egg white

1/2 cup (180ml) milk or buttermilk

2 tbsp melted butter

splash of vanilla extract

whatever toppings you desire; I chose berries for a berry garden, mascarpone cheese, cashew butter and maple syrup

 

Directions

Preheat your pan on low heat and ready some butter for cooking. Make sure to have at least a healthy knob of butter for each hotcake you make, for this ensures the crispiest golden edges and ease in removing the cake from the pan. In a bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg white until it becomes white and frothy. Add the milk, vanilla extract, mayonnaise and melted butter. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is just combined. Tip the mix, which should have a thick dropping consistency, into your preheated pan and let cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes or when you can see that the edges have hardened and there are small bubbles around the same area, flip the hotcake (carefully) and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the hotcake and serve with whatever you wish.

 

Black Sesame Cinnamon Rolls (easy, eggless)

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I never expected a single public holiday to represent such freedom. Quite loving this mind shift, this change of tide, in the sense that I now savour small things like this. Like a short breather in between a long-range marathon. After all this time, I still get excited about writing blog posts for you guys, and creating different, easy-to-make (usually) recipes on all things breakfast and sweets. So it feels good to finally getting round to blabbering a little bit more in the morning. Indeed, I wouldn’t mind some pipette work in the lab, mind to matter, but days away from its calming sterility call for things I love most– drawn-out bouts of journalling, reading, watching, feeling, thinking, loving. With lots of coffee and tea, of course.

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Back in my first term at college, I modified a recipe for eggless cinnamon rolls out of pure circumstance. I didn’t wish to make them specifically for a vegan friend, though these turn out to be quite the treat if you do wish to make it vegan (simply change the milk and butter you use), and one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway. The crunch of the black sesame pressed into a cinnamon-sugary-sweet filling is heaven in this one. The dough itself is satin and fluff, easy to tear and almost melt-in-your-mouth.

Black sesame cinnamon rolls, stuffed with a cinnamon sugar sesame filling, topped with a classic cream cheese frosting. 

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I’ve talked about these already in my first post on the recipe, so do go check it out, especially for some side profile sass and another cute flavour approach. The black sesame in this one elevates the humble bun’s sophistication, and adds several health benefits to something that’s not exactly the most healthful breakfast (ha). Rich in iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins, just a sprinkling of the seeds lends quite a boost to your day’s nutritional profile. I’m not trying to deceive myself or any of you into thinking these are actually good for you, but hey, the sprinkle is still something, and it’s intriguing and fun to think about, at least to me.

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Black Sesame Cinnamon Rolls (makes 9 mini rolls)

Ingredients

For the dough:

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 cup (240ml) milk– I used a mix of almond and whole

45g (3.5 tbsp) butter

250g (around 1 3/4 cups) plain flour, plus more for sprinkling on counter before kneading

3 tbsp black sesame powder, which you can usually buy from your local oriental store

pinch of salt+1 tbsp sugar

Vegan version: use a plant-based milk (almond/rice/soy) in place of regular milk, and vegan butter (Earth Balance)

 

For the filling:

45g (3.5 tbsp) butter, softened to room temperature

3 tbsp black sesame powder

large handful black sesame seeds

7 tbsp sugar mixed with 2 tbsp ground cinnamon

 

For the glaze:

50g icing sugar, sifted

25g cream cheese, softened

2-3 tbsp cream

 

Directions

Dough: In a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan over low heat, heat together the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the mix is warm (not scalding) to touch. Pour the mix into a larger bowl, then sprinkle on the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt and sugar on the opposite side. Wait 5 minutes, then add a half cup of flour at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon between each addition, followed by the black sesame powder. Once the dough is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead for 2 minutes. The final result should be a smooth, rather taut ball of dough, so you may need slightly more or less than the aforementioned quantity of flour. Briefly grease the same bowl, pop the ball of dough in and let it rise until it doubles in size–around an hour. At this point, preheat your oven to 176C (350F) and liberally grease an 8×8-inch pan.

After the dough has risen, lightly flour your counter again and turn the dough out onto the counter. Roll it out into a half-inch thick rectangle. Brush on (I just used my hands here) the butter that’s softened to room temperature, then sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mix, black sesame powder and black sesame seeds. Tightly roll the dough from the long end, so you end up with a long, pale tube of dough. Place the roll seam side down, and using a serrated knife, cut your tube into 8-9 rolls, each around 1.5 inches thick. Place them into the greased square pan. Cover the pan with foil to avoid over-browning and place inside your preheated oven. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes.

While they’re baking, mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl. Once the rolls have finished baking, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then go ahead and glaze the heck out of them. Sprinkle on some black sesame seeds to top. These rolls are best eaten immediately or at least the day they’re made, however you can keep them for the next day and microwave them to revive a bit of tenderness.

Orange Miso Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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A little twist never hurt anyone.

Here we have an orange miso buttermilk bundt cake, brushed with warm marmalade, tiger-striped with an orange miso buttermilk icing. Sunday respite indeed, friends. 

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‘Miso? That’s weird. But cool.’

My hesitant sister picked at the top of the cake (which is actually the bottom) in wonder. I pinched a bit off myself and heaved a sigh of relief. At both the final crumb, and the flavours present. One would think pairing two tangy ingredients wouldn’t do much for either of the two star flavours here, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. . In each bite, you get the fragrant tang of orange, and the more sharply, savoury-dish-salty punch of miso. The ultimate hit of umami, only partially disguised by the sweet, light background of fluff. On a side note, I only recently discovered that miso is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a peculiar-sounding fungus (Aspergillus oryzae). Soy has taken a backseat in my experimental repertoire, but it’s making a furious comeback, and one that I welcome, at that.

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It’s more of a pound cake than anything. Dense yet fluffy, which I attribute to the cake flour used. I did debate using normal all-purpose flour, and you can go ahead and try substituting that for the cake flour here, but it does make all the difference in producing a fairytale crumb. The best bit, in my humble opinion, is the outer crust, which is both robust and partially caramelised. The crust sings strength, so much so that I needn’t have to bother with cutting the top, for the firm bottom meant it could rest flat on the cake stand without unduly collapsing. The rise from the oven did produce some cracks, air pushing through a firm golden canvas, but these only helped the penetration of marmalade when it was warmed through and brushed on post-bake. What I was most happy with was that glaze– of stronger miso flavour than the cake itself, adding a bite that would otherwise be too pronounced in just the cake. The marmalade glaze is optional, but it added to the citrus theme, and the slivers of rind looked a picture on top of the crumbs and brown.

Just now I sat down to a thin sliver of the stuff, and discovered the burst of savoury flavour enveloped in a smooth, sweet body of cake goes perfectly with a simple scoop of plain vanilla ice cream. Family helped mop it all up. Yesterday I made a cake, and it was simple, and so so good. Not much else (aside from a very well-written paper or book or walk) makes me just as happy and satisfied.

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Orange Miso Buttermilk Bundt Cake (makes one standard bundt cake)

Ingredients

For the cake:

226g (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

330g (3 cups) cake flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 heaping tbsp white miso

560g (2 1/2 cups) white caster sugar

4 eggs

zest+ juice of 1 orange, reserve 1 tsp orange juice for the icing later

1/4 cup marmalade (optional)

120ml buttermilk, homemade or store-bought (to make: add a tbsp of white vinegar to your measuring cup or beaker, then fill to the 120ml mark with milk, and let sit for 5 minutes to let the acidity work its magic)

 

For the icing:

135g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp buttermilk

1 tsp orange juice (from the one orange you juiced earlier for the cake)

1 tsp white miso

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F (177C) and grease a bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, rub the zest into the sugar. Add the softened butter, and use an electrical whisk to cream the butter and sugar mixture until light, white and fluffy, about a minute. Beat in the eggs. Add the flour, buttermilk and orange juice, and beat until you get a uniform, pale mixture. It should have a thick, dropping consistency. Finally, beat in the miso. Pour into the greased bundt pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. Mine was done at the hour-mark.

While it is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the icing and set aside. Once the cake is done, poke a few holes in the top, then brush the surface with marmalade that’s been warmed in the microwave. Leave the cake to cool for half an hour, before turning it over onto a cake stand, and drizzling (however you like) with the glaze.

Chocolate Orange Pillow Pancakes

A little twist goes a long way in adding nuanced distinctions to established flavour profiles. I’ve always loved the classic combination of chocolate and orange, so I thought, why not try it in my all-time favourite fluffy pillow pancake recipe?

I remember finalising the recipe for this more than a year ago, and it still hits all heart strings every time I make them. No longer am I caught in the ugly morning mire of doubt and indecision. I love making new things and experimenting with different simple techniques, but what’s the use of a whole stack of badly-risen or bland pancakes when you know there’s one that’s always got your back?

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Made with real, fresh orange juice, speckled with chopped up bits of dark chocolate. Saturday respite never did look or taste so good. The tang is subtle and almost sophisticated when paired with more grown-up type chocolate.

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Chocolate Orange Pillow Pancakes (makes around 10, adapted from my classic pillow pancake recipe)

Ingredients

190g all-purpose flour

3 tbsp white sugar

generous pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg

50g unsalted butter (slightly less than 4 tbsp)

1 tsp vanilla extract or the insides of half a plump vanilla bean (or a skinny meek one)

120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk/ buttermilk; use store-bought or make your own by mixing 230ml whole milk with 1 tbsp white vinegar, and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before using).

30g chopped dark chocolate (I used a bar of 70% cocoa content)

120ml (1/2 cup) freshly-squeezed orange juice; about one medium orange

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and leavening agents). In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in a microwave and set it aside, letting it cool. In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, orange juice, vanilla and melted butter. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix briefly with a wooden spoon or a normal dinner spoon. Continue to mix until everything is justt combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

Preheat your pan on medium heat and ready some butter. You know the pan is hot enough when you flick a little water onto its surface and there’s a clear sizzle. At that point, generously butter the pan and ladle tablespoonfuls of batter. I didn’t have to wait for bubbles to pop before flipping; the batter is thicker than usual and there’s no need to wait. Flip the pancakes when you notice the edges stiffening a little, or when you can slide your spatula whole underneath the bottom of the pancake. It will rise a little upon flipping, as if that action gives it life, and hence, breath. The surface should have a brown mosaic thanks to the hot butter. Once the second side is done (will take no more than 20 seconds), let cool on a paper towel. As mentioned above, these freeze wonderfully, so you can make a whole batch, have a small stack and stash the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Easy!

 

 

 

Pandan Waffles

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Really a pretty great thing.

After a long day at the lab (currently participating in a long but fascinating internship involving incredibly novel anticancer research, and I couldn’t be more grateful at this point in time), I relished a wholesome family dinner, then tried to resist a nighttime urge to bake, or do anything at all in the kitchen. As usual, I failed miserably.

I don’t like to stick to a certain theme more than once or twice at a go, but after making kaya mochi just a few days ago, there lingered the odd inclination to play around with one of my favourite childhood spreads once again. Kaya, if you don’t know already, is the most delicious South East Asian coconut pandan spread, which to me is right on par with drippy, sweet, delicious almond butter or a lovingly homemade marmalade– yes it’s that sublime. Pandan is the tropical leaf from which kaya is made from. Earthy, sticky, sweet. There are lots of made-for-toast spreads out there that I adore, but kaya is childhood, kaya is rich nonchalance. What I spread on my burnt toast with butter, each bite a sticky mess of equal parts green and white (from unmelted butter).

This recipe is based on one of my favourite personal recipes– soda water waffles! Clickidy click that link for a classic version, or if you don’t really have a thing for kaya/anything pandan-flavoured. It’s the soda water that breathes life into the batter, added just before the kiss of heat, making the final result as light and airy as ever. Another perk? Made using sweet potato flour as a rather haphazard and weird experiment, it’s entirely gluten-free. Haphazard because this is my first time experimenting with sweet potato flour, which is one of the finest, almost delicate flours I’ve come across. Everything made with it will be of a relatively thin consistency, permeated with an au natural chew. Definitely looking into using it more, for what I’m not sure just yet; I’m only excited to incorporate more gluten-free options to accommodate any of you coeliacs out there. Of course, you can substitute this with normal flour, and this will yield a slightly less chewy and probably more refined-looking waffle. Indeed, this isn’t the prettiest of waffles, but goodness the outside crisp is outrageous. The chew on this is also slightly ridiculous, and funnily enough reminds me of that kaya mochi I made not too long ago. An eerie similarity resulting from subconscious fashioning of the past. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Pandan waffles (makes 6-7 thin Swedish waffles, modified from here)

Ingredients

240g sweet potato flour (substitute with 200g all-purpose flour)

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

2 tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk of choice (I used almond)

3 heaping tbsp store-bought or homemade kaya

1 drop pandan extract (bought at your local oriental store)

80g melted, unsalted butter

1 cup soda water

 

Directions

Preheat your waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, leavening agents, salt and sugar. Add the egg, milk, pandan extract, melted butter, kaya, and lastly, the soda water. Cook in the preheated iron according to the iron’s instructions. In my Sevren waffle maker, it took 4-5 minutes before the edges went crisp and golden.

These freeze wonderfully. Let the waffles cool on a cooling rack, before layering them with pieces of parchment between each waffle so they don’t stick together when you take them out the next morning. The next morning, take them out, microwave for 20 seconds, then stick in the toaster until golden and crisp again. Go wonderfully with banana, anything coconut-themed (I used coconut sugar), and peanut butter!