No-fuss Tahini Bars

There is always something therapeutic about making bars. It’s pretty easy to do, for a first, and also hard to mess up, even if you miss a few tablespoons of an ingredient here or there. These tahini bars are quick, simple, and you will want to make them more than once. The perimeter is more cakey than chewy, and the middle holds a fudgy consistency. Delicious.

I have made tahini bars before, but these are extremely no-fuss, and simple substitutions (for example, using just brown sugar or vegan egg in place of the normal eggs here) suffice. I don’t know when I will get sick of tahini, but until then, I’ll be making these bars.

No-Fuss Tahini Bars (makes 9 medium bars)

Ingredients

130g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

70g butter, melted (in a microwave)

1/2 tsp fine salt

1 egg

150g light brown sugar

90g tahini (around 1/3 cup)

Directions

If you haven’t already, melt your butter in a microwave by placing it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwaving on high in 30-second increments or until completely melted. Preheat your oven (no-fan setting) to 180C and line a square 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch pan with baking parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, salt, egg and tahini. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter, which should be quite runny, into the prepared pan, and bake for at least 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist crumbs. If the batter is still wet, bake for 5 more minutes. Take the pan out and leave it to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares and consuming .

Peanut Butter Sand Cookies

On today’s episode of ugly delicious, I welcome the peanut butter sand cookie.

Soft, crumbly cookie with hard edges and a distinct peanut flavour

Pretty much a peanut butter crumble in a cookie. I think I cracked these cookies the second time. The first time, I deemed them too dry, although a friend told me that they were just to her taste. The second time, they retained the typical chew of your denser peanut butter cookie, but also had a soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth crumbly consistency. I couldn’t help but think they resembled sand somehow, hence the name.

You can use processed peanut butter here, but the natural oils of natural peanut butter, when blended into the rest of the liquid part of the batter, makes for an extra smooth and delicious result. Definitely go ahead and use chunky peanut butter too, if that’s your preference.

It’s all about the texture here. My go-to cookie is rich and chewy with hard edges, but this is quite something, too. When you bite into the cookie, you get a pure peanut butter flavour dispersed through large, fluffy crumbs, and then as your teeth sink in, all that strong flavour concentrates into a grind of chew at the end of the bite.

Another one-bowl wonder!

Peanut butter sand cookies (makes 6-7 large cookies)

Ingredients

110g peanut butter (preferably natural peanut butter but use any sort you like)

110g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp fine salt

90g brown sugar

1 egg

135g flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

optional: 100g chocolate chips, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

If your butter or peanut butter is hard, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until soft to touch, not melting. In a medium bowl and using a whisk, whisk together the butter, peanut butter, salt and brown sugar until it looks light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and whisk that in too.

Add the flour, baking soda and optional chocolate chips. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet, bringing everything together until you get a sticky, thick batter. Use an ice cream scoop or your hands to scoop large golfball-sized clumps of batter onto your prepared pan. Sprinkle on the optional coarse salt on top. Bake for 10 minutes, then take them out and let cool and set for another 10 before eating. These cookies keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, but you can also freeze them. Take out and microwave one for up to 2 minutes with a break after a minute, for a warm cookie. Best eaten with vanilla ice cream, or with a steaming cup of milky coffee!

French Toast Pudding

No, it’s not Christmas. But I was reminded of a favourite french toast bake while writing up my list of curated recipes. You need not use panettone, but gosh, yes, this fluffy Italian bread is perfect for dunking into french toast custard and then baking. You can use any soft bread like brioche or challah really, but you would need to soak these slightly denser breads a little longer in the custard batter.

Soft, eggy threads of sweet dough.

You get the rich flavour of panettone fixed in a homogenous, sweet, eggy batter similar to that of a firm bread pudding. I looked through previous recipes for panettone french toast and casseroles, and most of them use cream, but I personally don’t think you need the cream in the custard, and you let the flavours of the panettone and everything it’s studded with shine. Once again, a one-bowl wonder with everything done (and maybe consumed) in less than an hour. What I love about french toast bakes is that it takes little to no effort, as you chuck everything into the oven without having to fry each piece of bread separately, no matter how large a griddle or pan you have.

Mine here just had chocolate chips, but there’s usually some dried fruit in there too, and I added some chopped pecans on top for crunch. The french toast pudding bakes very fast because the voluminous, airy bread allows the custard to quickly seep into and bake into every crevice.

French toast pudding (6 servings)

Ingredients

Half a whole panettone (500g) or about 5 cups of challah/brioche, cut into large 2-inch cubes

3 eggs

240ml milk of choice

4 tbsp sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp fine salt

optional: chopped nuts and extra chocolate chips, around 1/3 cup in volume

optional: coarse sugar (like demerara) for sprinkling, and fresh fruit and vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F), no fan setting. Take a little cube of butter and rub it along the bottom, corners and and edges of a 9×11-inch casserole dish, or you could also squeeze it into a 9×9-inch brownie pan. Cut the half of a panettone into 1 inch thick slices. This will be easy if you’re using traditional uncut panettone, because then you can simply cut it as how you would a cake. If you’re using challah or brioche, or another type of light and fluffy bread, cut the bread into 2-inch cubes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, milk, cinnamon and salt well.

Take each panettone slice and dunk each side in the custard for at least 3-4 seconds on each side, then lay the slices down in the prepared tin, each slice slightly overlapping one another. If you’re using other bread, just dunk each cube into the batter for 3-4 seconds before positioning the cubes in a relatively geometrical arrangement in the baking tin. Once the bread slices/cubes are arranged, pour the rest of the custard evenly all over the top, and if using, the chopped nuts and chocolate. Sprinkle the optional demerara sugar on top, then place the tin into the preheated oven.

Bake the french toast pudding for 15 minutes, take it out and serve immediately. Best eaten with fresh fruit, a la mode!

Maxi Coffee Bar

A small space with a well-lit interior with a couple of chairs, and a bench outside. Come here to read a book or work for a while on a weekday.

If you didn’t know, I was really into reviewing cafés before I knew about a lot of other life things, like doing the dishes properly and folding clothes neatly. I just read this one and couldn’t believe how much time I devoted to these. I stopped doing these reviews years ago due to time constraints and it’s impossible to keep up with changing menus and me flitting between England, Singapore and Germany… Nevertheless, after visiting quite a few special/hole-in-the-wall ones recently, and now that I no longer use Instagram, I feel that it is time for a review comeback. It’s a way of documenting these experiences in greater detail, making them more special and less fleeting.

Iced cereal milk latte ($7.50), the star here (ignore the dry nails)

In brief, if I would come back for anything, it would be this iced cereal milk latte and the canelé (shown below). The foamy, sweet brew is still reminiscent of an actual caffeine drink with a smooth and mildly bitter espresso, and the twist of salt takes the whole thing to the next level.

That canelé must be consumed with the latté together for the real deal. A moment of crunchy sweetness, washed down with a refreshing milky brew. The outside of the pastry is beautifully crisp without a weird burnt taste, the inside bouncy, sticky and moist. Not too sweet, not plain and painfully dry like many others I have tried. I can’t remember the price ($5?) but it was so reasonable for its size and quality. They also have a range of sweet and savoury toast options, all made in-house.

Yup, I’ll be back.

Maxi Coffee Bar
6 Ann Siang Hill
Hours: Tues-Fri 8am – 5pm, Weekends 9pm – 5pm, closed on Mondays

Cream Cheese Marmalade Brownies

Stop, this combination is insane.

There is plenty to love about a fudgy brownie, and more so about the combination of tangy cream cheese with sweet yet slightly bitter orange marmalade. I do recommend orange marmalade here for that reason, but any marmalade you have will work. One of my top 10 recipes is this brownie pudding, which formed the main inspiration for today’s recipe but is not in the blog archives. I guess it’s a little bit of a secret, and I don’t know if the word pudding is a good enough excuse to get away with such a runny centre. Language is everything, isn’t it. A classic one-bowl manoeuvre wrapped in a delightful flavour contrast.

A classic fudgy brownie with an edge that’s only slightly chewy, with jammy bits studded here and there due to the marmalade. You might think they’re the raw parts at first, take it from my initial disappointment.

Cream cheese marmalade brownies (serves 8-10)

Ingredients

For the brownies:

105g dark chocolate, chopped, or bittersweet chocolate chips

150g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp fine salt

2 eggs

70g brown sugar

130g white sugar

130g plain flour

For the topping:

60g cream cheese

10g sugar

6 tsp orange marmalade

Directions

Preheat your oven to 160C, fan off. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that two edges are longer and hang off the sides for easy removal. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave together the butter and chocolate or chocolate chips on high for a minute. Make sure your butter is at room temperature or slightly cold, and not rock-hard from the fridge. Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a fork or spoon to mix everything together until you get a dark, liquidy consistency and the butter and chocolate has melted together nicely. Microwave for longer if your butter is still a little hard. Let the mixture cool for 2 minutes. In the meantime, add your two sugars and pinch of salt into a separate, larger bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and use a whisk to whisk it in well. Then crack and whisk in the 2 eggs. Finally, add the flour and use a rubber spatula to fold it in well, then pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and homogenous. Add teaspoonful-sized dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter, then add teaspoonfuls of the marmalade just next to the dollops of cream cheese mixture. Use a knife to swirl the topping randomly into the batter. It should look slightly weird and messy. Sprinkle some coarse salt (like Maldon) on top if you’re fancy like that, but you can skip this step. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist-to-slightly-wet crumbs. Leave the brownies to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. These keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, but you can freeze them if you don’t have many people to share these with!