Rice Cake Molasses Granola

The kitchen seems to have closed upon the death of last week’s get-up. But the smell lingers. It’s rich, dark, carnal. I sit here now recalling the life-giving things of everyday. After making this last Saturday, I hopped over to a new cafe which I implore all of you to check out for some downright good, authentic Danish bakes, then to Piccadilly’s Waterstones for a good 5 hours just to read my heart out, the perfect excuse for not doing work I was meant to be doing. How sad it is to find joy in the unruly, yet how perfectly OK with it I am once or twice a week. It’s true that meaning and mental enlightenment can arise from nothing when given work to do, yet there’s a wild freedom only found in self-direction, reading and exploring things one would only find outside of a lecture theatre, as exciting a lecture may be.

With granola-making on the agenda last Saturday, I shook off the morning grog and effortlessly persuaded myself to Waitrose. Right opposite, to get some oats and rice puffs for a little bit of fancy. I came across a most moreish-looking granola recipe in Honey&Co’s cookbook just earlier in the week, overcome with fiery instinct. Rice puffs are something I always took for granted. Child’s play, too light to be in anything except standard mass-produced granola or cereal bars. This, however, seemed to take granola to something of a new level, choked with Mediterranean spices and a sultry undertone of rarity. Just as I was about to leave the house, my peripheral vision caught sight of these chocolate rice cakes I brought back from Germany just the previous week, and I knew something had to be done with those babies. A mini brainwave hit– why not crush those and chuck them in the granola instead? So I chucked off my shoes and got to work. It was going to be fun.

Starts off all sticky after everything is incorporated, and even seems a bit ‘leaky’ once taken out of the oven, but success is trust. Cooling will let the clusters form, and that’s where all the fun’s at, right? Each huge, outrageously crisp cluster is a thing of dreams. A heavy hand with the molasses will do the caramelisation process, and you, too much good. And of course, like all granola recipes, this is so easily customised. Raisins, nuts, chocolate, add and subtract as you will. How to granola: douse in milk, languish, enjoy.

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Rice Cake Molasses Granola (makes one large batch)

Note: all bracketed substitutions are vegan

Ingredients

80g unsalted butter (sub: vegan butter)

120g blackstrap molasses (sub: a rich, dark honey)

110g light brown, soft sugar

100g chocolate-covered rice cakes, chopped into thick chunks (sub: 70g plain rice cakes and 30g chopped chocolate)

70g oats or muesli

150g nuts of choice , chopped (I used walnuts)

100g dried fruit of choice (I used torn dates and raisins, though if you abhor either like many a friend of mine, then feel free to substitute with whatever else you would like, and this recipe works well even without any dried fruit!)

1 tsp cinnamon

optional: 1 tsp ground ginger

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and line a large baking tray with parchment. Combine the butter, molasses and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off heat, then pour in the rest of the ingredients.

Transfer to the pan and flatten a little so everything will cook more evenly in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then take out and let cool for another 10. You will notice a bit of molasses leakage, almost like a liquidy mess at the size. Not to worry, for this is expected. Leaving the pan to cool will rest everything and harden it all up nicely. Use a spoon to break everything up a little, but not too much– leave the large clusters! Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy with liberal drizzles of milk, topped with fresh/frozen fruit for a good adjacent tang.

Coffee Meringue Pillow Pancakes

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In other words, a twist on the main star of CRUMBS, hoho. Time and time again, at least once every week or every other week, this is the baby that holds its name straight, waving the ‘pillow’ flag high. So high and bright. Receiving a little social media tag from someone who’s tried and loved the recipe I fiddled till perfection almost 2 years ago still tugs at my heart, pulling its strings and sending me into a fuzzy daze for a full 5 seconds. Saturday usually demands an experimental flair, but the past one was in need of a tried and true favourite, albeit with a little twist and flick.

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There’s something so seductive about a mile-high pillow pancake.

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Had some leftover meringue from my previous recipe (do check it out, just scroll a little) and decided none shall go to waste, and permeated my reliable pillow pancakes with that, and some espresso because I was in dire need of coffee and this was another excuse to get another jolt here.

Although the batter resides with the same format as the original, ratios and all, the addition of meringue gently folded in and the dash of coffee makes each pancake belly a little more moist and slightly chewy. I did end up with a slightly more liquid batter, though the retaining of some lumps is still quite crucial for the same extra-high result. The week has been speckled with more dire Trump news and lambasting and Crazy, so settling down to my pan and butter, batter at hand, was all it took to calm a couple rattled nerves.

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Coffee Meringue Pillow Pancakes (makes around 10-11 medium pancakes)

Ingredients (vegan subs included)

190g all-purpose flour

3 tbsp white sugar

generous pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg (sub: 60g vegan egg replacement, or one banana, or make a flax egg by mixing 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water and letting sit for 5 minutes on the counter)

40g unsalted butter (sub: vegan butter such as Earth Balance)

1 tsp vanilla extract

240ml (1 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 (sub: almond milk or any other plant milk of choice)

1 tbsp coffee extract or shot of espresso

50g meringue, briefly crushed with a spoon or your hands (find the recipe here near the bottom; you won’t need all of it but hey the more the merrier)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, crushed meringue 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, vanilla (or insides of a vanilla bean), coffee extract/espresso shot 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 just combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour.

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.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever you want. I particularly like them with banana, its moist sweetness adjoining arms with the maple. What a Sunday.

 

Chinese Walnut Cookies on Meringue Nests

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The early morning light is my bolthole before the day’s heartbeat ramps up. Right now I hold a small morsel of chocolate shortcake from my school library’s café, ashamed it’s not exactly what’s featured in today’s post, but its texture is reminiscent of just that.

Chinese New Year is still in the works, but its official advent last week was all the prick I needed to get myself busy in the kitchen, playing and toying with random festive ideas to half fool myself into thinking, as the only Chinese in the house, that pineapple tarts, oranges, ang baos (red money-filled packets) and all sorts of goodies were right there with me, emanating a pink blossom-hued energy, a light.

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These walnut cookies are little gems. Based off your traditional Chinese walnut cookies, which are very literally melt-in-your-mouth, the dough bursting with fresh chopped walnuts, brushed with an egg glaze and topped with raw walnut halves.

Their characteristic crumbly, buttery state got me thinking: this could pair more than well with a slightly unforeseen texture. My penchant for anything chew and goo may not be known far and wide but that’s precisely what I thought would tie it all together, and the answer, I knew, lay in the all-exclusive meringue. It did take a few tries before the right meringue consistency was achieved– too hard a meringue nest would fail to complement the more robust nature of the cookie, and the whole thing would corrode and disintegrate easily.

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This was a perfect surprise, for myself and a few family members. You bite into what’s almost like a paradox of taste. the buttery, femininity cookies are maturely ground, hard-bred, by the earthy and almost indelicate walnuts. Teeth sink a little further and are welcomed by the soft crackle of just-hardened meringue nest, still filled with white chewy goo in their hollows. Perfect by themselves, or with teeth-cleaning mandarins.

Chinese Walnut Cookies on Meringue Nests (makes 6 cookies, scale up as needed)

Ingredients

For the cookies:

125g plain flour

1/4 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch salt

40g butter, unsalted and at room temperature (sub: vegan butter)

40g sugar

1/2 a beaten egg, about 30g (sub: half a flax egg made by mixing 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water, of which you can save half for later in the process, or 30g vegan egg replacement)

30g finely chopped walnuts (do this yourself or buy ready-made chopped walnuts)

6 walnut halves

 

For the meringue:

100g white caster sugar

2 egg whites (sub: vegan egg whites, and I have heard you can use chickpea water for this!)

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and both baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I just used a spoon for this; it’s easy when your butter is at room temperature. Tip this into the flour mix, alongside the chopped walnuts and half the beaten egg. The mix should be very dry and only just come together when you mix this by hand. I suggest using your hands here as it’s easy and you can feel when the dough just comes together.

Prep cookies on pan– grease a baking tray and take 42-43.3g of dough for each cookie. Roll each bit of dough into a ball, place on the tray, then press a fresh walnut half onto the top. You should get 6 cookies from this batch. Brush the cookies with the remaining egg, then bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes. Once the cookies are done, leave to cool on the counter and turn the temperature down to 100C (212F).

Make the meringue. In a clean bowl and with a clean electrical hand whisk, beat the egg whites until they go frothy. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until you get a glossy, opaque white meringue. Spoon tablespoons of this onto a silicone or non-stick baking tray and flatten slightly so you get 6 discs out of the volumes stated above. Bake the discs for 1.5 hours (90 minutes), and check that they haven’t burnt or anything, for sometimes ovens really do stupid things, at the 1-hour mark. The surface should be a pale pink-brown colour, cracking into one should have little effort and the middle should still be white and gooey.

Press each cookie into the tops of the meringues. These are best eaten immediately for optimum enjoyment of the texture interplay, though they can be stored for a few days in an airtight container.

 

 

Art-inspired High Tea at the Rosewood

The best London has to offer. In the grey of day-to-day, there are flickers of inspiration, of tonality and light, that truly spark the mini creative in me. There are some things I simply cannot pass up. Like a kind invitation to a wine party. Or a biscuit-and-jam session. Or an Agatha Christie fan club session, or any deep random conversation topic in general. This kind invitation to tea at The Rosewood London was one of them, and for all the right reasons.

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Art-inspired? Tea? Scones and dessert? Take my life already. Launching next month, the gorgeous Rosewood will be hosting this artist-inspired tea session in The Mirror Room, and they were kind enough to invite me for a tasting. Just thinking about it now is pretty mind-boggling, for I cannot believe, after a hectic library session, hair and mind messes of tornadoes, that I was bestowed with such beautiful works of art and stunning service. My world was turned upside down for a full 2 hours, and fleeting as that period was, I only have good, no, excellent things to say about the whole experience.

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There are no words for the ambience of the Mirror Room, which exudes such sophistication and  old-world beauty. Plush buttoned sofas lined up along the middle of the wide and dimly-lit corridor, waiters like secret soldiers welcoming and smiling. I was Alice, the Mirror Room a very real rabbit-hole.

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Now I do apologise for the quality of the photos here– although I did bring  Tim (my camera), the settings messed up halfway and I ended up with just one dark picture, so you will only find slightly inferior iPhone shots here. Still no excuse to not sing high praise for the highlight of my week. I must agree with the words of talented pastry chef Mark Perkins, the hidden star of the show, who also nicely summarised the ethos behind his stunning creations:

“Rosewood London’s quirky interiors reflect the British capital’s history, culture and sensibilities, featuring the works of some of the world’s most renowned artists, with contemporary pieces complemented by more traditional art throughout the hotel.”

The menu is a real work of art in itself. To take you through this fairytale of a teatime, I’ll describe each inspired creation from left to right (1-5) in the picture you see above:

  1. Yayoi Kusama: Goodness. Milk chocolate mousse, passionfruit cremeux with chocolate set, on chocolate sable biscuit, inspired by Kusama’s recent exhibition at the London Victoria Miro galleries. This was one of my favourites, the firm chocolate sable supporting the delicate mousse and cremeux (pudding custard), everything dressed in a vibrant yellow glaze.
  2. Damien Hirst: It would be impossible to forget one’s virgin encounter with Hirst (ok not him, rather his shark-in-a-tank get-up), spellbound by his abstract, almost vulgar creativity. This white chocolate tart flavoured with cassis jelly and yuzu curd is inspired by his pharmaceutical-style series of spot paintings, finished with Hirst-style regimented and decorative pop-art coloured spots of gel.
  3. Alexander Calder: The American is renowned for his innovative approach to art by using wire and industrial materials to craft ‘drawings in space’. This is the inspiration for a delicate but impressive sculpture that combines the flavours and colours of pistachio and cherry. The perfectly executed, tiny cake was glazed with red chocolate, reminiscent of Calder’s famed mobiles.
  4. Banksy: By far my absolute favourite, and so much so that I recreated a caramel-inspired bit of sweet just this morning. I sat there on one of those plush sofas, meditating on the  classic flavours of vanilla and chocolate, amplified by the overall textural complexity. The little cube honoured and perfectly replicated creativity honed and sporadically discovered over so many years, each bite a spark of magic. Banksy’s iconic ‘Girl With a Balloon’ – arguably one of his most famous artworks – provided inspiration for a delicate white chocolate cube filled with a light vanilla cream choux, cherry jelly, hazelnut caramel and chocolate crémeux, garnished with an intricate and tiny replica of the enigmatic artwork itself.
  5. Mark Rothko: Rothko’s bold use of colour has provided the inspiration for a layered coconut and raspberry sponge, filled with coconut mousse, fresh raspberries and adorned with bright pink raspberry chocolate. The flavours here were simple but still admirable.

Do yourself and a loved one a favour and head down to the Rosewood next month for the most unforgettable high tea experience. The whole tea experience comprises a delicate, time-honoured set of finger sandwiches, the five art-inspired works, a glass of champagne, plain or raisin scones, your tea of choice (their pu-erh is potent as potent gets), and the best service you will find in London. It will be priced at £45 per person (£55 per person with a glass of “R” de Ruinart Champagne or £57 per person with a glass of “R” de Ruinart RoséChampagne).

Mirror Room

Rosewood London

252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN

Open daily 7am-10pm

Tahini Espresso Cheesecake Pie

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Layers. That’s what was about the past week. Even if it did just mean reminiscing the gone, the forsaken, or somehow lost, there was a patter of layering, of some serendipity and will, that saw me through, and maybe saw so many through. In life there are inevitably some circumstances, not necessarily life-threatening, but still make for confusion, like how cutting my carrots much nearer the heads would mean pounds of carrots saved a year, or how there’s still this sad idea that gluten is bad for you because it creates gut permeability and thus allows for the infiltration of foreign substances and consequent inflammation, despite no hard scientific backing for this or the real relevance for us always-evolving-and-adapting human beings (perhaps you watched Clean EatingThe Dirty Truth as well, and know exactly what I’m talking about).

There is always a tussle between loving reading about nutrition and creating things like this double-layered cheesecake, but that’s still what this blog will always be about– a joyous acceptance of conflict, this trust, that forms the greatest relief in this world of unknowing, guessing and playing.

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It’s a double-layered cheesecake. On the one hand that’s just it. On the other it’s got tahini weaved into its dense, firm, cheesy body, and the richest bottom layer of espresso, and I mean rich. To the point where you’re pretty grateful for the top, more normal bit, which still doesn’t scream total normalcy because of the tahini, the rich sesame paste doing much to enliven your normal dessert with a Mediterranean touch. I’m always constantly inspired by this young lady as well, who effortlessly incorporates such interesting flavours into her exotic new combinations and twists on classics!

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Espresso literally takes the cake here, and the process itself is quite the cakewalk, if I do say so myself.

An easily put-together crust, a potent layer of espresso, a little of that aforementioned normalcy for the second layer, optionally topped with gingernut biscuits to enhance the spice and flavour in the body. Each bite is a two-toned wonder, nothing too magnificent, but still boasts so much to enjoy.

The fact that this is a cheesecake pie ups the game a little, because it’s an excuse to not have all the sides perfectly covered with crust, there’s a lesser filling volume requirement, and both layers can be seen from top-down already, and I don’t know about you, but that made me all the more excited to tuck in when the time came.

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Tahini Espresso Cheesecake Pie (makes one 9-inch pie)

Ingredients

For the crust:

170g plain flour

20g sugar

pinch salt

85g unsalted butter (sub: vegan butter)

1 egg (sub: 1 flax egg, made by mixing 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water and letting rest for 5 minutes on the counter)

 

For the filling:

405g cream cheese (sub: vegan cream cheese or tofu! Yes, try it and tell me how it goes, because I imagine it would be quite something, and very texturally pleasing)

100g confectioner’s (icing) sugar

half tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp light tahini

2 tbsp coffee concentrate or extract

optional toppings: melted chocolate, tahini, coffee shortbread or gingernut biscuits

Directions

Preheat oven to 200C (400F) and prepare your cheesecake tin, preferably with a removable bottom.

Mix ingredients for the crust, then press into the bottom using your fingers or the bottom of a cup. Bake this for 15 minutes, then remove to let cool for a while. While it’s baking, make the filling.

To do so, mix together all ingredients for the filling except for the coffee concentrate or extract using a fork, in a large bowl. Split the mix in half, roughly or by weight, and add the coffee concentrate/extract to one. Mix well, then spread this half on top of the crust. Dollop the lighter layer on top and carefully spread that around, leaving a little border around the edges.

Slice and serve! Feel free to top with melted chocolate, more tahini, and some gingernut biscuits for crunch.