Classic Pancakes

Currently (sadly) alternating between periods of intense revision and:

  • wondering what Leonardo da Vinci’s Snapchats would be like
  • researching the nutrition of scallops and uni, in other words my two current favourite types of seafood
  • embarking on The Kitchn’s baking school program, which is definitely one of the most interesting and exciting things I’ve started in a long time.

Busyness aside, there will always be time for a good settle-down in the kitchen. Like a good breakfast. Something like this:

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thin, tender, lacey (English) pancakes (here topped with fresh ripe banana, drizzled with almond butter and salted caramel walnuts+melted matcha chocolate I saved all the way from Japan)

For creativity and mood’s sake, I gave in to the whole almond-matcha theme the first time round. It’s one of those things I’ve done before, loved, and you can check it out right here. Admittedly, the day after, I reheated a couple of extra pancakes and went for the classic, ever-loved combo of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and sugar. Deliciousness= lemon and sugar soaking into thin pancake flesh, into every crevice of the crumpled carpet. That being said, there’s also something magical about the combination of a fresh, warm pancake with a creamy slather of almond butter. The melted matcha chocolate hits everything with a sweet and slightly bitter kick.

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Sorry– trypophobics beware.

Having made plenty of American pancakes, the sort which fluff up and bounce and you top with butter and maple syrup, I thought it fitting to try something else. That’s when I came across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for classic crepes. And so another question popped up:

  • what’s the difference between a crepe and a pancake?

After trying out the recipe and doing the research, I had a hard time deliberating whether the final result was more akin to one or the other. The nuances of the recipe made this more a pancake than crepe, so pancakes it was. The main difference lies in waiting time, so calling it a crepe wouldn’t be sacrilege.

These pancakes are a real treat any morning. Very thin, lacey, and have a light brown, crispy underside. The great bit? You can put them together in a pinch and any leftovers can be chucked in the fridge and reheated the next morning/ whenever you want.

Took a while for me to get these pancakes as thin and lacey as possible, but a few good tricks to have up your sleeve are:

  • when putting melted butter into the pan before ladling of the pancake batter, do not use a paper towel to remove excess butter– add a generous amount of butter, let melt and swirl around. This will promote excellent browning and crispiness at the edges.
  • I repeat– generous amount of butter.
  • use medium-high heat– should hear a mild sizzle when batter hits the pan and a heavier-bodies sizzle when batter is ladled into pan.
  • After ladling, lift the pan off the heat to swirl it around evenly. This prevents any batter that’s already been ladled from cooking too fast and lets you swirl everything nicely and thinly.

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Classic pancakes (makes 8–10 medium pancakes; adapted from Nigella’s crepes recipe)

Ingredients

150g plain, all-purpose flour

2 tbsp white sugar

pinch salt

28g (2 tbsp) melted, unsalted butter, plus more for the pan during cooking

1 large egg

340ml milk of choice (I used both whole and almond milk on 2 occasions and both worked perfectly)

Directions

Preheat your pan or crepe pan on medium-high heat and ready some butter for cooking. In a large bowl, tip in the flour, salt, sugar, milk, egg and butter, in that order, and whisk everything together. Continue whisking until no lumps remain, and the batter is pale and silky. Use a small ladle to ladle in a little batter and immediately swirl in a circle formation to spread the batter evenly in the pan. As mentioned earlier in the post, you should hear a heavy-bodied sizzle upon the application of melted butter to the pan, and a mild batter when the batter actually hits the pan and starts cooking.

Your first and second pancakes might be a little dodgy, but it gets better as you go along (promise). Once the edges of the pancakes crisp up and brown, slide your spatula underneath and flip. Cook for up to 45 seconds on this side, then remove from the pan and place on a paper towel. When cooking the pancakes/crepes, layer paper towels between each to absorb the condensation.

Serve warm with more butter and honey/maple syrup, or lemon juice and sugar. Try out the combination in the picture above too– does wonders for your tastebuds, friends.

 

Almond Butter Cookies

A. B. C. Should I continue with D, E, and F?

Dense, Easy, Flourless. WOW that went down well. I swore that would take longer than expected.

I never meant to do it– promise. This Almond Butter Cookie action (hopefully the acronym stuck the first time you read it) pounced on me instead of the other way round. People have things for things, and my thing yesterday morning was almond butter. I eased a dribble down a side of toast, drizzled on some honey, then some course sea salt. It’s easy to contemplate life over breakfast. Almond butter honey toast is magical. Why not turn your jar into a batch of bloody easy cookies?

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The very next morning, I decided to have one for myself with some newly bought macadamia butter (yes! It’s real!), raspberry jam, and more chopped almonds. Exquisite. Sometimes simplicity is key, but the lavish combination didn’t hurt this aching almond affinity.

I’ll give you just a line: Dense, chewy, buttery (in the most nourishing sense). These cookies are slightly crumbly due to the natural texture of raw almond butter, hence putting it just a rung up on the fragility ladder, but the lovely squidgy interior of slight under-doneness, packed with lush, nutty almond flavour, makes this one bowl affair way worth it. Alright. A couple of notes on this jazzed up loveliness:

– once the cookies are baked, leave them! For a half hour or so before touching. They are soft and rather fragile once out of the oven, so you don’t want to fiddle with them too much.

– use raw, natural almond butter, and make sure that all the natural oil (which usually rests on top of the more solid mass of almond butter in the jar) is thoroughly mixed in, using a knife or spoon.

– you may add whatever you like after getting the base recipe straight, be it chocolate chips and almonds (as in my case), or perhaps crushed biscuits (?) and sea salt. The versatility of a cookie is something to herald and marvel at. It’s pretty impossible to exhaust all possibilities and combinations..

Almond Butter Cookies (flourless, makes around 16 medium cookies)

Ingredients

1 cup almond butter

1 teaspoon fine salt

75g white caster sugar

65g soft, light brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg

Optional: half a cup of chocolate chips/ nuts/ crushed biscuits

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F), and line and grease 2 cookie sheets. In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients listed above (yes, in that order, if you wish). Using 2 tablespoons, spoon a tablespoonful of mixture onto the cookie sheet(s), each circle of batter placed at least an inch apart from each other. There is no need to flatten the cookies as they will spread out on their own during the baking process; they should be slightly flattened balls of almond buttery goodness on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 9-11 minutes. Mine were done by 9 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least a half hour before touching, and then serve with glee.

Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes (updated)

I include two different nut butter options here– pistachio and almond. Oh yes, and two special frostings. I guess you have to read on if you want to know the specifics *annoying seductive winky face*.

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almond butter stuffed; topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and speculoos biscuit
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pistachio butter stuffed; topped with matcha buttercream and chopped pistachios

The first time I made these cupcakes, I relied purely on instinct and an old, old recipe found deep in the recesses of my dusty and grainy mental archives. The second time round, I modified a recipe from Cupcake Jemma, and they turned out absolutely perfect. No really. I hate these sorts of exaggerations, all the ‘reallys’ and ‘trulys’, so I’m officially going against personal principle for the sake of emphasis and honesty. These are the lightest, fluffiest little things, and I adore how the flavour of green tea is pronounced, and not hidden like some odd side element.

Anyways, it was a lucky shot. I always start a baking experiment with some wild or novel idea, but the initial framework always ends up being littered with side details and spontaneous ‘wait, I should use this instead of that!’ moments. They speckle the total perfection, so whatever I end up with is never what I meant it to be. Take this, for instance. I’ve recently been on a slight matcha roll (note to self: try out matcha rolls) because of its subtle green tea flavour. The bitter aftertaste lingers on the back of your tongue, never quite overwhelming it, making whatever you’re tasting just that much more sophisticated. Almost healthful, and no, not just because of that deceiving light green hue. I could list all the healthy characteristics of a teaspoon of matcha powder, but let’s face it, we’re talking about cupcakes here. I guess it’s further redeemed by the soft, oozing, rich dollop of almond butter right in the centre, but I haven’t gotten on to the frosting yet. Life is about balance. This is balance.

I was a little afraid of making cupcakes for two reasons.

1. I’ve made them (well, everyone makes them a lot) so many times that I was afraid the repetition bug would strike out against me and unleash a sudden curse on my beauties. Call me deranged.

2. They could very well and most likely be sub-par cupcakes. People want astounding, not average things.

That second point got me thinking. So if I made a good cupcake, it has to be made even better by some novel pairing or ingredient.. we’ve all been down the red/blue/green velvet path at least once, or maybe tried that wonderful chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting to up the ante a bit, but something an inch more atypical would work better. That’s when I thought of matcha and almond (not quite novel just yet)… topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with crushed speculoos biscuits (Lotus biscuits as everyone knows them here) and drizzled with more salted caramel. Think soft matcha sponge encasing a large dollop of creamy, rich nut butter, topped with lightly salted caramel cream cheese swirls and light, cookie-based crunch on top, or, in another case, delicate swirls of thick and fluffy matcha buttercream. The crumb is soft and firm, and the best part of these cupcakes is that post-baking, you get this wonderful sugar-crusted, crumbly top, which breaks away easily when you want to stuff the little holes with nut butter. I do love this matcha and almond/pistachio pairing, the upper-class rigidity of the flavours totally offset by the playful done-it-before frosting options.

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Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes 

For the cupcakes (makes 10-12, adapted from Cupcake Jemma):

125g self-raising flour

135g soft, unsalted butter

125g white sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

quarter teaspoon bicarb soda

1 teaspoon matcha powder

Option 1: Matcha buttercream

270g icing sugar

150g softened, unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 teaspoon matcha powder, dissolved in a splash of whole milk

Option 2: Salted caramel cream cheese frosting (after many personal trial and error stints):

170g cream cheese, at room temperature

150g brown sugar

75g icing sugar

75g butter, softened

1 tbsp salted caramel sauce (store-bought or homemade)

for the topping: crushed speculoos biscuits and extra salted caramel sauce for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 170C (350F) and spray a muffin tin. In a large bowl and with a normal or electrical whisk, beat the butter and sugar together on high until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients- flour, bicarb, matcha powder and salt. Using a spatula, fold the flour and matcha mixture into the wet mixture.

Place the cupcake tin into the preheated oven and bake for 20-22 minutes. I took mine out at the 21-minute mark. Leave them to cool on a wire rack. The tops will be crusty and a light golden, and will look relatively flat. Leave to cool on a wire rack before removing to dig holes and stuff them silly.

Salted caramel cream cheese frosting:

Whilst they cool, make the frosting. Beat the brown sugar and butter together using a handheld electrical whisk, then beat in the cream cheese, icing sugar and salted caramel sauce. This is my favourite salted caramel cream cheese frosting which uses more brown rather than icing sugar, so it’s handy when you’re running low on icing sugar. Put the mix into the fridge until ready to use.

Matcha buttercream:

In a large bowl, beat together the icing sugar, softened butter, teaspoon of vanilla, and matcha/milk mix. Beat until visibly light, thick and fluffy. Stuff a piping bag with the mix and leave in a cool place (I put mine in the fridge overnight and let thaw for around 15 minutes the next morning) until ready to use.

When the cupcakes are mostly cool (around 15-20 minutes post-baking), take a teaspoon and dig right into the heart of the cupcake, before scooping out some cake. This part is mostly up to you; if you want more nut butter per mouthful (you lovely hedonists) then go ahead and dig deep, but if not, a teaspoonful of cake will suffice. Using another teaspoon, spoon in a heaped (or however much you want) of nut butter into the hole. I used homemade almond and pistachio butter; my mum makes batches in the kitchen all the time and it’s the most divine thing in the world. Using a large spoon or piping bag, frost the cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting or matcha buttercream. For the former, add crushed speculoos biscuits and more salted caramel drizzled on top. For the matcha buttercream, pipe the buttercream on top, whizz up some pistachios in a food processor and sprinkle on top. I also added salted caramel to this version because, well, why the heck not.