Milk and Cream Cheese Roll

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAnother week coming to a close, another surreal reality coming into focus, continuously playing.

Random things/journal excerpts:

07/05: This has been a foundation of salve and is keeping me sane throughout all the hours of each day and each night. Grateful.

08/05: Stop half-assing things. Full-ass everything. And remember there’s a whole world out there for me (and you) to discover.  Also, drew up a relatively simple Mother’s Day menu of tomato bruschetta, mini avocado toasts, banana-egg pancakes, vegetarian frittata…!

11/05: I have a Pinterest board now for French fashion and pretty interiors and it is making me so very calm and happy. For many years I’ve forgotten how much I love old, moody things. When I was a teen my own Instagram account started out as a more aesthetic page; the food existed as an aesthetic branch too but the reining theme was still wispy, old, pretty things. The delicate heel of a suede ankle boot, my favourite red lipstick smeared on a tissue paper, an elegant striped tee, an unusual floor tile, a messy strand of pasta on the edge of my plate. Coming back to that is very nostalgic in the best possible way.

And now for this sublime thing!

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Words can’t express how stunned I was by how light and fluffy this roll turned out. I got inspiration from a Youtube video and ended up changing most of its recipe so I thought I could make a blogpost out of this little experiment. A weightless sponge just about holding onto a whipped cream cheese filling. I have not played with a gluten-free version of this but that would be fun to experiment with, if you have a gluten-free flour blend or something like almond flour on hand.

It was so satisfying to make the sponge, like handling a bouncy cloud from a faraway dream. I can’t believe this is a sponge, I kept saying to myself as I spread the air-light batter onto the baking tin. The first time I made this there was too much cream cheese, which ended up weighing down the sponge and cracking it far too early. Tasted delicious but wasn’t as pretty. So if you’re not too bothered by that then feel free to add a little more cream cheese to the filling mixture.

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Milk and Cream Cheese Roll (makes one roll, serves 6-7)

Ingredients

For the sponge:

30g (2 tbsp) room temperature butter/melted butter (or flavourless oil)

1 tbsp condensed milk (tried this with ‘sweetened creamer’ too and it worked fine, so use that if you have that instead)

60ml (1/4 cup) milk of your choice

0.5 tsp salt

5 egg whites (vegan sub: use the equivalent in aquafaba, or the liquid from 1 can of chickpease. If using normal eggs, save the yolks for a soufflé pancake, devilled eggs or mayonnaise)

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

75g (3/4 cup) white sugar

60g (1/2 cup) cake flour

2 tsp milk powder (sub: vegan milk powder)

2 tsp cornstarch

 

For the filling:

100g (half a standard package) cream cheese (vegan sub: vegan cream cheese)

150ml whipping cream/double cream (vegan whipped or whipping cream)

2 tbsp sugar

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 160C (320F). Line a standard baking tin/cookie tray with parchment paper. With a small whisk, whisk together the condensed milk, milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave this for 30 seconds. In a separate bowl, briefly whisk together the cake flour, milk powder and cornstarch. Tip this into the wet mix and whisk well. Whisk in the salt. You should have a thick, beige batter that drops off relatively easily off the whisk. In a large, clean bowl, tip in your egg whites and cream of tartar. If using the aquafaba, it will take longer to whip up, around 5 minutes.

Whip the egg whites using an electrical whisk for a minute until frothy. Add half of the sugar and continue whipping until you get soft peaks that easily drop off the whisk. Add the rest of the sugar and continue whipping until you get relatively stiff peaks. Take 2 tbsp of this whipped egg white and add it to your first mixture of milk, condensed milk and butter. Mix this together well with a whisk or spatula until smooth and homogenous. Add this to the rest of the whipped egg whites/ aquafaba and fold until everything is just incorporated. Tip this glorious, whipped mixture onto the baking tin, spread into an even layer and bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.

While that’s baking, make the filling by whipping the whipping cream and 2 tbsp sugar  in a separate clean bowl until stiff. Tip in the cream cheese and fold it in well. Leave the mixture in the fridge until ready to use. Once the sponge is done, it will look slightly brown on top. Take it out and leave it to cool for 5 minutes on a cooling tray or heatproof mat, but not too long otherwise the sponge will crack when you roll it. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s slighter larger than your cake and put it on top of the sponge. After 5 minutes, flip the sponge using the tray as a support. Remove the tray and peel off the layer of parchment that was originally underneath. Add the whipped cream cheese filling to the centre of the sponge and gently spread it evenly over the sponge. Using the parchment as a support, gently and slowly roll the sponge onto the filling. It should be a single, neat roll. Leave to cool in the fridge before cutting into 6-7 rolls with a serrated knife. Best enjoyed with coffee and a dainty fork because you need dainty cutlery for soft, fairylike, dainty desserts like this.

 

 

Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast

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Surreal. There’s no other way to describe it.

Yeah I’m talking about the french toast, but more so the fact that a whole term, just like that, in the scary blink of an eye, has come, passed, loved, and gone. Well, almost, with the imminent hurdle of exams, that glint of mild doom, but it’s always worth trying to look at the glass half full, and contemplate a rising, not falling.

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Breakfast is served, everyone. A soft, fluffy french toast sandwich stuffed with strawberries and a yoghurt-based cream cheese batter, topped with a digestive biscuit crumble. 

Was pondering this article earlier, acknowledging the benefits of not forcing oneself or others to eat breakfast in the morning. Many studies finally show that there is indeed no point thrusting yourself into routine if your gut is not up for that rude awakening at 7 30am. It once again points to the rather misleading nature of nutrition and health research; there are too little trials with too many variables to control.

Having always been an advocate of breakfast, both on a nutritional and creative level, I’ve extrapolated this idea to the fact that it’s actually ok to eat things like strawberry cheesecake french toast once every while. It’s alright to be unhealthy once a week, perhaps once a day. It’s a cut in the system, but breaking out of self-serving routine (e.g. the morning ‘kale juice fuel’ mindset categorising breakfast as something to always be healthy and the same thing every day) could well be good for just practicing day-today flexibility. Less rigidity, more creativity, more quiet time. Just you and breakfast (or no breakfast at all, which is perfectly fine). I noticed and was stunned by a slight reluctance on my part when I was thinking of what to make with fresh, in-season strawberries my aunt handed me earlier on in the week– I used to be more inclined to ideas letting them take over the mornings, let the flow take hold, creativity carving some scaffold of structure and stability for the rest of the day.

It struck me that rigidity, despite the calmness of its structure and how it makes more brain space for more things to worry about in the mornings, also can be a barrier in succumbing yourself to little joys in life, like finding a pocket of cheesecake batter-covered strawberry in the soft, fluffy insides of a well-made french toast sandwich, or finding a quote in a book (the one I’m reading now is The Diet Myth by Benedict Carey– fantastic so far and I’m just eating it up!) that you can really relate to. It’s the little things that spark glee, and let you look out for other little cute or glee-inducing things later on in the day, that perhaps inject a little more hope and happiness into other aspects of your life.

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Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast (serves 1)

Ingredients

2 slices challah/brioche bread

large handful fresh strawberries

2 heaping tablespoonfuls of cream cheese (softened)

2 tbsp icing sugar

60ml (1/4 cup) greek yoghurt

1 egg

splash of milk of choice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp butter (for cooking)

*optional topping: 1 crumbled digestive biscuit, mixed with a teaspoon of melted butter

mandatory topping: maple syrup

 

Directions

Preheat your pan on medium heat and ready a paper towel on your plate to place your french toast on afterwards. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and cinnamon, and set aside.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, icing sugar and yoghurt. The mix should be thick and spreadable, which is why greek yogurt is preferable in this case. Chop your strawberries lengthwise. Spread half of the cream cheese mix on one slice of the bread, and the rest on the other slice. Layer the strawberries on top, then sandwich the 2 slices together.

Add the tablespoon of butter to your pan and let sizzle. The butter should not burn or turn brown; turn down the heat if that’s the case. Dip one side of the sandwich into the french toast batter and let it soak for half a minute, then flip it over and do the same for the other side.

Fry each side in the hot pan for half a minute– you don’t want a full cook all the way through as this will result in a more rubbery, less soft and forkable final texture. Top with the digestive biscuit crumble, more yoghurt, strawberries and maple syrup.

 

Chocolate Tiramisu Pancakes with Mascarpone Lemon Curd Cream

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There is a special eating method for this one, but you’re gonna have to scroll right down to the bottom to find out!

Well. This morning. A coffee cup, orange juice glass and water glass. All empty. My father gulps it all down every morning, a robotic ritual. Like me, he’s a man of routine (yes I’m female but you get the point). I love how we both wake up early. I also love how I can ask him absolutely anything and he’ll probably know the answer, like what paraesthesia is or the difference between arthritis and gout. Anyways, it feels good to have settled into a workable routine, each day glistening with fun and possibility. It all sounds very childish but the good thing is that it’s all very true. Routine means allowing yourself time for everything without too much compromise, and I love early mornings when it’s just simple and quiet. Like Sundays with pancakes and the papers, instead of a meaningless spray of pixels on my phone or laptop. Just being, just living. All the Instagram posting, as much as I love this social media platform in all its filtered wonder, usually comes much later.

But. I hate that part of the morning when my cup of coffee is done, is no longer young, and I want another, but ultimately I give up embarking on another 1-metre trek to the espresso machine because I know the jitters will come on just a tad too strong later on. I’m no weakling, but I am pretty sensitive (will usually wait till after lunch before I have another)! A while ago, I thought of making pancakes which incorporated just a little bit of coffee, because I still wanted my sisters to try them and wholeheartedly believe in their wondrousness. I thought of doing the whole coffee and chocolate thing because a little coffee always brings out the flavour of cocoa. These chocolate tiramisu pancakes with the most perfect complementary cream were born.

If my honey and vanilla buttermilk pancakes are the fluffiest, then these are the most tender. After a little more flavour experimentation, and the proportions seemed just about right, I could sit down one Sunday morning and indulge in a mini stack. Indeed, that morning was made all the more fine. I would think the highlight of everything is the tenderness of the baby pancakes studded with chopped chocolate, with the most divine mascarpone lemon curd cream stuffed between each little pancake. I love those moments when you cut in with your fork and the prongs are smothered in gooey bits of chocolate. You’ll get the subtle hint of coffee. Ok, I know lemon curd isn’t really on the tiramisu ingredient checklist, but trust me on this one. You will adore this delightful amalgamation of sweet and tangy and creamy.

These need your attention.

Chocolate Tiramisu Pancakes with Mascarpone Lemon Curd Cream (makes 16 small pancakes)

Ingredients

For the pancakes:

190g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

generous pinch salt

1 tbsp white sugar

60g chocolate, chopped into small pieces (you can do the same with chocolate chips if you don’t have a bar; just be sure to use the dark sort for optimal flavour)

1 egg

35g unsalted butter

180ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk, or make your own by placing a tablespoonful of vinegar (any sort; I usually use apple cider vinegar) in the bottom of your measuring jug or cup, then fill to the required volume mark with whole milk

2 tbsp strong espresso

1 tbsp honey

For the mascarpone lemon curd cream:

115g mascarpone

generous pinch of salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp lemon curd

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, sugar, salt, chopped chocolate 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, espresso and honey. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix briefly with a wooden spoon. Before it’s all combined, pour in the melted butter. 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 should be of medium-thick consistency.

Preheat your pan or griddle 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 into the pan. Once you see a few bubbles, take a spatula and give every pancake a flip. The next side always takes much shorter; less than a minute or so. Once the second sides are done, let cool on a paper towel or in a warm oven. These freeze well, so you can make a whole batch, have one or a couple and stash the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer.

The cream!! In other words, the super moreish bit. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients needed for the cream with a fork. This makes enough for half the number of pancakes in total, so adjust proportions accordingly. Leftover cream can be stored in the fridge. To serve, place a small pancake on a plate, dollop on some of the cream, then place another pancake on top. Repeat until you have a mini stack of 2 or 3. Top with more cream or maple syrup if you wish, and more chopped chocolate.

OK. Now for the fun bit. When eating, try dunking your pancake in iced coffee for the full tiramisu effect. This is the way to eat your tiramisu pancakes. The pancakes are the lady fingers, and they need that little soak. So get to work. Dessert for breakfast. You will feel so proud.

London Breakfast Diary

After a week with the family in London, I spent almost 4 whole days traipsing around town with a good friend searching out breakfast and brunch spots. Though we didn’t manage to eat our way through the city entirely, I was satisfied after each little adventure, assured of accomplishment, eager for new sunlight to signal another stomach-filling session.

Ozone Coffee Roasters' flat white and gluten-free orange almond cake
Ozone Coffee Roasters’ flat white and gluten-free orange almond cake

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A personal favourite. Sitting in the corner of the wood-tiled, pseudo-industrial interior, I sipped on a delicious, creamy flat white, and nibbled on an unexpectedly pleasing orange and almond cake, grainless at that, although the white frosting got a little sickening after a while. Expect only the hippest coffee customers here, and ready your laptop or a good book.

Granger and Co's ricotta hot cakes
Granger and Co’s ricotta hot cakes and bircher muesli

Only the fluffiest in London, with pockets of ricotta, honeycomb butter and lashings of maple syrup to make it all the more carnal. My flat white was on the more bland and milky side, and it’s hard to hear yourself sometimes, with a few tables nuzzled up against one another. It might even be a little hard to call over a waiter, what with the gazillion Hermes bags swishing everywhere, dangled off the thin arms of the blonde and beautiful. But these pancakes, right?? Come on. They’ve got heart and soul and rhythm. This bircher muesli was also a star in its own right– sweet, tangy, and creamy.

SUNDAY Café: Foreground– French toast with bruleed  banana, creme fraiche and caramel Background– Portobello and poached egg on homemade sourdough
SUNDAY Café: Foreground– French toast with bruleed banana, creme fraiche and caramel
Background– Portobello mushroom and poached egg on homemade sourdough

Sunday is one of those places which you just don’t want to leave because it’s so darn pretty, with the cosiest outdoor garden dining area and a lush, warm interior. The cook on everything was sublime, although I have had better French toast; this one wasn’t sufficiently saturated and the caramel was rendered glass-like and brittle. That aside, I can definitely see myself here a lot in the future, because the staff make it feel like you’ve known them long before, and their cakes (we tried the lemon iced pound cake) are stupendous. They’re the sort of the people you want to see, and the sort you want to see improve, if need be the case.

Piccolo and the best ever lemon pistachio cake from APPESTAT Café in Islington
Piccolo and the best ever lemon pistachio cake from APPESTAT Café in Islington

Ah, Appestat. And how fitting a name, because it did readily whet my appetite. The white nook full of surprises, and thankfully where you will most probably get a space to think, with lovely artisan brews and produce. I was stunned by the lemon pistachio cake we had, which was bursting with a full, dense pistachio flavour, pardon the lack of lemon tang. They may be excused. The most perfect accompaniment ever to a well-made cuppa joe (P.S. They stock nut butters and tahini!).

Flat white and raspberry custard tart from Shoreditch Grind
Flat white and raspberry custard tart from Shoreditch Grind

My second last stop was Shoreditch Grind, a stand-alone café where I had probably the best flat white, and a crusty, flake-to-bits custard tart, smaller than my palm but moreish all the same. Read, write, lose yourself a little.

Kinako french toast with matcha soft serve; aka the best french toast you will have in your life, from Bone Daddies at Shackfuyu
Kinako french toast with matcha soft serve; aka the best french toast you will have in your life, from Bone Daddies at Shackfuyu

Because I’ve tried too many french toasts to lift your hopes up for no good reason. Soft, slightly spongy and perfectly saturated in the middle. Eggy, sweet matcha batter. The crust will make your heart melt, and the matcha soft serve makes everything a dreamworld. Your senses will thank you. Un-be-lie-va-ble.

Bread Ahead's salted caramel and honeycomb doughnut
Bread Ahead’s salted caramel and honeycomb doughnut
Duck and waffle; bruleed banana with ice cream from Duck and Waffle
Duck and waffle; bruleed banana with ice cream from Duck and Waffle

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Other notable spots:

– TAP Coffee No. 193

– Kaffeine

– Timberyard Seven Dials

– Prufrock Coffee

– The Breakfast Club

I have yet to travel the entire of Europe, to learn more and grow in so many ways, but London has and always will be my second home. I remember prancing around town when I used to live there as a little girl, some sort of flaky pastry in one hand, my mother’s fingers in the other. Cold winter streets and cobblestones. There’s something irreplaceable about its erratic weather, everyone’s eccentric outfits and the anticipation of something, anything, the feeling of exciting possibility.

Review: Tolido’s Espresso Nook

A long black please ($5.50), oh and that stack of devilish banana buttermilk pancakes. $9, you say? Aw, that’s not too bad at all. I mean, I can make my own buttermilk pancakes, but sometimes I need a step out of the humble abode, a new perspective, fresh insight into a worn classic. I forgot how good it feels to be at a café, alone with my thoughts, senses honed in on words, aromas, textures, flavour.

My penchant for anything sweet with nourishing kicks (think oatmeal with almond butter and honey, or this divine cheesecake) is let down a little once a week, when I hop around in search for something, anything, impressive on this tiny island, be it a sinful plate of crisp, endearing waffles or crazy lush French toast. Yolks oozing, crusts squealing at the first prick of my fork. Letting go can feel good. Almost necessary.

Tuesday’s situation. Ploughing through science writings, a double (upon request; they typically do three but I personally can’t stomach that) stack of RIDICULOUSLY thick and soft buttermilk pancakes topped with torched caramelised bananas, whipped cream and caramel, at the one café I’ve been meaning to visit for the longest while yet. I would’ve come sooner if it weren’t for my mistaken impression of this ‘nook’, something about the mounds of whipped cream I saw on Instagram and chimerical flavour titles on gaudy menus put me on edge; although it all sounded so whimsical and somewhat enticing, an air of off-the-beaten-and-maybe-slightly-greasy-track offset the appeal. I repeat: mistaken impression. One enters the wooden cove and is immediately bathed in a warm glow, some unuttered warmth. Smiling, tall baristas. The large sofa on my left had ‘come hither’ written all over, draped with a tassled beige cloth, resting against a wall filled with mini framed portraits. All the tables were elongated, wooden hexagons. The whole scene was akin to a teen clique’s secret hip hideout, complete with rough indie hits and large, flat spaces for ‘studying’. The nook lives up to its name. IMG_1056 IMG_1059

Delight.

Of course, the de rigueur sips of harsh black coffee. It’s always this or a capp for me whenever I’m in that pretentious assessing mood; the iced blacks typically mask bean quality, not that I’m anywhere near professional, and the smoothest latte (milk in Italian) still may not reveal much. Opted for the stuff straight-up, piping hot in a full 5-ouncer. They have a ‘sea salt caramel latte’ here too, and although I have an unrelenting sweet tooth, I dare not be lured into the lurid albeit enticing half-gimmicks. That being said, I shall allow my penchant for that classic sweet-salty combo to take the driver’s seat if ever I come back, and will be sure to give it a shot (maybe with an extra shot for good measure).

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Pillows. I loathe these for the carnal pleasure they bestowed.

A full centimetre high, impeccably well-risen, so much so that if I were to cut into one horizontally I would get 2 thin carpets of hole-studded pale batter, cooked to perfect doneness. Kid-soft. Ridged, air-punctured edges, just a tad firmer than the middles. At least 4 inches wide in diameter, good God. So perfectly reminiscent of typical American-diner-style pancakes. It’s a standard now, the desired standard for the experienced New Yorker. There were even little bits of banana in the batter. Crack into the elegant banana boats on top and you get a heart-stopping crème brûlée effect. Deep crackle, the break of glass, then the soft grunt of caramelised, almost burnt sugar top giving way to the creamy, ripe banana body. Pause– relish that detail.

Every chew got a little gummier as I went along, mouthfuls of white, sweet stodge. The stocky pancake was quickly reduced to sludge, but that’s alright. I just want everyone to try this. Is that too much to ask?

Rating: 4.5/5

Tolido’s Espresso Nook

462 Crawford Lane

6648 0178

Closed on Mondays

Tues-Thurs: 0930-1900

Friday-Sat: 0930-2200

Sun: 0900-1830