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.

 

 

Cream Cheese-filled Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Well. There’s something about the cold air today. Fall transitioning into Winter. Apple pie, hot ciders, and pumpkin everything. All of which I love, but the one thing I felt like making, in fact my very first bake in my graduate dorm kitchen, was something that had nothing to do with apples or pumpkins. It’s something I really wanted to dig into straightaway, That’s it. Simplicity in the form of divine, ooey gooey, dense, filled chocolate chip cookies. Simplicity because it’s been made too many times to count the past week, to the point where it almost becomes automatic, a habit, and you want to make it way more than what real life warrants as necessary. That, my friend, is when simplicity becomes extravagance. It feels like home, and home can be extravagant.

I sit here in my new laboratory office space writing, because it hasn’t occurred to me to try blending my two main habits– food and science, together. I’m sure this can work, especially if I have to wait for something to finish running in the lab. Makes my life that much easier, and I can’t be sitting around in cafés all the time…

Speaking of habit, lately I’ve been re-thinking my presence on social media. I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with Instagram (like most people I’m sure), but for the whole of last week I cut it out totally just to focus on the work I should be doing here and also to see if I would feel any differently during or after the experience. My takeaways: I had no urge to open the app during that week, only to reply someone who I couldn’t reach on Facebook Messenger either. I had an urge to see where everyone was going and eating in London, but resolved that by a few Google searches and actually checking my emails from London press companies properly. Secondly, after re-installing and opening the Instagram app after that little break, I felt almost completely indifferent to the feed. I pressed on a few story circles just to see what a few people were up to, stayed for a grand total of 2 minutes, then closed the app again. I actually started reading more, and the days have stretched longer. It’s a strange, surreal feeling, since for most of my teen years I remember being addicted, sadly, to the feeling I got when a photo got a certain number of likes or when someone commented on how delicious something looks. Which is fine, the whole point of Instagram for me is to find the best and newest places to eat, and to share my passion for baking, to show how easy it is to whip up something simple and delicious in the kitchen, but it was the external validation I became addicted to that I started to loathe. Everything grew into a fixation on numbers– how many followers and likes do you have? Because clearly this shows how credible you are as whatever creative artist you may be. I’m already lucky enough to have met some amazing people on the platform, and even still somehow get invited to tastings, but it was that tedious scrolling, the fixation on numbers, as well as the recent discovery that someone who I really admired on the platform blocked me for no apparent reason… yeah, that really got to me, when it shouldn’t have. Truthfully, my skin is not thick enough for me to be healthy and happy and maintain a strong presence on the platform, and that’s when I decided a break was not just an option, but something necessary. Now I do feel much less inclined to post about little mundane things about my life, and I’m less scared of posting less and less. It feels good, because Instagram isn’t real life, My main passion has been this blog, what you, dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far, are reading right now. This is the product of my passion, where I can write long-form and not worry about how many characters I write because Instagram isn’t for captions, it’s made for visual artists, Which is why food bloggers can gain a lot of ground there, but I like to write (blabber), too, and why should I feel guilty about that? Anyways, I’m not missing out on anything if I’m not exposed to it, and I’m happy with how much time I’ve been saving, too. Amazing. I can now post and do what I want whenever I want, no pressure. In a sense I am very glad my whole livelihood isn’t reliant on a social media presence, and my main goal is to use science to help humanity in a bigger way. Food will be weaved into that too, but baking doesn’t have to become my sole identity.

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One thing I realise Instagram made me do sometimes was to make things, experiment with combinations, that I myself may not necessarily have tried of my own accord. I would eat a raspberry sumac scone any day of the week but sometimes, at any one time, it may not really be something to make. However, by virtue of how pleasing it sounds, how sophisticated and exotic, I would do it anyway. These cookies, much like most of my blondie recipes, on the other hand, are something I will make again and again until the day I die. A one bowl wonder, once again. Adapted from my usual  cookie recipe, but I slightly reduced the amount of flour just to let the thickness and flavour of pure peanut butter shine through. I’m also starting to prefer dissolving salt in the wet ingredients first instead of whisking it into the dry ingredients. The final yield of cookies is the perfect mix of sweet, savoury and creamy. I hope that this can put a smile on your face one day.

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Cream cheese filled chocolate chip cookies (makes 4 filled cookies)

Ingredients

205g (1 2/3 cup) flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cornflour

2 tsp salt

1 egg (sub: 1 vegan flax egg made by mixing 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water)

5 tbsp white sugar

5 tbsp brown sugar

150g butter, room temperature (sub: vegan butter)

3 heaped tablespoons cream cheese (I used Philadelphia brand but any will do; sub: vegan cream cheese)

3 tbsp icing sugar

100g chocolate, chopped (I used a mix of dark and white chocolate, you can use any combination)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 175C (350F) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the cream cheese and icing sugar in a small bowl and then put in the freezer to set while you make the cookie batter.

In a bowl, whisk together the butter, sugars and egg. Add the salt and whisk it in. In a separate bowl, briefly mix together the flour, cornflour, chopped chocolate and baking powder with a fork, then tip it into the butter mixture and use a spoon to mix everything together well. Use your hands once it looks a little dry, once you get in there you’ll realise that it just takes a minute to let the warmth of your hands bring everything together nicely. You should have a thick, soft dough. To assemble, first take the cream cheese mixture out of the freezer. Then take a golf ball-sized chunk of batter, roll it up and put it on the lined pan. Slightly flatten this piece of dough and use a finger to make a mild dent in the middle, then put a teaspoon of the cream cheese mix into the centre and cover it with another chunk of dough. You only have to use enough to cover the cream cheese. Repeat until the rest of the dough is finished, you should have 4-5 large filled cookies on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, no more and no less. When you take them out, the edges will be a soft golden-brown and the tops will still look quite soft, but they will set a little more once out of the oven.

 

Banana bread cream cheese blondies with salted brown butter frosting

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Today is a Wednesday, but I am trying to frame today as a new start to the week, considering the mess of yesterday. Tuesday started off on an incredibly tired note, as I hauled myself to places where I had to be at but where my heart wasn’t. A revival was needed, I thought, when I collapsed on the couch yesterday afternoon. It tends to be during moments of stress and tiredness that I am weak of mind, giving in too much to the simplest pleasures without thinking (processed, sugary food), which leaves me feeling even more tired and disgusting, and I simply am totally unproductive and useless to talk to for the rest of the day. I wish a break in routine did not have to be so tiresome or intrusive, but that’s the reality of it.

A ‘revival’ to different people can mean different things, and most are valid- entertainment, learning, education, a walk, reading, something good. For me, it’s long walks and nourishing food, or playing around with new ingredients to create something. I recently discovered a beautiful block of salted butter in my local gourmet grocer (which you can find here), somehow so soft and creamy even right out of the fridge, when I pressed it. I came home and cooked some vegetables in a generous pat of the stuff, discovering the beauty of salt crystals from the North of France– truly a work of wonder. How have I not had the pleasure of biting into a salt crystal in a piece of butter spread on sourdough toast (or anything) before? I had to make some good use of it. With ripe banana, a new beautiful block of butter and leftover cream cheese, these delightful squares, an extravagant combination of tang and luxury, were born. Banana bread and cream cheese sounds very, um, American, since anything involving cream cheese is very typically USA, no? Anyways, I could talk for days about this recipe, but best to keep it brief.

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The use of salted butter in general here is paramount to the success in making this good salted browned butter frosting. It was magical to watch the salt crystals separating while melting the salted butter. The frosting is optional but really something special, and I literally squealed upon my first bite, which was chewy, fudgy, brimming with a natural banana flavour without being too sweet, even with the frosting on top. The cream cheese is almost a necessary component to enjoy all dimensions of this dessert, as its mild sourness offering a creamy cut-through the layers of different degrees of sweetness, from simple banana bread to rich salted frosting. It was all a simple matter of mixing a few things in different bowls and assembling the components before and after baking the blondies.

I definitely felt better about making these, by the end of the day. Still tired, but better. Creating and playing, these are the free blessings we all have.

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Banana bread cream cheese blondies with salted brown butter frosting

Ingredients (makes one 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan, or 16 medium-sized blondies)

KEY:

For the blondies:

120g (1/2 cup+ 2 tbsp) salted butter, melted

¼ cup tahini (can also use yoghurt or apple sauce)

1+1/2 bananas

200g (1 cup) brown sugar

80g (3/4 cup) almond flour (ground almonds)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

70g (1/2 cup) plain flour

1 egg

220g cream cheese (or 1 standard 8oz tub) cream cheese

90g (1/3 cup) icing sugar

For the frosting:

60g (1/4 cup) salted butter

60g (1/4 cup) brown sugar

100g (slightly less than 1 cup) icing sugar

3 tbsp heavy cream

 

General notes:

  • Use all plain flour instead of half flour and half almond flour if you wish. Would be equally delicious, just a little less kind on the gut.
  • I baked mine for 22 minutes for a fudgy centre, but bake for longer if you like a more cake-like consistency.
  • If you don’t have salted butter, add a teaspoon of salt to the dry ingredients.

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F), then grease and line your 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch pan. In a medium bowl, mash your banana and then whisk in the melted butter and brown sugar. Then whisk in the egg If you just melted the butter before mixing the sugar, make sure to wait a minute after mixing in the egg so that you don’t unintentionally scramble the egg, unless that’s your kind of thing. Then add the flour, cinnamon, and a teaspoon of salt if you did not use salted butter in the beginning. Mix everything together. The batter should appear quite sticky and not too thick, easily dropped off a wooden spoon. In a separate bowl, make the cream cheese middle by mixing the cream cheese with icing sugar.

Pour half of the blondie batter into your greased and lined pan, then add the cream cheese frosting and spread it in a thin even layer on top of the batter. I find that it helps to put 9 equal dollops of the filling on the batter and then using a knife or your finger to spread it out to fill the gaps. Then pour over the rest of the blondie batter and smooth it out into an even layer. Place your pan into the preheated oven and bake for 22-23 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist crumbs (not dry!).

For the frosting, melt the salted butter in a pan on medium heat, until it goes an amber colour and you can see the milk solids separate from a darker, browned liquid. This will be clear to see after 4-5 minutes of heating on the oven Skim off some of white bits so most of the darker liquid is left. Once the butter is browned and there’s a waft of something toffee-like and nutty in your kitchen, add the brown sugar and heavy cream bring the liquid to a boil. Once bubbling, set aside to cool down for 5 minutes, before adding the powdered sugar. The frosting may not look like a lot but is pretty rich, enough for all 16 blondies.

Once the blondies are baked, take the pan out and leave to cool on a heatproof surface for at least 10-15 minutes. Spread on the frosting and cut into squares. These are best eaten on the same day but will keep for the next 3 days.

 

Cinnamon Sugar-crusted Cream Cheese-stuffed French Toast

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There’s french toast, and then there’s cinnamon sugar-crusted french toast with a cream cheese filling and warmed berries. It’s your pick.

There are no extravagant steps, not too much brain energy involved. You dip good bread in luscious custard (or do it the eggless/vegan way), dip that in cinnamon sugar, fry in a pan.

Then you spread some cream cheese frosting (not the bought stuff, no no) on one slice, layer with warmed berries, layer on the other slice.

Then you ooh and aah for a bit, drizzle with maple syrup, and then EAT. Cream cheese and berries ooze out the sides, berries give up their juice.

That right there is the best morning.

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The cinnamon sugar crust is key. It’s what takes this to a whole new level, and adds a luxurious sweetness so you don’t need as much maple syrup later on.

Sweetened cream cheese may be substituted for yoghurt here, but I find the cream cheese adds proper oomph, volume, and just the right amount of tang. Together with the warm berries, this makes the perfect french toast sandwich.

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Cinnamon Sugar-crusted Cream Cheese-stuffed French Toast (makes 1 sandwich)

Ingredients

For the french toast:

2 slices fresh challah/white sandwich bread/sourdough, around 3/4-1 inch thick (I keep mine in an airtight bag in the freezer, and let thaw for a half hour before I need or want to use it)

1 egg

60ml (1/4 cup) milk

1 heaping tbsp ground cinnamon + 6 tbsp white sugar

splash vanilla extract

butter for frying

 

For the cream cheese filling and warmed berries:

2 heaping tbsp cream cheese spread

1 tsp milk

1 tbsp icing sugar

handful of berries of choice (I used blueberries and raspberries)

 

Directions

In a shallow bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Preheat your pan on medium-high heat. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Once pan is hot, add a knob of butter and listen out for a sizzle; if the butter browns too quickly turn down the heat a little.

Take one challah slice and dip in the eggy batter for 10 seconds. Flip and do the same for the other side. It should be soaked through but not falling apart. Lift up the slice and let excess batter drip down, then immediately lay in the bowl containing the cinnamon sugar. Turn the slice and coat the other side.

Do the same with the second slice, then place both slices in the hot pan for frying. Wait 20 seconds for the first sides to fry, then flip. Wait a little longer, around 30-40 seconds, if you prefer a less soggy middle for your french toast (I like mine pretty soggy and saturated). The second side will take shorter to cook, so remove once you like the doneness.

In the same pan, add a little more butter, then plop in your berries. Let cook and sizzle– they will yield their juices after around 4-5 minutes of cooking and become warm and soft. Mix together the ingredients for the cream cheese filling.

Spoon the cream cheese and berries onto one slice of bread and then layer on the second slice. Finally, drizzle everything with good maple syrup.

Black Sesame Cakelets with Cream Cheese Frosting

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A good friend once told me that if I were an ice cream flavour, it would be black sesame.

‘What’s that supposed to imply?’

I still don’t know. Nevertheless, I love attempts to associate people with things, endeavouring to understand or replicate nature, auras, psyches. The memory was jolted alive last week, when I was prancing around the supermarket aisles, sometimes stopping to peruse labels, flipping through half-hearted ideas in my head. I was ready to take on something tame for today’s post, working with ingredients I already had at home. But (there’s always a but). When I passed by the gourmet Japanese section, the urge to experiment with black sesame was so profound I felt like it would be a cardinal sin not to leave without a loot. It almost came as a shock because firstly, I’ve never done so before, and secondly, I’ve always been enamoured by its sweet, oil-rich, nutty flavour. What’s taken me so long?

Even if you decide, as part of a little intellectual exercise, that you are going to sit around and do nothing because you have concluded that you have no free will, you are eventually going to get up and make yourself a sandwich.“–Greene and Cohen, from a book I’m reading right now on the brain.

I love that. You see, sometimes, you just have to do something and stop wrestling internal needs or expectations. To sustain yourself and this life. Satisfying that urge was worth it.

So I’ll say it: I wasn’t expecting the results of this experiment to turn out so well. Somehow, the oven works its magic the first time. All worries were alleviated when my first batch of black sesame cakelets emerged (almost) perfectly round, just slightly risen and browned along the edges, from the hot-house. Working with the black sesame powder I found along that aisle was pure joy. The powder by itself is mildly sweet, carrying all the aromas and flavours of the seed. It is imperative that you sieve the powder first into the dry mix, to yield the finest and smoothest texture possible. If you can’t find the stuff in the grocery store, try your hand at black sesame seeds, and grind them up at home, in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. You will get a paste instead of a smoother powder, but I expect it will work just as well. Gosh, I’m excited for you! Soft, moist (I actually like this word for all the grief it gets, poor thing), slightly cakey with an incredibly tender crumb. The nuttiness and mild sweetness formed the perfect backdrop for the ever-familiar cream cheese frosting on top. The two together are sublime if sinful.

I topped these with oreo crumbs, sprinkles and chopped bits of dark chocolate. Go crazy here. It’s the perfect cross between a pikelet, an adorable mini pancake, and the top of a cupcake. Can you imagine? I hope you can. If making these means having to go to the grocery store to buy some black sesame powder (or seeds), then I guess you have no choice.

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Black Sesame Cakelets with Cream Cheese Frosting (makes around 8 3-inch wide cakelets)

Ingredients

For the cakelets:

105g plain flour

25g (around 2 1/2 tbsp) black sesame powder, or the same amount of black sesame seeds ground into a paste using a food processor or mortar and pestle

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

57g (4 tbsp) softened, unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

110g (half a cup) white sugar

1 egg

30ml (2 tbsp) whole milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar, left to rest for 5 minutes before using. Alternatively, use the same amount of buttermilk or yoghurt

For the frosting:

40g softened unsalted butter

75g cream cheese, at room temperature (take out and leave on the counter for a while before using, or microwave for half a minute if cold from the fridge)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

75g powdered sugar

Toppings:

crushed oreos/ sprinkles/ dark chocolate/ whatever you want!

Preheat the oven to 177C (350F) and line and grease 2 cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, sieve (yes, a sieve is necessary here!) the flour, baking powder, salt and black sesame powder.  In another medium bowl and with a whisk or handheld electrical whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla extract, egg and milk mixture. Pour this wet mix into the dry mix and stir with a tablespoon or wooden spoon until just combined and the batter has a nice dropping consistency, and is not too wet or thick. With 2 tablespoons or an ice cream scoop, dollop the batter into little circles onto the cookie sheet, spaced at least an inch from each other. Pop into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Mine took 8 minutes exactly. Whilst they bake, make the frosting. Beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Beat until all is nicely incorporated.

Once the cakelets are done, a toothpick inserted into the centre of one should come out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack, which will take around 10 minutes. Frost the tops with cream cheese frosting using a knife, then top with whatever toppings you desire. These cakelets surprised me and gave me feels. They will do the same to you.