Éclair Cake

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The virus has swiftly shifted, uprooted, the entire the world. It came so suddenly, and I was whisked back home before my hair had a chance to get greasy. It’s been a while since my last post, but my suitcase is still half-open, propped up  near my bed, waiting for me to pack it again…  I honestly think we’re going to come out of all this better, in the sense that we’ll be more self-aware: keenly in tune with our emotions, how to work well from home, and with a better understanding of who we prioritise as regular contacts in our lives, or in other words, whose familiar presence, online or not, is gratifying and exciting in a rather ungratifying and unexciting period of our lives.

Below are some journal excerpts and other cool things I’ve learnt recently. I put these here not as a random gesture but rather to embrace the non-sequitur, the random ebbs and flows in everyday life, just like the onset of the coronavirus. The quotation marks are a reminder to myself and whoever reads this that this is coming straight out of my journal:

09/04: “neophobia= the fear of trying new foods. I used to try and learn a few every week and am trying to make that a habit again” and “consumption of fructose favours lipid biosynthesis in the liver”

11/04: “In the heat of the moment, be it conflict with family or self-frustration or feeling behind in anything or everything, it’s okay to try and love yourself”

12/04: “riposte: a retaliatory action”

13/04: “trying to control a disturbing emotion is a bad strategy: it teaches our brain that we can’t handle that emotion, and our distress intensifies-A.A.Gill’ By the way, I highly recommend Gill’s autobiography Pour Me, which was an intense, fun, unputdownable read”

16/04: “There was plenty anger inside me last night. Couldn’t control my tears and lashed out at the smallest thing. It was probably a lot of suppressed anxiety and anger that exploded at a bad time. Need to walk and walk and walk. That always helps. With a mask.”

17/04:”Scientific American: Remdesivir is a popular antiviral known for treating Ebola, and inhibits the enzyme RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, which RNA viruses including SARS-CoV2 uses to replicate their genetic material. Compassionate use of Remdesivir in 53 severe Covid-19 patients found that 63% of those taking it improved, although this wasn’t an RCT”

18/04: “The morning feels peaceful and there is fresh light pouring from my window. Covid-19 or not, Nature reigns supreme. Nature knows no pandemic. It just IS. Existing. Still standing. Feeling lucky to be alive. But I miss Oxford and seeing friends in cafés so terribly much (picture below)!!”

Of course there’s plenty I don’t share from this journal, which is a messy mishmash of science bits and food bits and personal bits.

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Pretty gardens around my college

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This cake was one random, impetuous adventure. It’s not a prissy élan sort of cake made up of little éclairs, rather one which has components reminiscent of parts of an éclair. It has a creamy batter and chewy edges, which reminded me of the milky éclair middle and the chewy choux its encased by respectively, in a typical éclair. Of course, the signature chocolate ganache top. Eaten with yoghurt, sour cream or anything mildly tangy, the chocolatey top and wobbly, chewy middle, it’s unusually perfect. Look at the inside– it’s dense without being tough or chewy, except the edges. I added some homemade salted caramel because I felt that extra posh but of course there’s no need, although I do recommend adding a little more salt on top of the ganache before serving.

Another one-bowl affair. Another sweet moment, and a time to pause.

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Éclair Cake (Makes one dense cake in a 9×5-inch loaf pan, around 6-7 slices)

Ingredients

160g (1.25 cups) flour

1 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

0.5 tsp salt

2 eggs (vegan sub: vegan flax eggs made by mixing 2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 5 tbsp water in a small bowl and setting that aside for a while to gel up)

225g (1 cup) butter, softened to room temperature (vegan sub: vegan butter/ margarine)

100g (0.5 cup) sugar

1 tbsp maple syrup mixed with 240ml (1 cup) milk of your choice (I used whole but feel free to use a vegan substitute)

120ml (0.5 cup) double cream (vegan sub: vegan double cream)

1 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 175C (350F) and then butter or line a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Line the pan by cutting a piece of parchment paper that has two sides the same length as the loaf pan itself, and the other two sides a little longer than the pan’s breadth so it will be easy to take out at the end. In a large bowl, whisk together the soft butter, salt and sugar, then add the eggs and whisk well until nicely incorporated. Then add the milk-maple mixture and mix well.

In a separate bowl, briefly whisk the flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Tip into the wet mix and use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything together until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. Check at the 45-minute mark- a wooden skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. While it’s baking, make the ganache by putting the cream and chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high in 30-second increments until melted together. Mix with a spoon after each increment to encourage the melting. It will look like a lovely, glossy pool of thick melted chocolate.

When the cake has cooled for around 20 minutes, slowly pour the ganache on top. You may have some left over, which you can use to spoon on top of ice cream or your PB&J toast because anything in this life, in your life, is possible. Serve a slice with sour cream or whipped cream, and homemade salted caramel

Tahini Chocolate Cookies

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A recent getaway. Copenhagen, Denmark. Krakow, Poland. Then cookies, to seal the whole package.

The getaway was exciting and almost necessary. Been feeling a little off lately and the short jetset abound with strange and foreign sights and experiences set my world into perspective– I’m just a small human being sitting on one tiny part of this huge amazing world with bigger problems to immerse myself in.

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Thin, crisp, and chewy like no other. An entire sweet day compressed into a disc, strewn with melted chocolate chunks big and small, aching in the wake of a heady river of tahini. And how easy!

I believe in the almighty simple chocolate chip cookie. But the twist of tahini offers something enigmatic and alluring. This alone will do you such good.

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Tahini Chocolate Cookies (makes 10-12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

120ml (0.5 cup) light tahini

1 egg (vegan sub: 2 flax eggs, make by mixing 2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 4 tbsp water and let set aside at the beginning)

115g salted butter, at room temperature (vegan sub: vegan butter). If your butter is really hard, microwave it for half a minute

180g sugar (I used a mix of light brown and white, you can do the same or stick to either or)

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g plain flour

0.5 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

150g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

 

Directions

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, using a whisk or electrical whisk, beat together the room temperature butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. This will take less than a minute if your butter is relatively soft. Then add the egg, vanilla and tahini, and beat well until you get a smooth, creamy batter that drops off your whisk easily.

In a separate bowl, briefly mix together the flour, chopped chocolate, baking powder and baking soda. If you didn’t use salted butter, add a teaspoon of fine salt to this dry mix, at this point.

Add this flour mix to the wet tahini-egg mix and mix until well combined. Scoop heaped tablespoonfuls of batter onto your lined tins, leaving at least 2 inches of space between each spoonful of batter to let the cookies spread and look less ugly (but ugly ones are still okay).

Bake the cookies, one tin at a time or both at the same time, for 15 minutes. They will look light-golden on top but still wet in the middle. This will continue to set after you take the cookies out. Take them out and, with both hands holding each end of the pan, lightly drop them on the counter-top to let gravity drop the bellies of the cookies. This technique will create crazy-chewy cookies with crisp, browned edges.

These are best enjoyed warm, and can be kept at room temperature for up to a week.

Banana Coconut Mini Cakes

B800FD1A-BAE0-4A7F-BCCB-B5CC5DC7A546The hardest part of self-actualisation is that of  discerning what to accept and what to reject– of the world and of  ourselves– as we build the architecture of our character and stake out our stance in relation to our aims and obstacles’– Camus

Recently I’ve been thinking about habits. Today’s mantra shall be this: kicking old habits is just as important as incorporating new, good ones. We all have our good and bad habits, but sometimes the balance just isn’t there. I, for one, may see a scatter of crumbs late at night on the kitchen floor but oh god, it’s late, and I can do it tomorrow morning. It’s not the most serious crime, but little things do add up to be a lot. Doing things like making my bed and preparing my clothes the night before does wonders for saving time, space and maintaining cleanliness throughout the week, day by day. That’s the miracle of habits. Little actions that change routine that change you for the better. Currently working on bettering myself, to be better around others, too. It’s hard, but worth it, I feel. We are capable. And keep being grateful.

So here’s what I wrote last week in my diary about this cake: “Banana coconut cake with miso frosting! So moist and cute and tender. Might have to change the frosting a tad but I’m happy-dappy for now. There’s a flow to it, it’s enticing and dreamy and moody. Happy-dappy”.

Well firstly, wow I sound quite silly whenever I write about how excited I am about some new experiment in my personal diary. Did I really write ‘happy-dappy’ twice? Secondly, wow this cake is good. Like, really darn good, and I can’t wait for you to experience this banana-ful love all over again, from my kitchen and oven to yours.

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Simple, really. You start off traditionally, mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately. Once everything is incorporated, and you pop the thing in the oven and make the frosting. Everything is cooled, then the frosting begins.

I didn’t mean to put miso in there (as is the case for so many random ingredients in my other bakes), but this is what gives the lift, the interest. Banana and miso?? Yes, it works. Please try it. Ingredients of the earth. All from nature. What is so wonderful about baking from home is that you know exactly what you’re putting in it, be it a simple or more complex bake. No chemicals, pesticides or what have you. Flour, sugar, plants… plants! It’s so wonderful, don’t you think.

I was listening to the podcast ‘On Being’ the other night (highly recommend, by the way), and there’s one part which talks about how there’s a link between being in awe of nature and altruism. Just witnessing the greatness of this universe perhaps makes us feel more like we should help one another along in society, keep us afloat in the raging seas, the beautiful yet turbulent grandeur of Mother Earth.

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Banana Coconut Mini Cakes with Miso coconut frosting (makes 4 mini cakes or 1 large 8 or 9-inch cake)

Ingredients

1 and a half bananas, mashed

45g dark/light brown sugar

30g white/coconut sugar

30ml (25g) vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or sub with vanilla extract

60ml plant milk of choice (I like using oat or rice milk

145g (little more than a cup) plain flour, or use half spelt/whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

30g desiccated coconut

 

For the frosting:

130g butter

5g miso paste

150g icing sugar

handful of desiccated coconut

 

For the layering (optional):

a sliced banana

more desiccated coconut, the amount here is up to you

 

Directions

Grease an 8 or 9-inch springform pan and preheat your oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix together the banana, sugars, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla paste/extract. In a separate, medium bowl, briefly whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, salt, coconut and leavening agents. Tip this into the wet mix and stir everything together until all is just about incorporated. Bake this in the oven for 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, make the frosting by beating the butter and miso together with an electric whisk, then slowly add the icing sugar until you get a smooth and thick frosting with bits of miso strewn throughout. Add the coconut and mix briefly. Place the frosting in the fridge until ready to use.

Once the cake is totally cool, or about a half hour later, use the lip of a glass cup to stamp out circles in the cake. You will get about 4 circles, so two mini cakes. Once the cakes are stamped out, add a dollop of frosting onto one cake, then add a few banana coins and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut on top. Place the second layer on top, then frost the top and add more desiccated coconut to decorate. Alternatively, you can leave the cake as is and frost it right there and then, or just frost the 4 circles individually without layering them, to get 4 separate open-faced cakes. These cakes will last 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. If you’re just making the cake by itself, you can store it at room temperature for the same amount of time and in the same way.

The Best Chewy Snickerdoodles

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I have made these cookies at least 3 times, all within the same week I realised these cannot be anything less than the best vegan snickerdoodles EVER. Really, I was so excited. Just sitting there, spatula in hand, the other covered in a greasy mix of cinnamon, butter and sugar. How could this be? These must be one of the best things ever to savour (in moderation, of course). Preceding the most wonderful vacation I’ve had in a while (Belgium, Germany and Austria, woot!) were these cookies. Just these, nothing more and nothing less, and nothing more was needed, to be very honest. Now I’m babbling, but clearly you can tell how excited I am about these. I considered sharing the recipe for these on a whim on Instagram, but realised they’re too special not to have a reserved spot in the archives.

The word ‘best’ of course elevates everyone’s expectations, and I promise these won’t let you down. All my friends who tried it said various things:

‘Better than Ben’s (with reference to the popular Ben’s Cookies here in London)?!’,

‘Oh my God I can’t stop’

‘Holy s***.’

But enough with the all bark and no bite. I’ll rat this one out, you deserve at least that. These are by far the most chewy, delicious, cinnamony snickerdoodles I have ever had. Loving the cracks and crags of these, which you can enjoy below, alongside some shots of the trip I just came back from, where every day ended with a full belly and fuller heart.

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Munich’s harsh light that fine day
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Ghent, Belgium: That time someone actually cooked breakfast for me: Hot sautéed cinnamon apples on a bed of warm porridge. Mmmmm.
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Schladming, Austria: Where we dined on a dinner of fresh air, a view of the mountains, crisp white wine and a sweet potato eggplant curry

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Stiff and chewy all the way through. Rolling them in my ratio of cinnamon and sugar will yield incredibly chewy outer edges and a perfectly sweet bite each time. Cinnamon goes way back, and this love affair with this spice has no end. Cinnamon is able to prevent cognitive brain decline, whilst boasting many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Petri dish experiments, as reductionist as they sound, still have shown some potential anti-cancer properties. How cool is that?

Another day, another one-bowl wonder. It’s a simple matter of creaming together vegan butter and sugar, before adding the dry ingredients and mixing everything until you get a relatively dry mixture. But texture should not fool you– this recipe will yield the most chewy cookies after baking, as the butter melts and moistens everything. It is a true dream, I say.

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Snickerdoodles (makes around 12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

330g plain flour, or use half whole-wheat if desired (I have not tried the latter, but I guess this would yield a sturdier, more earthy-tasting cookie)

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

1 egg (vegan substitute: 1 flax egg– make it by mixing 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water and letting that gel in a small bowl for a few minutes before using)

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g butter at room temp (vegan substitute: vegan butter or margarine)

130g (around 3/4 cup) of white sugar

120g (around a packed 3/4 cup) of light brown sugar.

mixture to roll cookies in: 30g white sugar mixed with 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (you may realise you do not need all of it when rolling your cookie dough in this mixture)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar using a fork or electric whisk. I simply use a fork and spatula to cream it to save on some washing! Mix the butter and sugar until you get a smooth, fluffy consistency. Add the egg/flax egg and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

Next, add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix everything by hand or with an electric whisk. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly (don’t worry, they won’t turn out like this). Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the balls at least 1 inch apart as they will spread a little.

Bake them in the oven for 18 minutes. Once baked, take the cookies out and use the bottom of a glass to lightly tap on the tops of the cookies to flatten them just a little. This evens out the conduction of heat and makes the cookies incredibly chewy and less raw in the centre. The cookies will look slightly pale and perhaps a little raw once out of the oven, but leave them to cool on your counter and they will stiffen and cook a little more. Resist if you can (I can’t). Enjoy on their own. These last quite a few days in an airtight container.

 

Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies (gluten-free)

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Bossa nova, and then Elvis in the background. At a new café in London (Abuelo) in the heart of Covent Garden, enjoying the serenity of solitude. Peaceitude. Hopefully there will be a vegan mud pie for me soon, to complement this matcha latte velvet. Despite my need for solitude, this heart is full with emptiness after a full 2 weeks of living and enjoying life to the fullest with my favourite human being over the Easter break. The past few weeks taught me that sometimes, all that’s needed is frugality and acceptance of what is. A fresh page in my diary for a fresh day. The simple, dense crumb of a freshly-baked loaf (missing the cheap and delicious bread from Germany so much!). The still invigoration of a short morning yoga flow, which pervades the air you breathe every second of every day with a keen alertness, curiosity and beauty. Nothing more sleek or necessary.

Success need not be about ticking off the 100 things on your to-do list, rather it could be absolute mindfulness. The absolute mindfulness of a cheeky bite of a chewy-edged, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie, which I made for my boyfriend’s dad who is extremely sensitive to gluten.

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These cookies have double the chocolate than your average cookie. In other words, they’re double the fun and flavour. Each break and pull yields strands and streams of melting dark chocolate (or stuff in some vegan milk chocolate if you wish, go on). The best part is of course the coffee, which brings out the flavour of the chocolate while illuminating a hint of morning smokiness. Using just buckwheat flour will make the cookies sandier in texture, but this is somewhat offset but the chewy edges, gooey middles and countless pools of melted chocolate. YUM.

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Gluten-free Double Chocolate Coffee Cookies (makes 6-8 medium-large cookies)

Ingredients

180g (1.5 cups) buckwheat flour (or use half buckwheat and half whole wheat/ plain flour)

100g chopped dark chocolate, or use a mix of dark and milk vegan chocolate if you prefer slightly sweeter cookies

100g vegan butter, at room temperature. Alternatively, you can use coconut oil.

140g brown/coconut sugar

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1 tsp espresso powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

120ml (a half cup) plant milk of choice

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking parchment. In a bowl and with a fork or whisk, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, vanilla and plant milk. Mix everything together well. Add the buckwheat flour and chopped chocolate, and mix together until batter is well incorporated. It should look relatively thick and clumpy.

Dollop heaped tablespoons of batter onto your lined sheets, and press down on the cookies a little to flatten them. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes exactly. They should be really soft, in fact a little too soft to fiddle with once right out of the oven. Wait 10 minutes for them to firm up a little, before taking them off the tray and eating them (ideally with a cold glass of almond milk!).