Coffee Crepes ft. A Better Florist (Singapore)

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This post is an unexpected collaboration, one which I nevertheless believe thoughtful. Lately I’ve been feeling a little out of my element, such as every other human being once in a while. But there are the everyday things that remind me to love not just myself, but all the things and people around me. These nuances of everyday life are worthy encapsulations of hope and happiness. A few words before I get on with my favourite recipe for delicious vegan crepes.

I usually review cafés and restaurants, but I thought I’d make an exception just this once. Today I kinda want to talk about flowers.

OK, hear me out. My mum also recently got a huge bouquet of flowers, which she describes as a make-or-break element of any room. There’s something incredibly emotive and symbolic about a single bouquet. This is the sort of underrated everyday life thing I was talking about earlier.

I’ve been on both sides of the flower-giving tradition—the recipient and the presenter—so I’ve been acquainted with a fair share of florists and flower delivery in Singapore. One particular flower delivery in Singapore which stands out from all the other florists is A Better Florist. Unlike what you would expect from usual flower shops, they do have a better sense of their target market’s taste, and yes, I am part of their target market. I imagine they conceptualised their rustic yet stylishly-packaged flower arrangements with young and social media-savvy customers in mind because these bouquets are quite the eye-catchers. Although this post is in collaboration with them, I am a genuine fan.

If you follow me, you’ll know that my posts are mostly centred on food. However, I do appreciate the fresh fragrance of lush blooms mingling with the aroma of a cup of strong black coffee and French toast in the morning. That, to me, is the best way to start any day.

A Better Florist, also known as the best florist in Singapore, is relatively young when compared to other flower industry players in Singapore, but their determination to “Bloom Better” with great quality flowers and lightning-fast delivery has caught the attention of flower aficionados in my little red dot. They’ve gotten quite a lot of media attention and have been dubbed best florist in Singapore and best flower delivery in Singapore on several review sites. I’ve only really purchased their hand bouquets and so far they have not disappointed at all. The flowers were fresh, delivered on time, and I adored the detail of their packaging—from the burlap wrap to the carefully tied ribbon and the flower care instructions. Once, I ordered from their signature blooms collection and it came with this lovely twine-wrapped container which I used to display the flowers. Props all around for their excellent service. If you’re looking for something other than flowers, they do have gift baskets and hampers as well as fruit baskets. I might avail their fruit basket delivery for my pantry just to see the quality of their produce. I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, they also sell flowers for all events and occasions like grand opening flowers, wreaths, baby gift baskets and “get well soon” bouquets.

The holidays are rolling around pretty soon, so just in case you’re planning on hosting dinner parties, A Better Florist 100% has my vote for the freshest, fastest and cheapest flower delivery in Singapore.

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NOW. Crepes!

These are:

slightly chewy

crispy all round the edges

subtly flavoured with coffee

Just a little fun. And, like everything else I make, so easy. My favourite part is seeing the little holes pop out in clusters (slightly aggravating the little trypophobic me but hey), mini astroblemes produced by the impact of some cosmic body. I love mushing these into spoonfuls of thick, creamy soy yoghurt and frozen berries. Darn, I might have one soon because there are a few left over waiting in the fridge.

Coffee Crepes (makes 13-15 crepes, adapted from this lovely recipe)

Ingredients

200g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour, or use half plain and half whole wheat

3 tbsp coconut or brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

360ml (1 1/2 cups) plant milk of choice, I used almond

one shot espresso

1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

Directions

Preheat your large pan (use a crepe pan if you’re fancy and feelin’ it) on medium-high heat and drizzle on some olive or coconut oil. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the espresso, oil, and finally the milk. You can do this the night before to save yourself some 30 seconds in the morning, if you wish. Simply whisk it all together and cover with cling film before putting it in the fridge.

When you can see the oil sizzle a little, add 3-4 tbsp of batter and swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan thinly. Watch the batter go a little darker and firm around the edges. Once you see a few bubbles, which will take a minute, use a spatula to flip the crepe and cook the other side for another minute. Rest your cooked crepe on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Continue to cook up the rest of the batter, stacking the crepes with paper towels in between.

Enjoy these with thick plant-based yoghurt, fresh or frozen berries, a drizzle of nut butter or tahini, and lashings of maple syrup.

 

Chocolate, Pear and Banana Clafoutis

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There’s been hassle in the head, but the kitchen binds all tassles of stress and chucks it out to the cold. I surmise it’s the cold, sometimes, that keeps me going. It’s a wakeup call, like a cold shower first thing in the morning.

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A chocolate, pear and banana clafoutis, packed with molten chocolate and moist, plump pear. To be eaten à la mode.

Rusticity once more, with wreaths of sugar, chocolate and love. There is a lot going for this clafoutis, and my favourite bits, edges aside, are the moist, pear juice-saturated bits of clafoutis right up next to the cooked pear. Forkable business, that. A past Saturday spent with someone special saw a rapid finishing of this beauty to enhance all that fun and whimsy, reminding me of all the times and things we take for granted or misunderstand. Guess it’s always good to stop and smell the roses, stop blurring the edges of pain with the fastest remedy. And this clafoutis is a remedy, to be enjoyed slowly, during and after, a candle in the wind. It’s just up to you what to make of that occasional sweet event.

I tend to vacillate between wanting the simple and complex. Usually it’s the former, with some variation/hop/twist/flicker. Chocolate and pear is a classic combination, and the banana adds a moist, sweet dimension without being too easily detected. Not that the flavour doesn’t pair well, but the mildest hint of it enhances and doesn’t shadow the two stars. Although I used a pan instead of the more desirable cast iron skillet, the edges still turned out very crispy, and yes I can vouch that I shall attain the crispiest ever result in time when I earn enough (ha ha). The clafoutis itself retained a lovely almost pudding-like consistency in the middle, flying the flan flag high and bright.

Served with the simple integrity of vanilla ice cream, this is the perfect breakfast, dessert, or in-betweener.

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Chocolate, Pear and Banana Clafoutis (makes one 9-inch wide pan)

Ingredients

2 large pears, peeled, cored and quartered

240ml milk of choice (whole/plant-based preferably)

65g white sugar

2 bananas, mashed

1 egg (sub: another mashed banana)

100g chopped dark chocolate, split into two portions

50g plain flour

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 200C (400F) and butter a large iron cast skillet or pan (as I did). Lay your quartered pear in a ring in the pan so the tops all face and touch at the middle.

In a bowl, whisk together almost everything else– the flour, sugar, bananas, one portion of dark chocolate and milk. Pour this over the pears, making sure that there’s an even amount of batter between each quarter. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate on top.

Bake for 35 minutes, then remove and let cool for at least 10 before tucking in with something cold like ice cream or creamy like custard. What a star show.

Salted Vanilla Crispy Custard Puffs

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Though I hate to be picky, I guess I still can be. Almost every week, my mother buys bolo buns, or ‘pineapple buns’, for my sisters. These are sweet buns filled with sticky red char siu (sweet barbecued meat) filling, covered in a yellow tortoiseshell of crackly sugary goodness. It’s those charming cracks, glistening coats of crisp comprising pull-apart little tiles on each little bun, that get to me, more so than any other part. As I picked childishly at the top once, I was reminded of my first try of choux au craquelin, or crispy cream puffs with a similar sort of topping. Remembering I had some leftover custard that I used to make salted custard lava french toast earlier on in the week, the idea of custard puffs ossified.

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Cutting into a crispy, sugary coat to be greeted by voluptuous spillage of vanilla-speckled, slightly salty custard is one of the most lascivious but gratifying actions one can do. Hear the crackle, wade deep. The salt plays up the sweet, giving the drag of thick and cream a bit of angle, an edge. The craquelin itself may have been enough to satisfy me, but it’s a bite that makes the experience whole.

The last time I played with choux was probably more than a year ago, and a repeat this time reminded me of the requisite care in perfecting the robust dough which is easy to let fall apart if you overlook the temperature and timing of each ingredient addition.

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Salted Vanilla Crispy Custard Puffs (makes 6-7 medium puffs)

Ingredients

For the choux buns:

75g plain flour

50g butter

2 eggs, beaten

120ml water

1/2 tsp salt

 

For the craquelin (crispy top):

85g butter, softened

100g white caster sugar

100g plain flour

 

For the salted vanilla custard:

110g white sugar

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp salt

4 egg yolks

beans of one vanilla pod or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

30g butter

720ml milk

 

Directions

First, make the custard. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks and milk to a boil. Add the vanilla, then let the mixture continue to boil for 15-18 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture occasionally. Take off the heat when you see that the custard has thickened and readily coats the back of your spoon. Add in the butter and stir to mix. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with cling film and let this rest in the fridge while you make the remaining components.

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and prepare a baking tray lined with parchment paper for the choux buns. Make the craquelin: in a bowl, mix the ingredients for the craquelin together until you get a buttery dough. Roll the dough into a ball and put into  a plastic ziploc bag, sealing it. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out till it’s 2-3mm thick in the bag. Put this in the freezer.

Next, make the choux buns. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the butter, water and salt to a boil. Once you see that the butter has all melted, add the flour. Use a wooden spoon or whisk to incorporate until you get a dry-looking dough. Take off the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 minutes. Then, slowly whisk or beat in the eggs. It’s the eggs that provide the lift to the batter, readying it for the perfect little pocket in the middle. I like to do this in 3 additions. It’s important to keep whisking here and to do this slowly, as sudden contact between the hot dough and eggs and cause the eggs to scramble. The dough should be stiff enough to hold a peak when you lift up your spoon or whisk. Put the choux bun paste into a piping bag and pipe circles that are 3cm in diameter onto the baking tray, doing a little swirl at the top. Wet your finger with a little water and press down ever so slightly on top, so you get a more aesthetically pleasing puff.

Take your craquelin out of the freezer and cut out circles 3cm in diameter from the frozen, buttery block. Despite freezing, the slab is still relatively easy to break. You can use a metal cutter or knife to cut out the circles. Place the circles on the choux paste, and then bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes.

After baking, let the buns cool for 15 minutes on the tray. Take your cooled custard out of the fridge and put into a piping bag. Poke the tip of the piping nozzle into the bottom of a puff, and pipe until you feel some resistance at the point of contact between nozzle and puff. There is quite a bit of weight difference. Repeat for the other puffs. These buns can be stored in the fridge for 2 days or frozen for longer storage. If they have gone all soft after a while, you can re-crisp them in an oven, just bake them at 160C for 5 minutes.

 

Maple Pearl Sugar Brioche

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There’s nothing wrong with reverting to the classics. I’m a serious fan of innovation and weird mismatches that actually work (referring to my previous post here), but I was overcome by the staunch determination to conquer something truly ubiquitous, something most of us rely on the real professionals for. I’m only an amateur baker who does all this whizzing, whisking and whipping in the kitchen for pure fun, but knowledge of and experience with the classics is required for any further exploration, right?

I’ve made brioche pretzels before, dived right in the deep end, no basic loaf or anything first, just a ‘ah-how-posh-and-fun’ kind of feel. Even added some chocolate chips and lemon zest to add to the childish fun. However, thanks to underestimation of the proofing and kneading time, I merely scraped by with a pseudo-brioche. Flat, dense, and just a little too hard on the bottom. The inside was fluffy, but the exterior betrayed a better could-be texture. Think I’ve got it this time, but the method I use here is adapted from something a little more unorthodox, whereby it’s all in the hand work, and the kneading time isn’t too horrid. I also used a little less yeast, because the first loaf I got using the original recipe was a tad too yeasty and the rise wasn’t as perfect as could be. Making this bread is actually fun, if you like to get down and dirty. It’s going to be sticky, wet and yellow, but that’s the magic of excess fat, eh? Rich, eggy, sublime.

The crumb is light and tender, with the slightest stretch, though never feeling or tasting under proofed. The final result will look yellow. Easy to freeze, then microwave and cut for whatever you want really, be it toast, topped with good butter and honey or maple syrup, or dunked in freshly whipped eggs for a french toast morning.

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Brioche (makes one standard 9×5-inch loaf, adapted from La Tartine Gourmande)

For the loaf:

210g all-purpose flour

5g instant yeast

78g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into medium-sized chunks.

2 tbsp white sugar

pinch salt

80ml milk, warmed slightly in the microwave

2 eggs

1 egg for the egg wash before baking

For the maple pearl sugar:

60g white sugar

1tsp maple syrup

The day before you make the brioche or earlier in the day, make the maple pearl sugar. Mix the sugar and maple syrup in a bowl using your fingertips. It should be wet and clumpy. Tip the maple sugar on a plate and flatten using your fingers, about a half-inch thick. Cover the plate with cling wrap and leave in the fridge to set. After 4-6 hours, the sugar will have formed a malleable, solid layer, which can be broken up into smaller chunks, similar to that of pearl sugar. Yum yum. Leave it in the fridge before using.

Now for the brioche. Use a mixer if you wish, but I used my hands for everything. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Make a little well in the centre and, with your hands or a wooden spoon, mix in the warm milk briefly. Work in the butter (I find it easier to use your hands for this part) chunk by chunk, making sure each chunk is mostly incorporated before adding the next. It will be sticky and oily, but don’t fret.

Add in the eggs one by one. Stir the first egg in with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to really work it in. It will look messy and clumpy at first, but keep trying to incorporate the dough and egg together. I ended up working the dough when it was suspended in the air, stretching it then folding it over itself again, like kneading in mid-air. It worked, and I saved myself a lot of clean-up hassle later on. Do the same for the second egg. It will be very sticky, difficult and incredibly wet. That’s exactly what you want.

Once the eggs are worked in, dump the soft, yellow mass of dough into the same bowl and continue to ‘knead’ with a wooden spoon. Beat it with your wooden spoon, mimicking the kneading action in the bowl. Knead for a good 5-7 minutes. The dough will look like a pale baby’s bottom, smooth, taut, flawless, but still very sticky. After kneading, leave the dough in bowl (it’s already greased enough), cover and let the dough rise for an hour. After an hour, put the dough in the fridge and leave for another 2 hours, or overnight.

After the couple of hours, take the dough out of the fridge and the bowl. Preheat your oven to 190C and grease a 9×5-inch loaf tin. Punch the dough down a little, then weigh the dough and divide it into 6 equal pieces. My dough weighed around 450g total, so each piece was 75g. The cold dough is a dream to touch and work with. Roll each piece into a ball and pop into the greased loaf pan. After rolling all the pieces into balls of the same size, you should get a 2×3 row of balls in the loaf pan. Beat an egg and brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash. Finally, take the maple pearl sugar and sprinkle it on top of the loaf. You will get pea-sized chunks as well as normal sprinkles.

Bake the loaf for 30-35 minutes. If you wish, take a piece of aluminium foil and cover the top of the loaf after 15 minutes to prevent over-browning. I used the middle mark and stopped the baking after 33 minutes, and it turned out perfectly.

This loaf can be put in a freeze-safe container and left in the freezer for a couple of months. It can be left at room temperature for 1-2 days and nothing more (especially in this bloody hot weather). Whenever you want a nice, slightly sweet treat, just take the loaf out, microwave on high for 20 seconds, cut with a bread knife, then toast or dunk in egg for… Well, does french toast need any explanation anyway?

Bistro du Vin (feat. the best salted caramel dessert)

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Good food is magical. Surreal, almost, if the ambience and company is right. This is a long, long, long overdue post, but it took me a ridiculously long time as well to think of the perfect way to showcase it. Yes, it is my fault. Felix’s birthday was in the beginning of May, and this lunch was meant to celebrate that special date, his special 17th, and look, it’s already mid-June. He suggested this place and I just couldn’t say no, considering it was one of those quaint little corners I just always passed, always beckoning for a visit, and I just chant, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. Cue the quaintest little red corner and vintage French comic strips lining the low walls of this adorable hideout. The man you see above was quietly nibbling away at something or another, occasionally looking out the window, reminding me of the pleasures of dining on quality food alone. I wasn’t alone, but I was with the best ever company in the world.  Those fresh, coarse locks and brown seafoam eyes are my vice. Second to none. No, there was no better company.

I’ll be frank– he’s more francophile than anglophile. I’m the opposite, or so I claim, but one cannot deny the gracious experience some spectacular French fare can provide. Honestly, guys, look at those beautiful diamond-rectangle slabs of fatty beauty below. Is that not one of the most gorgeous sights ever to exist? Bistro du Vin provides set lunches of superb quality and such decent prices. By the end of it all, and that was, what, a good 2 hours later, I was more than satisfied. And my wallet, for once, wasn’t crying out in pain.

pan fried foie gras (extra $8 with pickled onion and eggplant)
pan fried foie gras (extra $8 with pickled onion and eggplant)

Alex sees onions, Alex sees nothing else.

The foie gras was wonder on a plate. Moist, perhaps not as fatty as it could have been (I’m thinking Au Petit Salut’s moreish version right now). The caramelised, pickled onions were sweet and glazed, offering good contrast to the steamy, superabundance of I-cut-like-butter fat. Two slices was perhaps a bit much, considering there were still two full courses to go. The full effects were weighing down like stale jelly in my stomach by the time I was through with the first few bites. In a sort of pleasant way. How odd.

baked camembert with smoked bacon, apple and toasted sourdough
baked camembert with smoked bacon, apple and toasted sourdough

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His appetiser: soft, creamy, probably still mooing. The mild flavour of the cheese worked well with the hardy sourdough crust, the sourdough providing a pleasant, light sourness, and the cooked apple and salty hit of bacon. Once again, practically a meal in itself.

bouillabaise of fish, clams, mussels and prawns
bouillabaisse of fish, clams, mussels and prawns

This was my main, which was more filling than it looks. The broth was soft yet hearty, brimming with all flavours of the sea. The fish, and sadly I forgot to ask what sort it was, was overcooked and dry (which was probably why I didn’t bother to ask in the first place). Everything else was… Decent, I should say, with mediocre-tasting prawns, which were also a little too hard, and little clams and mussels. The hero was that sultry broth which managed to sufficiently flavour all the components. Thick and saturated, yum.

baked pear tart on puff pastry with salted caramel ice cream
baked pear tart on puff pastry with salted caramel ice cream

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In other words, the best part of the set lunch.

In other words, the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever tasted, beating the one at Wimbly Lu and Habitat Coffee, which I love but cower in the face of this divine beauty. It melted like a withering caramel crystal on top of a crusty disc of flaky puff pastry, lovingly studded with delicate slivers of sweet pear, all thick and almost reluctant to give in to the pressure of my fork. A dream. The sort of dish which, even right now as I type with shaky fingers due to the single memory of its perfection, makes me weak at the knees. The sort of dish which you delight in eating even after all the ice cream has melted and has deflated and saturated the pastry, because you are a child once again revelling in the silly joy that is soggy, sweet stodge.

crème brûlée
crème brûlée

His clever choice. Can you see the fine smatterings of vanilla bean evenly dispersed throughout its creamy, provocative belly? The top crackled, the brûlée a sharp crowning of a most luxurious wobble!

I can’t, won’t, shan’t ever forget this lunch. One of the best set meals I have ever had, quality surpassing expectations, with only a few mishaps here and there. All for only $30++ (I hate how they charge $8 for the additional onions though– that’s just a necessity and there’s no denying it).

I usually don’t say this, but I’m highly inclined to come again.

 

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Bistro du Vin

1 Scotts Road, #02-12, Shaw Centre / 56 Zion Rd

Singapore 228208 / 247781