Classic Pancakes

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

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Sorry– trypophobics beware.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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

Ingredients

150g plain, all-purpose flour

2 tbsp white sugar

pinch salt

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

1 large egg

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

Pineapple Condensed Milk Loaf Cake

IMG_5376

If there’s one thing you make this week, make it this.

A fluffy pineapple condensed milk loaf cake, studded with fine bits of pineapple, topped with fresh pineapple slices and a lemon-pineapple glaze. 

Sometimes my ideas are like branches with dead ends and no coherence. Since this blog is all about delicious, easy bakes, I didn’t want to throw random curveballs, but I didn’t want to overestimate the charms of conformity either. Basic, but not too basic. A degree of subtle complexity, and certainly no plain jane taste.

Scavenging the kitchen left me with some leftover pineapple from last night’s dessert and, well, not much else. Pineapple loaf cake has been done before, upside-down variations galore, and my finding of condensed milk in the fridge led to this mild twist. I must say it was fun to play around with the ratios; it turned out to be the perfect balance of sweet from the condensed milk and tangy from the use of both fresh pineapple and pineapple juice. Here, there’s not much flamboyance, and hardly any finesse. Funnily enough, it’s exactly this lack of properness that provides the right amount of charm.

IMG_5363

{Above: served warm with lemon curd, a drizzle of condensed milk, and coconut chips}

It’s messy, sticky, glorious. A little of the juice from the fresh pineapple layered on top mixes with the lemon-pineapple glaze, and together with the fresh pineapple both on and inside the cake, forms the perfect topping to the fluffy cake base. And goodness is this fluffy. Fork work is no work. The condensed milk, other than its more unorthodox flavour in the cake, provides a satiating density without weighing anything down. Tender is the night crumb.

Ingredients

For the cake:

175g cake flour (or substitute with the same amount of all-purpose and add 2 extra tablespoons, and be sure to whisk the dry mix all the more thoroughly later)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

large pinch fine salt

115g white sugar

110g (around a stick) soft, unsalted butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g fresh pineapple, cut into even chunks, around 1cm thick

60ml (1/4 cup) condensed milk

60ml (1/4 cup) pineapple juice (freshly squeezed, or you can buy those cans which state ‘100% pineapple juice’), or substitute with 30ml lemon juice and 30ml water

freshly squeezed juice of one lemon

For the lemon-pineapple glaze:

75g icing sugar

juice of half a lemon (the remaining lemon juice)

1 tsp pineapple juice, or substitute with more lemon juice

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and grease a 9×5-inch loaf tin. Separate your pineapple chunks into two clumps– one that’s 100g (to place at the bottom of your pan) and another that’s 50g. Finely chop this latter clump into small pieces. Sprinkle some white sugar on the bottom of your greased loaf tin, then place the chunks (100g in total; refer to picture above) of pineapple at the bottom. Set aside your loaf tin.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and white sugar for at least 30 seconds. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and condensed milk. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. To the butter-sugar mix, add half of the flour mix, then half of the pineapple juice. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything in briefly (streaks of flour are fine), then add the rest of the flour, remaining pineapple juice, half of the lemon juice, and the finely chopped pineapple. Mix everything together until just combined. The mixture should be yellow-ivory with a thick dropping consistency.

Tip batter into the loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes; mine took 42. Insert a wooden skewer into the middle of your loaf at the 40-minute mark– leave it for another couple of minutes if the skewer emerges wet and sticky, but take it out if it comes out dry. A few moist crumbs at the tip are fine, for the pineapple chunks at the bottom make it stickier and wetter than the other parts of the cake. While the cake bakes, make the glaze. In a bowl and with a fork or spoon, mix together the lemon juice, pineapple juice (or more lemon juice) and icing sugar. Play around here; you should have an opaque, white glaze. It should easily run when you hold the spoon at a height, but the stream would become reluctant once it starts thinning.

After removing the tin from the oven, leave the cake to cool on a cooling rack for an hour or so before removing. To remove, wear heatproof gloves and tip out your loaf cake, setting it down on your counter the way you put it in the oven (pineapple side down). Using a serrated knife, cut off the top of the cake, so both the top and bottom are flat (tip: the bits you cut off are wonderful, crusty and perfect with marmalade and tea). Flip the loaf cake so the pineapple side is on the top this time. Drizzle with the lemon-pineapple glaze.

Serve warm with lemon curd and more condensed milk. Store the rest in an airtight container and place in the fridge for up to a week.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Coconut Cream

Whipped, marshmallowy coconut lemon cream sandwiched between two chewy and tender blueberry-and-vanilla-bean-littered cookies. 

After returning from a trip to Penang with a friend who’s seen me through the best and worst of times (thanks for tolerating me Ruru, if you’re reading!), I felt like making something which would preserve a few key memories just that much longer. There was one night we were sipping cocktails by the beach, the undulating waves smoothing out the ridges of our minds left behind by whatever burdensome thoughts or happenings that inhabited its corners. Thought back to a creamy pina colada. Lemon and coconut. Blueberries. Beach and zen. The picture was made whole.

The trip was filled with laughter, food so good just thinking about it makes my heart beat a little faster, unanticipated hair-lightening treatments from the glaring sun, and ease apace with excitement. I remember waking up at 3:15am the last night at the hotel for no reason at all, caught in a mild trance, so happy to be alive. Surreal, but hopeful. Time spent with the right people and the accompanying in-depth discussions on anything and everything unleashes new takes on life and all it has to offer. When the glimmer of the world seems to disappear, a little getaway revs the psyche.

IMG_5016

The factors which elevate this cookie sandwich to a whole new level are:

– the right ratio of white to dark brown sugar. Dark brown sugar provides the desirable hit of molasses, but it’s also slightly more acidic so it reacts more with the baking soda, making it rise more. It must be balanced with the right amount of white sugar for the perfect combination of fudge and crisp.

– melted butter. This produces denser, chewier cookies; the creaming process incorporates too much air so I chose to do away with it, though it may be desirable in other cake-based recipes

– refrigeration. Yes, it makes a mammoth difference, and you can read more about it here. More on this a bit later.

– and finally, the almost pornographic smushing together of warm cookie and cool, whipped lemon coconut cream. The combination of flavours here just can’t be beat.

I mean, really.

Have the cookies by themselves, in which case you won’t be missing out on much. Each cookie is charmingly ridged at the edges, character obtained only by the mandatory chilling before baking. This serves to dry out the cookie dough a little, thereby concentrating the sugars to produce a chewier, more flavourful cookie. The use of dark brown sugar in this case means that you end up with a rich hint of molasses, and a moist interior devoid of excess ‘doughiness’. The cookies also spread a little less during baking because the fat is solidified during the crucial resting process, and though one would think this would reduce the chewy factor, it only does the opposite.

Or crown them with this divine lemon curd-flavoured cream. It’s a magical dance of pina colada-esque beachside vibes and the natural purity of a chewy cookie lucky enough to be on the sunny island in the first place. I might be getting a bit carried away.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Coconut Cream (makes 11-12 medium-sized, or 3-inch wide cookies; adapted from my an old cookie recipe)

Note: Feel free to double this recipe! I halved and adjusted the quantities from my previous experiment just to test it, and the first trial turned out much better than I thought. So go ahead and multiply accordingly, if you so wish.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

95g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour

half a vanilla bean with the insides scraped out, or substitute with half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

85g (half cup) white sugar

70g dark brown sugar

115g unsalted butter, melted

1 egg

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

70g (half cup) fresh or frozen blueberries

For the coconut lemon cream:

150g chilled, canned coconut milk (take a can and leave it in the fridge overnight, then open it to reveal a thick, more ‘whipped’ consistency)

50g (2 heaping tbsp-fuls) of lemon curd

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate, smaller bowl, rub the vanilla bean into the white sugar. Skip this step if you don’t have vanilla bean. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, dark brown sugar, white sugar speckled with vanilla bean, vanilla extract (only if you’re not using the vanilla bean, and the egg. Add the flour mix to the melted butter mix and stir briefly until just combined with a wooden spoon. Add the blueberries and quickly mix them in gently (sounds ironic, I know). A little pop here and there won’t hurt, but it’s better to let the oven to the work, creating those pockets of warm blue goo.

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.While waiting for the cookies to cool, make the lemon coconut cream. In a bowl with an electrical whisk, beat together the chilled coconut milk and lemon curd. Beat on high for ~1 minute, at which point the coconut milk will look thick but the mixture is still pretty runny. Place the bowl in the fridge, during which time it will thicken into a more mousse-like texture. It’s quite magical.

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the cookies have rested, take them out of the fridge and use a tablespoon to scoop out the batter, then use your palms to roll gently into little balls. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and press down slightly to flatten them a little. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the pan on a cooking rack before removing. Sandwich two with the chilled lemon coconut cream. Fear not, the cookie sandwich has made one hell of a comeback.

Strawberry Chocolate Vanilla Bean Baked Doughnuts

IMG_4497

Somewhere in between rubbing fragrant vanilla bean into sugar and popping these guys into the oven, I found myself at the beck and call of Strawberry.

Out they came, and my heart was singing. A subtle burst of tang. Gooey bursts of warm chocolate dispersed throughout the batter, little nuggets of treasure. Plump, light-as-air cakey batter to encase everything. Two bowls, whisk, an oven, done.

I was skeptical at first. Initial thoughts gravitated to classic vanilla bean with a more exotic fruity frosting, or chocolate whatnots. Some people don’t like the combination of berry and chocolate, and I get it, but I just couldn’t help myself when I saw fresh, fat strawberries sitting, beckoning in the fridge, round-butted, the promise of sweet juice pulsating under firm and uneven flesh. I thought of strawberries dipped in melted chocolate, and couldn’t get the theme out of my head. So after my good daily dose of reading and writing, I jumped up and got to work. It had to work. And I’m glad it did.

You could say the addition of vanilla bean is pompous, but goodness does it add a whole new dimension of flavour and (slight) grandeur to the whole thing. The speckles are endearing, no? It’s exotic, it’s fearless. Each little doughnut is jam-packed with bits and bobs of strawberry and chocolate, so every bite is a great deal of wonder, a different experience, a slight surprise. In between, you can savour a dandy cake-like medium, the vehicle for all those pockets of tang and sweet. A standard batter so silent and unassuming it almost feels guilt-free.

What’s a doughnut without the glaze.

The magic lies in the incorporation of puréed strawberries, without which this recipe just wouldn’t be the same. J’adore. Pink isn’t my favourite colour, and never will be, but the muted tangy notes elevate this from airy-fairy to plain wicked. Despite my not being accustomed to having real chopped fruit in a doughnut glaze, or any topping for any baked good in general, the whole experience made me realise what a difference the real deal makes.

There’s something about a simple doughnut, enjoyed alone at home or at a coffee shop with a large cup of black coffee, which makes a breakfast get-up or solitary pondering session all the more sensual. It’s homey, and pretty bad, but pretty good.

Strawberry Chocolate Vanilla Bean Baked Doughnuts (makes 16)

Ingredients

For the doughnuts:

265g (slightly less than 2 cups) all-purpose flour

170g (3/4 cup) white castor sugar

1 vanilla bean

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

60g melted, unsalted butter

180ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk, or take a tablespoonful of white vinegar and place it in the bottom of your measuring cup before filling it up to the 180ml-mark with whole milk

70g chopped dark chocolate

2 eggs

170g (1 cup) finely chopped strawberries

For the glaze:

60g (1/3 cup) strawberries, washed and finely chopped

230g icing sugar

pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and butter doughnut pans with melted butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, chopped chocolate and salt. In a separate, slightly smaller bowl, pour in your sugar. Take a sharp knife and run it firmly down the middle of the vanilla bean, then scrape out the insides. Dump the clumps of black into the sugar. With your fingertips, rub the vanilla bean into the sugar, so most of it is evenly incorporated into the white mass. Tip the vanilla and sugar mix into the bowl with the rest of the dry ingredients and whisk everything together well, for at least 30 seconds or so.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk (or milk and vinegar mix) and melted butter. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix everything together slowly with a wooden spoon until just combined. The batter should be a little lumpy and slightly thick. Not in the least bit liquidy. Pat your chopped strawberries with a dry paper towel just to remove excess moisture, then stir them into the mix. Using 2 tablespoons, dollop the doughnut batter into the greased doughnut pan(s) (I only have one so I did this in batches). Bake in the preheated oven for 15-16 minutes.

While they are baking, make the glaze- no electrical beaters needed!!

Purée the chopped strawberries in a blender, or you could microwave them and then mash with a fork. Put the strawberries into a large bowl, then using a tablespoon, remove any extra liquid that seeped out. It won’t be much, and you need not remove all of the extra juice. Add half of the icing sugar first and the salt, and mix together with the same tablespoon until you get a wet, dark pink mixture. Add the rest of the icing sugar and continue to mix until you achieve a thick, spreadable consistency.

Once the doughnuts are baked, leave to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before turning them out. Once fully cool (around another 15 minutes later), dip the tops of the doughnuts into the strawberry glaze, then let them rest on the cooling rack again. Store the doughnuts in the fridge, because the glaze doesn’t sit too well in a warm environment.

Pink kinda pleasure.

Black Sesame French Toast (with a twist)

If there’s one sort of breakfast I have to live off for the rest of my life, as long or short as it may be, it’s french toast.

And yes I like the good old classic stuff, whereby all you have to do is whip together eggs and milk and cinnamon and voila, you get a comforting, nourishing plate, eggy and soft and saturated, and now I use the word ‘and’ too much. Well. One of my personal favourite french toast recipes is actually eggless, and I implore you to check it out here.

But twists are welcome. Despite the familiarity of routine, twists and little leaps off of a classic theme are necessary to uphold the graciousness of the central perk. In this case, that perk is normal french toast. I love normality in that sense, all tried and true. But the addition of black sesame here, the little flick of the pen at the end of story, is the enhancement factor, serving not to distract, but uplift.

I’m a flexible eater, but I’m also the sort who thinks that if you’re going to enjoy something, you must enjoy it well. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but I do love dousing my french toast in whole milk, well accompanied by frigid coffee, because the sogginess factor makes my heart the same consistency. It all sounds a bit absurd, I know. But do what you do best, right? Adjust to taste. It’s all delicious in the end, anyway.

Black Sesame French Toast (For 1)

Directions

In a shallow bowl, whisk together one egg, a dash of cinnamon, a large splash of milk (whatever sort you prefer, I used whole) and a tablespoon of honey. Into another bowl or plate, sift 2 heaping tablespoons of black sesame powder.

Take 2 slices of sourdough/ brioche/ baguette and soak each side in your eggy batter for 10-20 seconds. Whilst waiting, preheat your pan to medium heat, and ready some butter. Once the pan is hot, butter it, making sure you hear a good sizzle upon first contact. Cook your french toast as you usually would, around 2 minutes on the first side and a little less on the second, just so it’s not rendered dry. You want a fair bit of eggy saturation in the middle (yes, even if you like drowning your french toast in milk like moi).

Once your french toast is cooked, generously slather the tops with the black sesame powder, which will go moist and a bit sticky upon contact with the heat and moisture from the toast.

*variation: To serve, place the toast on a plate, top with almond butter, chopped strawberries, a drizzle of coconut cream and, if you wish, coconut chips. The black sesame with fruit and coconut here is a divine combination!