Kaya Maple Loaf Cake

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If I had to choose the one local breakfast item I miss most from Singapore, it would have have have to be good, buttered kaya toast. Made complete with a steaming, frothy cup of teh tarik and half-boiled eggs. Thinking about it is already making me salivate.

Kaya toast to me is the epitome of simplicity done right– warm, charred white toast, the crusts traditionally, almost clinically removed with a sharp serrated knife, slathered thickly and unevenly with unsalted butter and a thick layer of homemade kaya. For those of you who do not know, kaya is basically coconut jam. A creamy, sweet, thick curd made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. Some days I want butter and marmalade on my toast, others warrant almond butter, honey and banana, and sometimes it’s all about good old butter and kaya. The latter occasion has greatly increased in frequency.

This kaya loaf cake made with olive oil and maple syrup is your favourite local breakfast in one big warm hug of a loaf. It’s :

  • sweet, earthy, tender
  • such a breeze to make!!
  • got the most amazing sweet and crusty top
  • heaven in the morning
  • actually your new wake-up call

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It’s one of the most moist, dense (in a good way) and tender loaf cakes I’ve baked in a while, undoubtedly due to the texture of kaya itself, as well as the addition of olive oil, dark brown sugar and maple syrup.

The components all possess deep, earthy, sensual undertones which complement each other fantastically, the dark brown sugar providing a hint of molasses, the kaya’s almost-fluffy consistency offering milky sweetness and volume. I used nyonya kaya (couldn’t find the traditional brand on Amazon; the link I provide is the closest I could find but you should be able to find it at any oriental supermarket), but Hainanese kaya, which uses caramelised sugar and sometimes honey and is brown instead of green, would work perfectly too.

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Kaya Maple Loaf Cake (makes one standard 9×5-inch loaf), based loosely off my banana bread recipe

Ingredients

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

one generous pinch salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

60ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup

1 cup kaya (no metric measurement eek– you should be fine!)

2 eggs

120g (1/2 cup, packed) dark brown sugar

2 tbsp plain yoghurt (I used coconut yoghurt for extra pizzaz, but you don’t have to go that far)

120ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crusty top: 2 tbsp dark brown sugar+ 1 tsp ground cinnamon

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease (line as well if you wish) a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, whisk together everything else except the ingredients for the crusty top. Pour the dry mix into this wet mix and stir everything together well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Pour the thick, green-tinged mix into your greased loaf tin– the batter should appear quite wet and not very lumpy (like a typical banana bread batter). Mix the topping ingredients briefly with a fork in a small saucer and sprinkle evenly on top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 50 minutes, then remove and let cool for at least a half hour before slicing. Any leftovers can be stored at room temperature for 3-5 days, or kept in the fridge for a week. It’s wonderful toasted on its own, with a smear of salted butter and hot coffee.

 

 

 

Make This Oatmeal Now (updated recipe with a twist)

I thought I had it all figured out, given the number of times I’ve made oatmeal in my life. Overnight, hot, cold, lukewarm (ew), apple-pied, black sesame-ed, peanut buttered, I’ve done it all. I even wrote a post about it here exactly a year ago, yet I only just discovered what I think is the perfect method for making the thickest, creamiest oatmeal ever. Trial and error does pay off sometimes. It’s more reliable, oats coming out perfect every time. Mind you, this method is preferable is you like the super thick and gloopy sort, but even if you don’t, you just have to take your oats out of the microwave a little earlier.

Catch– it involves the microwave. I can hear the disappointed sighs. They’re boring into the screen already, reaching me, slaps in the making.

I get it, I do. I used to think the only way to achieve the perfect, creamy consistency for oats is to do it the proper and old-fashioned stovetop way. The whole process just makes more sense, it wants you to feel like you’re doing it the better way, doesn’t it?

Funnily enough, this microwave method not only yielded the most desirable consistency, it also seemed to enhanced the flavour of mashed banana, the one ingredient I always put in before cooking my oats for added sweetness and creaminess.

No wait. Just do.

Directions 

The night before, mix together a half cup of rolled oats, half cup of water, half a mashed banana, and a half cup of milk of choice (I always use a mix of whole and almond) in a relatively large, microwave-safe bowl (because this mixture will se. Leave this in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, put your bowl in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Take a spoon and mix, then put in the microwave for another minute. At this point, your oatmeal should be noticeably more voluminous and thickened, depending on the power setting of your microwave. Microwave in 30-second increments until you have oatmeal that seems to have more than doubled in volume. Just check your oatmeal every 30 seconds, mixing well between each spurt of heating. Err on the side of caution here.

And you’re done! At this point, you can add whatever you want. My standard toppings are more banana, a heaping tablespoon of almond butter (cashew/peanut/almond), blueberries for a nice tang to cut through the sweet goop, and plenty of honey or maple syrup. Once the oatmeal is a little cooler, I also add a dash of cold, whole milk.

BUT. In this case, I highly recommend trying out this kaya and coconut twist. It’s the sort of combination I’ll be coming back to again and again, for the flavours are close to my heart and it’s a nice break from your typical snack of kaya and butter toast!

The Twist

You should now have a thick, creamy, voluminous mass in your hands. Take the other half or a whole banana and slice it down the middle. Butter a hot pan and fry the banana on both sides. Place the caramelised banana on top of the oats, then add a heaping tablespoon each of almond butter and kaya (I love Breadtalk or Yakun, and my grandma makes a mean one too), a generous drizzle of maple syrup, coconut flakes and a dash of whole milk. Mix everything together, admire the glorious mess, then tuck in happily.

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

So I came here with my hopes exceeding that of the 1960s shophouse-esque roof, laced with a stark, in-your-face blue all the way round. Very high.

Windswept hair tied back. Sunglasses on in the evil face of the sun’s Sunday rays. My father drove my two younger sisters and I all the way to East Coast, succumbing to my months-long pleas of trying out this famous confectionery, affectionately named CMC by old-timers. My hair is still piecey and slightly greasy as I type. Arrived with high expectations and unfortunately, was let down, all the way down to the nearby drainpipe, quite a fair bit.

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We signalled to the lady politely, only to be received by a sour grunt and waist-low wave.

Wait, you darn fools.

Well alright then, we shall. And we did. We sat next to a couple of ladies in the crowded little 10 square feet (yes I am exaggerating) cuboid. I observed them picking out the huge yellow slabs of butter from their kaya buns and leave them on the sides of their plates, and I suddenly felt a tinge of annoyance. That bit’s clearly the icing on the cake, though I must admit that too much is a little daunting sometimes. Not spectacular for the frame, either. Walking in, one notices the proud sign, homemade baked goods displayed at the counter and old-fashioned checkered tiles. Somehow felt uplifted amongst the slightly cramped and frumpy area. It’s crowded on this Sunday morning, I think to myself. Must be good (or so I hoped.)

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My dad expertly cracked open the promising eggs, only to be faced with mighty raw whites. The edible sun was missing half its face, and we were forced to adapt to dribbly transparency. Note I say transparency, not translucency. I ordered a kopi c, which was not half as strong as what I’ve had at other places. Fragrant, yes. Flavourful, well less so.

I had a terribly hard time slurping down my eggs with ease as what would usually be the case at another coffee shop. Translucent to the point whereby it was hard to pick up a string of jelly since the whole thing was like piece of wobbly glue. No white pepper could salvage it. Yes, quite disappointed.

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Ah, the famous Chin Mee Chin kaya buns.

Wonderful, they said. How the harmony of local flavours sing a rapturing tune!

I waited to be flabbergasted, to fall away from my plastic grey stool in awe at the very first bite. What really happened was my being taken aback by how… predictable the flavours were. I was startled by my own reaction. Could it be? Now this is usually the case when one possesses too high an expectation. Perhaps I heard one too many a good review before my arrival, leading me to associate more emotion than necessary with what arrived on my plate. It was a nicely toasted bun all right, with a good spread of kaya and nice rectangle of half melted butter.

I then noticed the commonness of the kaya; how I must have tasted the exact same thing before at least once in my life. Nothing screamed of originality (apart from the unique buns themselves). I expected more depth in flavour and less sweetness. There it was, a bun with a nice hat to top it all off. Simple, satisfying, good even. But nothing which would make me want to come back for more. I normally dip the toast into the egg (or coffee, if I’m feeling particularly odd one day), but thanks to the unpalatable eggs, I was more than unable to do so.

I was let down a fair bit, but I should like to admit that I am definitely glad I can now cross off ‘visit CMC Confectionery’ off my list. The surprising satisfaction from such dissatisfaction…

Rating: 2.5/5

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

204 East Coast Road

63450419

Killiney Kopitiam

Curse my atrocious sense of direction.

I only learnt that Orchard and Killiney are neighbours sometime earlier this year (yes cue the curses). It came as a sudden and embarrassing discovery, considering how close by I stay. So painfully close. I should find a way to conquer and eventually squash this oblivion of mine in one way or another. Honestly, how do I even live in this world. If one wishes to lose him/herself whilst travelling, come pick me up. I’d be happy to help strand you on some faraway island.

I swear I can’t even walk in a straight line.

Back to the actual point. For my father and I, Killiney Kopitiam is one of those quaint and good old-fashioned eateries which will always have that nostalgic effect on us. It’s memory and patriotism rolled into one square, white-tiled nook down the street. Constantly, I am reminded of my local roots, and what I really am made of, no matter how ginormous my ego sometimes.

All with some good kopi, crisp and creamy kaya toast and half boiled eggs. That’s all that’s needed to really wake me up.

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The right marriage of local flavour. Those eggs are the most divine things in the world.

This is where we started with breakfast. Us. Singaporeans. Slurp down those eggs like a hooligan without a care in the world, with great streams of light soy and white pepper. Feel it slide down your throat and relish the purity of a couple of unfertilised eggs (oh I make it sound so appealing). The kaya toast is, without a doubt, the best out there. I remember first trying it, thinking it absurdly simple and nothing much to care for. It’s grilled white toast and plain old kaya. Stodge upon sugar and back again. Then I tried other coffee chains such as Toast Box and Ya Kun, before coming to the stark conclusion that yes, this retains the most local flavour and bang for the buck. The curds in that homemade kaya meld beautifully with those cold alabaster slabs of butter, brought together harmoniously by that crusty, ridged rectangles of toast. Not too thick or thin. It basically screams the love emanating from some apron-bound Chinese grandmother. And do NOT skimp on the butter. Won’t be exploding with goodness if you resort to that.

Nothing like freshly grilled toast. Grilled, I say. Beats my traditional burnt toast anytime, with the perfect proportions of green, ivory and toast. Green, ivory, crunch and crunch. Yum.

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I could pass on the french toast though, for it’s rather blah and well, predictable. Though I must say there are always those mornings when all I crave is some charred eggy bread with blobs of syrup.

Cheap flavours, everlasting memories.

Rating: 4.7/5

Killiney Kopitiam

67 Killiney Road

Don’t call, just go.