Black Sesame Waffles and Lemon Curd

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Do you feel the same emotional high as I after creating a meaningful breakfast? Such that it ceases to be a shallow acquaintance in the morning, disappearing as fast as it appeared– head to table, then head to door. It’s so much more than that. It’s a tuning into the senses, savouring a myriad of plant-based foods that nourish and lighten the soul, the abundance of classic and sometimes unexpected flavours colouring the rest of your day with creativity and comfort.

Just as how some people have shaped and supplied your existence over x number of years, food too mirrors this truth. In clashing flavours, harmony is found.

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There’s no ‘right’ time to treat yourself. Lately I’ve been re-focussing once more on the importance of routine, which really does free up a lot of creative head space during the day. Suffice to say that, upon the first moments of rising, after a cleansing elixir of which recipe I modified from various parts of the Internet  (1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, juice of half a lemon, top up the rest of my 750ml glass with filtered water, mix mix mix), meditation, a short workout and mini journalling session, a generous, flavourful, exotic breakfast is always welcome.

Black sesame, matcha, red bean. These are the flavours which still call to be delivered on an almost-daily basis. The magical trip to Japan was bookmarked with earthy flavour, soil and icy freedom etched in the wintery grey skies. These waffles are a throwback to some charcoal waffles I used to travel far for back in Singapore, though are richer in traditional goma flavour instead of being just, well, black. The use of activated charcoal here helps the colour, though that is optional. What makes it special is a black sesame paste made of finely ground black sesame, maple syrup and sesame oil. The ratio of the paste is much more coarse than that for the actual waffles, but as long as you get a relatively coarse, all-black paste then you’re set and ready to go.

And this lemon curd! Ah lemon curd, something I have unconsciously craved for so long and have failed to substitute with various tangy yoghurts and the morning lemon wash, has finally made a sturdy comeback. All vegan, all delicious, creamy and silky. I used agar powder since I did not have vegan gelatin on hand, but use the latter if you do have it. The agar promotes a more jelly-like flavour so use much less of it. Another great thing is that you can make both waffles and curd at the same time, and not waste time making one thing after the other. If lemon curd isn’t really your thing, these waffles would pair well with most anything else– this morning I coupled a toasted one with tahini, frozen fruit and maple syrup, the white pasty sesame-y tahini (yeah, to think I speak and type English) amping the roasted, toasted flavour of the black sesame paste in the waffles. The lemony curd cuts through this pastiness, a sunny break.

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Crispy, chewy black sesame waffles with lemon curd (makes 6 medium, or 5×6-inch waffles)

Ingredients

90g all-purpose flour

90g oat flour (store-bought or process 90g oats in a food processor; alternatively substitute with another flour of choice, be it plain, spelt, or perhaps a gluten-free option)

35g cornstarch

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar of choice– I used coconut, you can use plain/brown/maple/golden caster

Optional: 1 tbsp activated charcoal powder (you can get this in powder form, or cut open the capsules to release the powder inside)

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the black sesame paste: 65g roasted black sesame seeds+ 2 tbsp each of maple syrup and sesame or vegetable oil

2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice

1 tbsp melted vegan butter

350ml plant milk of choice (I used almond; you could use soy/cashew/oat)

For the lemon curd:

The juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp agar powder, or 2 tbsp gelatin powder

a light pinch of turmeric, for colour (literally just the tiniest smidgen)

a pinch of salt

3 tbsp maple syrup (or agave nectar)

3-4 tbsp plant-based yoghurt (I used soy)

240ml plant milk of choice (I used almond)

 

Directions

First, make the black sesame paste. In a food processor, process the black sesame seeds until fine. This will take quite a while, perhaps at least a couple of minutes (well it took a while for me, at least). Once they look quite fine, add the maple syrup and oil and pulse again until everything is well combined. The paste should be dark and sticky.

In a separate bowl, weigh out all your dry ingredients and mix together well. Add the charcoal powder, then all the wet ingredients. Mix everything together until just combined. The mixture should be moderately thick, dark, and have speckles of the black sesame paste. Heat up your waffle iron according to its instructions and ladle in your glossy, dark batter. Do not put too much or the batter could seep over the sides once you close the lid. Wait for at least 3-4 minutes before opening the lid and checking. Mine does not need flipping over so I only had to close the lid for a couple more minutes again.

While the waffles are cooking, you can combine the ingredients for the lemon curd except for the yoghurt in a small saucepan. Mix everything together well then bring the contents to a boil. Once boiling, take the pan off the heat. This part is important! It may look as though the mixture is still very liquidy, but that’s how it should be. Leave it to cool while you deal with the waffles. After half an hour, take a spoon and mix the curd. It should be a little jelly-like, or at least thick. Add the yoghurt and mix to lighten the colour and smooth the flavour (otherwise its a little too intense).

The waffles and curd will keep for up to a week in your fridge, or you can freeze both and heat up either whenever you want. Serve with each other, with maple syrup and fresh fruit. Bliss, at its true finest.

Citrus Curd Yoghurt Pillow Pancakes

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Pancake Alex struck again at precisely 6am yesterday morning. I decided it had been a while since I did a post on my pillow pancake series specifically, so today I present to you a modification on my all-time favourite pancake recipe

Thick and fluffy (it’s a little ridiculous) pancakes made with yoghurt and citrus curd. I used lime here, but grapefruit/lemon would work just as well.  The morning was ripe with possibility, and pancakes make everything else in your day that much more worth looking forward to.

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I mean, I’ve done lots of pancake variations, and have mixed up the ratios of flour, sugar, eggs, melted butter and what have yous many a time, but it’s this dry mix ratio of 1.5 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda and a generous pinch of salt that makes this recipe live finely up to its name. They aren’t called pillow pancakes for nothing. They have body. They have soul.

So it’s simple as that in the beginning. Whisk together your dry ingredients in a larger bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients in a separate bowl, pour wet into dry with a generous puddle of melted, unsalted butter, mix briefly, ladle.

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The only real difference here is in the wet mix. It differs from my favourite classic pancake recipe by incorporating, of course, yoghurt, which is what produces a slightly stickier, almost yeast batter-like texture, and citrus curd. In this case, a whole 1/4 cup of lime curd, and I shamelessly use cups here because this tried-and-tested recipe works every time I use cups; you just have to make sure that you gently level off the top of the cup (when it comes to flour and such) using the back of a knife. Other minor changes involve a slightly reduced amount of melted butter (the yoghurt and curd compensate for that nicely), as well as half the amount of milk needed.

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So fluffy, so perfect with an extra dollop of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey and maple syrup. The fluff.

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Thought it would be nice to end off with a little glimpse into my common commute to Charing Cross hospital, through Margravine cemetery. All sounds a bit austere, but it’s really one of the most beautiful walks.

Citrus Curd Yoghurt Pillow Pancakes (makes 6-8 medium pancakes)

Directions

Follow the steps for making my classic pillow pancakes here, but this time substitute the wet mix with 1/2 cup (120ml) milk of choice, 1/2 cup whole milk yoghurt, 1/4 cup citrus curd of choice, 1 egg (as per usual) and 4 tbsp (60g) melted butter.

Tip: Make sure to spread out the thick batter after ladling into the pan, else one side will cook too fast.

Serve with fresh fruit, yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

 

Lemon Curd Muffins

If there’s anything I’m a true sucker for, it’s lemon anything. No really. I love chocolate and a lot of other sweet things, but when it comes to citrus-based desserts, my salivary glands go haywire and my head fills with buttercups and sunshine.

Fluffy, white lemon muffins with a lemon curd belly, topped with a lemon curd-sugar coating

What do I like about these muffins? Well. You mix the wet ingredients together, you mix the dry ingredients together, pour one into the other and voila, you have perfect golden muffins in a matter of 15 minutes or less. I mean it’s really not any harder than perusing the morning paper or making a cup of coffee. If you can tie your shoelaces, these are a piece of cake (got that). Wake up, make your coffee, work, take a half-hour break, and maybe during that time you can make these without breaking a sweat. There is just no excuse now.

I had to satisfy the lemon fiend in me a couple of days ago, and did so well with these muffins. I had an incredibly hard time labelling this either a muffin or cupcake, because although this one ticks the boxes for all things which make a muffin, well, a muffin, the insides reminded me more of a cupcake than anything– light as air, pale, tender and not as dense as any muffin you might come across. It’s 80% muffin and 20% cupcake in technique, but 100% cupcake in texture. The crumb is neither robust or rigid, but holds up enough to provide the perfect amount of bite. Add this to the mix of half-molten lemon curd centre and sugar-crusted, sharp-tongued top and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Just for general info, muffins generally:

  • have a domed top (as is evident above)
  • a denser crumb
  • little if any frosting (usually a sugar coating such as this one)
  • require the wet and dry ingredients to be mixed separately before one is added to the other, instead of the typical creaming method utilised in the making of cupcakes.

Therefore, I present to you the cuffin.

Delight is a synonym for that wonderful lemon curd-sugar topping, which once again couldn’t be easier. Delight is also a synonym for the feeling you get when you bite into a soft, white, lemony bit of cake, rounded off with the sharp notes of homemade (or store-bought, that’s good too) lemon curd. Sharp on soft. White and black. It’s meant to be.

Lemon Curd Cupcakes (makes 10-12 cupcakes, adapted from here)

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

200g self-raising flour

100g white castor sugar

pinch salt

1 egg

75ml vegetable oil (canola/sunflower is good here)

zest of one lemon

juice of half a lemon

120ml whole milk

60ml (1/4 cup) lemon curd, homemade or store-bought

For the lemon curd topping:

60ml (1/4 cup) lemon curd

70g white sugar (granulated/castor)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and grease a cupcake or muffin tin. In a large bowl  whisk together the whole milk, egg, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. In a medium bowl, briefly whisk together the self-raising flour, sugar and salt. Pour the dry into the wet mix and mix everything together until just combined with a wooden spoon. Using a tablespoon, half fill a mould in the tin with some batter, then use 2 teaspoons to put a small dollop of lemon curd in the centre, then fill to the 3/4-mark of the mould or case with more batter. Repeat for the rest of the cupcake moulds. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (mine took 13 minutes exactly). Check at the 12-minute mark; a wooden skewer inserted into the side (because the centre has lemon curd) of one should emerge clean. They should be nicely domed with a golden top, and no cracking on the surface.

Whilst these are baking, make the topping (YUM). In a small bowl, microwave the lemon curd until warm but not totally liquidy. Put the white sugar in a shallow dish and set these two aside until the cupcakes are done baking. Once they are fully baked, leave to cool for 5 minutes before rolling the tops in the lemon curd, then rolling again in sugar.

Devour, and know that life is good.

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.

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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.