Pumpkin Ginger-Spiced French Toast Roll-ups with Cinnamon Tahini Fondue

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This cinnamon tahini fondue is very everything. When I woke up that morning, there was a funny pain at the base of my stomach, and that’s never a good thing, but I still knew my weekly french toast get-up was much needed, for better or for worse. There are times during the day, usually alone, with a bit of quiet, or during deep conversation with someone who’s on the same page as you, that one can calmly address all negative emotions, accept them, then pass them to the air.

Feeling wild writing this, yet calm. It’s my last day of being 19, and who knew a year could’ve changed me so much in all facets. Just a year ago I was on a boat with other freshmen pondering the excitement of living near Hyde Park, and now here I am, still alive, still a student, still eating the same plates of french toast. I am truly grateful for the close friends who stuck by me and who I can always count on, my family, and stuff to learn and discover every day. Now I find I need so much less to be happy– dining in the dark with an old friend, a fresh bath and timely wake, fresh roasted vegetables, the hug of tea in the cold, brisk air, working alone. Nope, nothing more.

Of course there was no more appropriate way to spend the morning than with my favourite breakfast. Opened the pantry and of course there was no bread. But. Found a fair bit of Lebanese flat bread given so kindly to me by a friend (Lavash I should think?), so I made do with that, and goodness was that good. Though it had gone a bit stale as I intended to make each pillowy bit of fragrance last as long as possible, dipping it in my pumpkin french toast batter and then frying it gave it a renewed warmth, tenderness, life.

I came up with the idea for this cinnamon tahini fondue whilst trying to think of something other than good old coconut almond butter for my porridge topping, and I know nothing comes quite as close as the stuff, but with a new pot of tahini, something had to be done, and tahini naked wouldn’t have been embracing that morning creative jolt It’s an uncomplicated mix of tahini, cinnamon, applesauce and yoghurt, along with some of the pumpkin french toast batter. The weirdness of that mix overshadows its majesty.

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Pumpkin Ginger-Spiced French Toast Roll-ups with Cinnamon Tahini Fondue

Ingredients

1 large flatbread (lavash), tortilla or crepe (alternatively, use normal bread slices)

 

For the pumpkin french toast batter:

2 heaping tbsp pumpkin purée

50ml milk of choice (I always use almond)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or ground)

1 tbsp sweetener of choice (agave syrup/date syrup/honey/blackstrap molasses)

pinch of salt

pat of vegan butter (or normal butter) for the pan

 

For the cinnamon tahini fondue:

1 tsp pumpkin purée

3 tbsp tahini

a heavy hand (around 1 tsp) of ground cinnamon

1 tsp sweetener of choice (refer to choices above)

 

Directions

If using flatbread, tear so that the pillow punctured and you get two thin ‘slices’ per bit of bread. You can use any other bread, but for the rollup effect, make sure to roll them out pretty tin and flat so you can squish them into the rolled shape you want afterwards.

Whisk together the ingredients for the pumpkin french toast batter and heat your pan on medium heat. Add a pat of butter to the pan and wait to hear a sizzle. Once hot, dip your slices into the pumpkin batter for 5-6 seconds on each side (you don’t need much time if you’re using a crepe or flat bread because they are so thin), then place gently in pan. Wait 20 seconds or so to cook, then flip and wait another 10-15 seconds.

Mix together the ingredients for the cinnamon tahini fondue, and serve the hot french toast rollups with that, together with some berries, perhaps some whipped (vegan) cream and more sweetener of your choice.

Kaya Avocado Nut Butter Cakes

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A homemade gift goes far. In Tuesday’s case, it was my Grandma’s homemade kaya, or coconut jam, lugged all the way from Singapore when my mum came to visit just a few weeks earlier. It was the exact same recipe for the green batch of love I played around with for my kaya maple loaf cake, the recipe for which you can find on Amazon as I speak!! Whew, rush rush rush. Anyways, a throwback was in demand as I held the tubs of curdled emerald goodness. Once again, an odd combination formed the scaffold of more funny kitchen business.

I occasionally find myself refusing to go against instinct for the fast and funny. As a student, the will to carve out day-long space is for something in total artistic favour is admittedly a little impractical with coursework and intense lecture review. There is indeed worth in all that labour, and I look forward to when I can do so without a penny of guilt eating away at the back of my head. It is true creative catharsis.

So you whisk together the dry and wet, fill half your cake molds with the final batter, add a teaspoon of nut butter of choice, then continue filling, then bake. The combination of kaya and avocado was approved by my skeptical flatmate. The best bit, I personally think, is the crusty sugar outside of the whole cake. Mmmmm. Kaya is sweet and, depending on the way you make it or the brand you buy, very coconutty, as green as the pandan leaves used to flavour the homely concoction of coconut milk, eggs and sugar. Avocado pretty much substituted most of the butter in this case, so the final texture of the cake was incredibly tender but not reminiscent of your typical cupcake, which might leave a buttery crumb. Pressing this will leave your fingers dry (and beautifully scented), yet the mouthfeel is airy and moist.

As I’ve touched on before, I do enjoy eating and making vegan meals and desserts, especially after all those silencing documentaries and Youtube lectures I’ve watched on the veggie movement. Though I am not full vegan for personal and family reasons, I will now officially include vegan or at gluten-free versions for all my recipes. I only want this blog to cater to all types of dietary needs, so if any of you feel like something is amiss, please feel free to email or DM me.

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Kaya Avocado Nut Butter Cakes (makes 6-7 cakes)

Ingredients

*= vegan substitute

190g plain flour (*same weight of gluten-free flour)

a generous pinch of salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1  1/2 tsp baking soda

300g kaya (*recipe for vegan kaya below, using 1 sweet potato, 1 tsp pandan extract, 80ml coconut milk and 3 tbsp coconut or maple sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg (*1 mashed banana)

120g white caster sugar (*same weight of coconut sugar)

1 mashed avocado

3 tbsp olive oil

optional: nut butter of choice

 

Directions

*to make vegan kaya: Roast one large sweet potato (about 200g) at 200C for half an hour or until soft and mashable. Using a fork or blender (you pick the easy way out, ha ha), mix with the rest of the stated ingredients. And there you have vegan kaya! You should be able to use all the kaya you make, but weigh out 300g to be sure.

Firstly, preheat your oven to 180C and grease a 8 of your muffin tins. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients excluding the nut butter and mix well. You should have a thick, green batter of easy dropping consistency. If it’s too thick, add a drop of milk/nut milk until you get the desired consistency.

Fill your cake molds halfway up, then add a teaspoon of  nut butter to the centre, then continue to fill with the batter until the mold is 3/4 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve with more nut butter, yoghurt, honey and frozen berries (trust me on this one).

Linzer Torte

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After Linz, in Austria, and said to be the oldest cake in the world. I love how a new recipe lets in some learning. It’s so easy to forget how something so ubiquitous so brims with history. Imagining this torte being caressed by a medieval stranger in 1696 and then being made by someone in the current century is mystical, almost haunting.

Have finally settled into the new house before the advent of a new term, routine is taking form once more; something I’m so grateful for and excited about after a deleterious flight which messes up the mind and shakes up calm. Excitement must be the shorthand term for what I felt once reunited with some favourite people after what seemed to be forever. It only seemed natural to bake something to celebrate. Something incredibly simple but so satisfying.

The crust is traditionally laced with ground almonds and made with egg yolks. It’s also typically decorated with flaked almonds, but  I made do with just a simple lattice and sugar to top before the oven-throw. The filling is probably the easiest in the world. I made do with raspberry jam, which you can make yourself or simply use store-bought. Once baked, the interior becomes thick, glistening and gooey, perfectly holding form for clean cuts and gooey bellies.

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Linzer Torte (makes one 9-inch tart)

Ingredients

165g plain flour, plus more for the counter

100g ground almonds

155g caster sugar

150g cold butter, cut into cubes

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

250g good quality raspberry jam

 

Directions

Grease your tart tin and preheat your oven to 190C. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds and salt. Rub in the cubes of butter into the flour mix until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix until you get a moist dough. Since this dough is quite sticky, I found it helpful to lightly flour the tin and my hands for easy molding. Remove about a quarter of the dough and set aside, this will be for the lattice top. Take the bulk of the dough and press neatly into the bottom and up the shallow sides of the tart tin. Press the dough into the ridges of the sides of the tin, and use a sharp knife to trim off excess around the rim.

Fill the tart with the raspberry jam and spread it around evenly. Flour your work surface and put the remaining quarter of dough you set aside on the surface. Roll into a rectangular slab that’s 3mm thick and just long enough to stretch the diameter of your tin. Cut into 6 strips. Lay three on your tart horizontally, and then the next three vertically.

Sprinkle the top of the tart with caster sugar, then bake for 25 minutes. Check at the 20-minute mark. It should be golden-brown on top, and some jam may be seeping in between the lattice hold. That’s ok, nice and rustic. Cool in the tart tin for at least 10 minutes before removing, slicing and serving.

White Chocolate Caramel Banana Bread

Because we all know banana bread is actually cake.

Side note: I’m back!!

An apology is necessary and expected. The past few weeks have been an absolute blast, busy busy busy, what with moving to London to embark on a very science-y and exciting adventure. Early lectures, lots of note-taking, and the constant fear that I’ve done nothing to deserve a place in this wonderful university. The people are amazing, the work intriguing, and nothing beats the nighttime kitchen adventures, midnight study sessions and later-night parties. Nothing I say here could ever fully justify the experiences that have been thrown at me as well as those which I have yet to encounter. It’s still incredibly surreal; like a dream come true, yet somehow better.

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A modification on one of my previous banana bread recipes, this one has a gallant twist with the incorporation of white chocolate and caramel. If ever I do this again, I’ll be sure to add in a nuttier texture or more earthy flavour component to up the ante of everything else going on in the picture. It’s the sweetest pick-me-up, and a one-bowl wonder. Don’t you love the easy stuff? Remember: I’m all about simple. Sometimes. Ok, most of the time. With college matters whirling around my head, this loaf was a nice and easy break, which took no time at all to put together and bake. Feels good to get into mixing, picking ingredients and experimenting again in the kitchen. Made it with one of the sweetest people I’ve met here, and everyone loved (and then attacked) it. Crowd-pleaser. Bananas. White chocolate. Caramel. Good play.

Now, it feels like home.

White Chocolate Caramel Banana Bread (makes 1 loaf)

Ingredients

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 1/2 cups (190g) plain white flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup (76g) melted unsalted butter

2 tbsp milk

2 heaping tbsp caramel sauce

1/3 cup (68g) white sugar

3/4 cup white chocolate chips (I cut up a good bar)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a large bowl, mix together the mashed bananas, milk, sugar, melted butter, egg, salt and vanilla. Then add in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, milk, caramel sauce. Finally, gently stir in the white chocolate chips. Pour into a greased loaf and bake for 50-55 minutes. This one was ready by 53 minutes.

To serve, slice up and serve with more caramel, marmalade (a touch I personally adore) and more chopped chocolate. I’m guessing whipped cream or ice cream would sort out any lonely evening, too.

Banana cardamom rolls

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I almost detonated when I saw the news headlines 2 days ago concerning the murder of freelance journalist Kenji Goto.

So many grotesque or inhumane things occur nowadays that most of us have been rendered practically immune to their effects. This murder in particular, despite its obvious malice, was probably expected. Abe went from stoic to emotional in no time, but the inevitable couldn’t be prevented. Beheadings and carnal torture methods are still being used around the globe. Violence is fought by violence, two fires igniting and ultimately, doing nothing. One side may be susceptible, perhaps a little forgiving, but sometimes that only stirs the impatience of the other party. There is no win-win situation, is there? Such malice is beyond comprehension. ISIS, in contrast to the USA’s initial certainty of its containment, is still evolving, affecting, blighting freedom of speech. Killing. Us humans, ultimately, have regressed. It’s back to the French Revolution again. Where are the guilliotines on the streets? If we aren’t the bad guys, we’re the onlookers who can’t do anything but sit back and squirm. I wonder when a balance will prevail.

Alright now. I made banana chocolate cinnamon rolls two months ago using a blog link I thought I trusted. The dough itself turned out ok, however it just didn’t possess the most desirably degree of fluffiness of brioche-like tenderness of crumb. The tops were a little too hard, and a knock sounded hollow. Something had to change, right?

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First thing’s first. This recipe involves overnight proofing, which makes it easy for you if you want to chuck this in the oven first thing in the morning and have something sweet and comforting for breakfast. On the weekend, probably, when you won’t feel too guilty. You whip up the dough the day before, let it proof a while, roll and fix your little buns in a nice little tray, then throw it in the fridge. All that time taken is so worth it.

I’m lucky to have a stash of spices around the house. When I saw the box of cardamom, unground, waiting, I knew I had to do something with the stuff. Anyways, I had never experimented with cardamom before. I wanted to keep the main idea of banana and cinnamon, but in order to keep the purity of flavour of cardamom in tact, I decided to forgo the chocolate. That being said, after the process of rolling and spreading the filling, please do feel free to add chocolate chips or chunks. Not a lot of cardamom is ground and used to produce a subtle yet effective aroma, so the addition of chocolate would be complementary, not distracting.

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The key to the soft, tender crumb, light and springy, is in the length of time taken to both knead and proof. When I first tried making cinnamon rolls (the traditional sort choked in cream cheese icing), I couldn’t get my head around the slogging away with my poor hands at the counter, and baked them just a little too soon, when the dough wasn’t robust. Sticky, but not worked at enough. Thankfully, I know much better now. This recipe, which I adapted from the lovely Smitten Kitchen, yields rolls which are fluffy, yet have sufficient body and weight to grant themselves the proper title of ‘roll’. For what is a roll without the keen addition of air (and a ton of butter)? In her original dough recipe, she first stirs the batter in a bowl, before turning it out to properly knead by hand (or you can use a kneading machine). Here, I decided to do it all in the bowl, to prevent precious batter getting stuck between my fingers and washed away. I knew I was taking a risk to prevent an episode of sad farewell, but it all paid off. I used a simple vanilla icing, though these may also be made with your favourite cream cheese icing recipe. The banana, which is mashed together with butter as the base filling, addresses the cardamom amicably, not letting it overpower, providing comforting flavour and a nice gooey touch alongside the strong spice. Some of the banana will touch the bottom and melt in the heat of the oven, so bits of the bottom will get all caramelised and crackly. Isn’t that the best thing in the world? I think so.

Actually, if you like crusty tops and sides in general, then I implore you to read on.

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Banana cardamom rolls (makes 6-7, adapted from here. Recipe can be doubled for 12 buns)

Dough:

1 egg and 1 egg yolk

25g white caster sugar

45g melted butter

4g instant yeast

235g all-purpose flour

half teaspoon salt

85ml whole milk, or almond/rice/soy/skim

Filling, from previous improvisations:

half tablespoon ground cinnamon

75g brown sugar

30g room temperature butter

1tsp ground cardamom (I used a mini mortar and pestle to do this)

1 small, ripe banana, or half a large one, mashed

Icing

100g powdered sugar

2-3 tbsp whole milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolk, sugar, butter and milk together. Mix the yeast, flour and salt (make sure yeast and salt are on separate sides of the bowl) in another smaller bowl.

Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir just to combine at first, then with a little more vigour once the dough comes together. Stir and beat the mix for around 5 minutes. The dough will be extremely sticky! But do not fret. That is what you want. Take a short break here, then continue ‘kneading’ for a couple more minutes, in the bowl with your spoon. I kneaded for a total of 8 minutes, no more and no less. After kneading, the dough should be pale yellow, and very resistant to further fiddling. Stretchy, glutinous, strong, and still very sticky.

Take dough out of the bowl and put into a clean bowl, oiled or sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let this rise for 2 hours.

In the meantime, make the filling. Mix the mashed banana and butter together in a small bowl, then mix the cinnamon, ground cardamom and brown sugar in another. Butter/spray a 9×9-inch baking pan or 9-inch circular pan (for cheesecakes/normal cakes etc).

After 2 hours, take the proofed dough from the bowl and press into a 9×6-inch rectangle on a lightly flour-dusted counter. If you’re doubling the recipe, press it into an 18×12-inch rectangle. Take the mashed banana and butter mix and spread on the dough, making sure not to layer it on too thick, and leaving a centimetre untouched frame along the sides. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, brown sugar and cardamom. At the point, you may wish to add chocolate chips or chopped nuts. Gently roll the dough from the long edge to form a 9-inch cylinder. Using a serrated knife, saw the log into 1-1.5-inch sections. I managed to squeeze 7 from this batch. Put the sections into your baking pan. Cover with cling film or a towel and pop into the fridge overnight, or up to 16 hours.

20 minutes before baking the next morning, remove the pan from the fridge to let them warm up a little. Heat oven to 177C (350F), and position the middle rack. Bake the buns for 27-30 minutes. Mine took 28 minutes. Halfway into the baking time, cover the buns with a piece of aluminium foil to prevent them over-browning or burning. During this time, mix all the icing ingredients together, then go ahead and make yourself a cup of tea whilst browsing the papers. Once the buns emerge, let cool on a cooling rack. The absolute best thing about these buns is that they actually take a very short time to cool down, so you can have one straight out the oven (like me). Drizzle the icing over one to enjoy first, then drizzle the remaining icing over the other buns half an hour later, once they’re fully cool, so the icing won’t melt all over the place.

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Ah, mornings.