Cornflake-crusted Stuffed French Toast

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Well, hi guys, it’s been a while. With everything seeming to happen at the same time, it feels almost strange to be typing on this platform again about things closest to my heart (aka sugar, spice and all things nice).

Above all, and most importantly, let there be french toast. The one food I will gladly eat every day three times a day. The one thing I love so much that I have a whole section in my recipe page dedicated to it.

There have been pockets of time in the past few weeks which have granted me access to memories only of the sweetest kind. I’ve tried making all sorts of fancy french toast get-ups, usually never with any regret (hello bagel french toast and black sesame french toast), although I have to say this childish cornflake-crusted banana-stuffed one is  not only a weekend winner, but a fanciful play on all things childhood-sweet. It’s any golden childhood memory on a plate– swinging through falling leaves on a swing, drinking hot chocolate by a fire.

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I understand that french toast isn’t considered french toast unless made with real, proper egg, so perhaps me going plant-based (it’s been over a year now) has put, on a subconscious level, the idea of good weekend french toast aside. But coming across multiple mouth-watering french toasts on Instagram and elsewhere on the www has made me determined to recreate a vegan version that’s just as good, and possibly better, than what most of us may find out there in the cafe-sphere. So if you’re quite the purist, go ahead and use real or vegan egg. But perhaps just once, try this combination of mashed banana, cinnamon and milk, which saturates your soft bread to the most ideal degree, resulting in french toast that’s neither too soggy nor rubbery. Oh, rubbery is the worst, isn’t it?

As human beings we require simple sustenance. But sometimes the simplest matters turn out to be the most delicious, and the smallest twist using something as ubiquitous and childish as cornflakes makes all the difference. Making a most delicious french toast right in your own kitchen is truly the most rewarding thing. Not much fuss, no wallet-burning, and a 100% goodness guarantee. So you can make this, and get back to whatever you’re doing the rest of the day, all the while knowing you’ve done something terribly good for yourself.

Quote of the day: ‘We are human beings, not human doings’

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Cornflake-crusted Cinnamon Banana French Toast (serves 1)

Ingredients

2 slices vegan brioche/ any soft bread of your choice

2 bananas, one mashed, and one sliced thickly at a slight angle.

60ml (1/4 cup) almond milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

handful of cornflakes

3 tbsp brown sugar

vegan butter for caramelising

handful of frozen berries (optional)

icing sugar (optional, for decoration)

Directions

Place the cornflakes in a bowl and use your (clean, hopefully) hands to crush them into chunks. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow dish. Don’t worry if you are left with quite a few larger chunks– this will only give more texture to your french toast. In another bowl, use a fork to briefly mix together your french toast batter– the mashed banana, almond milk and cinnamon. Don’t worry about little chunks of banana in there. Add a pat of vegan butter or oil to a medium nonstick pan to start making the caramelised banana.

Once the pan is hot, add a little more vegan butter to the pan, together with the brown sugar. Add the sliced banana to the hot pan and let it caramelise for a minute. Once the side facing down is a nice caramelised golden colour, use a spatula to flip the banana slices and cook the other side. Once the bananas are nicely soft and caramelised, set them aside in a bowl while you make the french toast. Leave the pan on medium heat.

Dip both sides of one of the bread slices into the mashed banana mixture, then dip one side into the crushed cornflakes. Repeat for the other bread slice. Place the cornflake-side of one bread slice onto the hot pan to cook, add the caramelised bananas on the side facing up. Add the handful of berries if you wish– I think it adds a lovely tang to cut through all that sweet chimerical flavour. Then close your french toast sandwich with the other slice of bread. Once the side facing down has been cooking for a minute or so, use your spatula to check if that side is golden-crisp and cooked. If it is, flip the sandwich over and cook the second side.

Once finished, cut your french toast sandwich on the diagonal, then top with any leftover caramelised banana you have, and a sprinkling of icing sugar. Serve with more berries and a splosh of yoghurt. HELLO Saturday.

Spiced Nutella-stuffed Matcha Baked Doughnuts

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The longest flight cannot deter me from the baking buzz. Oh, sweet, unfailing kitchen and oven!

All at once, 2015 is behind my shoulder, at the top of my head, and heavy in my heart. As I was scrolling through my old posts and reading my personal diary, I realised how important and special this little place has become to me– never did I think it would grow into such a shrine of my passion. I’ve sometimes blurred the line between personal thought (which explains the existence of my diary, something I’ve kept for 10 years and counting!) and just rambling on about cake and anything to do with sugar, but I’ve learnt to embrace that once in a while, and it’s only enhanced my excitement over writing about anything in general. With a long, hard year ahead, I’m determined to keep it close, despite all the work I know I will face during the long run.

I don’t think this post would be complete without a little more on the main inspiration behind this recipe– Japan!

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Amazing food, small kitsch gadgets, overwhelming magnanimity. If there’s a country that’s got tourism down pat, it’s the Land of the Rising Sun. Oh, and not forgetting heated toilet seats. Really. That’s always a plus.

Afterwards– a solid, foreign calm. Back to the heat, the familiarity of my favourite tiny island, though admittedly, and as a friend put it so well, it feels so weird not to be held accountable for anything anymore, then suddenly be thrust into the routine of family fun. It does require some getting used to.

The taste of Japanese food after a good 3 months without the stuff was almost a spiritual experience. Just imagine– the freshest uni possible (mildly rough texture that gives way to buttery insides, mmph), slippery, thick slices of fresh pink otoro (fatty tuna), and of course… green tea.

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Green tea kit kat, green tea mochi, green tea… everything, really. We came across so many different varieties of matcha (the finely ground powder of specially grown green tea) chocolates, in other words the main inspiration for the final product:

fluffy matcha baked doughnuts, stuffed with nutella and covered in a matcha glaze.

You see it, I see it. It’s got all the goods, and anything stuffed with chocolate/hazelnut chocolate spread is a win. Based off my previous recipe for maple bacon doughnuts (I implore you to try these at some point in your life as well), the results were lush– fluffy, cake-like doughnut base, a slight twang of sponge in there, gooey nutella in the middle, and a glaze that speaks loudly of matcha instead of simply being a sugar overload.

The addition of spice is simply my excuse for not being around during Christmas do indulge in the usual Christmas baking routine, but it adds another level of flavour that propels this simple recipe to something that much more festive. By all means, leave the spices out if you prefer a more straightforward chocolate-matcha pairing.There’s something about the pairing of the mild bitterness present in all that matcha, and rich milky hazelnut chocolate that’s unbeatable on a Sunday afternoon, coffee and book in hand. Right, let’s do this.

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Spiced Nutella-stuffed Matcha Baked Doughnuts (makes 6 doughnuts)

Ingredients

For the doughnuts:

125g (1 cup) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp matcha powder

75g (1/3 cup) white sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

120ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk

28g (2 tbsp) unsalted, melted butter

~1/3 jar of nutella/melted dark chocolate (the quantity is up to you)

 

For the matcha glaze:

115g icing sugar

1 tsp matcha powder

2 1/2 tbsp whole milk

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C and grease a doughnut pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, matcha powder and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter, milk and vanilla extract. (tip: it helps to have all your ingredient at room temperature for even, stress-free mixing). Tip your dry mix into the wet mix and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula until everything is well combined.

Take a tablespoon of batter and place at the bottom of a doughnut mold, spreading so it coats the bottom (you don’t want too many chocolate leaks) and goes about halfway up the side. Using two teaspoons or a piping bag (or use a small ziploc bag with the tip cut off), line the middle of each doughnut with nutella/any chocolate spread or even melted chocolate. Do this 6 times for 6 doughnuts, then place the molds in the preheated oven and bake for exactly 8 minutes. I find that the shape and size of the doughnuts are perfect if you fill the molds 3/4 of the way with batter, rather than all the way. Once you take them out of the oven, the doughnuts will feel soft and tender to the touch, with a gentle rise and the gentlest browning on top. Leave them to cool on a cooling rack while you make the icing (thankfully, it doesn’t take long).

For that, simply whisk together the icing ingredients and set aside to use once the doughnuts are cool, else it will melt everywhere. After 10 minutes, remove the doughnuts from their molds,and dip one side into the bowl containing the matcha icing, then place right way up again on the cooling rack to let any excess icing drip down the sides.

Eat right away, or store in an airtight container and keep at room temperature for 1-2 days, or the fridge for up to 4 days. The sooner, the better!

Matcha and Vanilla Banana Pancakes

It just demanded variation. Make it shine in a different light. I’m talking about my favourite ever recipe for supremely thick and fluffy pancakes. When I wrote that post, I found it hard to deliver the goods without feeling as if nothing I typed could truly justify how impressed I was with the outcome. The same may be said for these.

I modified the base batter a little, added matcha powder to half of it, and incorporated mashed banana into the wet ingredients. Result: Fantabulous, and that’s saying something, because I hate that word but somehow its gaudy talkshow-esque nature fits the bill here.

I talked enough about how wonderfully soft and fluffy and phenomenal these pancakes are (click the link above!!), so enough talk, more action now.

Matcha and Vanilla Banana Pancakes (makes 10-11 medium-sized pancakes)

Ingredients

188g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

1 tbsp white sugar

1 banana, mashed

2 heaping tsp green tea (matcha) powder

generous pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg

50g unsalted butter (slightly less than 4 tbsp)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp honey

240ml (1 cup) milk of choice

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt and leavening agents). In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in a microwave and set it aside, letting it cool for a couple of minutes. In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, honey, mashed banana and melted butter.

For this recipe which makes both vanilla and matcha pancakes, both the dry and wet mixes must be halved. My dry mix totalled to 210g, so I put half of that (105g) into a separate empty bowl. To one of the dry mix bowls, whisk in the matcha powder. Do the same for the wet mix (I weighed that too and found that half of the wet mix totalled to 200g, however only 180g of the liquid mixture needed to be added to the dry in order to achieve the perfect consistency). You should have 4 bowls– 2 dry and 2 wet, with one of the dry mix bowls containing the matcha powder. Pour the wet mixes into the respective dry mix bowls, and stir slowly with a metal or wooden spoon until justt combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

Preheat your pan on medium heat and ready some butter. You know the pan is hot enough when you flick a little water onto its surface and there’s a clear sizzle. At that point, generously butter the pan and ladle around a quarter cup (you might not need all of it) of batter. Shape if needed to form a nice circle. Wait for just a few little craters to form on the surface before flipping, which will take a couple of minutes. I didn’t have to wait for bubbles to pop before flipping; the batter is thicker than usual and there’s no need to wait. Flip the pancakes when you notice the edges stiffening a little, or when you can slide your spatula whole underneath the bottom of the pancake. It will rise a little upon flipping, as if that action gives it life, and hence, breath. The surface should have that familiar brown mosaic. Once the second side is done (will take no more than half a minute, usually), let cool on a paper towel or in a warm oven. As mentioned above, these freeze wonderfully, so you can make a whole batch, have one or a couple and stash the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Et voila.

Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes (updated)

I include two different nut butter options here– pistachio and almond. Oh yes, and two special frostings. I guess you have to read on if you want to know the specifics *annoying seductive winky face*.

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almond butter stuffed; topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting and speculoos biscuit
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pistachio butter stuffed; topped with matcha buttercream and chopped pistachios

The first time I made these cupcakes, I relied purely on instinct and an old, old recipe found deep in the recesses of my dusty and grainy mental archives. The second time round, I modified a recipe from Cupcake Jemma, and they turned out absolutely perfect. No really. I hate these sorts of exaggerations, all the ‘reallys’ and ‘trulys’, so I’m officially going against personal principle for the sake of emphasis and honesty. These are the lightest, fluffiest little things, and I adore how the flavour of green tea is pronounced, and not hidden like some odd side element.

Anyways, it was a lucky shot. I always start a baking experiment with some wild or novel idea, but the initial framework always ends up being littered with side details and spontaneous ‘wait, I should use this instead of that!’ moments. They speckle the total perfection, so whatever I end up with is never what I meant it to be. Take this, for instance. I’ve recently been on a slight matcha roll (note to self: try out matcha rolls) because of its subtle green tea flavour. The bitter aftertaste lingers on the back of your tongue, never quite overwhelming it, making whatever you’re tasting just that much more sophisticated. Almost healthful, and no, not just because of that deceiving light green hue. I could list all the healthy characteristics of a teaspoon of matcha powder, but let’s face it, we’re talking about cupcakes here. I guess it’s further redeemed by the soft, oozing, rich dollop of almond butter right in the centre, but I haven’t gotten on to the frosting yet. Life is about balance. This is balance.

I was a little afraid of making cupcakes for two reasons.

1. I’ve made them (well, everyone makes them a lot) so many times that I was afraid the repetition bug would strike out against me and unleash a sudden curse on my beauties. Call me deranged.

2. They could very well and most likely be sub-par cupcakes. People want astounding, not average things.

That second point got me thinking. So if I made a good cupcake, it has to be made even better by some novel pairing or ingredient.. we’ve all been down the red/blue/green velvet path at least once, or maybe tried that wonderful chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting to up the ante a bit, but something an inch more atypical would work better. That’s when I thought of matcha and almond (not quite novel just yet)… topped with salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with crushed speculoos biscuits (Lotus biscuits as everyone knows them here) and drizzled with more salted caramel. Think soft matcha sponge encasing a large dollop of creamy, rich nut butter, topped with lightly salted caramel cream cheese swirls and light, cookie-based crunch on top, or, in another case, delicate swirls of thick and fluffy matcha buttercream. The crumb is soft and firm, and the best part of these cupcakes is that post-baking, you get this wonderful sugar-crusted, crumbly top, which breaks away easily when you want to stuff the little holes with nut butter. I do love this matcha and almond/pistachio pairing, the upper-class rigidity of the flavours totally offset by the playful done-it-before frosting options.

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Nut Butter Stuffed Matcha Cupcakes 

For the cupcakes (makes 10-12, adapted from Cupcake Jemma):

125g self-raising flour

135g soft, unsalted butter

125g white sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

quarter teaspoon bicarb soda

1 teaspoon matcha powder

Option 1: Matcha buttercream

270g icing sugar

150g softened, unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 teaspoon matcha powder, dissolved in a splash of whole milk

Option 2: Salted caramel cream cheese frosting (after many personal trial and error stints):

170g cream cheese, at room temperature

150g brown sugar

75g icing sugar

75g butter, softened

1 tbsp salted caramel sauce (store-bought or homemade)

for the topping: crushed speculoos biscuits and extra salted caramel sauce for drizzling

Preheat your oven to 170C (350F) and spray a muffin tin. In a large bowl and with a normal or electrical whisk, beat the butter and sugar together on high until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients- flour, bicarb, matcha powder and salt. Using a spatula, fold the flour and matcha mixture into the wet mixture.

Place the cupcake tin into the preheated oven and bake for 20-22 minutes. I took mine out at the 21-minute mark. Leave them to cool on a wire rack. The tops will be crusty and a light golden, and will look relatively flat. Leave to cool on a wire rack before removing to dig holes and stuff them silly.

Salted caramel cream cheese frosting:

Whilst they cool, make the frosting. Beat the brown sugar and butter together using a handheld electrical whisk, then beat in the cream cheese, icing sugar and salted caramel sauce. This is my favourite salted caramel cream cheese frosting which uses more brown rather than icing sugar, so it’s handy when you’re running low on icing sugar. Put the mix into the fridge until ready to use.

Matcha buttercream:

In a large bowl, beat together the icing sugar, softened butter, teaspoon of vanilla, and matcha/milk mix. Beat until visibly light, thick and fluffy. Stuff a piping bag with the mix and leave in a cool place (I put mine in the fridge overnight and let thaw for around 15 minutes the next morning) until ready to use.

When the cupcakes are mostly cool (around 15-20 minutes post-baking), take a teaspoon and dig right into the heart of the cupcake, before scooping out some cake. This part is mostly up to you; if you want more nut butter per mouthful (you lovely hedonists) then go ahead and dig deep, but if not, a teaspoonful of cake will suffice. Using another teaspoon, spoon in a heaped (or however much you want) of nut butter into the hole. I used homemade almond and pistachio butter; my mum makes batches in the kitchen all the time and it’s the most divine thing in the world. Using a large spoon or piping bag, frost the cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting or matcha buttercream. For the former, add crushed speculoos biscuits and more salted caramel drizzled on top. For the matcha buttercream, pipe the buttercream on top, whizz up some pistachios in a food processor and sprinkle on top. I also added salted caramel to this version because, well, why the heck not.