Spotted Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Loaf Cake

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Simon and Garfunkel– Cecilia. Now I’m ready.

It feels good to just sit and write, even if it’s something completely unrelated to course content. The mind can think and meander, explore different routes, modes, moods. Creative inspiration seems much more inclined to approach a weary mind when you’re willing to let a bunch of different feelings and experiences coalesce. To just let yourself go.

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Fluffy, moist brown sugar pound cake ‘spotted’ with dark brown sugar bits, peanut butter and chocolate spread. 

I personally have nothing against the word moist, which I think describes this perfectly, along with sweet, treacly and buttery. Are those last 3 ok? I actually recently read an article on word aversion which I could fully relate to. I have zero aversions to any word. I just love English. And words. But I do have an aversion to word aversion.

Right smack in the middle of exam season, and everyone is jostling in the library. Noses to books, noses to screens, pen to paper. I can feel the heat emanating from everyone’s bright and burning brains almost immediately upon stepping foot in the silent arena. A battle zone of books. There seems to be little time for anything now, but having just a little time in the kitchen to experiment has become a priority to me. The other day I came across a well-known brown sugar pound cake recipe by one of my favourite lady bakers, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity, when it struck unexpectedly one free day, to give it a go and perhaps see where my creative endeavours led me down the road.

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I used an especially dark, treacly, molasses-y brown sugar (oh, what is English?). You’re probably wondering what’s with the ‘spotty’ label, and I figured that the picture right above provided an appropriate example– something which arose from chance rather than prediction. You take thick chunks of sticky dark brown sugar, and crumble it with your hands. The result? Some larger chunks (not too large) some sandy pools, some little peas.

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You make the batter, pour half into the pan, dot with blobs of peanut butter (I used all-natural chunky) and chocolate spread, spread on the other half, BAKE.

I term this ‘loaf cake’ instead of ‘pound cake’ because I did have to modify the recipe a little with the quantity of brown sugar I used. The ‘spotted’ factor makes it all the more rich without being sickly. The rise and density of the loaf is spot on. Though it doesn’t have quite the same sharp crust as my favourite-ever banana bread recipe, the flavour is there, all you want and more. There’s a real nice split down the middle as it bakes, relatively even, revealing a little of the sticky, soft inside. Like the formation of the primitive streak during gastrulation in embryo formation. Hope that didn’t sound too weird.

You might die of joy from the smell, but then you’ll take a bite. Life, welcomed. Relish all the fused flavours, all that nutty, brown sugary goodness, hit the tender middle with speckles of brown sugar and chocolate and peanut butter which seeps right into the batter. Pick at the caramelised edges and tops, which are always the best bits.

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Spotted Brown Sugar Peanut Butter Loaf Cake (makes one 9×5-inch loaf, adapted from Yossy’s brown sugar pound cake)

Ingredients

200g (a little more than 1 1/2 cups; used slightly more than stated in the original recipe) flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

110g (1/2 cup) white caster sugar

220g (1 cup) dark brown sugar, the darkest you can find at your store, packed

200g (7 oz) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk

3 heaping tbsp peanut butter of choice

3 heaping tbsp chocolate hazelnut spread

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 170C (325F). Butter your loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the softened butter (has to be soft!!) and white sugar. You could use an electrical whisk here if you wish as well, but I just like to use a standard wire whisk. Take your brown sugar and crumble it into the butter and white sugar mix, leaving some large and some small clumps. Whisk briefly so as not to break up those larger lumps.

Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Pour the dry mix into the wet, add the milk, then whisk everything together. Pour half of this batter into your loaf pan, then dollop blobs of peanut butter and hazelnut spread on top. Spoon the rest of the batter into the pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes; take out when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle has moist (and peanut buttery) crumbs clinging to it. Leave to cool, then serve. As the original recipe states, wrap and store this at room temperature for 4 days (mine just didn’t last as long; thank you fellow floor mates).

Perfect for breakfast, tea, those tiny breaks between lectures. Ho yes.

Bistro du Vin (feat. the best salted caramel dessert)

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Good food is magical. Surreal, almost, if the ambience and company is right. This is a long, long, long overdue post, but it took me a ridiculously long time as well to think of the perfect way to showcase it. Yes, it is my fault. Felix’s birthday was in the beginning of May, and this lunch was meant to celebrate that special date, his special 17th, and look, it’s already mid-June. He suggested this place and I just couldn’t say no, considering it was one of those quaint little corners I just always passed, always beckoning for a visit, and I just chant, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. Cue the quaintest little red corner and vintage French comic strips lining the low walls of this adorable hideout. The man you see above was quietly nibbling away at something or another, occasionally looking out the window, reminding me of the pleasures of dining on quality food alone. I wasn’t alone, but I was with the best ever company in the world.  Those fresh, coarse locks and brown seafoam eyes are my vice. Second to none. No, there was no better company.

I’ll be frank– he’s more francophile than anglophile. I’m the opposite, or so I claim, but one cannot deny the gracious experience some spectacular French fare can provide. Honestly, guys, look at those beautiful diamond-rectangle slabs of fatty beauty below. Is that not one of the most gorgeous sights ever to exist? Bistro du Vin provides set lunches of superb quality and such decent prices. By the end of it all, and that was, what, a good 2 hours later, I was more than satisfied. And my wallet, for once, wasn’t crying out in pain.

pan fried foie gras (extra $8 with pickled onion and eggplant)
pan fried foie gras (extra $8 with pickled onion and eggplant)

Alex sees onions, Alex sees nothing else.

The foie gras was wonder on a plate. Moist, perhaps not as fatty as it could have been (I’m thinking Au Petit Salut’s moreish version right now). The caramelised, pickled onions were sweet and glazed, offering good contrast to the steamy, superabundance of I-cut-like-butter fat. Two slices was perhaps a bit much, considering there were still two full courses to go. The full effects were weighing down like stale jelly in my stomach by the time I was through with the first few bites. In a sort of pleasant way. How odd.

baked camembert with smoked bacon, apple and toasted sourdough
baked camembert with smoked bacon, apple and toasted sourdough

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His appetiser: soft, creamy, probably still mooing. The mild flavour of the cheese worked well with the hardy sourdough crust, the sourdough providing a pleasant, light sourness, and the cooked apple and salty hit of bacon. Once again, practically a meal in itself.

bouillabaise of fish, clams, mussels and prawns
bouillabaisse of fish, clams, mussels and prawns

This was my main, which was more filling than it looks. The broth was soft yet hearty, brimming with all flavours of the sea. The fish, and sadly I forgot to ask what sort it was, was overcooked and dry (which was probably why I didn’t bother to ask in the first place). Everything else was… Decent, I should say, with mediocre-tasting prawns, which were also a little too hard, and little clams and mussels. The hero was that sultry broth which managed to sufficiently flavour all the components. Thick and saturated, yum.

baked pear tart on puff pastry with salted caramel ice cream
baked pear tart on puff pastry with salted caramel ice cream

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In other words, the best part of the set lunch.

In other words, the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever tasted, beating the one at Wimbly Lu and Habitat Coffee, which I love but cower in the face of this divine beauty. It melted like a withering caramel crystal on top of a crusty disc of flaky puff pastry, lovingly studded with delicate slivers of sweet pear, all thick and almost reluctant to give in to the pressure of my fork. A dream. The sort of dish which, even right now as I type with shaky fingers due to the single memory of its perfection, makes me weak at the knees. The sort of dish which you delight in eating even after all the ice cream has melted and has deflated and saturated the pastry, because you are a child once again revelling in the silly joy that is soggy, sweet stodge.

crème brûlée
crème brûlée

His clever choice. Can you see the fine smatterings of vanilla bean evenly dispersed throughout its creamy, provocative belly? The top crackled, the brûlée a sharp crowning of a most luxurious wobble!

I can’t, won’t, shan’t ever forget this lunch. One of the best set meals I have ever had, quality surpassing expectations, with only a few mishaps here and there. All for only $30++ (I hate how they charge $8 for the additional onions though– that’s just a necessity and there’s no denying it).

I usually don’t say this, but I’m highly inclined to come again.

 

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Bistro du Vin

1 Scotts Road, #02-12, Shaw Centre / 56 Zion Rd

Singapore 228208 / 247781

 

Carvers and Co.

DSC_3075 DSC_3077 DSC_3088 The look on my face when I was invited to my very first media tasting. Introducing the new meat-lovers go-to hideout, Carvers and Co at East Coast Road. These guys serve coffee at 10am and start brunch service 11am, all the way till 2 30pm. I’ve been meaning (you notice a trend here with all my blog posts now) to visit, specifically for their brunch special of peanut butter and walnut french toast. I’ve seen the pictures. I’ve wiped off the drool. It was all a little too much. So when Sarah, who also opened One Man Coffee at Upper Thomson, invited me that Monday night, you can just imagine my delight. Took the bus all the way to the East Coast, without a care in the world. Without a single care, caressing my coffee-deprived little belly. One of the first things I tried was their iced pour-over, using Brazil beans, served by an all-knowing, clearly coffee-crazed barista. The taste was clean albeit a little weak for my own preference. A refreshing start to this grand experience.

peanut butter and banana french toast, with toasted walnuts and maple syrup– $11.90
peanut butter and banana french toast, with toasted walnuts and maple syrup

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And if you wanna go all-American, pile-on-the-brunch-toppings style, you can add bacon for an extra 3 bucks. This was absolutely, disgustingly, heavenly. I was once again transported to One Man with their fabulous french toast formula, though this time there’s the added pizzaz of gooey peanut butter and warmed banana, a beautiful mess in the middle. They could even try using natural peanut butter, in all its grainy, home-ground and creamy glory, to further enhance the flavours here. The sides are ridiculously crisp, so much so that the crumbs feel like airy polka dots on your tongue. The toasted walnuts were the best touch, offering a earthy roundness to the otherwise purely chimerical and traditional peanut butter and banana pairing. What makes this french toast different is how the brioche is light, soft and crusty, and not overly weighed down by eggy batter, overly-drenched in naked batter. It’s like the delicate rose of all french toasts. Lady of the lambs. Almost untouchable, but boy was I glad to cut into this.

paprika candied bacon chips
paprika candied bacon chips
truffled egg-in-the-hole toast, with whipped grana panado and candied bacon
truffled egg-in-the-hole toast, with whipped grana panado and candied bacon

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Firstly, those paprika bacon chips go wonderfully with a sharp, creamy beer. The man offered a gorgeous pairing of Palm beer, which made the aftertaste of sweet bakkwa-esque bacon chips linger for longer. The paprika could have been a little sharper to give a little more kick, but overall they’re rather divine, and nicely crisp on the outside.

Secondly, please take a step back to admire that bacon jam, melted cheese and truffled yolk as one golden (literally) entirety. Mostly the bacon jam though, or the single element which brought all traditional eggy behaviour of a brunch dish on its feet. It was much stickier and retained better consistency as a ‘jam’ than what I remembered the last time I tried it at One Man, and one can smear the gooey delight all over the crust of the outer edges, lending both sweet and savoury flavour to the mild, light brioche, plain melted grana panado and truffle oil. Oh, truffle. This really is taking it to the next level. One of the best bits? Sliding your knife into that fried piece of bread, or the ‘hole’, if you will. Dig into that crisp shell of crumby goodness. King of side appeal.

candied carrots and celeriac mash
candied carrots and celeriac mash

The mash was edible velvet, and offered the right savoury kick without feeling too heavy or gluggy on the palate. The candied carrots could have been marinated in a little less syrup to retain more of its bite. I’m honestly quite the sucker for any candied vegetable.

truffle fries with garlic mayo and fried anchovies
truffle fries with garlic mayo and fried anchovies

As I may or may not have said before, I’m not actually the biggest fries person, but the fried anchovies here won me over. The fries were fresh, crisp and warm, just out of the fryer, its edges mellowed by the heavy wallop of garlic mayonnaise on top. You get a bit of everything on one fry, and everything was, frankly, a nice starchy and fatty mess. Reminds me of English pubs, and that in itself says a lot.

wagyu beef with caramelised onions and garlic confit
wagyu beef with caramelised onions and garlic confit

They also serve all sorts of meats, such as this wagyu with caramelised onions, which is absolutely to die for. The meat was nothing short of perfectly medium-rare and tender, yielding a rustic flavour brought out by the garlic confit and delightful mound of sweet, sticky caramelised onions. Just… Yes please. The woody meat paired excellently with the softened onions. Look at the wobbly red belly and bright sear on the outside. Communal. Big families. Full stomachs and passing of plates. This is what Carvers is all about. They also offer other brunch and breakfast specials, as well as meat platters, desserts and the whole range of coffee varieties. Their machine is enough to stump ya. It may be a little out of the way, but make an effort for just one trip. It’ll all be worth it, I promise. Once again, a special thank you to Sarah for inviting me, and I’m definitely bringing the folks over one day to try everything. I’ve got my eye on that vegetarian dish of pumpkin, eggplant and paneer on polenta!

 

Rating: 4.7/5

 

Carvers and Co.

43 East Coast Road

6348 0448

Brown Butter Baked Maple Bacon Doughnuts

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Guys. This is so easy.

I’ve thought about making doughnuts before. I have. But I have always been too lazy to  physically drag myself to buy a candy thermometer and pour inches of oil into a deep saucepan. That, my friends, is the painful extent to which I live my life. I really shouldn’t even be labelled a human. That’s too ambiguous a title, anyway. I came across this recipe on Shutterbean a while back, and just thought it absolutely genius. I love Shutterbean, and this recipe is particularly special because of the first two words in the title– yes, brown butter. That nutty joy sizzling away, that border between fine, white, original fat and trembling mess of hormonal goo. Browned butter is so divine, and god, the smell. That smell will lift you off your toes.

Back to the point.

They’re just great. And I mentioned easy, right.

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Forgive the slightly paltry amount of bacon on that doughnut. I was eager to just catch the light here. Don’t worry, I piled a little more on later on. Remember that the texture is different to a normal fried doughnut, but this was sufficiently aerated, so you get the nice, slightly chewy and moist effect once you bite into its body. Mini little splendours, these. This is why I got a doughnut pan that Sunday morning. This is why I was in such a good mood after recovering from that horrible, ghastly bout of food poisoning, when I couldn’t even look at a piece of chicken. I’m just happy doughnut pans exist, for they make my own existence much more meaningful. I should hope so, anyways. Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player…

 

Brown Butter Baked Maple Bacon Doughnuts

Ingredients (makes 6 mini doughnuts)

For the doughnuts:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (make sure this stuff is properly crumbled, or your mouth’ll taste of detergent later)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (give or take two tablespoons. If you like less sweet doughnuts, take away two. If you have an uncontrollable sweet tooth like me, then just leave it.)
  • 29g unsalted butter, for the lovely browning process
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (you can make this by taking a half cup measurement, putting a half tablespoon of white vinegar inside, then filling up the rest of the half cup with good, whole milk. Please, no soy or almond milk!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the glaze and crumble:

  • 1 sifted cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk (I used up to a half tablespoon more, so add milk drop by drop and keep whisking. Don’t. Stop. Whisking. It should have the consistency of angsty, thick glucose ribbons when you lift the whisk.)
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked for around 8 minutes on medium heat on the pan, drained & crumbled to desired size

Steps

1. Place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat oven to 177 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Lightly grease a doughnut pan with cooking spray and put aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and sugar. Set this aside for now too.

3. Brown the butter: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter.  It will start to pop and crackle a bit. Wait for the water to evaporate; you will know when this happens once you get a distinctly nutty aroma, and the butter goes an almost-bronze tone. Don’t walk away from the stove because this part happens way too quickly. I failed the first time. I know. I’m human. Remove from heat immediately and put it aside for a while.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk (or whole milk and vinegar), vanilla extract and glorious browned butter (make sure the butter isn’t scalding hot, though).

5. Stir the wet into the dry mix. Do this until no weird bits of flour remain, but please, please do not overmix the batter!!

6. Transfer batter into a ziploc bag. Snip the tip with a pair of scissors (around 2cm across) and pipe batter into each cute little mold.

7. Place in the oven and bake for 8-9 minutes.  Mine took exactly 8, and anything longer would have dried them out. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

8. Cook the bacon, as instructed above.

Now you can make the glaze. My favourite bit, if you ask me.

9. In a medium bowl, whisk (just a small whisk is fine) the confectioner’s sugar with maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the milk in a thin stream, or drop by drop, to thin out the glaze. Add more or less according to how thick you want it, but ideally it should be thick and more on the opaque-side, especially if you live in cursed heat like me.

10. Dip one side of the doughnut into the glaze, and twist to make sure the entire top is evenly coated. When lifting, give it another twist and let the glaze pool and then drip off one side.

11. While glaze is still wet, add the bacon crumbles on top of each doughnut. Store in an air-tight container for the first day and refrigerate any left over.

I hope you make your own day, now.

Tuna mash and poached egg on toast

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I threw some random things together that day. I was extremely skeptical about the flavour combination, but this worked perfectly and served to annihilate some grogginess, pre-coffee works, of course. I needed an egg, a sharp crunch of bread to be the bed of a multitude of flavours, something a little thick- a more savoury spread of sorts. This is so simple.

Ingredients

  • one thick slice of good sourdough or raisin bread (this was plain rye sourdough)
  • 1 fresh egg
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • For the side salad: simple salad mix of whatever you may, washed and tossed in reduced balsamic lemon vinaigrette made with balsamic, lemon juice and olive oil. Amount of salad mix you wish to use is completely up to you. I used about a half cup.
  • For tuna mash: 1 can tuna packed in water, quarter cup canned corn, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon greek yoghurt, half tablespoon Dijon mustard and lashings of pepper.
  • small handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 baby radishes
  • pinch of chilli flakes

Directions

  1. Toast bread of choice.  A little burnt is okay. Medium burnt will pass. Me? I practically go for carcinogenic. Kill me whenever.
  2. Poach your egg: Crack fresh egg into a small bowl. Fill a deep saucepan 3/4 full of water and let come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add vinegar and make small whirlpool. Slowly add your egg and continue swirling with slotted spoon. I just used a normal spoon because the slotted spoon I had on hand didn’t look clean enough to use and I was merely too lazy to go ALL the way to the sink and do more washing. Actual problems of a lazy teenage breakfast aficionado. It’s quite tragic. Anyways, wait for around 3 minutes before taking out your beautiful poached baby.
  3. In the meantime, toss tuna and corn mash ingredients together in a small bowl. Take two tablespoons of mixture and liberally coat toast, or however much you want, really. Reserve the rest in the fridge for future use. Lick the spoons each time.
  4. Remove egg from water- test it first by poking its belly with your finger. There should be a slight wobble, neither too floppy or firm.
  5. Thinly slice baby radishes and add to the salad. Place poached egg on toast and whip out your pepper cracker and chilli flakes. Do what you’re meant to do.
  6. Marvel at how pretty it looks.
  7. Slice, eat, pore over the papers and pour some coffee.
  8. Enjoy that sort of morning while it lasts.

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