Overnight Vegan PB&J Chocolate Coconut Babka

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In the wake of weird, let’s bake. Let’s have some sweet to go round, softening the edges of confusion. Though I am no savvy politician, I simply can’t see why decisions have solidified as such. The morning throbbed with trepidation. But it’s up to us to look up, look ahead.

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Babka has been on my mind for a long time! There is so much about it to love. A tender fluffy crumb, the endless combinations of swirl and filling (chocolate and nuts is the traditional fave–a bulging filling at that), a possible icing, knowing full well it pairs perfectly with any steaming holiday-themed beverage…

So you make the dough, let it rest because you have stuff to do for the night, put it all together first thing in the morning, or perhaps 2 days later because you’re off for work at 7 the next morning and can’t be arsed to dress up some bread (and that’s ok!), then bake it, all the while smiling at the fact that the whole put-babka-together-and-roll dance occupied the time it would take to make any other meal, or maybe less.  The whole weekend I was seriously craving some peanut butter and jam action, and because I tend to like chocolate with anything too, and coconut because live life on the edge, I decided to throw in some chocolate coconut action into the game as well.

A soft, tender, sweet yeasted babka filled with peanut butter, jam, chopped chocolate, chocolate coconut spread, topped with a coconut milk glaze. 

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Swell morning.

I did mention veganising most, if not all my recipes from now on in my previous post, because accommodation isn’t illegal, and it’s actually really darn fun; not having eggs or dairy by mistake doesn’t mean it’s the end of humanity as we know it. You’re cutting down on ingredients, and replacing the necessaries with other cheap, easily-found ingredients. With my recent vegan endeavours, most of my meat-eating fanatics simply can’t tell the difference, unsuspecting of zilch gram of egg or meat or butter in there. Sometimes they beat the originals. It’s an enthralling process. Of course, this need not be completely vegan, so feel free to use butter instead of Earth Balance etc.

This. Babka. Sweet, buttery bread cradles nuts from your chunky breakfast spread, darkened selectively in places oozing with textured chocolate, hardened by the oven but molten in the centre. The coconut milk glaze glides over every crevice, letting the coconut-flavoured lashings of chocolate smushed on the inside sing.

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Take a bite, then sip your coffee. Saccharine bliss. This post is dedicated to my first #VirtualCoffeeParty, as well as to my dear friend Ella, who’s birthday is today.

Overnight PB&J Vegan Chocolate Coconut Babka (makes one loaf, or 6 thick slices)

Ingredients

For the dough:

250g flour

1 tbsp instant yeast

pinch of salt

45g applesauce

50g Earth Balance (or butter, or any vegan butter)

40g sugar (coconut sugar here would be great)

90ml plant or nut milk of choice (or plain milk)

For the chocolate coconut sauce:

100g chopped dark chocolate

1 tsp coconut essence

*alternatively, use a ready-made chocolate coconut sauce, like Sweet Freedom’s Choc Shot (mmmmmmmm)

For the filling:

110g chunky peanut butter

6-7 tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam

100g chopped dark chocolate

For the glaze:

100g icing sugar

3 tbsp coconut milk

 

Directions

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt together the butter/Earth Balance and milk of choice.

In a separate large bowl, add the flour, yeast, applesauce, sugar and pinch of salt. Mix together briefly, then add the milk-butter mixture and knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface. Shape into a ball, put the dough back in the bowl and leave in the fridge overnight or up to 48 hours.

The next morning, spray a pan and heat your oven to 200C. Make the chocolate coconut sauce– simply microwave together the ingredients and set aside for the timebeing. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface, into a rectangle slightly longer than the pan itself. Spread the peanut butter on the dough leaving a one-inch margin all round, then the jam, then the chocolate and chocolate coconut sauce. Roll the dough along its length so you get a long cylinder, then cut a slit down the middle lengthwise. Twist the dough, sort of like in a braiding fashion, then put onto your pan. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then bake for 25-30 minutes in your preheated oven.

While it’s in the oven, whisk together the coconut milk and icing sugar. Once baked, let it sit for 10 minutes before drizzling on the glaze, cutting and serving. Y-U-M.

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.

White Chocolate Macadamia Peanut Butter Bars

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Back to basics.

Nothing like a simple sin. Currently sitting in a café trying to remember just about every detail of my most recent creation. The coffee is making me buzz and I’m surrounded by 5 different accents. Just one thing springs to mind– how lucky I was to have yielded the results that I did with the oven that makes my heart quake.

White chocolate, peanut butter and macadamia nuts make up the base of this simple bar recipe, adapted from my favourite and reliable cinnamon roll blondies. They’re ridiculously simple to make, and yield the same squidgy and chewy innards as in the aforementioned recipe, save for a larger, thicker batch because I doubled the ingredients to suit my 10×10-inch pan. Golden crust, chewy edges and squidgy half-baked middle, chock full of white chocolate and crunchy bits of macadamia.

Peanut butter replaces half the butter quantity as stated in my original recipe, for a full-on peanut buttery experience. Though the flavour is more mild than overpowering, it adds a wonderful thickness and complements the brown sugar, the main sweetener in this bar recipe, the tinge of molasses further characterising this brown-sugar-cinnamony wonder.

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White Chocolate Peanut Butter Macadamia Bars (makes a thick batch in a 9×9 or 10×10-inch pan), adapted from my favourite cinnamon roll blondie recipe

Ingredients

For blondies:

250g (2 cups) all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

pinch salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

70g (5 tbsp) salted/unsalted butter, melted in the microwave

130g (½ cup) smooth peanut butter

80g chopped white chocolate, 20g chopped macadamias (or you could use Rittersport’s 100g bar of macadamia-studded white chocolate!!)

40g more of chopped white chocolate and macadamias (combined), for sprinkling on top afterward

220g (1 cup) dark brown sugar, packed

200g (1 cup) white sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp whole milk

 

For frosting:

5 heaping tbsp hazelnut chocolate spread

5 heaping tbsp smooth peanut butter

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and grease (and line if you want) a 9×9 or 10×10-inch square pan. Make sure your butter is microwaved until all melted–do this in a microwave-safe bowl in a 30-second increment and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, leavening agents and salt. Tip in your chopped white chocolate and macadamias and briefly toss in the flour mix to coat everything well. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, two sugars, vanilla extract, melted butter and peanut butter. Pour the dry mix into the wet mix and fold until everything is well incorporated. You may or may not need all 2 tbsp of milk, but add until you achieve a smooth dropping consistency. The batter should be light brown and will stick to your spoon or spatula until a sharp flick of the hand will force the batter to drop back into the bowl. Pour the batter into your pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in your preheated oven for 15-17 minutes.

Whilst the bars are baking, whisk together the ingredients for the frosting. Roughly chop the extra white chocolate and macadamias. Once the bars are cooked, leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into however many bars you like. Use a knife to spread some frosting on each, then sprinkle on the chopped white chocolate and macadamias.

 

Peanut Butter Stuffed Salted Brownie Cookies

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Cancelled morning lectures obviously means whining here about it being the last week of term and waxing lyrical about all things chocolate (once more). A bit on that later. If I start on chocolate now, I’ll probably forget to add other mundane details about my life, and who would want that right? The ‘first day of the last term’ is a funny thing to say; it really didn’t feel all that long ago when I was panicking to my mother about basic things I might or might not be able to do, like laundry, bedsheets and having enough Asian fare in uni to keep me sane, because the impulsive decision to buy Tesco meal deals doesn’t quite cut it most of the time. It’s all just whizzed by much too fast. The Friday flight home is both an ecstatic and nauseating thought to me.

Despite my pension for café fare, I’m embarrassed to say that not once have I had my favourite alone-time at any one café, though I’ve definitely had the chance to visit some must-see places on my list. I should do a write-up about one of them soon, before I forget and the tides of life push me far ahead, me in blissful oblivion, once more.

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The other day I bought the loveliest little tub of peanut-speckles cashew butter, and just knew I had to use it another mind get-up. It’s practically peanut butter because of all those peanut bits, and since not everyone likes cashew butter and peanut butter is easier to find in stores, I decided to put peanut butter in the recipe title instead of what it really is. It’s not even the processed sort, which some recipes insist on for better results, but really you get a perfect peanut-buttery flavour upon first bite even with the natural unprocessed stuff.

The densest, fudgiest brownie cookie with white chocolate and dark chocolate bits, filled with peanut butter (and in this case, for the sake of aesthetic and flavourful pleasure, salted caramel spread on top). 

I like food hybrids like cruffins and cronuts and whathaveyous. Brownie cookies are on the list. The shape and form resembles that of a cookie, but the texture is all of what you want in a good fudgy brownie– this is not quite the chewy sort, but more dense and fudge-like. Definitely more than what you would guess the texture is akin to in the first picture above. The middle is soft, the edges still squishable. Best part? Adjacency of salt and sweet. Nothing beats it. Yes, my description vocabulary needs a bit of a boost, but squishable is still a word. And an accurate one here, at that.

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Peanut Butter Stuffed Salted Brownie Cookies (makes 18-20 medium-sized cookies)

Ingredients

125g (half cup) creamy/chunky peanut butter (natural or processed; either works fine)

30g (1/4 cup) powdered sugar (doesn’t need sifting)

large pinch salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

210g (slightly less than 1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour

35g (1/2 cup+couple of tablespoons) cocoa powder, doesn’t need sifting (I suggest Green and Black’s here)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

115g (1/2 cup or 1 stick) salted butter (unsalted works too, but flavour is enhanced with salted)

230g (1 packed cup) dark brown sugar

60g (a heaping 1/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

110g (one heaping half cup) of dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

*optional: an extra handful of white chocolate chunks/chips (30g) and one heaping tablespoon of salted caramel sauce

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease (line if you want) 2 baking trays. In a medium bowl, mix together the first 4 ingredients to make the peanut butter filling. Roll into small balls; you should have around 20 balls, if not more or less. Place the balls on a small baking tray and place in the freezer while you work on the brownie cookies.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, chopped chocolate (both white and dark) and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, two sugars and vanilla extract (add the heaping tablespoon of salted caramel here, if you wish!). Pour the dry mix into the wet mix and mix until just combined. Take out the frozen balls of filling from the freezer. Scoop a heaped teaspoon of dough onto a baking tray, then place one ball of filling in the centre, press down a little, then take another teaspoonful of dough and place on top, smushing around the sides of the filling ball so it’s nicely covered. Repeat until the balls are all enclosed within the gooey chocolatey dough you made.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes– resist baking for longer even though the cookies look and feel weak to the touch after such a short baking time. If you happen to have made very large cookies, then bake for 11-12 minutes, but nothing more than 12. Leave to cool for at least half an hour before eating. These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days, but they’re best eaten within 2 days, during which they retain the ultimate taste and texture. Eat with coarse salt sprinkled on top or more salted caramel sauce.

10-minute Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Frosting

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Look down at my boots. The wind gets through even those. Tights? Never thick enough. But thank God for Barbours. It’s getting colder… And colder. Despite the bitter air and occasional drizzle that somehow makes the situation 5 times worse, I’m embracing the sudden transition into proper fall here in the UK. Couldn’t believe it when a friend posted a video of soft snow right outside her window, here in South Kensington. It’s happening!

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The cold means more warm chocolate somethings, topped with chocolate caramel peanut butter frosting. Chocolate anythings. Some days just demand brownies, and only brownies. The first time I made this and followed the initial recipe, the whole 20 minutes made it much too dry for my liking, so I adjusted proportions and timing. Lo and behold, everything was gooey and beautiful in less than 10. The excitement was too much. Too much.

You need that rich goo. A dark, deep, intense pleasure. If I want a good, fudgy brownie that’s chewy around the edges, my go-to recipe is right here, so I implore you to check that out as well; it’s just as simple and almost as quick. This is more a mix between a gooey mud pie and dense cake, but the change is welcome and delicious. Topped with caramel peanut buttery goodness, it really doesn’t get much better than this. What do I love so much about this recipe?

  1. It takes 10 minutes. And in my case, just 7, because sometimes miracles happen.
  2. You can use either natural or processed peanut butter (crunchy, if you may) without any disastrous consequence.
  3. You won’t stop licking and picking.

 

Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Frosting (adapted from Sorted Food’s Swedish Chocolate Brownie recipe- serves 9-12)

Ingredients

For the brownies:

110g (half cup) salted, melted butter (or use unsalted, and add a pinch of salt into wet ingredients later)

200g white caster sugar

2 eggs

130g plain, all-purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

55g cocoa powder

40g dark chocolate, melted in a microwave in 30-second bursts

 

For the frosting:

90g ( slightly more than 1/4 cup) chunky/smooth peanut butter; natural peanut butter works perfectly here as well, just make sure it’s properly mixed through

50 dark chocolate chunks, melted in a microwave

75ml (1/4 cup) caramel sauce, store-bought or homemade

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease a square/round 23cm baking pan. In a bowl and with a whisk, mix together the melted butter, sugar, melted dark chocolate and vanilla extract. Add the salt here if you used unsalted butter. Whisk in the eggs and cocoa powder, and continue whisking until the mixture is visibly and texturally stickier and glossier. At this point, add the flour and mix until everything is just combined. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Whilst it’s baking, mix together the frosting ingredients. You need a fork and self-trust (that you won’t finish the whole bowl before the brownies are even out).

Check the brownies at 7 minutes- there should still be a slight wobble in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool for a half hour before frosting. Cut into as many squares as you want, then eat and be happy.