Peanut Butter Banana Marshmallow Grilled Sandwich

Having woken up from a deep heady nap that lasted all of 1 hour, I finally feel motivated to share this. Sometimes I get ideas that I know may have been attempted before or seem too simple to write about, but even these should never be left behind, especially if they taste this good. I struggle to remember that it’s not about whether your idea has been attempted before, it’s about how well you do it.

I recently read an article about why people with anxiety or depression should not be eating processed, inflammatory foods so as not to increase inflammation in the body- one of the root causes underlying the mechanisms of neurological disease is inflammation. I have always known this, and would not stir at the accusation of me being something of a hypocrite, waxing lyrical the good fortune of nutrition and a plant-based diet, while I myself write lengthy blogposts about sugar. I understand, I do, but having experienced the terrifying nature of what restricting entire food groups can do to my own health (orthorexic tendencies, heightened anxiety in social situations centred around a meal), and trying to cut out sugar entirely many times, I know that such drastic measures do not cut it, at least for me. Which is why I promote these recipes not to promote diabetes, but rather a sense of moderation, to let people know that yes, it’s ok to have this cookie once in a while, and you won’t die. And of course you can whip out the stevia or trivia as substitutions if that suits you better…

Sandwich time. Speaking specifically about toasties, I ate these regularly in primary school, and was relieved to not have to pack lunch in high school because God forbid I got another one. Only kids eat these anyway, right? Yet, squidged between my regular Asian lunches of mixed economy rice, I found myself buying the occasional (tuna mayo) sandwich. Then university rolled round. One of my close friends offered to share his delicious-smelling toastie with me. I reluctantly tried the deceivingly simple concoction of cheese and tomato, and could not help the wave of nostalgia rippling through my body as I sunk my teeth into the pressed, golden bread, glossy on the underside with the perfect hit of mayonnaise, and I do feel that mayonnaise is the underdog in a lot of classic favourites. Here I replicate something similar for the sweet tooth- you can do this in a toastie maker of course, but I decided to do it on a stovetop for adaptability.

Why not jazz it up by pressing a croissant with the same combination too?

Ah, an unreal crisp. Golden, buttery bread giving way to a soft, goo-on-goo inside. Once again, so simple, such child’s play. And yet, so satisfying. Given the pandemic and all the political nonsense in the world now, it feels good and right to return to what grounded us as children- a safe and familiar haven. As humans we like to seek out patterns and familiarity, to some degree. This may be an element of that. Little things like making toasties and sharing them with coffee may even help us rewire our brains for positivity and excitement.

Note: you can use bread that is not white of course, but white toasting bread is usually the optimal shape for toastie making, readily absorbing the melted butter that you brush on top and letting the heat penetrate its pores when the toastie maker is ready.

Peanut butter Marshmallow Toastie

*indicates a vegan or gluten-free substitution that will be mentioned below the recipe

Ingredients

2 thick slices of white bread*

1 tbsp butter*

2 tbsp peanut butter

half a banana, sliced

handful of marshmallows, each sliced in half*

*vegan sub: use vegan butter or vegetable oil instead of butter (I suggest staying away from avocado oil as the flavour is too strong and will overwhelm the rest of the flavours). Use vegan marshmallows instead of regular marshmallows.

*gluten-free sub: use gluten-free bread

Directions

Take one slice of bread and spread one side with butter. Repeat with the other slice of bread (around 0.5 tbsp butter on each slice). If you’re using a toastie maker, use slightly less butter. Make sure your butter is soft before spreading. Then spread 1 tbsp of peanut butter on the other side of each slice of bread. Now have your two slices facing you with the peanut butter sides facing upwards. Put the banana slices on one slice of bread and the cut marshmallows on the other. Then sandwich the bread slices so that the banana and marshmallows face each other on the inside of the sandwich.

Heat your pan on medium heat and press the sandwich down. Use a spatula to press it. After around 4 minutes check the underside of the sandwich with your spatula- it should be golden-brown and the marshmallows should look melty. Flip the sandwich over and press down again. Cook for another two minutes. The banana should be soft and the peanut butter and marshmallows should be soft and melty. Cut whichever way you want and enjoy alone or with a strong coffee.

Peanut Butter Olive Oil Cookies

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A new year, another classic with a twist. I thought this post would come online much earlier to be honest, but with everything that’s been happening here, and with the past year’s late festivities and jolly holiday obligations, it well and truly has slipped my mind. I actually thought I already uploaded this one, really. Clearly I need help. But HERE’S to a symmetrical-sounding 2020.

I’m all for resolutions and change, but only if there’s a feasible plan involved. Some of mine include:

  • to stretch daily. I used to do this religiously everyday for 10-15 minutes, but lately I’ve gotten more into the habit of just cracking my back (and ew, my neck).
  • to do one thing at a time. It does feel good to multitask (read: supertask), but being at work and at home has made me realise how much more deep, focussed and creative work and creative thinking can be accomplished when doing one thing at a time. Slowly but properly.
  • to do a weekly review on Sundays. Sundays still remain days of reflection for me. Starting off with pancakes, proceeding to movies, then reflecting on what good and bad has happened throughout the week. It’s good to generally not take everything too seriously, so I won’t bash myself for foregoing all the apples I bought for my chocolate brownies, but it’s better at least to be aware of certain bad habits that may be unhealthy.
  • work on my personal/passion project at least twice a week.
  • eat out a maximum of twice a week!! And indulge in a drink once a week (been pretty bad health-wise recently so these will hopefully bring me to my senses again).

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If you read my previous post, perhaps you can tell I’m on a cookie roll at the moment. The end of 2019 saw me making the cream-cheese filled cookies too many a time and the start of this year has heralded a new star– the one and only peanut butter olive oil cookie and the token chocolate studs for all-round appeal. I was skeptical about giving this one a go because I was worried the olive oil would be too strong against everything else happening, but the oil is not too pungent here and actually adds a moist and fragrant depth. Together with the liberal sea salt sprinkle and melting chocolate in the middle, this is quite a gluey, peanut buttery dream.

Peanut Butter Olive Oil Cookies (makes around 7 cookies)

Ingredients

120ml (0.5 cup) olive oil

120g (0.5 cup) chunky peanut butter

300g (1.5 cup) light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs (vegan sub: use 3 flax eggs by mixing 3 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 7 tbsp water in a small bowl and let that gel for a couple minutes before using)

1 tsp baking powder

260g (2.25 cup) all-purpose flour

150g (a full bar) chopped chocolate

2 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with baking parchment. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, egg, peanut butter (preferably chunky) and vanilla extract. Then briefly mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, chopped chocolate and salt in a separate bowl, then tip that into the wet mix and stir well until everything is just combined. Put golfball-sized pieces of batter onto your prepared baking trays, flatten them slightly with your hands and sprinkle on some Maldon salt (or regular salt) on top. Put them, one tray at a time, into the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the middle of one cookie should come out with wet crumbs but the edges should be golden-brown and firm. Best enjoyed warm but can be kept for a few days in an airtight container, or freeze and reheat whenever you want (topped with vanilla ice cream!)

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.