Kaya Mochi

A few of you have asked me previously about my diet, and why I blog about breakfast and dessert specifically. I must say, I have recently made a minor, albeit profound change. To sum it up, I adopt a mostly plant-based, whole foods diet. The main reasons for this are:

Eating Animals

Forks over Knives

The China Study

Why the deprivation? Meat tastes the best!! I modified my About and FAQ’ page to cover a few points, but the above links are what induced a fixated curiosity on our warped nutritional conventions in the 21st century. So go ahead, click click click. On all the links.

Despite everything I say on adopting this diet, part of me feels a little sad because I do still eat a little meat, rendering my conviction less extreme, less concrete. It’s cultural convention to eat meat prepared for you, say, by your genius cook of a grandmother. This is why I still eat meat, albeit much less, replacing most of it with more starch and vegetables. And you know what? I haven’t felt better. Since the difficulty is justified, for reasons both ethical and environmental, ‘plant-based’ no longer carries the weight of ‘deprivation’ anymore. It really doesn’t. And I’ve finally come to realise that this is the right thing to do. If any of you have a similar experience with this, I’d love for you to share.

The second bit on why I choose to blog about breakfast and dessert specifically is also in the FAQ. I mean, my sweet tooth obviously deserves a bit of criticism. So check out the page for all that jazz as well.

Ok. Let’s talk about mochi!

Actually, I don’t know why that elicited an exclamation, because truth be told, I never was the biggest fan of mochi. I honestly just felt like trying something a little different. Increased exposure and this experiment indeed reversed my dislike.

Mochi is a delicate Japanese dessert, its name being derived from the type of flour used to make it– mochiko (rice) flour. Plus points for anyone who would potentially benefit: rice flour is gluten-free, with a substantial amount of niacin and B6. Amazing how it still yields such a chewy texture after being combined with the other ingredients. Typically stuffed with this divine, sticky red bean paste, but I changed it up just a little, deciding instead to fill it with homemade kaya (pandan spread). Weaved nostalgic taste into a minor innovative tweak. Each bite was sticky, slightly chewy, and bursting with the earthy, coconutty goodness of kaya.

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Kaya Mochi (makes around 10 depending on how big you like them, mochi dough recipe)

Ingredients

160g mochiko (rice) flour

180g icing sugar

300ml (1.25 cups) water

cornstarch for dusting

8-12 tsp kaya

Directions

Ready a large bowl full of cornstarch for dusting your hands and the mochi.

In a saucepan, whisk together the flour and water. Turn the stove heat to medium, add the sugar, and use a wooden spoon to continue stirring. Cook the mixture until it starts to look almost gelatinous, around 7-10 minutes. You will see the mixture thicken, and look slightly glassy on top. Leave to cool for another 10 minutes before touching and fiddling. Dust your hands with cornstarch, then scoop a bit of the mixture with a teaspoon. This bit onwards is a slightly sticky ride, but it’ll be worth it! Roll between your palms until you get a smooth, white ball. Use your fingers to flatten it a little, and place a tiny dollop of kaya in the middle. Gently pull the sides over the ball, and gently roll the mochi again to get an even sphere.

Dust with a mix of cornstarch and icing sugar before eating. Store in the refrigerator for up to a couple of days.

Date Custard Tart with a Pistachio Crust

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In spite of all the pre-planning in the world, my usual baking endeavours still entail some degree of dilly-dallying beforehand. Well, not this time. I was standing in the kitchen, and knew I wanted a tart. A good tart with a finely baked crisp crust, and some sort of fudgy, gooey middle. Something with depth and exuberance and sin all round.

Put simply: I’ve been sooo into dates recently. Nothing really beats a huge, gooey medjool date. Peel one open and you get an untidy split down the middle, unveiling a thin seed and bountiful, sweet, sticky flesh. Yum. So… Date, custard, pistachios? A combination you would perhaps find in a specialty baking store, and a combination I almost haphazardly threw together. A combination that works.

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Little Maddie was all too keen on having her nose pressed up against the side of the tart shell. I look at her differently now, especially after finishing Eating Animals by Foer. I personally hold many strong views on meat-eating now, but that’s a whole other story that deserves its own section or post.

The crust itself is made of just a few things, and is completely eggless– roasted pistachios, flour, butter, sugar and salt. Et Voila. All you really need is a food processor, otherwise you could really just buy ground pistachios and mix the rest in by hand. And the custard? Another story of ease.

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Dates smushed in the middle of a dense custard, offering perfect contrast to the hard exterior. The crust is buttery and flaky, holding little resistance to any give, thanks to the lack of eggs. What I like is that you can eat this tart alone hot or cold, or with ice cream/ cold whipped cream. I had a thin slice straight out the oven with a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream, which was absolute heaven. The next day, I tried it cold as I put the remains in the fridge, and that was equally sublime. The custard was more set, but if you prefer it a little more warm and watery, all you have to do is microwave it for a couple of minutes.

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Date Custard Tart with a Pistachio Crust (makes 2 9-inch round tarts, or one 9-inch round and one 4×11-inch rectangular, adapted from here)

 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

290g (around 10oz or 2 cups) roasted, de-shelled pistachios (salted/unsalted)

260g (2 cups) plain flour

225g (1 cup) white sugar

pinch salt (not needed if you’re using salted pistachios)

250g (2 sticks+13g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

For the filling:

9 medjool dates

300ml heavy cream

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract

2 heaping tbsp greek yoghurt (can substitute with more heavy cream or sour cream)

4 egg yolks

3 tbsp sugar

 

Directions:

In a food processor, grind your pistachios until you get a coarse meal. Chuck in the flour, sugar and salt, and pulse until everything is well incorporated. Tip the mixture into a large bowl and whisk (or mix with a wooden spoon) everything, making sure the pistachio meal is evenly distributed in the dry mix. Add the softened butter, get your hands in and mix everything together. This shouldn’t take too long. The dough will be easy to break apart, yet dense and moist. Put the bowl containing the dough into the fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

After 20 minutes, take the dough out and ready your tart tins. Greasing isn’t necessary because all the butter in the dough does just the job, but if your tart molds are old and not very trustworthy, then go ahead and give them a light greasing. Break your dough in half (or store half in the freezer if you’re just making one tart) and press into your tart mold, making sure to have a thick enough layer on the bottom and sides. Bake the tart for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for 5 minutes straight, or until visibly light, runny and fluffy. Whisk in the cream, yoghurt and vanilla. Once the tart crust is half-baked, remove from the oven and press in you (de-seeded) dates as shown in the picture above. The heat of the oven will soften them even more, making the insides even gooier, if such a word could exist. Pour the custard on your tart(s), then put back carefully in the oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Check the tart at 10 minutes– the top might have some soft brown, caramelised patches. The tart should still hold a little wobble when nudged at the side.

Remove from the oven and set on a heatproof mat or stand to let cool for a while before cutting. Eat hot with ice cream, or store in the fridge for a while, before tucking into it cold.

Oatmeal Date Pancakes

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Straight up, no fuss.

Post-flight mornings warrant simplicity. Being back in Singapore is still very surreal– everything still feels the same, yet somehow different. Anyways. 13-hour flights typically leave me feeling a little bloated, distended, out of sorts. So all I want to come home to is my morning ritual comprising the papers, iced coffee, and a standard bowl of my favourite banana-based oatmeal. Yet somehow this morning I opted out of this bowl ritual in favour of something more texturally interesting. I craved that same fluffy texture, but it needed a robust edge. Heck, just something with edges. It needed fork and knife action.

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Was intrigued by why I favour oatmeal over other breakfast foods some days, or just when I’m especially hungry in the morning. It’s well known that the stuff keeps you feeling fuller for longer, but it’s only recently that I discovered that it has to do with a particular fluid property: viscosity. It’s the viscosity of oatmeal, that sticky, runny texture it has like glycocalyx on epithelial cells, that provides the feeling of satiety. Specifically, it’s the degree of initial viscosity in the mouth and subsequent viscosity in the GI tract that influences the release of appetite hormones. A high initial and subsequent viscosity, apparently best provided with instant oatmeal, will prolong fullness. My current favourite oatmeal is this one. It’s incredibly voluminous, nutritious and chock full of texture.

It’s all almost a bit silly. A good silly. Why would you straight up fry a perfectly good bowl of oatmeal? Oh, the wonders of a little pan action. The frying provides a crisp outside, while the inside remains fluffy and a little chewy, depending on how you cook the oats in the first place. The torn up bits of dates provide a good deal of goo and sweetness in each little pancake. These oatmeal pancakes are the halfway mark for proper versions of either oatmeal or pancakes, and I’m ok with that sometimes.

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Oatmeal Date pancakes (serves 1; makes 4-5 mini pancakes)

Directions

Make one serving of your favourite porridge or old-fashioned oatmeal: In a bowl, mash up half a banana, then add 45-50g (around a half cup) of porridge or old-fashioned oats, half a cup of milk of choice (I adore almond), and half a cup of water. Alternatively, you could use either just milk or water for the liquid bit. Preheat a pan on medium heat and ready some butter. Cook the mixture over the stove or in a microwave until you get the consistency you like. I like to microwave mine for 2 minutes, let stand for 30 seconds, then microwave again for another minute to achieve the perfect, just-under-thick consistency. Take out your oatmeal and stir in a pinch of cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar.

Once cooked, add a knob of butter to the hot pan and let sizzle. The butter should not brown or burn, indicating the right temperature. Ladle spoonfuls of oatmeal onto the pan and use the back of the spoon to flatten into a circle if it’s on the thicker side (as I like mine). Add the bits of date (optional) to the surface of the batter. Let cook for 2 minutes, then slide a spatula underneath to see if it’s done. Flip and let the second side cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove using the spatula and let cool on a paper towel while you cook the rest.

Serve as a stack, topped with peanut butter, more date bits, and maple syrup. I added some homemade raspberry chia jam for some tangy oomph.

 

One Bowl Banana Coconut Mini Bundts

 

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Sitting here at midnight, only thinking about the transience of so much. Day by day, shadows work their way around my feet. Before I’ve even come to terms with fact that term time is almost up, people in other unis have started summer, champagne bottles are being popped. Hyperactivity everywhere.

With all the frantic house-hunting and exam stress (and worrying over the efficacy of actual study technique), there’s comfort in the close strong bonds you know you always have with loved ones, and the smell of something warm and sugary rising in the oven. I knew I had to use my one precious, scratched mini bundt pan at some point before the end of first term. I hauled all my stuff from Singapore for a reason, right? Yeah, it’s been a while, but mea culpa.

Before I move on, a few things that’ve caught my eye this week. I do feel more inclined to share what I read regularly on this platform, which is pretty much everything nutrition/science-related:

Fascinating

Darya keeps linking the best, most informative and relevant articles

‘good science writing is not just about about turning over conventional wisdom about complex things.’ So much yes.

Love this man. A great retelling

And now.

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The fluffiest, softest mini cakes you will ever make, stuffed with mashed banana, topped with a coconut milk icing.

Now with blogging comes honesty. I’m not kidding when I add the ‘you will ever make’ bit, because they really truly are.  I just can’t kid when it comes to this sort of thing. Despite its ease and speed, this recipe has yielded the softest cake texture I have attempted by far. Stuff of cloudy dreams. I hate overhyping something, but the excitement is all too real right now. THE absolute best bit?

It’s all made in one bowl, just a bit of mixing, no elbow grease or sweat or fiddling whatsoever. No worrying about whether you have to ‘make time’, because you will have the time.

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These little cakes really are quite special. Perhaps it’s the irresistible fluff factor, or the mashed banana in the middle, making it a triple-layer banana hit. Probably both, not forgetting the slightly balmy, creamy addition of coconut. The next time I make these, I’ll add more coconut extract for an extra exotic kick. The delicacy of the crumb in this cake deserves the trueness of flavour.

You definitely don’t need a mini bundt pan for these, and can do the same thing in a mini muffin tin, or spread the batter in a square tin and bake for the same amount of time, then cut little squares/whatever your wild heart desires out of the final product.

And if you’re in the mood for more…

Feeling like cookie butter?

Or perhaps a little lemony?

Clearly I’ve run out of humour.

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One Bowl Banana Coconut Mini Bundts with Coconut Icing (makes 12-14 mini cakes)

Ingredients

For the cakes:

60g soft, unsalted butter

1 1/2 mashed bananas (should amount to a half cup)

an additional 2 mashed bananas for the filling

225g (1 cup) white sugar

2 eggs

60ml each of coconut cream and coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

190g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour mixed with a half tsp of baking powder (alternatively, use self-raising flour)

quarter teaspoon of salt

 

For the coconut milk icing:

2-3 tbsp coconut cream (or use coconut milk)

75g icing sugar

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and butter your mini cake/bundt/muffin tin. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and mashed banana together in a microwave to add a little caramelised effect to your already-ripe bananas, around 20 seconds. Pour contents into a larger bowl (makes mixing a bit easier later on), then add all the other ingredients for the cake, except for the 2 mashed bananas which you need for the filling afterwards.

Spoon a tablespoonful of batter into the bottom of a well in your tin, add a teaspoon of mashed banana in the middle, then fill the rest of the well with batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes (mine were fine at 18). Whilst they are baking, mix the icing ingredients in a bowl and set aside. It’s hard to test for doneness due to the moist banana filling, but a little poke into the sides with a wooden skewer should reveal a mostly clean tip. A few moist crumbs clinging to the tip are fine; these cakes are pretty fragile and need to rest in the tin for a good 20 minutes before removing anyway.

If using a mini bundt pan, use a serrated knife to cut the tops off (these make wonderful little snacks). Loosen the edges with a blunt knife (just use a normal dinner knife), then tip the pan over to remove the little cakes. You don’t need to do this if using a normal muffin or cake tin. Drizzle with the coconut icing and top with coconut flakes. Fragile, sugarplum fairy-esque teatime treats await.

 

 

Kaya Maple Loaf Cake

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If I had to choose the one local breakfast item I miss most from Singapore, it would have have have to be good, buttered kaya toast. Made complete with a steaming, frothy cup of teh tarik and half-boiled eggs. Thinking about it is already making me salivate.

Kaya toast to me is the epitome of simplicity done right– warm, charred white toast, the crusts traditionally, almost clinically removed with a sharp serrated knife, slathered thickly and unevenly with unsalted butter and a thick layer of homemade kaya. For those of you who do not know, kaya is basically coconut jam. A creamy, sweet, thick curd made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar. Some days I want butter and marmalade on my toast, others warrant almond butter, honey and banana, and sometimes it’s all about good old butter and kaya. The latter occasion has greatly increased in frequency.

This kaya loaf cake made with olive oil and maple syrup is your favourite local breakfast in one big warm hug of a loaf. It’s :

  • sweet, earthy, tender
  • such a breeze to make!!
  • got the most amazing sweet and crusty top
  • heaven in the morning
  • actually your new wake-up call

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It’s one of the most moist, dense (in a good way) and tender loaf cakes I’ve baked in a while, undoubtedly due to the texture of kaya itself, as well as the addition of olive oil, dark brown sugar and maple syrup.

The components all possess deep, earthy, sensual undertones which complement each other fantastically, the dark brown sugar providing a hint of molasses, the kaya’s almost-fluffy consistency offering milky sweetness and volume. I used nyonya kaya (couldn’t find the traditional brand on Amazon; the link I provide is the closest I could find but you should be able to find it at any oriental supermarket), but Hainanese kaya, which uses caramelised sugar and sometimes honey and is brown instead of green, would work perfectly too.

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Kaya Maple Loaf Cake (makes one standard 9×5-inch loaf), based loosely off my banana bread recipe

Ingredients

190g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

one generous pinch salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

60ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup

1 cup kaya (no metric measurement eek– you should be fine!)

2 eggs

120g (1/2 cup, packed) dark brown sugar

2 tbsp plain yoghurt (I used coconut yoghurt for extra pizzaz, but you don’t have to go that far)

120ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crusty top: 2 tbsp dark brown sugar+ 1 tsp ground cinnamon

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease (line as well if you wish) a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, whisk together everything else except the ingredients for the crusty top. Pour the dry mix into this wet mix and stir everything together well with a whisk or wooden spoon. Pour the thick, green-tinged mix into your greased loaf tin– the batter should appear quite wet and not very lumpy (like a typical banana bread batter). Mix the topping ingredients briefly with a fork in a small saucer and sprinkle evenly on top.

Bake in your preheated oven for 50 minutes, then remove and let cool for at least a half hour before slicing. Any leftovers can be stored at room temperature for 3-5 days, or kept in the fridge for a week. It’s wonderful toasted on its own, with a smear of salted butter and hot coffee.