No-Bake Fridge Brownies with No-Churn Three-Ingredient Vanilla Ice Cream

Proud (me), happy (my stomach), sublime (everything about this).

If you’re in dire need of a some sin in your life, then I implore you to make these

no-bake, chocolatey, fudgy fridge brownies with no-churn vanilla bean ice cream.

AKA the epitome of i-am-lazy-and-my-oven-is-sometimes-incompetent type of baking. I have those days too.

When I’m all about easy, I mean it. This pairing of deep chocolate and smooth vanilla is irresistible. Classic. The best part is that you unload an inappropriate whopping of ice cream on a piece of brownie and nothing becomes goo for quite a while. I’m the sort who loves a beautiful melting mess, but the time delay prolongs the sensory pleasure of digging into the harmony of sweetness come together by the distinct separation of flavour. Then everything melds together, and the symphony is complete.

These brownies are fudgy, but still retain the texture of a brownie more so than plain old fudge. The addition of crushed biscuits gives it both sweetness and stability. An important point to note in this recipe is that the milk, cream and sugar should be boiled for at least 5 minutes so most of the water content has evaporated, before the other things are mixed in. This will yield the best fudgy texture after less time in the fridge. And the ice cream? It just couldn’t be more straightforward.

Ingredients

For the fridge brownies:

280g (1 1/4 cups) white sugar

120g unsalted butter

90g (less than 3/4 cup) plain flour

240ml evaporated milk/ whole milk/ light whipping cream/ coconut cream

1 cup crushed biscuits (I used Nice coocnut biscuits, but you can use anything you have in the pantry, such as crushed cereal or oreos!)

175g (1 cup) chocolate chips or chunks

pinch of salt

optional add-ins: more chopped nuts/ chocolate chips

For the no-churn ice cream:

600ml whipping cream

450ml (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract/ 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste/ the insides of one vanilla bean

Directions

Pour the milk, butter and sugar into a large saucepan and heat on medium heat until everything comes to a boil. The mixture will froth and seem to double in volume so it’s important to have a large, not small saucepan here. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and stir in the flour, salt, crushed biscuits and chocolate. The chocolate will melt and turn everything a rich brown colour. Pour this mixture into a greased 8×8 or 9×9-inch baking pan and place in the fridge to set for 3 hours, or overnight.

In a large bowl and with an electrical whisk, pour in the can of condensed milk, whipping cream and vanilla. Beat until you have soft peaks, then pour into a freezer-safe container (I just used a plastic tupperware box), cover and place in the freezer for at least 4-5 hours, or overnight.

And that’s it! Since these components are meant to be left in a cold environment, they last for ages in the freezer (or just leave the brownies in the fridge), and they can be taken out at any one point in time to enjoy together.

Make This Oatmeal Now (updated recipe with a twist)

I thought I had it all figured out, given the number of times I’ve made oatmeal in my life. Overnight, hot, cold, lukewarm (ew), apple-pied, black sesame-ed, peanut buttered, I’ve done it all. I even wrote a post about it here exactly a year ago, yet I only just discovered what I think is the perfect method for making the thickest, creamiest oatmeal ever. Trial and error does pay off sometimes. It’s more reliable, oats coming out perfect every time. Mind you, this method is preferable is you like the super thick and gloopy sort, but even if you don’t, you just have to take your oats out of the microwave a little earlier.

Catch– it involves the microwave. I can hear the disappointed sighs. They’re boring into the screen already, reaching me, slaps in the making.

I get it, I do. I used to think the only way to achieve the perfect, creamy consistency for oats is to do it the proper and old-fashioned stovetop way. The whole process just makes more sense, it wants you to feel like you’re doing it the better way, doesn’t it?

Funnily enough, this microwave method not only yielded the most desirable consistency, it also seemed to enhanced the flavour of mashed banana, the one ingredient I always put in before cooking my oats for added sweetness and creaminess.

No wait. Just do.

Directions 

The night before, mix together a half cup of rolled oats, half cup of water, half a mashed banana, and a half cup of milk of choice (I always use a mix of whole and almond) in a relatively large, microwave-safe bowl (because this mixture will se. Leave this in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, put your bowl in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Take a spoon and mix, then put in the microwave for another minute. At this point, your oatmeal should be noticeably more voluminous and thickened, depending on the power setting of your microwave. Microwave in 30-second increments until you have oatmeal that seems to have more than doubled in volume. Just check your oatmeal every 30 seconds, mixing well between each spurt of heating. Err on the side of caution here.

And you’re done! At this point, you can add whatever you want. My standard toppings are more banana, a heaping tablespoon of almond butter (cashew/peanut/almond), blueberries for a nice tang to cut through the sweet goop, and plenty of honey or maple syrup. Once the oatmeal is a little cooler, I also add a dash of cold, whole milk.

BUT. In this case, I highly recommend trying out this kaya and coconut twist. It’s the sort of combination I’ll be coming back to again and again, for the flavours are close to my heart and it’s a nice break from your typical snack of kaya and butter toast!

The Twist

You should now have a thick, creamy, voluminous mass in your hands. Take the other half or a whole banana and slice it down the middle. Butter a hot pan and fry the banana on both sides. Place the caramelised banana on top of the oats, then add a heaping tablespoon each of almond butter and kaya (I love Breadtalk or Yakun, and my grandma makes a mean one too), a generous drizzle of maple syrup, coconut flakes and a dash of whole milk. Mix everything together, admire the glorious mess, then tuck in happily.

Semolina Pear Pudding Cake

In all honesty, I’m not quite sure how to kick this one off.

Because look at it.

Do you like pudding? Or cake? Maybe both? If you’re into something soft yet firm-crusted and perhaps a little gooey on the inside, then fill yourself with hope. I had this for breakfast this morning and haven’t looked back. Why did it take me so long to get to this stage of sunlit ecstasy (what does that even mean)? Embarrassingly, I have too many questions to ask myself.

It’s the 3rd day of June and I feel like having a third cup of coffee. I like looking at the stains up and along the sides of the cup, a few viscous drops never really making it halfway down the porcelain breadth. Although some things in my personal schedule have shifted a little, constants remain, like almost-selfish spaces of time to myself, spent with a good book, science literature… and, yes, absolutely random ovenputtogethers baking bonanzas. I’ll be truthful and say that I still prefer the taste and texture of traditional baked cake, but semolina, or coarse, purified durum wheat, indeed lends a more interesting albeit unorthodox flavour.

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Let’s go through the motions.

What we have here is a layer of pears on the bottom, then a semolina cake enriched with plenty of vanilla and a little elderflower cordial, then another layer of pear. Everything is brushed with what would seem like too much elderflower syrup after baking.

With regard to the pears, I used the soft and sweet Comice, but any sort will work perfectly here, be it the firmer variations like Bosc or Concorde, or even Green or Red Anjou. Whatever’s lurking in the closet. I was initially afraid of using the sort which is perfect eaten raw, for fear of everything disintegrating into fruity mush, but the recipe yielded a surprisingly pleasing result; the moisture of the soft pear paired wonderfully with the drier cake (pre-drizzle of course).

A few notes:

– I term this a ‘pudding cake’ only because such a label is a near-perfect representation of the final texture– that is, coarser and of a much less refined texture thanks to the semolina, yet slightly squidgy, especially around the parts of the cake near the cooked pear. The ‘pudding’ part is only achieved with the liberal drizzle of elderflower syrup, as well as the no-holds-barred addition of heavy cream later on. Which brings me to my second point:

Please do yourself a favour and have this drenched in heavy cream!

– Whilst drizzling the syrup, you will notice that you will only be able to do so on the parts of the cake not covered by the pear (obviously). That’s alright, because the moisture from the pear seeps into the surface it covers, so everything is nicely balanced.

I’m not quite sure what exactly compelled me to pair semolina with pear, but I’m glad keen instinct drove me to do so.

Semolina Pear Pudding Cake with an Elderflower Syrup Drizzle (serves 9-12)

Ingredients

113g (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature or just slightly softened in the microwave

235g (1 cup) white sugar

2 eggs

120ml (half cup) milk of choice (I used a mix of whole and almond milk)

1 tsp vanilla extract

365g (around 2 cups) semolina

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

3-4 pears of your choice (as mentioned above, I used Comice, but any sort is fine, and the amount you need will depend on the size of your pears)

For the elderflower syrup: 1/2 cup elderflower cordial mixed with 1/2 cup filtered water, mixed and warmed in the microwave for a while.

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F), and grease and line an 8×8 or 9×9-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (semolina, salt and leavening agents) and set aside. With an electrical beater, or using a whisk and good old bicep strength, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract, until pale and very fluffy. Beat in the eggs, then the milk. Pour in the dry mix you set aside and fold in using a spatula until everything is just combined. The mix will look pale, coarse and rather thick.

Core and cut your pears into slices around a 1/2-inch thick, and place a layer of slices on the bottom of the pan. Scrape the cake batter into the pan and use the spatula to make the top smooth, spreading the batter into the corners. Layer more slices on top, but make sure there’s some space between the slices for the syrup later on. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-28 minutes, or when a wooden skewer inserted comes out clean. This took me around 26 minutes. While the cake is baking, mix together the syrup ingredients.

Remove the cake from the oven and drizzle on all of the syrup. Yes, all of it! This is what will ensure the pudding-like result. To serve, scoop some of the cake onto a plate and cut in half horizontally. Sandwich 2 or 3 slices of pear in between the slices, then drench everything in heavy whipping cream. Enjoy whenever.

Paddy Hills

I have my personal favourites when it comes to cafés, places I am willing to visit time and time again because they’ve proven themselves to be worthy of sustained customer support. Places which make you feel like you bloody well deserve that pocket of time to yourself, do most of their stuff from scratch, and leave you feeling that much better about yourself. Good food, service, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you get the feel. These days, I find there is a serious influx of new cafés, all hidden in some back alleys, all seemingly rushed, not that I know any of what goes on behind the scenes of course, but nothing truly stood out, beckoning me with come hither vibes. But that’s exactly what Paddy Hills, the newest, half-pretentious, corner-of-the-block little café, did. When I walked in, a kind young lad with a grey beanie I desperately wanted for myself greeted me. I looked around and soaked in the delicious atmosphere– no arse-challenging seats, perfect for actually sitting, would you believe it? There was a large communal table where people chatted and worked on laptops. The air was cool, and indie folk was blaring audibly from above, but nothing intrusive. So far, so good. I was scared of thronging crowds, being packed sardine-style in between customers. It was a blistering hot Thursday at precisely 12pm, and I was waiting for pain. Thankfully, pain was something I didn’t experience. Lucky shot? I should think so. I haven’t written a review in ages, and only find it fitting to revive a well-missed habit with this one. I don’t remember being this excited about visiting a new f&b startup. Look, I do my fair share of stalking. I’ve recently cut down on my gross Instagram usage, but when it comes to that occasional hour of scrolling freedom, that mindless but glorious activity which is supposed to suppress boredom, I make full use of it. How could I not visit a place that sells the most photogenic food I’ve seen in a long time? I’m quite a stickler for tradition, but the dishes, which, although looked modern (obviously well-filtered) and had components which were separated for a contemporary effect, still seemed to speak volumes about flavour. It is this wordless, throbbing excitement which enticed me to hop over to the other side of the country, something I deem a fair feat in light of my usual reluctance to travel far distances for the sake of a good cuppa joe, and especially thanks to all the bird’s eye view shots of this berry ricotta hotcake. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Berry Ricotta Hotcake with blueberry sugar, berries, pine nuts, mascarpone and maple syrup–$19

Now isn’t that a beauty. I marvelled for a while, too scared to touch the forest of berries let alone tuck in. The best part was definitely those perfectly crisp, mildly caramelised edges, a golden-brown ring of sweet, rigid bite. The best bite comprised these three components: a nip off the crisp edge, a poke of fruit, and a generous lathering of mascarpone from the ball of the stuff sitting on top. If one is lucky, you may get a bit of warm blueberry nestled like a crumble surprise in the middle of the cake, or a sweet little bit of mascarpone, pockets of which are also found dotted on the surface of the cake. You work your way in. Alas, it gets a bit stodgy a bit too fast, too soon. It’s indeed one of the lightest and fluffiest cakes I’ve ever come across, but at that, the fluff notch was turned up a bit too high near the middle, right at the thickest part of the hotcake. I know I know– what? How can anything be too fluffy? And prior to my experience here, I would have to agree. However, this maximal fluff generated clouds of uncontrollable, pale crumbs, which refused to cooperate with each other to produce a more solid, manageable mass. I was expecting a glorified Mickey Dees hotcake, but it’s entirely different. I was grateful for the carpet of colourful berries on top, for not only did they make the whole thing like a fairy forest, they were also necessary to balance the cake, which has maple syrup infused in the batter. The crumb, though light and pale, had a consistency moist enough so I could still smush bits together with the cheese and fruit to enjoy each and every bite. If anything, they should attempt reducing the thickness of the hotcake, retaining those divine edges and increasing the density, for maximum brunch pleasure. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset The Asian Brick: bruleed brioche french toast, goreng pisang (fried banana fritters), butternut squash puree, purple sweet potato, yam ice cream, gula melaka and marcona almonds– $18

Though I didn’t have the chance to actually try this french toast, I was highly impressed by the presentation and complementary components of the dish. I had a nip of the yam ice cream, and it was creamy, light and flavourful. The fact that it’s homemade and everything so intricately presented made the steep price a tad more understandable. The next time I’m here, I’m definitely ordering this. They also offer things like orange ricotta pillows, which have orange caramel and a citrus salad. All very posh, like they’re on their tippy-toes and reaching for the fine lights of modern gourmet fare. And you know what? They’re almost there. On the brink of something truly impressive, if it weren’t for two things: the coffee and the waiting time. I ordered a 2-ounce flat white ($4), but it tasted subdued, sub-par. I expected a little more because I read many a review on how spectacular the coffee is. Perhaps I was simply unlucky. I wanted a nick on the palate, a bite of caffeine, something.. more. Thankfully for them, I’m willing to return to try the other enticing menu options. Yes, some time in the future, before I break the bank. Rating: 3.8/5 Paddy Hills 38 South Buona Vista Road 6479 0800

Tiong Bahru Bakery Valentines Day Special

It has been a long, painful while since I’ve done a tasting review. Well, any review, for that matter. You can imagine my excitement when I was invited for this one in particular, because the images of the new Valentines Day Special creations by the one and only Gontran Cherrier looked so moreish I swear there were drool pearls on my keyboard. No exaggeration here. Welcome to TBB.

Chocolate and hazelnut kouign amann ($4.50); pineapple and coconut tart ($8.50)
Clockwise: Chocolate and hazelnut kouign amann ($4.50), chocolate and orange marble cake ($18 a loaf, $4.50 a slice), and pineapple and coconut tart ($8.50)

If there’s anything so dangerous as to put a huge ‘DANGER: DEATH BY BUTTERY DELECTABLE CHOCOLATE PASTRY’ sign on it, then this chocolate and hazelnut kouign amann is it. It’s pronounced ‘queen’, by the way. I learnt that the hard way and got mildly embarrassed. This is it, friends. A monster, the provocative cousin of the sweet, light and fair original. Made with rich French chocolate and generous chunks of chopped hazelnut stuffed like sardines in between the multitude of buttery, flaky layers. The best bit is definitely the middle of the humongous chocolate snail– soft and almost squidgy, yet yielding just enough crunch to (almost) rival the incredibly, shatteringly crisp outer layers. At $4.50, it really isn’t too bad. You can be all good one day and have half. It’s about the saving. Be clever about it. It’s too good to wolf down in one shot anyway.

My favourite, I must say, was the pineapple and coconut tart. The ring of white chocolate on top was the almost de rigueur addition to the perfectly set pineapple mousse sitting atop a buttery, sugar pastry disc. I admit it looked a tad gaudy to me at first; I knew they wished to replicate the feel of actual pineapple rings, but I felt the tart would have fared better in my books (looks-wise) if the hole was filled with, well, more mousse. The filling was delicate without falling apart like my friend’s virgin, failed attempt at an airy-fairy chocolate mousse. It could have been a little tarter, yes, and the coconut chantilly cream was so lost in the world of pineapple that the minuscule piping on top of the chocolate did little for its flavour or acknowledgement. On the whole, this tart caters well to the masses, and is a little less sinful than the former mention with enough chocolate to render you senseless.

I was looking forward to the cake, but sadly, the little bite on my tongue felt like a mass of dry bubbles. Perhaps this was just a one-off mistake, a lost little batch, but I think more needs to be done to improve the moisture setting. It may indeed go well with a cup of tea or coffee (or kopi), doused in some overly sweet, caffeinated beverage, but I think the classic combination of orange and chocolate demands its own crowning without the need for anything extra to compensate. Pity.

Nougat and strawberry macaron ($8.50)
Nougat and strawberry macaron ($8.50)

If you’re anything like me and have a penchant for anything jaw-aching, be it sweet or sour, then you’re in for a treat with this one. Ok, it’s not exactly jaw-aching, but I revere nougat as a complement to anything, so that addition was much appreciated and welcome in my books. The fluffy chew of nougat played up the hard, outrageously hot pink shell, and real fresh strawberries cut through the sweet on sweet. I was offered that lovely, fresh grapefruit juice too, so I guess I managed to tolerate half the macaron without feeling overwhelmed by the candy-cane-happiness of it all, for it can get sickly. If this were less sweet and artificial-looking, it would have had a better chance at beating the lovely pineapple mousse tart. Ah, the details do matter.

Hop over to Tiong Bahru bakery to try at least a few of the new specials, because they won’t last forever! I must say, the original branch at Eng Hoon Street is still my favourite, with its slightly industrial, I-came-all-the-way-here-because-I’m-worth-it vibe. Small tables, smooth coffee, little snippets of conversation getting caught in the air, everything baked in-house.

Tiong Bahru Bakery

56 Eng Hoon Street

6220 3430

Open daily from 8am-8pm, closes at 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays