As the year passes, in too quickly a manner, there has been a burgeoning demand for precious moments and their savouring.
One of those precious moments happened last year, or perhaps a little before that, when I successfully made these Japanese soufflé pancakes. And since one of my life missions has been to having a professional feel for developing accurate, DELICIOUS vegan or plant-based reproductions of my favourite, usually nostalgic, breakfast or baking recipes, I couldn’t miss the chance to do so this time. I haven’t had these pancakes in ages, but they really are beautiful things. Admittedly, their sky-high, pillowy nature makes them not quite so pancake-like in the books of many purists, whatever continent may be in. Eating them, nevertheless, is pure ecstasy, and that’s what really matters. Each bite is weightless, teeth effortlessly sinking into these fluffy bodies. The little bit of sugar added to these pancakes suffices, coming through clearly purely due to all that air in each tower of a cake.
The addition of pumpkin purée here comes in handy after Fall, when you may still have half-cans of the stuff lying around. It adds the texture and flavour of egg yolk, which is what I originally use in the ‘normal’ recipe, without being intrusive with pumpkin’s own natural flavour. As for the Japanese (kewpie as it’s called) mayonnaise that’s one of the main stars in the normal recipe, vegan mayonnaise is used. I use the one by the brand Follow Your Heart, which tastes astoundingly like the real thing– crazy! The only thing here which isn’t exactly comforting is the use of white sugar, since I learnt that it’s common for the stuff to be made from bone char, and I am still trying to cut down on the use of refined sugar in general, since its general effects, both physically and mentally, just aren’t very desirable. However, I had some lying around and did not want to waste it, so that happened. Would be very grateful for any recommendations for substitutions!
Soufflé pancakes (serves 1-2)
4 tbsp pumpkin purée (sub: 2 egg yolks)
1 heaping tbsp. vegan mayonnaise (sub: normal mayonnaise if you’re not vegan)
The liquid from 1 can of chickpeas (aquafaba; sub: 2 egg whites)
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp white sugar
5 tbsp cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
some vegan butter for the pan during cooking
Prepare your pan and ring molds– you will need 3-4 4-inch wide ring molds for this. I actually did not have this on hand so I improvised and stapled together rings of aluminium foil to get the same effect. Note to self: use ring molds next time. The foil works but you have an increased chance of leakage at the bottom!
In a bowl, briefly whisk together the cake flour and baking powder. Then add the pumpkin purée, salt and vegan mayo. Whisk these together until you get a thick, dark yellow, almost paste-like mixture.
In a separate clean bowl, use an electric whisk to beat the aquafaba on high until frothy and mostly white throughout. Once you reach this frothy point, add the sugar and continue beating on high until you get a thick consistency. Aquafaba takes longer to whip up than normal egg white so be patient here– this can take up to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place your pan on the stove to preheat it on medium heat. Once thickly whipped, add the aquafaba to the pumpkin mixture and gently fold with a spatula (I recommend a rubber one) until you get an incredibly light and airy consistency. At this point, your pan will be rather hot. Place your ring molds on the pan and add the batter to one of the molds until it is ¾ full. Cover the pan with its lid and wait 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid– once you see that the top is rather firm, use a flat pancake spatula to flip the pancake with the ring mold still in tact, to cook the other side. Remove this pancake and put it on a paper towel on a plate to rest while you cook the rest of the batter.
Basically I have this problem. And no, I’m not talking about my pathetic sense of direction or the fact that I cannot walk in a straight line.
And this problem has manifested itself slowly and silently throughout my teenage years.
The problem is that I hardly ever go out to tea. And yet such a sophisticated English Rose occasion is crazily ubiquitous; millions of the common folk go out to experience this pinkies-up-whilst-drinking-earl-grey phenomenon. Yes, even here in the not-so-quaint Singapore. I remember going out for pain au chocolats with the maman and sister in Kensington, London, back when I used to live there. I’d hop onto a buggyboard at the back of my sister’s pram and we’d all stride along the leaf-littered streets just to chance upon a myriad of cafes, offering the tempting smells and charming, traditional sights. I cautiously sipped my mother’s cappuccino and crinkled my nose, not understanding the power of such a drug which I would only come to know of many, many years later. It’s rather nice to think about how many years I’ve lived, for it makes me reminisce and ponder and yet sadly, feel remorseful over. Everything there was sweetly carved in white brick and rustic wood, as if no other material would live up to the quintessential English Rose cafe. Even here, there are so many little quaint bistros, cafes and specialty dessert places which allow one the privilege to live the life of an uptown aristocrat from the 16th century. Perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing, but delightful all the same. Delightful.
Just an hour or two, but that’s really enough. The chance to sip tea and dig into petite cakes and souffles with a couple good friends was beyond what I consider to be privileged. Just a note: this all happened after Ruru and I managed to actually find the place.
Yes. The Pier!
Where on earth is that!
Somewhere on Mohamed Sultan Road. But I swear I can’t see it. I swear I swear.
Google Maps is utter crap.
I know, it should be here.
Panic, panic, panic. Before we politely asked a passer-by. She looked behind her and calmly mentioned that The Pier was right ahead.
In big letters too. The Pier.
Joy of joys. We sucked in our embarrassment, straightened our blouses and hurried over. The best things are always the most esoteric nowadays. Or perhaps it’s always meant to be this way to prevent hyperactivity and overly sensational ravings from the common peasants who wander along Orchard Road and nowhere else.
Their coffee and wine selection is most agreeable, with a whole section dedicated to connoisseurs of either.
Burns a hole in your pocket, too. My old school camp facillitator Aik Seng treated Ruru and I, and wanted to engage in some appalling splurging. That single-shot espresso macchiato right there was round about nothing less than $5 or $6, if I may correctly recall. I never was one for such price memorisation. It surged with the strength of real caffeine. Believe it or not I saved that little square of (hopefully) dark chocolate in the misty corner of my black tote, waiting for the right time. Today isn’t right, and tomorrow probably won’t be either. Somewhere, sometime in heaven perhaps.
Even though no one will be there anyway.
We quickly ordered the chocolate soufflé, since Ruru warned that it typically takes quite a while to prepare and then serve. I hurried the waiter, who I’m afraid to say failed to impress on any level.
At all. It took about 5 times before he stumbled towards our table, hefty with the pains of everyday life and almost steaming with a mild sense of rebellion. Service-wise, it was a terrific disaster.
This actually made my mouth water when I saw it make its way through the empty lit cavern, a dark-skinned king hailing triumphantly from the Land of the Oven. It rose almost obnoxiously from the pristine, gargantuan white thing of a ramekin, coupled by a lovely little scoop of raspberry sorbet.
Or in other words, its saving grace. I’m that type of person who can’t have a molten, gooey dessert my itself; it must certainly be accompanied by some wildly cold partner to lax its richness and offer some breezy, white-hued relief. The relief this time was in a becoming shade of baby carmine, good and icy, yet full of that frozen raspberry twang and punch.
Soft but not to the point whereby it was perfectly scoop-able and oh so dangerously fragile. The lady came with a tiny jug of hot chocolate sauce, which we all expected to flow out gracefully like a reincarnation of Wily Wonka’s chocolate river. Dark and seductive, making a nice small hole in the middle as it hit the centre, cracking its tissue-like surface and ravaging the fluffy holey interior.
We could not have been more wrong about anything in our entire lives.
The lady didn’t even pour anything, so we did so ourselves. Woe and behold, the sauce was thicker than the consistency of frozen nutella right out of the fridge. We literally had to force it out in thick , rounded globs. That chocolate flavour, I admit was well on spot, with the slightest hint of orange or perhaps even a tinge of Grand Marnier, to complement the rich electricity of dark chocolate. Could’ve had the whole jug if no one was watching (not like something like that would ever happen ever). It was just that terrible, terrible consistency which made my heart sink to the floorboards beneath and beyond.
I felt rather greedy when the other two had stopped picking at the souffle, but I continued to scrape and poke and prod and lick anyway. Story of a chocolate addict.
Thanks to my small lunch, I believe. I can be practical okay. If I possess some degree of sentience and sanity.
We attacked the middle to indulge in the tender warmth of its belly, before proceeding to enjoy the slight chewy crispness of the outside edges, warmed from the oven’s kiss and broil. All made just perfect with the contrasting tang of the raspberry. The one downside was that it was a smidgen dry, but the dense core and bottom were not lost, since even the little bits left over were obviously still very moist and slightly fudgy. But still a smidgen dry (and crumbly). Not as good as the strawberry one in La Bastide last year in December, but then again that would be like comparing little master with grand master in its native home. Partial comparisons make for no good comparisons at all, oui?
And no, you can’t go and have tea with a couple other lovely people and some riveting conversations on our lives and other random happenings with just one dessert.
Honestly. Be honest. Please, for you and for me.
It’s just not practical or sane. So we ordered another.
And that rounded the whole event off to make it perfect and beautiful and complete.
With a spoonful of whipped sweet cream for good measure (as if that will ever live up to the glory of the humble vanilla bean ice cream.) Comparatively, I actually preferred the texture and flavour of the chocolate souffle compared to this. Anything cakey or crumbly is not typically my cup of tea (all puns intended), but this was sufficiently moist. It said cake, not molten lava, so thankfully I was not let down by my own disappointment when there was absolutely no evidence of anything molten. Couldn’t help that small tinge of sadness, of course, but it was pleasing all the same, especially when paired with the sweet and aromatic vanilla. I quite enjoyed the bed of crumbled crackers which the ball of ice cream rested on. Textural variety is probably what I live for.
It’s Valentine’s Day today, isn’t it?
Wonderful! Let me revel in the magnificence of being absolutely single and elated in the blurred joys of life and raw freedom.
Laurent Bernard Chocolatier
80 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-11
The Pier @ Robertson Singapore