Chocolate-stuffed Pillow Pancakes for One

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And it’s back to the pancake grind. Does anyone else think pancakes are just beyond magical? I mean really, think back to when you had one really good pancake, and all the suffering it may have alleviated. I’m not saying one must be dependent on pancakes (or good food) alone to be relieved of anything depressing or sad, because that in itself isn’t a case for good health. Good health need not mean a good pancake, but good health certainly leaves room for a damn good pancake.

My signature pillow pancakes have been my (and your) long-standing favourite recipe since I started posting recipes on this blog. Though it seemed initially banal to re-write a recipe which I’ve done too many times to count, it behoves me to re-write it for your benefit, just this once, because chocolate-stuffed pancakes do take these to a whole new level, and because it’s ‘for one’, you need not share, or worry about tidying up and freezing leftovers. Further, it’s the perfect way to use up any leftover chocolate frosting you may have from a cake or tart experiment. This is no pabulum or stupidity (the latter you may witness, though, in the current issue surrounding the new American immigration policy; I am both heartbroken and angered by such hoo-ha).

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A firm warning from yours truly– these pancakes will make you productive the entire morning. I topped mine with a homemade pumpkin spread and some granola given to me by my dearest Charlie, although these toppings are optional (and honestly, gave the photography shoot bit a nice bit of pop and fun). You’re good with some maple and extra chopped dark chocolate, and I imagine some good, thick coconut yoghurt would work so well.

I’ll dial the excitement down a shade, and leave you to it. The past week has been rife with friendly gatherings and good food, and I hope this does not stop for a long, long while.

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Chocolate-Stuffed Pancakes for One

Ingredients

For the pancakes:

80g plain flour, or use half plain and half whole-wheat

1 tbsp ground flax (optional)

1 tbsp coconut/white/brown sugar

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

2 tsp melted butter (normal/vegan) or coconut oil

100ml milk or mylk (I like almond or soy)

For the chocolate middle:

10g cocoa powder

30g icing sugar

splash of milk or mylk almond/soy)

 

Directions

The night before you make the pancakes, whisk the cocoa powder and icing sugar together, Drizzle in the milk/mylk drop by drop until you get the consistency of a smooth and thick chocolate icing. Put the icing on a plate, spread it out and put it in the freezer to set. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour(s), flax (if using), sugar, salt and leavening agents). Pour the rest of the ingredients into the dry mix and mix briefly with a wooden spoon or a normal dinner spoon. Continue to mix until everything is justt combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.

Preheat your pan on medium-high heat and ready some butter. You know the pan is hot enough when you flick a little water onto its surface and there’s a clear sizzle. At that point, add a little pat of butter, let it melt, and add a heaping tablespoon of pancake batter for your first pancake. Then take your frozen chocolate disc and place it in the centre of your first pancake. Add a little more batter to cover the disc. Wait for the pancake to cook through, or once you notice one or two bubbles forming on its surface. Flip the pancake and let it cook for at least 30 more seconds. Let this cool on a paper towel while you do the same for the next pancake.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever you want. They’re wonderful with banana and more chopped chocolate, its moist sweetness adjoining arms with the maple. What a Sunday.

 

Salted Vanilla Crispy Custard Puffs

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Though I hate to be picky, I guess I still can be. Almost every week, my mother buys bolo buns, or ‘pineapple buns’, for my sisters. These are sweet buns filled with sticky red char siu (sweet barbecued meat) filling, covered in a yellow tortoiseshell of crackly sugary goodness. It’s those charming cracks, glistening coats of crisp comprising pull-apart little tiles on each little bun, that get to me, more so than any other part. As I picked childishly at the top once, I was reminded of my first try of choux au craquelin, or crispy cream puffs with a similar sort of topping. Remembering I had some leftover custard that I used to make salted custard lava french toast earlier on in the week, the idea of custard puffs ossified.

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Cutting into a crispy, sugary coat to be greeted by voluptuous spillage of vanilla-speckled, slightly salty custard is one of the most lascivious but gratifying actions one can do. Hear the crackle, wade deep. The salt plays up the sweet, giving the drag of thick and cream a bit of angle, an edge. The craquelin itself may have been enough to satisfy me, but it’s a bite that makes the experience whole.

The last time I played with choux was probably more than a year ago, and a repeat this time reminded me of the requisite care in perfecting the robust dough which is easy to let fall apart if you overlook the temperature and timing of each ingredient addition.

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Salted Vanilla Crispy Custard Puffs (makes 6-7 medium puffs)

Ingredients

For the choux buns:

75g plain flour

50g butter

2 eggs, beaten

120ml water

1/2 tsp salt

 

For the craquelin (crispy top):

85g butter, softened

100g white caster sugar

100g plain flour

 

For the salted vanilla custard:

110g white sugar

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp salt

4 egg yolks

beans of one vanilla pod or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

30g butter

720ml milk

 

Directions

First, make the custard. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks and milk to a boil. Add the vanilla, then let the mixture continue to boil for 15-18 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture occasionally. Take off the heat when you see that the custard has thickened and readily coats the back of your spoon. Add in the butter and stir to mix. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with cling film and let this rest in the fridge while you make the remaining components.

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F) and prepare a baking tray lined with parchment paper for the choux buns. Make the craquelin: in a bowl, mix the ingredients for the craquelin together until you get a buttery dough. Roll the dough into a ball and put into  a plastic ziploc bag, sealing it. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out till it’s 2-3mm thick in the bag. Put this in the freezer.

Next, make the choux buns. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the butter, water and salt to a boil. Once you see that the butter has all melted, add the flour. Use a wooden spoon or whisk to incorporate until you get a dry-looking dough. Take off the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 minutes. Then, slowly whisk or beat in the eggs. It’s the eggs that provide the lift to the batter, readying it for the perfect little pocket in the middle. I like to do this in 3 additions. It’s important to keep whisking here and to do this slowly, as sudden contact between the hot dough and eggs and cause the eggs to scramble. The dough should be stiff enough to hold a peak when you lift up your spoon or whisk. Put the choux bun paste into a piping bag and pipe circles that are 3cm in diameter onto the baking tray, doing a little swirl at the top. Wet your finger with a little water and press down ever so slightly on top, so you get a more aesthetically pleasing puff.

Take your craquelin out of the freezer and cut out circles 3cm in diameter from the frozen, buttery block. Despite freezing, the slab is still relatively easy to break. You can use a metal cutter or knife to cut out the circles. Place the circles on the choux paste, and then bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes.

After baking, let the buns cool for 15 minutes on the tray. Take your cooled custard out of the fridge and put into a piping bag. Poke the tip of the piping nozzle into the bottom of a puff, and pipe until you feel some resistance at the point of contact between nozzle and puff. There is quite a bit of weight difference. Repeat for the other puffs. These buns can be stored in the fridge for 2 days or frozen for longer storage. If they have gone all soft after a while, you can re-crisp them in an oven, just bake them at 160C for 5 minutes.

 

Chocolate Beet Cinnamon Rolls (eggless roll recipe)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWith a chocolate beet glaze, and oh so much cinnamon, all lovingly wrapped up in what I believe is the softest, fluffiest, most tender roll ever. Did I mention you don’t even need eggs? I know it’s in the title, but I thought I’d reiterate. For that extra punch. It’s so easy, so good, so lazy-sunday-morning. In the sense that you want to yield a rather extravagant final product without actually labouring over a myriad ingredients and techniques all that much. I tell you, this roll recipe is a keeper. After a shocking realisation that I had zero eggs left in my pantry, I heavily doubted the final result, for eggs are a crucial binding component in yeast-based recipes, often offering a great degree of moisture and richness to the final product.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAs much as I support certain mainstay baking components such as eggs, I’ve always been intrigued by vegan takes, and the minimalism incorporated in its recipes are refreshing and revitalising. Thankfully, my initial doubt, that cringey reluctance, was turned into ecstasy and beyond.

Beet powder is of course optional here; these rolls would nevertheless taste wonderful without it. The addition of beet offers an earthiness, the quantity of which doesn’t overwhelm the obvious main star of the show here that is chocolate.

One important and rather underrated step here is the covering of the rolls with foil paper/ cling film prior to baking, which prevents burning the tops of the rolls and helps yield a firm outside and heavenly, tender inside.

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Chocolate Beet Cinnamon Rolls (makes 8-9 medium rolls; roll recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker)

Ingredients

For the dough:

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 cup (240ml) milk of choice– I used a mix of almond and whole milk

45g (3.5 tbsp) butter

250g (around 1 3/4 cups) plain flour, plus more for sprinkling on counter before kneading

pinch of salt+1 tbsp sugar

 

For the filling:

45g (3.5 tbsp) butter, softened to room temperature

100g chopped chocolate– I used a mix of milk and dark for flavour variety

1 1/2 tbsp beet powder (optional)

7 tbsp sugar mixed with 2 tbsp ground cinnamon

 

For the glaze:

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp beet powder (again optional)

4 tbsp milk

35g (1/4 cup) icing sugar

 

Directions

Dough: In a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan over low heat, heat together the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the mix is warm (not scalding) to touch. Pour the mix into a larger bowl, then sprinkle on the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt and sugar on the opposite side. Wait 5 minutes, then add a half cup of flour at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon between each addition. Once the dough is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured counter and knead for 2 minutes. The final result should be a smooth, rather taut ball of dough, so you may need slightly more or less than the aforementioned quantity of flour. Briefly grease the same bowl, pop the ball of dough in and let it rise until it doubles in size–around an hour. At this point, preheat your oven to 176C (350F) and liberally grease an 8×8-inch pan.

After the dough has risen, lightly flour your counter again and turn the dough out onto the counter. Roll it out into a half-inch thick rectangle. Brush on (I just used my hands here) the butter that’s softened to room temperature, then sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mix, chocolate and beet powder. Tightly roll the dough from the long end, so you end up with a long, pale tube of dough. Place the roll seam side down, and using a serrated knife, cut your tube into 8-9 rolls, each around 1.5 inches thick. Place them into the greased square pan. Cover the pan with foil (impt step– refer to above notes) and place inside your preheated oven. Bake the rolls for 17-20 minutes.

While they’re baking, mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small bowl. Once the rolls have finished baking, leave to cool for 10 minutes, then go ahead and glaze the heck out of them. These rolls are best eaten immediately or at least the day they’re made, however you can keep them for the next day and microwave them to revive a bit of tenderness.

Chocolate Truffle Maple Syrup Cake

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Describe the taste of maple syrup.

Research informed me that it depends on the degree of roasting flavour. Typical notes are coffee, chocolate and chicory, and for the strong roasting flavour, you get hints of burnt sugar and smoke. Whatever the degree, there’s something incredibly enticing about this ingredient in particular. I use it several times a week without fail, almost always on toast and always on the occasional Sunday pancake session, yet it only recently occurred to me how deeply embedded it is in my kitchen system. It sits there day after day, use after use, so giving, so heartwarming. I love maple syrup, and there are few things I like more than chocolate and maple syrup. The sophistication of a rich, dark truffle stuck in honey-coloured, maple-flavoured fluffy cake is a welcome picture.

With so many truffles lying around the house, I thought I might as well put them to good use. The sort I use here are 60% cocoa; your standard, powdered, melt-at-room-temperature truffles. My hands were an absolute mess working with them, but the mess only enhanced the pleasure of the whole process, even as I witnessed some smaller bits melt a little into the batter before anything even hit the heat of the oven.

Your fork dives in. Zero resistance as it goes right through the pale, tender, moist body, and then maybe just a little once you hit a pocket of slightly stiffened chocolate goo. Break the cake apart. It’s a mess of black and white, a welcome juxtaposition of soft, fluffy crumbs and dangerous dark hotpockets. Sin trapped in something all too normal, all done before. No truffles? That’s ok, just use broken up bits of your dark chocolate bar. The effect won’t quite be the same with the whimsical shape irregularities and molten middles, but I would think it would be almost as delicious.

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Chocolate Truffle Maple Syrup Cake (makes 16 squares, heavily adapted from my cinnamon coffee cake)

Ingredients

165g all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

55g (less than 1/4 cup) white sugar

115g unsalted butter at room temperature (or microwave cold butter in 15-second increments until it’s a little warmer and soft to touch)

120ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk, or make your own by putting half a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar into your measuring cup or jug and filling it up to the mark with whole milk (let this mix sit for 5 minutes at room temperature before using).

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

100ml (1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon) maple syrup, and more for drizzling

9-11 medium-sized (around 2 inches wide) chocolate truffles, a few broken up into smaller pieces, or if you don’t have truffles, just broken up bits of a good quality dark chocolate bar.

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F), and butter and line an 8×8-inch square baking pan. What I like to do is butter the pan liberally, before placing down a piece of parchment that has 2 sides which are 8 inches, and the other 2 slightly longer so that it’s easy to pull out the bars once cool. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) except for the sugar in a medium bowl.

Beat together the butter, maple syrup and sugar in a separate bowl. In a smaller bowl (yes there are 3 bowls here, but the washing up is not much pain, promise), whisk or beat together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add half of the dry ingredient mix and half of the egg-buttermilk mix to the butter and maple syrup mix, and then beat to mix. Then add the rest and gently mix everything together, starting with a wooden spoon, and then switching to a rubber spatula to make the job easier.

Into your buttered and lined pan, add half of the batter, which should be smooth and slightly thick, and then dot the batter with chocolate truffles. Add the rest of the batter on top and smooth it out. Bake in the preheated oven for 33-35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre emerges clean. The top should be slightly darker than when you first put it in, and brown around the edges. Enjoy this with vanilla ice cream or whipped and sweetened mascarpone (as in the pictures above) and a drizzle more of pure maple syrup.