Blackberry Orange Sweet Rolls

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‘Too often, we do something for the sake of reward. But usually there is a delay between action and reward… If you can make the process of making an effort your primary source of happiness, then you have succeeded in the most important challenge of your life.”– Ken Mogi

On that note, why not dance or sing with no one to hear you? Why not bake when there’s no one to bake for? Like this blackberry orange sweet cinnamon roll, ready for you like nothing else in the world, sometimes. There’s something pretty magical about the way two dimensions of tart marry perfectly with each other. Can we just talk about blackberries for a second?

With summer comes berries. Let there be berries. Frozen berries are, and always will be, my kryptonite. I haven’t lived through a day without frozen berries for quite a few years now. Aside from their health benefits, they just taste amazing no matter what time of year. I’m also quite in love for how thawing frozen berries adds a sorbet-like quality to anything. So why not chuck this magic into a classic cinnamon roll recipe? Blackberries in particular are so underrated. Blueberries and raspberries seem to garner all the attention, all the time. You can go right ahead and use those as substitutes in this recipe, although I do think this power-packed berry is a special one, with a flavour all its own. Tucked in folds of brioche-like bread, this roll is simple goodness at its finest.

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Think messy, sticky, sweet fingers. Bursting, warm sweet berries elevate your classic cinnamon roll, mushing into cinnamon-coated innards of each fluffy roll.

There’s no reason to shudder at the word ‘yeast’. I have a few no yeast recipes in the archives, but I tell you now, using yeast this time won’t do you any harm with luck or time, or both. It’s a simple matter of chucking instant yeast into the dry mix, mixing in the wet ingredients, kneading, and letting nature get to work on its own. Sometimes shortcuts make life less of a hassle, it’s true, but instant yeast does make this whole thing a breeze.

Just like how best part about eating granola is the sweet milk after letting the milk soak into every surface and crevice of the granola, the best part, to me at least, of eating a cinnamon roll is tearing apart a fresh and warm one, letting the tear end wherever the brioche fails to stop seizing under pressure, unveiling the speckles of cinnamon, filling spilling everywhere. Rich, superior filling with an interesting salty top. I like to have a part of this as a snack since it is quite rich, best enjoyed with a cup of hot black coffee.

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Ingredients

For the dough:

450g plain flour (sub: use half whole-wheat and half plain for something a little more wholesome, although the buns will not turn out as fluffy)

65g (around 1/4 cup) cane/coconut/white sugar

7g instant yeast

1 tsp fine salt

zest of one orange

240ml (1 cup) unsweetened almond milk

50g (1/4 cup) coconut oil (sub: the same weight of melted vegan butter)

 

For the filling: 

250-280g frozen blackberries

1 tsp ground cinnamon mixed with 2 tsp white/cane/coconut sugar

 

For the salted vanilla icing:

160g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp fine salt

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

5 tbsp almond milk

1 tbsp orange juice

 

Directions

First, make the dough. In a large bowl, tip in the flour, then put the salt, yeast and sugar on opposite sides of the bowl. Mix briefly, then pour in the milk and coconut oil. Add the orange zest. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together until you get a taut, firm dough. Flour your hands and work surface and knead the dough for around 5 minutes. Alternatively, you could actually leave the dough in the bowl and use the spoon to ‘knead’ (I like to call this spoon kneading, kill me if you wish) the dough by mimicking the same movement you would do with hands with the spoon. This technique means less dough on your hands and more left in the bowl for you to enjoy…. duh! You just have to make sure that you’re thorough and not complacent with the kneading. It gets tiring, but it’s worth it. Just 5 minutes, you know.

Cover the bowl with a towel and leave it in a warm place (skip this if you’re in Singapore currently, ha) for 1.5 hours. Leave for longer, or up to 2 hours, if your surrounding temperature is under 25C. During the time you have to wait, take your frozen blackberries out to thaw, and mix the ground cinnamon with the sugar in a small bowl. Line a baking tray with a piece of baking parchment and set this aside.

After 2 hours, tip the ball of dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and then roll this out into a relatively large rectangle of 20x30cm. Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, then put on as many berries as you can fit, leaving the juice behind. Alternatively, you can use fresh blackberries microwaved for a minute. Leave a border of about an inch on each side of the rectangle. Mash the berries a little using a fork. Roll the rectangle lengthwise (along its length, not the breadth), keeping each roll tight and rolling gently and carefully the whole way. Cut the roll using a serrated knife or piece of dental floss into 6-7 smaller rolls along its length, or 3-4 cm apart each time. As you cut, some of the filling will spill out, and that’s ok. The side at which you cut may have more berry stains– simply lay this side of the roll down on the parchment. Lay all the rolls out on the piece of parchment and leave them to rise and puff out a little more for an hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

An hour later, place your rolls in the oven for 25 minutes. As they bake, make the icing by mixing all the icing ingredients in a medium bowl. You should have a thick, runny and opaque white icing. Add the liquid ingredients little by little and stop once you reach the thick, runny consistency you need. Once the rolls are baked, leave to cool for 5-6 minutes before drizzling on the icing. These rolls are best eaten within 3 days of making them. Store them in an airtight container, or in the freezer, where they will last for months!

The Best Chewy Snickerdoodles

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I have made these cookies at least 3 times, all within the same week I realised these cannot be anything less than the best vegan snickerdoodles EVER. Really, I was so excited. Just sitting there, spatula in hand, the other covered in a greasy mix of cinnamon, butter and sugar. How could this be? These must be one of the best things ever to savour (in moderation, of course). Preceding the most wonderful vacation I’ve had in a while (Belgium, Germany and Austria, woot!) were these cookies. Just these, nothing more and nothing less, and nothing more was needed, to be very honest. Now I’m babbling, but clearly you can tell how excited I am about these. I considered sharing the recipe for these on a whim on Instagram, but realised they’re too special not to have a reserved spot in the archives.

The word ‘best’ of course elevates everyone’s expectations, and I promise these won’t let you down. All my friends who tried it said various things:

‘Better than Ben’s (with reference to the popular Ben’s Cookies here in London)?!’,

‘Oh my God I can’t stop’

‘Holy s***.’

But enough with the all bark and no bite. I’ll rat this one out, you deserve at least that. These are by far the most chewy, delicious, cinnamony snickerdoodles I have ever had. Loving the cracks and crags of these, which you can enjoy below, alongside some shots of the trip I just came back from, where every day ended with a full belly and fuller heart.

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Munich’s harsh light that fine day
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Ghent, Belgium: That time someone actually cooked breakfast for me: Hot sautéed cinnamon apples on a bed of warm porridge. Mmmmm.
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Schladming, Austria: Where we dined on a dinner of fresh air, a view of the mountains, crisp white wine and a sweet potato eggplant curry

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Stiff and chewy all the way through. Rolling them in my ratio of cinnamon and sugar will yield incredibly chewy outer edges and a perfectly sweet bite each time. Cinnamon goes way back, and this love affair with this spice has no end. Cinnamon is able to prevent cognitive brain decline, whilst boasting many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Petri dish experiments, as reductionist as they sound, still have shown some potential anti-cancer properties. How cool is that?

Another day, another one-bowl wonder. It’s a simple matter of creaming together vegan butter and sugar, before adding the dry ingredients and mixing everything until you get a relatively dry mixture. But texture should not fool you– this recipe will yield the most chewy cookies after baking, as the butter melts and moistens everything. It is a true dream, I say.

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Vegan snickerdoodles (makes around 12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

330g plain flour, or use half whole-wheat if desired (I have not tried the latter, but I guess this would yield a sturdier, more earthy-tasting cookie)

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

1 flax egg– mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g vegan butter or margarine

130g (around 3/4 cup) of white sugar

120g (around a packed 3/4 cup) of light brown sugar.

mixture to roll cookies in: 30g white sugar mixed with 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (you may realise you do not need all of it when rolling your cookie dough in this mixture)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Mix the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside to gel up. Cream together the butter and sugar using a fork or electric whisk. I simply use a fork and spatula to cream it to save on some washing! Mix the butter and sugar until you get a smooth, fluffy consistency. Add the flax egg and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

Next, add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix everything by hand or with an electric whisk. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly (don’t worry, they won’t turn out like this). Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the balls at least 1 inch apart as they will spread a little.

Bake them in the oven for 18 minutes. Once baked, take the cookies out and use the bottom of a glass to lightly tap on the tops of the cookies to flatten them just a little. This evens out the conduction of heat and makes the cookies incredibly chewy and less raw in the centre. The cookies will look slightly pale and perhaps a little raw once out of the oven, but leave them to cool on your counter and they will stiffen and cook a little more. Resist if you can (I can’t). Enjoy on their own. These last quite a few days in an airtight container.

 

Coffee Crepes ft. A Better Florist (Singapore)

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This post is an unexpected collaboration, one which I nevertheless believe thoughtful. Lately I’ve been feeling a little out of my element, such as every other human being once in a while. But there are the everyday things that remind me to love not just myself, but all the things and people around me. These nuances of everyday life are worthy encapsulations of hope and happiness. A few words before I get on with my favourite recipe for delicious vegan crepes.

I usually review cafés and restaurants, but I thought I’d make an exception just this once. Today I kinda want to talk about flowers.

OK, hear me out. My mum also recently got a huge bouquet of flowers, which she describes as a make-or-break element of any room. There’s something incredibly emotive and symbolic about a single bouquet. This is the sort of underrated everyday life thing I was talking about earlier.

I’ve been on both sides of the flower-giving tradition—the recipient and the presenter—so I’ve been acquainted with a fair share of florists and flower delivery in Singapore. One particular flower delivery in Singapore which stands out from all the other florists is A Better Florist. Unlike what you would expect from usual flower shops, they do have a better sense of their target market’s taste, and yes, I am part of their target market. I imagine they conceptualised their rustic yet stylishly-packaged flower arrangements with young and social media-savvy customers in mind because these bouquets are quite the eye-catchers. Although this post is in collaboration with them, I am a genuine fan.

If you follow me, you’ll know that my posts are mostly centred on food. However, I do appreciate the fresh fragrance of lush blooms mingling with the aroma of a cup of strong black coffee and French toast in the morning. That, to me, is the best way to start any day.

A Better Florist, also known as the best florist in Singapore, is relatively young when compared to other flower industry players in Singapore, but their determination to “Bloom Better” with great quality flowers and lightning-fast delivery has caught the attention of flower aficionados in my little red dot. They’ve gotten quite a lot of media attention and have been dubbed best florist in Singapore and best flower delivery in Singapore on several review sites. I’ve only really purchased their hand bouquets and so far they have not disappointed at all. The flowers were fresh, delivered on time, and I adored the detail of their packaging—from the burlap wrap to the carefully tied ribbon and the flower care instructions. Once, I ordered from their signature blooms collection and it came with this lovely twine-wrapped container which I used to display the flowers. Props all around for their excellent service. If you’re looking for something other than flowers, they do have gift baskets and hampers as well as fruit baskets. I might avail their fruit basket delivery for my pantry just to see the quality of their produce. I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, they also sell flowers for all events and occasions like grand opening flowers, wreaths, baby gift baskets and “get well soon” bouquets.

The holidays are rolling around pretty soon, so just in case you’re planning on hosting dinner parties, A Better Florist 100% has my vote for the freshest, fastest and cheapest flower delivery in Singapore.

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NOW. Crepes!

These are:

slightly chewy

crispy all round the edges

subtly flavoured with coffee

Just a little fun. And, like everything else I make, so easy. My favourite part is seeing the little holes pop out in clusters (slightly aggravating the little trypophobic me but hey), mini astroblemes produced by the impact of some cosmic body. I love mushing these into spoonfuls of thick, creamy soy yoghurt and frozen berries. Darn, I might have one soon because there are a few left over waiting in the fridge.

Coffee Crepes (makes 13-15 crepes, adapted from this lovely recipe)

Ingredients

200g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour, or use half plain and half whole wheat

3 tbsp coconut or brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

360ml (1 1/2 cups) plant milk of choice, I used almond

one shot espresso

1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

Directions

Preheat your large pan (use a crepe pan if you’re fancy and feelin’ it) on medium-high heat and drizzle on some olive or coconut oil. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the espresso, oil, and finally the milk. You can do this the night before to save yourself some 30 seconds in the morning, if you wish. Simply whisk it all together and cover with cling film before putting it in the fridge.

When you can see the oil sizzle a little, add 3-4 tbsp of batter and swirl around to coat the bottom of the pan thinly. Watch the batter go a little darker and firm around the edges. Once you see a few bubbles, which will take a minute, use a spatula to flip the crepe and cook the other side for another minute. Rest your cooked crepe on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Continue to cook up the rest of the batter, stacking the crepes with paper towels in between.

Enjoy these with thick plant-based yoghurt, fresh or frozen berries, a drizzle of nut butter or tahini, and lashings of maple syrup.

 

Rye Matcha Pillow Pancakes

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The weekend was high in spirit, holding hope, a promising virtue and nighttime sin. Last night was spent with some people I love most, reunited with the family, a boy I could have only dreamed of meeting (more than a year ago now), relatives, simple, delicious homemade food.

Having the chance to show someone around my own town is most rejuvenating. There is no better way to appreciate and undertake fresh perspective on your roots. Dig deep into why you may think and behave the way you do. There is something deeper to uncover about oneself, something untouched when smothered by the happenings of everyday life, necessary communication and work.

A few travel shots from a recent trip to Bangkok and more Singapore fun before I proceed any further with my recipe for these glorious pancakes, which are like a fudgy matcha brownie in pancake form.

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Another Hound café nestled in the busyness of Siam Paragon, Bangkok. Draping lights and my favourite colour scheme.
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And our favourite drink there– earl grey lime iced tea. There was a frigid ball of pure tea and syrup which melted to constantly produce a refreshing, distinct flavour.
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We visited a plane cemetery far away from the city on a highway. It was magical and unbelievable to see dangling oxygen masks and half open overhead compartments, ravaged by the natural course of time. 

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The apple speculoos affogato at The Affogato Bar. Soft, small chunks of cinnamony apple and a strong hit of espresso. An almost acidic strength is necessary for a good affogato, I believe. 
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Fun at The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough (shoutout to Charlie for introducing this gem of a nook to me). I especially appreciate how they have vegan specials (usually on the weekends) and freshly baked, delicious, well-risen sourdough loaves every single day. Well-crafted sin.

Pancakes. That’s where it’s at. Usually tops a Saturday or Sunday for me, with that little bit of extra time permitting for lavish topping upon topping, pillowy layer on pillowy layer, dense and juuuuust done in the middle. Height and splendor. Maple syrup, coconut yoghurt and tahini are my favourite final touches. Maybe tear them up into shreds and douse with milk in a bowl. That’s just the sort of thing I would do, but mind you there are no obligations, because you would be the more rational human being.

Each rye pancake is hearty without being heavy, and I decided to inject mine with a little protein powder, the sort of bodybuilding stuff I would never use in a million years, but the kind folks behind Jimmyjoy’s Plennyshake offered me some and I’m not turning back because this stuff is definitely worth it. Check them out, I implore ya. Neither too sweet, nor does it feel unnecessary. It adds a nice prick of protein without any weird artificial flavour. All vegan, all good. The earthy matcha complements the moist and earthy offering of rye. Rye can tend to be a little sour if used too much, but the flavours here are balanced and refined.

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Rye Matcha Pillow Pancakes (makes 5 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

90g dark rye flour

A half tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

2 heaped tsp protein powder (optional)

2 tsp matcha powder

2 tsp coconut/ white sugar

14g melted vegan butter, plus some extra to grease the pan

half a banana, mashed

100ml plant milk of your choice (I used almond)

 

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto a pan heated on medium heat. Flip once the underside is done and cook the second side for another minute before removing and letting rest on a paper towel. Top with whatever you wish– I topped mine with vegan chocolate ice cream, crushed rice cakes I hauled from Bangkok (YUM), more matcha and strawberries.

Blueberry Oat Breakfast Crumble

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The forgotten satisfaction of a textural orchestra first thing in the morning.

A crisp blueberry oat breakfast crumble. A warm middle, roasted and earthy, bleeding with blueberries, crying golden, glistening. 

Different mornings must heed to different needs. It’s like lunchtimes away from the office, discovering the magical brilliance about the combination of eggplant (qie zi), lotus root (lian ou), overcooked white rice, tofu (dou fu) and broccoli (xi lan hua). But mornings are the best. Sometimes it’s a dripping bowl of warm oats with a cold splash of almond milk. Other times it must be crunch-and-cream action, like crispy brown toast dipped into thick coconut yoghurt, opaque and lustful. Just this morning I indulged in the simple pleasure of crispy brown toast topped with tahini and marmalade. Nowadays I’ve tended to be more inclined to a scene of willing sogginess, dipping toast into coffee or letting my cereal and granola soak for a little too long in milk, sugars seeping out to sheen the white pool.

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It bubbles and glistens. This crumble offers it all. There is no need for time to drag crunch to sog like in the case of morning cereal.

As I dug into the gooey bottomed crumbled with a crisp, sugared top, creamy coconut yoghurt glazing all edges of my spoon and crumble, it occurred to me once again how much I adore the solitude and satisfaction of breakfast.

When I know breakfasts like these are good for me and the planet, there is simply no loss. It’s good to be a little aware, you know, of what you put inside yourself and how you feel about every bite. I used to think it so stupid and time-wasting to care so much. But you only start to care when you question. Which is more eco-friendly– the paper towel or blast dryer? These are actually very important questions.

I therefore take no shame in vaunting this one.

Blueberry Oat Breakfast Crumble (makes one or two small servings)

Ingredients 

3.5 tbsp coconut/oat/plain flour

3.5 tbsp whole rolled oats

pinch salt

1.5 tbsp maple syrup

120ml plant milk of choice (almond/rice/coconut/hemp etc, I used almond!)

handful of fresh blueberries

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C. In a large ramekin (or two smaller ones), mix all the crumble ingredients together with a fork. Bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes. Once out let cool a while before digging in with some coconut yoghurt or ice cream!!