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!!

Coffee Meringue Pillow Pancakes

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In other words, a twist on the main star of CRUMBS, hoho. Time and time again, at least once every week or every other week, this is the baby that holds its name straight, waving the ‘pillow’ flag high. So high and bright. Receiving a little social media tag from someone who’s tried and loved the recipe I fiddled till perfection almost 2 years ago still tugs at my heart, pulling its strings and sending me into a fuzzy daze for a full 5 seconds. Saturday usually demands an experimental flair, but the past one was in need of a tried and true favourite, albeit with a little twist and flick.

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There’s something so seductive about a mile-high pillow pancake.

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Had some leftover meringue from my previous recipe (do check it out, just scroll a little) and decided none shall go to waste, and permeated my reliable pillow pancakes with that, and some espresso because I was in dire need of coffee and this was another excuse to get another jolt here.

Although the batter resides with the same format as the original, ratios and all, the addition of meringue gently folded in and the dash of coffee makes each pancake belly a little more moist and slightly chewy. I did end up with a slightly more liquid batter, though the retaining of some lumps is still quite crucial for the same extra-high result. The week has been speckled with more dire Trump news and lambasting and Crazy, so settling down to my pan and butter, batter at hand, was all it took to calm a couple rattled nerves.

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Coffee Meringue Pillow Pancakes (makes around 10-11 medium pancakes)

Ingredients (vegan subs included)

190g all-purpose flour

3 tbsp white sugar

generous pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg (sub: 60g vegan egg replacement, or one banana, or make a flax egg by mixing 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water and letting sit for 5 minutes on the counter)

40g unsalted butter (sub: vegan butter such as Earth Balance)

1 tsp vanilla extract

240ml (1 cup) whole milk/ buttermilk; use store-bought or make your own by mixing 230ml whole milk with 1 tbsp white vinegar, and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before using (sub: almond milk or any other plant milk of choice)

1 tbsp coffee extract or shot of espresso

50g meringue, briefly crushed with a spoon or your hands (find the recipe here near the bottom; you won’t need all of it but hey the more the merrier)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, crushed meringue and leavening agents). In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in a microwave and set it aside, letting it cool. In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, vanilla (or insides of a vanilla bean), coffee extract/espresso shot and melted butter. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix briefly with a wooden spoon or a normal dinner spoon. Continue to mix until everything is just combined, which means there will still be a few lumps, but no more streaks of flour.

Preheat your pan on medium 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, generously butter the pan and ladle tablespoonfuls of batter. I didn’t have to wait for bubbles to pop before flipping; the batter is thicker than usual and there’s no need to wait. Flip the pancakes when you notice the edges stiffening a little, or when you can slide your spatula whole underneath the bottom of the pancake. It will rise a little upon flipping, as if that action gives it life, and hence, breath. The surface should have a brown mosaic thanks to the hot butter. Once the second side is done (will take no more than 20 seconds), let cool on a paper towel. As mentioned above, these freeze wonderfully, so you can make a whole batch, have a small stack and stash the rest in a ziploc bag in the freezer.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever you want. I particularly like them with banana, its moist sweetness adjoining arms with the maple. What a Sunday.

 

Chinese Walnut Cookies on Meringue Nests

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The early morning light is my bolthole before the day’s heartbeat ramps up. Right now I hold a small morsel of chocolate shortcake from my school library’s café, ashamed it’s not exactly what’s featured in today’s post, but its texture is reminiscent of just that.

Chinese New Year is still in the works, but its official advent last week was all the prick I needed to get myself busy in the kitchen, playing and toying with random festive ideas to half fool myself into thinking, as the only Chinese in the house, that pineapple tarts, oranges, ang baos (red money-filled packets) and all sorts of goodies were right there with me, emanating a pink blossom-hued energy, a light.

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These walnut cookies are little gems. Based off your traditional Chinese walnut cookies, which are very literally melt-in-your-mouth, the dough bursting with fresh chopped walnuts, brushed with an egg glaze and topped with raw walnut halves.

Their characteristic crumbly, buttery state got me thinking: this could pair more than well with a slightly unforeseen texture. My penchant for anything chew and goo may not be known far and wide but that’s precisely what I thought would tie it all together, and the answer, I knew, lay in the all-exclusive meringue. It did take a few tries before the right meringue consistency was achieved– too hard a meringue nest would fail to complement the more robust nature of the cookie, and the whole thing would corrode and disintegrate easily.

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This was a perfect surprise, for myself and a few family members. You bite into what’s almost like a paradox of taste. the buttery, femininity cookies are maturely ground, hard-bred, by the earthy and almost indelicate walnuts. Teeth sink a little further and are welcomed by the soft crackle of just-hardened meringue nest, still filled with white chewy goo in their hollows. Perfect by themselves, or with teeth-cleaning mandarins.

Chinese Walnut Cookies on Meringue Nests (makes 6 cookies, scale up as needed)

Ingredients

For the cookies:

125g plain flour

1/4 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch salt

40g butter, unsalted and at room temperature (sub: vegan butter)

40g sugar

1/2 a beaten egg, about 30g (sub: half a flax egg made by mixing 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water, of which you can save half for later in the process, or 30g vegan egg replacement)

30g finely chopped walnuts (do this yourself or buy ready-made chopped walnuts)

6 walnut halves

 

For the meringue:

100g white caster sugar

2 egg whites (sub: vegan egg whites, and I have heard you can use chickpea water for this!)

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and both baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I just used a spoon for this; it’s easy when your butter is at room temperature. Tip this into the flour mix, alongside the chopped walnuts and half the beaten egg. The mix should be very dry and only just come together when you mix this by hand. I suggest using your hands here as it’s easy and you can feel when the dough just comes together.

Prep cookies on pan– grease a baking tray and take 42-43.3g of dough for each cookie. Roll each bit of dough into a ball, place on the tray, then press a fresh walnut half onto the top. You should get 6 cookies from this batch. Brush the cookies with the remaining egg, then bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes. Once the cookies are done, leave to cool on the counter and turn the temperature down to 100C (212F).

Make the meringue. In a clean bowl and with a clean electrical hand whisk, beat the egg whites until they go frothy. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until you get a glossy, opaque white meringue. Spoon tablespoons of this onto a silicone or non-stick baking tray and flatten slightly so you get 6 discs out of the volumes stated above. Bake the discs for 1.5 hours (90 minutes), and check that they haven’t burnt or anything, for sometimes ovens really do stupid things, at the 1-hour mark. The surface should be a pale pink-brown colour, cracking into one should have little effort and the middle should still be white and gooey.

Press each cookie into the tops of the meringues. These are best eaten immediately for optimum enjoyment of the texture interplay, though they can be stored for a few days in an airtight container.

 

 

Art-inspired High Tea at the Rosewood

The best London has to offer. In the grey of day-to-day, there are flickers of inspiration, of tonality and light, that truly spark the mini creative in me. There are some things I simply cannot pass up. Like a kind invitation to a wine party. Or a biscuit-and-jam session. Or an Agatha Christie fan club session, or any deep random conversation topic in general. This kind invitation to tea at The Rosewood London was one of them, and for all the right reasons.

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Art-inspired? Tea? Scones and dessert? Take my life already. Launching next month, the gorgeous Rosewood will be hosting this artist-inspired tea session in The Mirror Room, and they were kind enough to invite me for a tasting. Just thinking about it now is pretty mind-boggling, for I cannot believe, after a hectic library session, hair and mind messes of tornadoes, that I was bestowed with such beautiful works of art and stunning service. My world was turned upside down for a full 2 hours, and fleeting as that period was, I only have good, no, excellent things to say about the whole experience.

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There are no words for the ambience of the Mirror Room, which exudes such sophistication and  old-world beauty. Plush buttoned sofas lined up along the middle of the wide and dimly-lit corridor, waiters like secret soldiers welcoming and smiling. I was Alice, the Mirror Room a very real rabbit-hole.

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Now I do apologise for the quality of the photos here– although I did bring  Tim (my camera), the settings messed up halfway and I ended up with just one dark picture, so you will only find slightly inferior iPhone shots here. Still no excuse to not sing high praise for the highlight of my week. I must agree with the words of talented pastry chef Mark Perkins, the hidden star of the show, who also nicely summarised the ethos behind his stunning creations:

“Rosewood London’s quirky interiors reflect the British capital’s history, culture and sensibilities, featuring the works of some of the world’s most renowned artists, with contemporary pieces complemented by more traditional art throughout the hotel.”

The menu is a real work of art in itself. To take you through this fairytale of a teatime, I’ll describe each inspired creation from left to right (1-5) in the picture you see above:

  1. Yayoi Kusama: Goodness. Milk chocolate mousse, passionfruit cremeux with chocolate set, on chocolate sable biscuit, inspired by Kusama’s recent exhibition at the London Victoria Miro galleries. This was one of my favourites, the firm chocolate sable supporting the delicate mousse and cremeux (pudding custard), everything dressed in a vibrant yellow glaze.
  2. Damien Hirst: It would be impossible to forget one’s virgin encounter with Hirst (ok not him, rather his shark-in-a-tank get-up), spellbound by his abstract, almost vulgar creativity. This white chocolate tart flavoured with cassis jelly and yuzu curd is inspired by his pharmaceutical-style series of spot paintings, finished with Hirst-style regimented and decorative pop-art coloured spots of gel.
  3. Alexander Calder: The American is renowned for his innovative approach to art by using wire and industrial materials to craft ‘drawings in space’. This is the inspiration for a delicate but impressive sculpture that combines the flavours and colours of pistachio and cherry. The perfectly executed, tiny cake was glazed with red chocolate, reminiscent of Calder’s famed mobiles.
  4. Banksy: By far my absolute favourite, and so much so that I recreated a caramel-inspired bit of sweet just this morning. I sat there on one of those plush sofas, meditating on the  classic flavours of vanilla and chocolate, amplified by the overall textural complexity. The little cube honoured and perfectly replicated creativity honed and sporadically discovered over so many years, each bite a spark of magic. Banksy’s iconic ‘Girl With a Balloon’ – arguably one of his most famous artworks – provided inspiration for a delicate white chocolate cube filled with a light vanilla cream choux, cherry jelly, hazelnut caramel and chocolate crémeux, garnished with an intricate and tiny replica of the enigmatic artwork itself.
  5. Mark Rothko: Rothko’s bold use of colour has provided the inspiration for a layered coconut and raspberry sponge, filled with coconut mousse, fresh raspberries and adorned with bright pink raspberry chocolate. The flavours here were simple but still admirable.

Do yourself and a loved one a favour and head down to the Rosewood next month for the most unforgettable high tea experience. The whole tea experience comprises a delicate, time-honoured set of finger sandwiches, the five art-inspired works, a glass of champagne, plain or raisin scones, your tea of choice (their pu-erh is potent as potent gets), and the best service you will find in London. It will be priced at £45 per person (£55 per person with a glass of “R” de Ruinart Champagne or £57 per person with a glass of “R” de Ruinart RoséChampagne).

Mirror Room

Rosewood London

252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN

Open daily 7am-10pm

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.