If you didn’t know, I was really into reviewing cafés before I knew about a lot of other life things, like doing the dishes properly and folding clothes neatly. I just read this one and couldn’t believe how much time I devoted to these. I stopped doing these reviews years ago due to time constraints and it’s impossible to keep up with changing menus and me flitting between England, Singapore and Germany… Nevertheless, after visiting quite a few special/hole-in-the-wall ones recently, and now that I no longer use Instagram, I feel that it is time for a review comeback. It’s a way of documenting these experiences in greater detail, making them more special and less fleeting.
In brief, if I would come back for anything, it would be this iced cereal milk latte and the canelé (shown below). The foamy, sweet brew is still reminiscent of an actual caffeine drink with a smooth and mildly bitter espresso, and the twist of salt takes the whole thing to the next level.
That canelé must be consumed with the latté together for the real deal. A moment of crunchy sweetness, washed down with a refreshing milky brew. The outside of the pastry is beautifully crisp without a weird burnt taste, the inside bouncy, sticky and moist. Not too sweet, not plain and painfully dry like many others I have tried. I can’t remember the price ($5?) but it was so reasonable for its size and quality. They also have a range of sweet and savoury toast options, all made in-house.
Yup, I’ll be back.
Maxi Coffee Bar 6 Ann Siang Hill Hours: Tues-Fri 8am – 5pm, Weekends 9pm – 5pm, closed on Mondays
There is plenty to love about a fudgy brownie, and more so about the combination of tangy cream cheese with sweet yet slightly bitter orange marmalade. I do recommend orange marmalade here for that reason, but any marmalade you have will work. One of my top 10 recipes is this brownie pudding, which formed the main inspiration for today’s recipe but is not in the blog archives. I guess it’s a little bit of a secret, and I don’t know if the word pudding is a good enough excuse to get away with such a runny centre. Language is everything, isn’t it. A classic one-bowl manoeuvre wrapped in a delightful flavour contrast.
A classic fudgy brownie with an edge that’s only slightly chewy, with jammy bits studded here and there due to the marmalade. You might think they’re the raw parts at first, take it from my initial disappointment.
Cream cheese marmalade brownies (serves 8-10)
For the brownies:
105g dark chocolate, chopped, or bittersweet chocolate chips
150g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fine salt
70g brown sugar
130g white sugar
130g plain flour
For the topping:
60g cream cheese
6 tsp orange marmalade
Preheat your oven to 160C, fan off. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that two edges are longer and hang off the sides for easy removal. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave together the butter and chocolate or chocolate chips on high for a minute. Make sure your butter is at room temperature or slightly cold, and not rock-hard from the fridge. Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a fork or spoon to mix everything together until you get a dark, liquidy consistency and the butter and chocolate has melted together nicely. Microwave for longer if your butter is still a little hard. Let the mixture cool for 2 minutes. In the meantime, add your two sugars and pinch of salt into a separate, larger bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and use a whisk to whisk it in well. Then crack and whisk in the 2 eggs. Finally, add the flour and use a rubber spatula to fold it in well, then pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and homogenous. Add teaspoonful-sized dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter, then add teaspoonfuls of the marmalade just next to the dollops of cream cheese mixture. Use a knife to swirl the topping randomly into the batter. It should look slightly weird and messy. Sprinkle some coarse salt (like Maldon) on top if you’re fancy like that, but you can skip this step. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist-to-slightly-wet crumbs. Leave the brownies to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. These keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, but you can freeze them if you don’t have many people to share these with!
As I myself hate anything long-winded, overly-positive or excitable, I will try to keep this short, sweet and informative. After some thinking, I have decided to monetise a few documents which I have been working hard on, and will soon put together properly. The reasons will be elaborated a little more in my newsletter, so if you have not already, definitely sign up for updates and details, including date of release (sign-up link is stuck to the top of the blog).
I hesitated for a long time to monetise anything on here. As many of my long-time readers know, the only things I did monetise were my mini local catering business which I was forced to suspend during the ongoing pandemic, and a thin book I published years ago. That said, after years of blogging, dabbling in recipe creation, photography and now balancing academia with other facets of life, I feel it would be crazy to continue blogging without sharing any of the invaluable information about things I learned during my PhD (on the link between gut health and mental health) and life in general, alongside some recipes I have never disclosed before, that have contributed to the optimisation of my work-life balance and health, despite the occasional depressive or anxious episode. I say this after helping an Oxford friend and even someone at home in Singapore with my recommendations, too.
I used to receive messages on my (now-inactive) Instagram account, about how I stay ‘fit, slim and healthy’ despite my love for baking. I responded with eat in moderation and enjoy sweets once in a while, but I knew deep down that there is so much more to it than just that. It also slightly saddens me that most of us still equate health with very specific formulas and sizes. Now, I feel ready to share my story of health-related ups and downs, tips, as well as additional insider recipes which have stuck with me through years of blogging.
How will it work?
You simply have to click on the tab in the side menu entitled ‘curated recipes and holistic guide‘. There will be 3 documents I will share (as of now):
A guide to a balanced lifestyle and my signature recipes outside my baking hobby, including some personal and specific tips which have helped me tremendously over the years, for balance and overall wellbeing despite loving my sugar. I will include tips and tricks derived from my own self-help experimentation and personal epiphanies*
A curated selection of 10 of my go-to simple breakfast and brunch recipes, with vegan substitutions
A curated selection of 10 fusion recipes, which will also have vegan substitutions
*To make clear, this is not a definitive health guide. This little guide will contain some tips which work well for me and have done so for others, but nothing is restricted and no rules are advocated. You also get recipes and fun stuff inside, not a boring book on how often to eat a doughnut.
And why are these documents special? How are the recipes different from the ones on your blog?
More information about what will be included in the guide will be shared via my newsletter, including some personal health routines I stick to and what is the ideal drink to go with this particular french toast.
Despite being in the health sciences, I will not share anything too specifically health or science-related, because there are too many similar eBooks and such out there, and I acknowledge my current role as a doctorate student who is not warranted to give out any professional advice like a doctor or ‘life coach’ is able to. I provide something a little more all-encompassing, criss-crossed with some specific ideas and personal tidbits that I have never shared online before.
If you have been following this blog for a while, you would know I am always willing to offer recipes for free. Yet, some of the curated recipes I will share are veiled with a hint of secrecy and history, the sort my mum will tell me ‘not to share’, but now seem ready to show themselves. Further, the holistic guide includes some personal anecdotes which I have never shared online before, not even on my previous Instagram account or newsletter, derived from my own experience and research. Every free alexcrumb recipe, blogpost and newsletter is a product of my own experimentation, my heart and soul, so any support will be appreciated.
The first of 2021, and the first of many to come. This cookie has a beauty that one must taste to find, much like how you have to look closer at someone to realise the delicate point of a nose or dual-toned eyes. A soft, even-toned cookie, the silent, good kid at the front of the classroom. An experiment born from the convenient coincidence of craving something simple and light, while lacking ingredients to make something more complex anyway. It is plain, without even a hint of vanilla. Just the slightly bitter, grassy notes of matcha laced into a cookie, sugar still painted with the earth from which it came.
I think I won over my boyfriend’s housemates with these soft, mildly chewy matcha cookies. Matcha is not a huge deal here in Germany, much unlike the overly priced matcha lattés you find in almost every café in London or Singapore. The amount of matcha powder added is just right for 12 small-medium cookies, about the same amount needed to make a potent cup of matcha tea.
Recently I re-discovered this matcha powder, which I first used 2 years ago after being introduced to it here in Germany. It is sharp and earthy enough, and works brilliantly in tea or baking, while being extremely affordable. Highly recommend.
Look at those juice insides. I hope you like these delicate, delicious matcha cookies as much as I do.
Soft and Chewy Matcha Cookies
Ingredients (makes about 12 small cookies)
1 tsp matcha powder
165g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
165g white sugar
113g soft butter (vegan substitution: same amount of vegan butter/margarine)
1 egg (vegan substitution: 2 flax eggs– mix 2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 5 tbsp water in a small bowl and set that aside to gel for 2-3 minutes before using)
Preheat your oven to 190C and line a baking tray with baking paper. You may need two baking trays if yours are thin or small.
In a large bowl, cream together the soft butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, using a whisk or spatula. I used a metal fork and then switched to a rubber spatula to really work the two into each other. This will take 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the pinch of salt and the egg.
Place a sieve over this bowl and sieve in the flour, baking powder and matcha powder. Using a rubber spatula, fold in your dry ingredients until you get a smooth, playdoh-like consistency. It may be easier to use your hands towards the end. It should be soft and pliable, the dough holding together easily when squeezed, neither too dry nor too sticky and wet.
Roll small balls of dough with your hands and place the balls on your prepared baking tray. You should get around 10-12 balls. Slightly flatten the tops with two fingers. The cookies will not spread much, so you do not have to worry about placing the cookies far apart. Bake them in the preheated oven for 10 minutes and let them cool for another 10 before serving. Best served plain, with black coffee.
Living through the last week of being 23 feels like waiting for a chapter that’s meant to close. Those were the exact words I told a close friend recently.
The past few months have seen the world turned upside down. The enforced solitude, which I have grown to mostly enjoy by implementing a good routine and rewards to look forward to, has forced myself to uncover the roots of some of the biggest problems we face as a global community now, as well as some problems within myself that I have neglected. A few old demons, namely shades of anxiety and depression, may have arisen during the past month, but I’ve grown a lot by attempting to process emotions, past events, my relationships and academic endeavours. Bushy-tailed as I was when I matriculated at Oxford last year to start my PhD, I couldn’t help but feel rather lost and aimless when the virus abruptly took hold of the world, and I hazard a jab at saying that it has impacted most others in the world, too.
I could say I have learnt a few things this year:
Learning a new language is hard, but fun. The more effort I put into it, the more enjoyable the process becomes. Having a strong reason as to why you want to learn makes it all the more worthwhile.
My relationship with social media has changed, and probably for the better. I find myself easily bored with many platforms now, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, mainly because its constant stimulation has finally dwindled the dopamine rush I get from it. I will take another long break from Instagram soon, I think, because this period of abstinence is akin to a rebirth, while birthing more time into my day, to invest in other priorities such as learning, reading, and actually writing more lengthy posts on this blog. I personally still read blogs, but I feel less inclined to properly read lengthy articles after long bouts of social media usage- it’s just not as fun or stimulating. Yet I know that such an attitude is harmful in the long-term due to the way in which social media rewires the brain, as Cal Newport will also readily say. As much as I love the ability to share my life and engage in things my friends are doing, real life has so much to offer outside of my various blue screens. And real relationships, for me at least, lie in long conversations, over video chat or real life, hearing someone’s voice, so much more profound than the pings of hearts and emojis. Reduced social media usage has allowed me to shape my own opinion on things without forcing Facebook or Insta ads down my throat first, and I can walk around without a phone and just think, and enjoy plain, clean air. I also want to be able to read books in the evenings again, with candles and wine, instead of scrolling through various comments on what other people think about someone else’s boyfriend etc. I could go on and on about the hazards of shamelessly, constantly putting out a highlight reel for the world, but I think my point has been made.
Relationships have clarified and I am really grateful to those close to me, who constantly inspire, motivate and challenge me.
Oh my goodness, cooking is really fun. It’s become something I look forward to most nights. I typically have gotten into the routine of cooking a small batch of something 2-3 times a week, because cooking something fresh for one person every night is a little more than necessary, and I find this amount is just right. Very grateful for a freezer, I must say. Lately I’ve been making a lot of this and malai kofta from my friend’s new food blog– she does lots of vegan Indian recipes so do check it out!!
November’s orders for London are still up and running as usual, and you can email me at email@example.com for more details and questions. The stars are nut butter-stuffed brownie cupcakes and PB&J blondies (pictured just above here), and a box contains 4 cupcakes and 2 large blondies. Have received good feedback for both and it truly means a lot to me, even if it’s just coming from one person!