I keep finding heaven on pancake mornings. I also keep finding heaven when I realise that certain ingredients are about to expire and whatever I expect to be slipshod turns out marvellous and beyond (you could’ve guessed it was ricotta in this case). From now on, I think every Monday shall be pancake Monday. There will be no regrets.
I didn’t want to stray far from these I wrote about quite a while ago, because they’re still my absolute favourite pancakes. I remember squandering my days trying to perfect them. But with university on my heels, there’s simply no time to faff around with proportions and measurements and whatnot. Yet, I needed a bloody good pancake, and a fluffy, well-risen, tender-stomached one at that. Monday would’ve gone quite badly otherwise. I suspect.
That’s where the ricotta comes in. And the chocolate, because 99% of my recipes are incomplete without chocolate. Chocolate crisping up at the edges, chocolate running down your bottom lip when you take a bite and the pocket bursts slowly, lovingly. The pairing of the mild cheese and dark chocolate chunks is not advanced, but necessary. Ricotta makes the batter creamy and mildly sweet, whilst the chocolate (dark, if I may) adds another lush dimension to the whole thing.
‘Twas a funny story, trying to get these right. My first time using the hob to cook pancakes was almost an ordeal. Burnt the first couple and had to chuck those, but the silver lining came when I found the perfect heating level (3) to allow for a nice golden-brown on both sides, without burning them and being left with uncooked centres. These pancakes seem to be more undercooked after the second sides are done, but that’s mostly because of the ricotta, which makes it denser without having to fully compromise on fluff and the slightest chew in the middle.
You deserve it.
Ricotta Chocolate Chip Pillow Pancakes (serves 2-4, makes 8 medium pancakes)
125g (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta (strain if watery)
135g (around 1 cup) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of coarse salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20g (slightly less than 2 tbsp) melted butter
240ml (1 cup) milk
60g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate
Preheat your pan or griddle on medium heat, and ready some butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, sugar, baking powder, chopped chocolate and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix together the ricotta, melted butter, egg, milk and vanilla. Pour the wet into the dry mix and stir until just combined. The batter should be quite thick.
Butter your pan (it should sizzle, but not too strongly), then heap batter onto a tablespoon before laying on 2 or 3 in your pan (you can do more with a griddle of course). Flatten a little with the back of your spatula, then wait 2 minutes before flipping to cook the second side, which will take almost less than half the time it takes to cook the first side. Place cooked pancakes on a paper towel to absorb moisture from the bottom.
Serve with yoghurt, fruit or nuts, and honey or maple syrup.
This morning, my fork did all the talking, and I let it. Let’s get to the meat before I lose your attention.
The four main components here may sound frivolous, but get along like four great friends. Anyone else here like Terry’s chocolate oranges (insert happy girl with hands over her head emoji here)? If you do, I kid you not, these will satisfy you any time of day, and this batch makes quite a lot, so the satisfaction isn’t short-lived. Here we have a sweet and sticky baked citrus batter topped with a rich chocolate glaze (all delectable frozen goo and sludge), on a double butter crust, topped with mascarpone (no, I didn’t make this, ha), and honeycomb.
I want to call them tiger bars because that’s exactly what they ended up looking like, with the stripes and all. A most desirable marriage of chocolate and orange. As you can tell from the picture below, I was a bit too excited to cut everything up and slather stuff on, hence the slipshod effect. By the way, this double butter crust is bloody good. But bad. And messy. Either way it’s all good.
Sweet on sweet on sweet, right? Well, not totally. The flavours here all meld into one another in a manner more sophisticated than what I expected, but I do think the mascarpone is necessary to soften excess cloy. This was my first time making honeycomb, and this batch turned out desirably sweet, light and crisp, like the chewier end bits of the inside of a Crunchie bar. Hopefully with time, I will master the art of thicker, ‘holier’ honeycomb. Slightly less deep in colour, less chew, more whimsical and airy-fairy. The golden shards offer a brighter mien to the whole dessert get-up. A sort of ‘ooh, what was that? YES’ kind of crunch. With the layers of texture and flavour established, the final addition of mascarpone cheese on top ties all the components together, like the ribbon on a present. A blander, but necessary note, a complementary creaminess.
Orange Chocolate Bars with Mascarpone and Honeycomb (makes 12 bars)
For the crust:
160g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small half-inch cubes
210g all-purpose flour (around 1 1/3 cups)
50g icing sugar, sifted (slightly less than a half cup)
For the orange filling:
zest and juice of 1.5 large oranges (120ml or half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice)
juice of half a small lemon
230g (1 cup) white sugar
large pinch salt
50g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the chocolate glaze:
1 tbsp water
15g unsalted butter
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tbsp milk
50g (or more, this is according to taste) of sifted icing sugar
Preheat your oven to 177C (350F). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pinch of salt and icing sugar. Rub the cold, cubed butter into this mix until you get coarse crumbs, and they are able to stick together in clumps when you squeeze the mix in your palm. Press this mixture into the bottom of a greased 9×13-inch pan, and then place into the preheated oven and bake for 11-13 minutes (I took mine out at 12).
Next, make the filling, which is the easiest bit!! In a large bowl, whisk together the juice of the oranges and one lemon, zest of the oranges, sugar and eggs. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt. Add this flour mix to the wet mix and mix well to combine. You will probably find little clumps of flour post-mixing, but they will go after whisking for a while. You should have a smooth, slightly viscous, wet mass of orange. Once the crust is done baking, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the cooling tray. Pour the orange filling batter into the pan, then carefully (because the batter is predominantly liquid) place the pan back into the oven. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until you can see the top go a medium brown in colour. I took out my pan at 19 minutes, when there was a visible dark brown rim around the edges, and the surface was mottled with bits of brown. When you take out the pan, the inside will still be mostly wet, or moist at most. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, before placing in the fridge to allow it to fully set.
Make the chocolate glaze. Again, easy peasy stuff. In a medium microwave-safe bowl (I always use my handy Chinese porcelain dinner bowls, so convenient), add the butter (it can still be cold from the fridge), water and cocoa powder. Microwave this on high until you get a smooth chocolate mix, at least 30 seconds or so. At this point, at a tablespoon of milk, and then add 50g of sifted icing sugar. You might add more if you want a slightly sweeter chocolate glaze; 50g yields a deeper overall chocolate flavour. Drizzle this chocolate glaze all over the orange bars.
Time for the honeycomb. The recipe I used here is classically British, incorporating the use of golden syrup instead of light corn syrup. You can find a myriad different honeycomb recipes online, and though this is a nice, safe one to start with, don’t be afraid to try others out. I’m eyeing Joy the Baker’s one next! Grease a 9×9-inch baking pan and set aside near your stove and saucepan. In a medium saucepan, add the sugar and golden syrup. Melt everything together on a low heat, mixing briefly with a wooden spoon in the beginning, and wait until the sugar crystals have visibly dissolved. Don’t touch or stir it at this point. Try not to let the mixture boil because this will change the structure of the crystals before you have a chance to aerate everything with the baking soda. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat just a little and let simmer for 2-4 minutes, or until you can see that the mixture has turned slightly deeper in colour, a light amber shade. At this point, add the baking soda and quickly whisk it into the mixture. It will go thick, slightly paler and foamy (it’s beautiful), but slightly darker again once you whisk. Immediately pour the mix into the pan you greased, and then set your pan under cold running water in your sink to dissolve any caramel that might’ve stuck to the sides.
The mix will set after around an hour. Since it’s always so bloody hot here, I left mine at room temperature for half an hour, before placing in the fridge for another half hour. At this point, take out your pan and overturn it onto your counter. Hit the pan hard with your hand or a large spoon to release the honeycomb onto the counter, and this will simultaneously break it into large chunks. You may then proceed to break it up further into shards of whatever size you wish.
Assembly: Cut the orange bars into 12 with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with a paper towel after each slice. Top with mascarpone and homemade honeycomb, and send yourself to heaven.
Time has unleashed a spawn of ideas and fresh inspiration.
Though I’m happy to finally get back into the groove of food photography and recipe development, the past couple of weeks were much needed respite. The days fuelled anticipation for Fall in London, and although I know I won’t ever be able to bake or create anything much after that time, I feel as if this blog has really grown to become a part of me, a part I can’t and never will forsake. It’s shed new meaning upon my life; I don’t feel more alive or myself when in the kitchen, fiddling with and tweaking jottings in my notebook. I have my other passions, but this will always be an inherent part of me, like a child I must help grow and nurture. Therefore, I have keenly decided that I will continue updates here, though of course much less frequently!
The plan now will be to post once or twice a week, and the focus will be shifted to creating more breakfast-type recipes. I’ve always had an inappropriate obsession with breakfast culture, and adore that combination of simple, sweet and healthy. No, my recipes are not always the healthiest, but that’s only because I don’t believe in any modern fad. Go gluten-free if you have coeliac disease, by all means, or maybe even just for fun, but don’t impose the juicing monster (which is, literally, quite green) on anyone who doesn’t feel as if tip-top wellness is a necessary factor for emotional, spiritual or intellectual growth. Or for life in general, for that matter. I recently read this article which I readily relate to and agree with, discussing the modern health obsession and its ironic correspondence with young ‘health foodies’ found everywhere online and on social media (go on, read it!). The mixing of health and science must be monitored, and diet cannot be wholly dictated by a few paragraphs you may read online written by a young pretty lady in a sports bra. Let’s just be real. One will not die eating pancakes every Sunday, and some choose not to, which is totally ok. We all know we need ‘balance’, but the point of middle ground is different for everyone, is it not?
Anyways. Despite my passion for eating and making French pastry, some varieties of which I have yet to attempt (but shall do so in due time!), I know that doing so isn’t feasible in the near future. Sometimes, practicality is sacrifice, but it’s also a means for exposure and pushing creative boundaries.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pancake time.
A few days ago in London, I came across the most charming café in Islington, and my good friend (hey Celeste!) and I simply couldn’t resist strolling in even after our heavy brunch (now that I recall, we had pancakes, which is so de rigueur… Then again, when is it not?). Nut butters, pre-made sandwiches and bottles of tahini lined the shelves, alongside other bits and bobs of artisan produce. I felt it a bit of a sin if I didn’t walk out with something, so tahini it was, and tahini I’m glad. A short aside here–we also enjoyed delicious coffee, tea, and the best lemon pistachio cake slice ever. I’m thinking of it now, and the thinking is pain.
Having never properly experimented with the mildly salty sesame paste before, I decided to incorporate it into my favourite base pancake recipe, which yields the fluffiest, moreish, pillow-like texture ever. Thick and fluffy aside, a soft and tender surface may be easily broken with a fork to reveal a pale interior studded with oats. The mildly salty tahini lends perfect contrast to the sweet batter, and it also means no additional salt is needed in the recipe. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy.
Tahini Oat Pancakes (makes 8 3-inch pancakes)
125g (1 cup) all-purpose flour, or half whole wheat and half all-purpose
40g (1/2 cup) whole rolled oats
3/4 cup milk of choice (I played with soy this time round)
10g unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp white sugar
splash vanilla extract
Preheat a medium saucepan on low-medium heat, and ready some butter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients– flour, two leavening agents and sugar. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, honey, tahini, melted butter and vanilla extract. Pour most of the ingredients into the dry mix; I say most because you may not need all the liquid. I used all of mine and yielded a nice, thick batter, but just exercise a teensy bit of caution. You want it to be thick and slightly lumpy after mixing briefly with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Butter the preheated pan. There should be a sizzle when you flick a bit of water onto the pan. Using a tablespoon measurement (for 3-inch pancakes), ladle the batter into the pan. Once you see a few bubbles spread throughout the surface, go ahead and flip to cook the other side. Serve a couple warm on a plate, topped with more tahini, maple syrup, and whatever else your heart desires.
It feels as if I’m caught in a storm right now, papers flying everywhere, head quite the mess. I told myself I’d buckle down 110% (those same words!) today, and yet, I feel a strong sense of guilt as I look over all my past recipe posts, the embodiment of one of my main passions in life. It’s funny because I actually read an excellent article on procrastination in the papers today; and yet, I don’t see this as a form of such a term, but more so a physical and mental extension of what I love wholeheartedly. It’s small things like the juxtaposition of fruit and custard cream which to be are akin to that of life and love, or books and work, or friends and family.
This grape tart, as you can see above, is not perfect. The shell has shrunk, the grapes aren’t all luscious and plump, but it is through these imperfections that I am willing to share what I’ve learnt to bolster your own attempt in the kitchen. The shrunken shell is my fault really, because I failed to spread the baking beans evenly during the blind baking process. That, together with the fact that I sort of wanted the whole rustic appeal of pseudo-slipshod work. Hey, it’s a tart!
The pastry is abominably crisp, the sort which shatters and melts in your mouth real quick. And I have only recently discovered just how darn easy pastry cream is to make, and I used a simple recipe which yields a smooth and decadent texture and flavour. I attempted to keep cooking the cream until it was thick, and thus hold itself better in the fridge, or when cut through with a knife during serving. If possible, use fresh, thick grapes, which I unfortunately didn’t have on hand at that point in time (hence the tiny little blobs you see pictured!) Since I was trying out my new fluted rectangular tart tin, I was forced to leave out a significant amount of crust, but it would also be perfect in a round 9-inch pie tin.
Rustic Grape Tart
For shortcrust pastry:
157g all-purpose flour
125g cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons water
For pastry cream:
355ml whole milk (around 1.5 U.S. cups)
2 egg yolks
68g white castor sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: zest of half a lemon and a splash or brandy/cognac
For the topping:
around 100g of grapes, cut in half (or you can cut as you fill the top, after pouring in the pastry cream)
2-3 tablespoons grape/apricot jam, warmed in the microwave for a minute or so
Make the pastry. It’s extremely versatile and can be used for things like quiches and other sweet or savoury tarts as well. My mum uses it all the time for her savoury wild mushroom and blue cheese quiche. Anyways. Freeze the cubed butter for at least a half hour. If you’re using a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar, and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse around 6-8 times until the mixture resembles a course meal with pea-sized pieces of butter. Add the iced water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture just begins to clump together. The dough should hold together when pinched lightly. If you’re just using your good old hands and a bowl, rub the cold butter into the flour mix, rubbing across the knuckles, and quickly, so the heat doesn’t melt the butter at a faster rate. Continue until you get the aforementioned result. Remove dough from machine/bowl and place on a clean work surface. Shape into a disk and wrap with cling film. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to 2 days (so you can make this way ahead of time, hoorah).
When ready to use, remove the disc and leave on the counter for around 10 minutes, just to soften a little. Roll out on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin, according to the size of the tart tin you are using. For my own rectangular one, I rolled it out to around 9×11 inches, around 1/8-inches thick, so there could be sufficient dough hanging over the edges. Press the dough into your tin (no need to grease) and press down so it reaches all the corners and sides. Trim the edge, leaving about 1/2 an inch excess from the edges. Put the crust in the fridge for around 10 minutes and preheat the oven to 177C (350F). Line the chilled crust with parchment/wax paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven. Remove to cool for a few minutes. Remove the weights, poke the bottom with little holes and return to oven for another 10 minutes. Cool completely before adding any filling.
During the baking time, make the custard. In other words, the most fun part! In a saucepan, medium or large, over medium heat, warm the whole milk until it comes to a simmer. Whilst waiting for that, whisk the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, optional alcohol and lemon zest, flour and vanilla in a bowl. Whisk a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture, and then slowly, very slowly, whisk the slightly tempered egg mixture into the rest of the milk, constantly stirring. Continue to stir for around 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and you have what rightly resembled a luscious, thick custard. It will be a fine, pale yellow, which leaves a slightly slimy trace when you sneak a lick off the back of your wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and let it cool for around half an hour.
Once cool, spread the custard onto the pie shell. Cut up your grapes and assemble them, cut-side down, onto the cream. It will take a while, yes, but it’s absolutely worth it in the end. Place your gorgeous little tart in the fridge, and cover with plastic wrap. Just before serving, warm some jam in a saucepan over light heat or in the microwave for a few minutes. Brush over little butts of grapes, remove from the tin and prepare yourself for a light and slightly unorthodox dessert.
Good food is magical. Surreal, almost, if the ambience and company is right. This is a long, long, long overdue post, but it took me a ridiculously long time as well to think of the perfect way to showcase it. Yes, it is my fault. Felix’s birthday was in the beginning of May, and this lunch was meant to celebrate that special date, his special 17th, and look, it’s already mid-June. He suggested this place and I just couldn’t say no, considering it was one of those quaint little corners I just always passed, always beckoning for a visit, and I just chant, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. Cue the quaintest little red corner and vintage French comic strips lining the low walls of this adorable hideout. The man you see above was quietly nibbling away at something or another, occasionally looking out the window, reminding me of the pleasures of dining on quality food alone. I wasn’t alone, but I was with the best ever company in the world. Those fresh, coarse locks and brown seafoam eyes are my vice. Second to none. No, there was no better company.
I’ll be frank– he’s more francophile than anglophile. I’m the opposite, or so I claim, but one cannot deny the gracious experience some spectacular French fare can provide. Honestly, guys, look at those beautiful diamond-rectangle slabs of fatty beauty below. Is that not one of the most gorgeous sights ever to exist? Bistro du Vin provides set lunches of superb quality and such decent prices. By the end of it all, and that was, what, a good 2 hours later, I was more than satisfied. And my wallet, for once, wasn’t crying out in pain.
Alex sees onions, Alex sees nothing else.
The foie gras was wonder on a plate. Moist, perhaps not as fatty as it could have been (I’m thinking Au Petit Salut’s moreish version right now). The caramelised, pickled onions were sweet and glazed, offering good contrast to the steamy, superabundance of I-cut-like-butter fat. Two slices was perhaps a bit much, considering there were still two full courses to go. The full effects were weighing down like stale jelly in my stomach by the time I was through with the first few bites. In a sort of pleasant way. How odd.
His appetiser: soft, creamy, probably still mooing. The mild flavour of the cheese worked well with the hardy sourdough crust, the sourdough providing a pleasant, light sourness, and the cooked apple and salty hit of bacon. Once again, practically a meal in itself.
This was my main, which was more filling than it looks. The broth was soft yet hearty, brimming with all flavours of the sea. The fish, and sadly I forgot to ask what sort it was, was overcooked and dry (which was probably why I didn’t bother to ask in the first place). Everything else was… Decent, I should say, with mediocre-tasting prawns, which were also a little too hard, and little clams and mussels. The hero was that sultry broth which managed to sufficiently flavour all the components. Thick and saturated, yum.
In other words, the best part of the set lunch.
In other words, the best salted caramel ice cream I have ever tasted, beating the one at Wimbly Lu and Habitat Coffee, which I love but cower in the face of this divine beauty. It melted like a withering caramel crystal on top of a crusty disc of flaky puff pastry, lovingly studded with delicate slivers of sweet pear, all thick and almost reluctant to give in to the pressure of my fork. A dream. The sort of dish which, even right now as I type with shaky fingers due to the single memory of its perfection, makes me weak at the knees. The sort of dish which you delight in eating even after all the ice cream has melted and has deflated and saturated the pastry, because you are a child once again revelling in the silly joy that is soggy, sweet stodge.
His clever choice. Can you see the fine smatterings of vanilla bean evenly dispersed throughout its creamy, provocative belly? The top crackled, the brûlée a sharp crowning of a most luxurious wobble!
I can’t, won’t, shan’t ever forget this lunch. One of the best set meals I have ever had, quality surpassing expectations, with only a few mishaps here and there. All for only $30++ (I hate how they charge $8 for the additional onions though– that’s just a necessity and there’s no denying it).
I usually don’t say this, but I’m highly inclined to come again.