Banana Cake with Toffee Sauce

3472698 Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Where has the consistency been? This week has been a flurry of priority questioning and it’s taken until now, April, to finally feel as if things are getting back on track. I’ve forgotten how effective blogging is at re-wording my sense of self and re-aligning priorities. More and more I’m realising it’s an outlet, to help me more than just others, and it feels good. If others indeed benefit from my own vulnerability in words as well as my recipes, then the ultimate goal is reached. Further, although Instagram, that occasionally fun and bright little platform, nicely links to this blog, I have to say that words flow a little more naturally here in prose. I can write all the long captions I want on every Instagram post, but that would ruin the point of this blog, and rarely does one go on Instagram to read paragraphs anyway.  There’s no limit here, just freedom of thought as my hands hurry across the keyboard. And doing it even just once a week is such a great relief, a comfort, away from other pressing worries.

Life is supposedly about work and play, but I realised there must be a couple of concrete things in place, done on the daily or weekly, that help reinforce my work ethic and everything else that comes in this sphere of daily living. Namely, blogging like this, fitness and health, and words. There are some practical ways in which these can be enforced, ways which in previous years I may have been too nervous to talk or even blog about. In the points below I’m more specific in methods that help my human relations (this is the one thing I think I’ll always be private about), body, life and general goals.

read and write a little everyday: words are assuagement, trailing between my teeth and lips and hands, giving meaning to the smallest overlooked things on the daily, resetting focus and slowing down my (usually too fast to the point of no return) brain. So a little everyday goes a long way. I’ve been journalling almost every day since I was 7, so I’m happy that that’s a natural habit in place, but my reading of books could seriously be upped, and my German is still incredibly poor so I must drastically improve my practice, with this blogpost keeping me accountable.

On this note on words, here’s an interesting quote to fluff up your day: ‘Science is one way of connecting with the mystery of existence. Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method because atheism is a declaration of nonbelief, but there are not really any declarations in science.’–Marcelo Gleiser, winner of the Templeton Prize 2019. Funny to read this as I constantly question where I am on the spirituality spectrum. That was something complex compressed neatly into a few keen sentences, something to think about more often.

cardio and strength training: movement is another meditation. I’ve been trying to alternate between these two 4 times a week, and I’ve found my general focus and memory to have improved significantly. Yoga, spinning, bodypump classes, and walking daily. I have pretty crap stamina so aiming to get stronger with time, as I zone out and tune in, and to improve insulin sensitivity. Anyone else have a strict fitness routine?

food: I’ll repeat myself every day if I have to– this blog is my fairytale place. It makes me happy to write about sweet things, made slowly and pleasingly with jazz music in the background, but it’s by no means what I eat on a daily basis. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m pretty health-conscious, given what I study (human nutrition, gut health and how it links to brain health), but good at pretending I’m not. I will happily visit the newest bakeries and indulge my sweet tooth, but that probably goes as far as once or twice a week, and I’m apt to look out for the other sugary things I enjoy slotting into my meals: sweet chilli sauce, oat mochas (I’m having one right now, guilty), maple syrup, etc. I never can, or will, be too militant because this in itself is a set-up for failure and a very UNfun life. So here’s to more protein in my protein-lacking diet, slow-releasing carbohydrates, more whole fruit and veg, and less sugar overall to keep me feeling sluggish.

And with that said…

4025924 Processed with VSCO with e3 preset

Cake. A cake for the weekend, or a midweek pick-me-up. This banana cake has olive oil in it, which I find readily complements the ripe banana flavour, but if you so happen to not have that on hand, then any other oil (sunflower, rapeseed or even coconut) would work. Maybe not sesame. There’s not much oil in the cake anyway, so you should be safe in any case.

3488740 Processed with VSCO with e3 preset59F20EA3-7858-4A46-8453-6A3A991F32C6Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

Banana, chocolate, olive oil. A serious, yet light-hearted, harmony. I experimented with the vegan version of this using ground flaxseed to make the flax eggs, but really this was The best part of eating this cake, in my humble opinion, is the drizzling of hot toffee sauce and cold cream (plain or coconut) on the cake, making it a squidgy, moreish mess, dry and wet in all the right places, before digging in. The hot and cold and bit of banana on top of the cake come together in a cute waltz that intensifies into a crazy textural orgasm. So hot.

4581922 Processed with VSCO with e3 preset3472698 Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

Ingredients (makes one 9-inch cake)

For the cake:

188g (1+1/2 cups) plain, all-purpose flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

handful of chopped chocolate (milk/dark)

230g (around 1+1/4 cup, unpacked) light/dark brown sugar

4+1/2 bananas, 2 whole and 2+1/2 mashed

3 eggs or 4 flax eggs (made by mixing 4 tbsp ground flaxseed with 7 tbsp water and leaving aside for a while to gel)

120ml (1/2 cup) olive oil, or sub with melted butter/vegan butter/another oil that’s more neutrally flavoured

Handful of chopped chocolate

For the toffee sauce:

113g (1/2 cup) butter/vegan butter

3 tsp fine salt

135g (2/3 cup, unpacked) light or dark brown sugar

120ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream or coconut cream

Directions

For the cake:

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Grease a standard 9-inch round cake pan. It would be easy if you use a springform pan, in which case you can easily take the cake out, and I don’t bother lining the tin. If you do use a normal pan then make sure to line your tin with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In another medium bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas (2+1/2), brown sugar, eggs, oil and salt. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and fold everything together until you get a nice homogenous batter. Some banana lumps are fine. Pour the cake batter into the pan. Next, cut each of the remaining 2 bananas in half, and then cut each half again in half, lengthwise this time. You end up with 8 short banana halves. Place each banana piece cut side up in a wheel formation (or however you like) on the cake, then sprinkle on the chopped chocolate on top, then place the cake into the preheated oven to bake for 35 minutes exactly.

Meanwhile, make the toffee sauce. Add the brown sugar and butter to a saucepan, bring the heat up to the highest and wait for the mixture to come to a boil, helping the brown sugar and butter to dissolve faster by nudging the mixture with a wooden spoon. Once it starts to sizzle, let bubble for 2 minutes, then add the cream and whisk. It will sputter a little, but that’s normal and good. Cook for a couple more minutes, then bring the heat down, cook one more minute until everything is smooth and caramel-coloured, and take it off the heat.

Once the cake is baked, take out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Serve with the toffee sauce and some extra cold cream or coconut cream. Store the toffee sauce in the fridge, and the cake at room temperature for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Blackberry Orange Sweet Rolls

2865310 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

‘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.

4606489 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset3801205 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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.

621C2F08-A1CF-43AF-BA05-416E54CBE3A4.jpg

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!

Coffee Crepes ft. A Better Florist (Singapore)

3832462 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

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.

4199481 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

 

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.

 

London Eats: Friends Of Ours

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

It’s official– my love and passion for french toast overrides that for so many other things in my life. It’s just not on. But at the same time, some flaws should be embraced. Hence my decision to do a conclusive write-up some time in the future on my favourite french toast places here in London!

Starting with the lovely little Friends of Ours. Goodness have I missed writing about these café adventures. Judgement will be based on:

  • that lovely saturation in the middle of sufficiently-thick bread slices
  • browning
  • usage and appropriateness of toppings

Though I won’t be able to write about every single place I try, the conclusive write-up will comprise my main favourites, so keep an eye out for that.

There’s something special about making a gala out of little trips like this. Yeah, there’s something special about making a very big deal out of your favourite food in the entire world.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

This little hideaway is adorable. Unpretentious, cosy, with service that can’t be beat. Fresh pastries and sandwiches adorn the counter, and though I’m no proper coffee expert, my affinity for long blacks has earned me some sort of coffee brew intelligent quotient, and the cuppa that greeted me seriously hit the spot.

IMG_3669Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Organic brioche french toast, roasted pears with rosemary and vanilla, clotted cream and shortbread crumble– £8.50

Long black– £2.20

What. A pretty picture. A slice of perfect thickness. The eggy, nicely-browned crust and exterior made me envision the battered slice hitting the heat of the pan, cooking thoroughly and quickly. Would have preferred a slightly more saturated and moist middle, but that’s really only because I like the texture to reach the point whereby there’s no problem flaking off bites with a fork. Almost ‘raw’, one could say. The roasted pear was tender and flavourful, offering sweet tangy notes to the bready base. So much more impressive than that served at another café I visited recently (here was hardly any on the plate and what was served was so cooked down that ‘saccharine’ would be a severe understatement as a description).

That, the shortbread crumble and clotted cream are what made every bite truly indulgent. Creamy, crunchy, soft. The toast itself provided a good medium for all the flavours to work together well. If anything, a more citrusy option or additive to this french toast would propel it to greater heights. Looked at the menu again, and cursed myself for only having one stomach. I’m dying to return just for that coconut rice pudding (how good does that sound?) or eggs. More coffee, of course.

Made my way to Shoreditch, freezing and hopeful. What I had warmed my stomach and heart. Hurry down to try their gorgeous brunch fare and coffee, armed with a good read. The solo, well-spaced tables and chairs make it easy to lose yourself in your thoughts or focus on some work.

Friends of Ours

61 Pitfield St, London N1 6BU

Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm

Sat: 9am-5pm

Sun: 10am-5pm

Chocolate Banana Mascarpone Sandwich

Sundays can be more magical than you ever think them to be.

A quickie, because I want you to make it now, or at least soon, before the magic of what you see above dissipates. Chocolate and banana is a sworn classic, at least to me anyways, and this sandwich has all the goods and more. I wouldn’t call it ‘chocolate and cheese’, because that juxtaposition looks and sounds sacrilegious, because I might as well say ‘chocolate and cheddar’ and make you all gag.

Saturday night made me too pink from the drink. With a late start on Sunday, something easy but lush was much needed. Thrown together in haste, but well astonished afterward. I must thank the gooey, perfect, sinful result of melting chocolate, mascarpone and gooey ripe banana mashed between commercial brioche.

Easy sin.

Chocolate Banana Mascarpone Sandwich (serves 1)

Directions

Heat a pan on medium high heat and ready a generous knob of butter. On one slice of brioche, spread a thick layer of chocolate spread (nutella/chocolate peanut butter/chocolate spread) and layer on slices of banana. On the other slice, spread a thick layer of mascarpone, and then layer on either one big square of dark chocolate or many small chunks of chocolate. Sandwich the slices together. Place butter in preheated pan, spread around a little, then place one side of the sandwich on the hot pan. Leave for 2 minutes, then flip to cook the other side. The surface should be a golden-brown.

Slice on the diagonal (it’s a rule), admire the oozing chocolate and then bite right into the middle while still hot and moist.