banana loaf made easy

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

For all alternative baking, there ought to start from the basics. A quintessential staple on a kitchen counter top, sitting quietly in a wooden bowl and deepening in flavours as time passes daintily. The banana is a versatile fruit that can be easily consumed on the go or forgotten. When that happens, turn it into a delightful treat. Banana bread or loaf should be a breeze to make. Thus it is also easily made dairy/gluten free.

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The banana skins should be browned or very soft to touch. When you mash them, they should smell sweet and slightly musky. The mushier the mash, the moister the cake, the tastier it will be. So always buy more bananas than you need, a loaf is always welcome in a home.

for a 9 inch cake tin

1 tsp vanilla extract
two very ripe bananas, mashed
45g Bob’s Mill buckwheat flour
100g Doves Farm gluten free plain white flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
80 ml vegetable oil
50g unsweetened applesauce
50g non-dairy milk
150g Lundberg brown rice syrup

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a 9 inch cake tin.

In a small bowl, add the mash bananas and vanilla extract and set aside.

In another deep mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk and brown rice syrup. Pour the wet mixture into the deep mixing bowl, whisk until there are no lumps. Then fold in the mashed bananas gently until everything comes together.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. If the cake tester/knife comes out wet, set it for another 5-10 minutes. It should be golden brown and the cake tester/knife should be clean. If you like your bread loaf a little denser, take it out of the oven when it is still a little moist. The cake tester/knife will have a some batter stick to it. Let it cool for at least ten minutes before indulging it with a knob of butter or a squeeze of honey and a cup of tea.

a new carrot cake

March 25, 2014 § 3 Comments

As part of Supernature Organic April baking theme, I had baked a gluten free vegan carrot cake. While carrot cake is often available at bakeries and cafes, it is easily replaced with gluten free flours and sugar free options. Try Bob Mill’s quinoa flour, buckwheat flour or Doves Farm plain white flour. For sugar free option, Wholesome agave or Lundberg brown rice syrup. The agave gives a richer and pure sweetness to the cake, while Lundberg produce a wholesome rustic taste. This is my favourite combination by far but I do suggest trying a few flours to suit your taste.

for a 9 inch cake tin

45g Bob’s Mill buckwheat flour
100g Doves Farm gluten free plain white flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
80 ml vegetable oil
60g unsweetened applesauce
50g non-dairy milk (hazelnut milk is a big hit)
150g Lundberg brown rice syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
a handful of chopped walnuts
1 large carrot or 2 small carrots, shredded

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a 9 inch cake tin. In a deep mixing bowl, mix buckwheat flour, gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, applesauce, non-dairy milk, brown rice syrup and vanilla extract. Add the wet mix into the dry mixture, whisk together until well combined. With a spatula, fold the chopped walnuts and shredded carrots into the batter till it is evenly incorporated.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake it for 30-35 minutes. Use a knife or cake tester, it will come out clean when the cake is done. If there are little crumbs sticking to the knife or tester, return it to the oven for at least five minutes. Careful not to over bake as gluten free cakes gets drier when it cools.

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it. – Julia Child

when silence is gold

February 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Last lunar new year, I found a note between John Kerouac’s On The Road book. My late cousin had collected a series of his books and a few more of his favourite authors. Every year, we return back to my aunt’s house for a reunion meal. Every year, I stand in front of the shelves, picking up random books and flipping pages until it is time to go home.

It is not every year I get to spend time with my other cousins. E’s brother, Chong, who just returned from Thailand spent some nights with the family. The note, was for him and was “edited” by E. We thought the note was for Chong. But according to him, it wasn’t.

The past few weeks have been a little tougher than usual, I have been questioning life and the path I am on. What it entails and what it offers. The book, the cafe, the family and being in this country.

Two days ago, I visited the crematorium after a restless morning. I have had thoughts before but never got the courage to do so.Torn and heavy hearted I found the disturbed thoughts silencing themselves between the walls. It’s ironic how peaceful it can be around the eternal rest.

I walked out feeling a little more grounded and lifted inside. Another paradox in life, I cannot explain but only feel compelled to share.

This morning, Chong had surprised me with a message. He mentioned that the note was written when both of them had experienced love. That being in love “makes us see how wonderful life is”. Reminding me not to think so much but to enjoy it. Thus, was placed in On The Road. The note was meant for me. To show me that love and youth make life wonderful.

Chong calls this synchronicity, I believe it is too.

There are signs we can choose to ignore and paths we choose to take. But we can only follow the flow and find a rhythm that sings to our heart. Find that rhythm and make it your anthem.

Life must be rich and full of loving–it’s no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone.”
― Jack Kerouac

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We are still working on the cookbook. It is taking more time than we thought but we are working hard for it to be out by Christmas. This is a purple sweet potato cake with rosemary lemon syrup. Purple sweet potato has a dense floury texture and a rich tannin sweetness. It was really lovely with the fragrant rosemary and citrusy punch syrup. More recipe testing soon.

renewal

January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

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New beginnings call for restorations and continuations. As I grow deeper with writing and baking, I’d increasingly started to realize the importance of feeding and treating the body better. I wake up to feeling fresh and renewed, preparing for life’s offerings, to take everything in with a stride and translate all the bad energy to good things slowly and surely.

It is not difficult to choose a balanced lifestyle. While we all choose to complain, we can all choose to walk the talk more often. Take time for yourself, cook better food, choose less process or greasy, more wholesome, healthier ingredients with the simplest meals. Your body probably won’t agree from the start but will gradually be thankful at the end of the day. Feel light and happy.

There was once when your body, mind, soul and heart felt wonderfully whole. Find that tender moment, practice the positivity and keep them.

the heart feels more secured
the mind feels more pure
the soul feels more alive

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Figs are often regarded as a symbol of renewal. With the start of the new year, we’ve decided to enjoy what’s left of the season by reducing them with warm spices, sweet onions and dark brown sugar. Then slowly bringing them to a simmer until each flavour immerse into a lovely chutney. Jar them while its hot, allowing the fruits soak in the spices and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, spread it over hot toast, melt some soft cheese like brie or camembert, throw a handful of fresh arugula or pea sprouts and drizzle a touch of extra virgin olive oil.

It’s a simple way of eating, and so tasty!

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your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny

- mohamand ganhdi

almond milk and present

August 27, 2013 § 3 Comments

53 weeks ago, I was on a flight back from Melbourne. A quiet trip for myself in search for clearer air, amazing coffee and a change of perspective with time . I found lovely cafes that slowed us down and connected honest people with fresh simple meals. I wanted to move with that pace and time.

I found the same momentum here in this sunny island. While I thought I was going to leave again, I chose to stay.

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At that time, someone once told me that whatever I choose to do, make sure the sacrifice for that decision is worth it. I can’t say it is all worthwhile. On a bad day, like many others, I get jaded. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have good days, in fact, some days are too splendid to be true.

I have been living on my own grounds but fearful of losing close ties. So I got stuck to a system that didn’t allow me to be as mobile or advance myself with career. Nevertheless, I pulled myself away the last week before a birthday trip and reflected on the year. When it’s quiet, you suddenly listen more. Truth is, I had made so many baby steps and fell countless amount of times that those little accomplishments are forgotten. Mostly because I was waiting for personal acceptance or approval. Then to realize, living on other’s people acceptance and approval is not living at all. You just have to be present with life.

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Before leaving for Hong Kong, I made some almond milk by soaking them overnight and blitz the shenanigans out of them until it becomes a smooth velvety pillow like texture. When I got home last night, I reached out into the fridge and took a sip. It was so much more tastier than the week before. Perhaps, like the almond milk, I just need to wait for events to develop its own characters, and for now, keep steadfast.

200g of whole almonds with skin
350g-400g of purified/filtered water
half vanilla bean, scrapped
1 tsp of honey
a pinch of salt

After soaking the almonds overnight, process it them in a food processor. Add in vanilla bean, honey and salt. Sift it through a very fine sieve or cheese cloth. Be patient with this process! If you prefer it to be sweeter add some brown sugar while soaking it but try to let the flavors take their own courses as it can sit in the fridge for 7-8 days.

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bravery cafe by the fabulous folks from the plain, scones from lovely Elodie and homemade jam, new table from muji, boat trip in Hong Kong, amical cafe on sun street, silver lining

a beetroot in a chocolate cake

August 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

is as soulful as having a garden in the kitchen. Any root vegetables would give the same humble earthiness, but this passionate red plant gives plenty of warmth and moisture. I had the kids fooled. They ate the entire cake before even realizing there was some added zinc goodness.  There is no “once bitten twice shy” value in this, just go for it!

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Prior to this, I had made some chocolate beetroot muffin. This cake is a little more decadent and luxurious. I am testing out a vegan version so more soon!

Adapted from Nigel Slater, with some adjustments.

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
180ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar,
3 eggs
150g raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolates

Set the oven at 170C. Lightly butter a 9″ rectangular loaf.

Grate the beetroot coarsely, set aside.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and half of the sugar in a food mixer until well creamed then introduce the beaten egg yolks one by one, reserving the whites for later.

Fold yolks and flour together, then gently fold in the beets.

Beat the egg whites till light and almost stiff. Fold gently everything together but thoroughly into the mixture (He suggested using a large metal spoon, a wooden one will knock the air out). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. Once it is done, allow it to cool for 20 minutes before indulging.

It’s been a trying week. The exhaustion from many personal events collided into one and I find myself detaching again. I’m catching up with the workload at the cafe as well as rest. It’s already August. Last year this time, I found Henry. Sure is a ride, but I shall save that post for another time.

there is no real secret to an amazing meal, just simple & fresh ingredients.
there is no real secret to an amazing life, just simple things & good company.

why all the fancy schmancy?

the gooey cake

May 29, 2013 § 4 Comments

An accidental bake. I had wanted to make something else but had forgotten to write the ingredients in the grocery list. Having Deb Perelman‘s book in my hands, I stumbled upon the simplest ingredients and without a second thought, turned the oven knob on and rummaged into the refrigerator.

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With the new space coming up, we have been testing a few recipes and getting the place together. I am enjoying the silent kitchen with construction noise behind thick walls. The cleanliness of our bare feet against spotless beige tiles. Unused porcelain still wrapped in newspaper tucked near the dishwasher, which is still adjusting to its awkward piping system.

For the cafe family, we are thrilled for the opening day. But the delay had costs much frustrations yet allows us to ease into the comforts of our new home. Already, we have a creative corner, the manager’s favourite chair, an habitual angle to lean on the wall and usual parking space. While there will be many more avenues for each of us to fall calmly into, it is already a great start.

Much like this cake, which was shared and enjoyed immensely, the day turned out unexpectedly lovely. Perhaps, perfecting our crafts, slowly taking our time to focus on shaping and molding, brings unadorned pleasant surprises. In turn, reflects individual personalities, understanding characters and working better as a family. Learning to be patient with time, with ourselves and one another.

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Cookie Base

1 1/2 cups (190g) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk

Soft Gooey Layer

1/4 cup (60ml) light corn syrup or golden syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 (155g) cups flour

Cinnamon Topping

2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Line a 9- by 13-inch cake pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all four sides. (I overturn the pan, shape the foil over the bottom, remove it, then flip the pan over and ease the foil into the pan.) Spray the foil in the pan with nonstick spray or brush with melted butter.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

2. To make the cookie base, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups (190g) flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Beat the 8 tablespoons (115g) of butter and the 3/4 cup (150g) of sugar in the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand, until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the egg and the milk and mix in, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients, until fully incorporated. Put the mixture in the cake pan in dollops (it’s too thick to spread if you add it all in the same place), and spread it into an even layer with an offset spatula.

(You don’t need to clean the bowl; you can reuse it for the next step.)

4. To make the soft gooey layer, in a small bowl, whisk together the corn syrup or golden syrup with the milk or cream, and vanilla.

5. Beat the 12 tablespoons (170g) of butter with the 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) of sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

5. Add one-third of the 1 1/4 cup (155g) flour, then half of the milk/corn syrup mixture. Add another one-third of the flour, then the rest of the milk/corn syrup mixture. Then stir in the remaining flour. Dollop the batter over the unbaked cookie layer and spread evenly.

6. Mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it evenly over the cake.

7. Bake the cake for 25 minutes, or until the cake feels slightly damp, but gently set in the center. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When cool, lift out the cake using the overhang of the foil, and cut the cake into 1-inch (3cm) squares.

Note: Sharp-eyed folks might notice that my cake squares didn’t get as dark has hers, as shown in the book, which I attribute to a new oven which I’m still learning how to use. The cinnamon I ground was also not as fine as the finely ground cinnamon that you buy, so the pieces are more distinct, which also led to the tops of mine looking a bit different from hers. Regardless of any differences in appearance, it’s quite an amazing cake and I urge you to try it.

*coffee is from Nylon*

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