Saturday, March 30, 2013

I can't stop myself from eating...

I can't stop myself from eating banana bread, especially when warmed, smeared with butter or peanut butter. While some people have the itch to do some compulsive shopping, I have the urge of having a thick slice of banana bread for afternoon tea.

Back in middle school, my friends and I were addicted to the banana bread in the new cafeteria. It was full of chocolate chips, with a crackly top and a glaze, that I was always looking forward to. I bought it every few days, after I would finish my sandwich. Now, after I've made several banana breads, I know my school's one will never be as good as home-made ones.

Home-made banana bread is the best. And if you aren't baking it, get your butt off the computer and bake this one. Not only is it a cinch making your own, but it is also cheaper and much more tastier.
It's funny to think that some people in society (or in that case, people around my age) believe that any sort of cake or bread automatically becomes 'healthy', when there are fruits or vegetables involved.  A classic example of this is carrot cake. I made a 2 layer carrot cake, smothered with a load of cream cheese for my friend's birthday, and brought it to school not too long ago. My friends enjoyed it, and when they were offering it to some other people they said "Do you want some? It's really good! It's healthy too!" I was secretly laughing inside ;)

This is a healthier banana bread, but not the healthiest. If you want a banana bread that is even healthier than this (it uses oat flour!), then head to this recipe. This recipe uses apple sauce to replace the oil and butter and makes it quite moist. I honestly don't miss the butter or the oil in a lot of the 'healthier' banana bread recipes.  I added some chopped walnuts which is always essential for my own banana breads. I always need a little crunch!
I also put 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, just to get a little bit more fibre.

As the my term 1 holidays are starting, I have a plan to work out everyday, and attempt to limit myself from eating too many slices of this. I'm on my way to learning how to have the willpower to limit my portions. I will only have one slice next time. But today I had two or three slices.. It was my breakfast.

Like they all say: Tomorrow is always a new day. 

Applesauce banana bread 
Yields 1 loaf, or 2 mini loaves

3 large ripe bananas (I used four medium sized ripe bananas because that's what I had)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar, increase to 3/4 or 1 cup depending on your liking
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup apple sauce (home-made or store bought)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F), grease sides of the loaf pan and line the base with parchment paper (or grease the whole pan).
2. Mash bananas with a potato masher or a fork, put aside.
3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda in a medium bowl.
4. Add apple sauce, eggs, vanilla and bananas (and nuts if using) to flour mixture, and mix with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until just combined. Do not over mix.
5. Pour batter into the loaf pan, and bake for 50-60 minutes, until the an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.
6. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then cool bread on cooling rack.

Slightly adapted from Kitchen Runway

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Double chocolate hot cross buns

This recipe was sort of an accident. As in, it was sort of an accident to make these double chocolate hot cross buns...
My original intention was to have a plain hot cross bun with chocolate chips.However, I added the chocolate chips too soon after all the melted butter + warm milk, and it COMPLETELY mixed into the dough. I think the warm weather is also to blame for.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns
Hot cross buns
One a penny 
Two a penny
Hot cross buns

I played that on my recorder in primary school. For those of you who may not know what a recorder is, it is a flute-like instrument, except it does not sound as graceful as the flute and my sisters told me to stop playing when they were studying for exams, during their uni days. It was a compulsory thing to have a recorder in my primary school!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rambles about diet and brown butter oatmeal cookies

I am one of those bakers who have not tried browning butter until now. All I can say is Oh my word. These cookies are seriously addictive. You can't just have one, instead you find yourself reaching for more.
 After I browned the butter, I could inhale the deep, rich, toffee smell. I could really use a scented candle that smells like toffee. 

 I decided not to go down the road of the raisin and walnut oatmeal cookie, but rather create something a bit sneaky and totally not diet-friendly. I added some dark, milk and white chocolate chips.  But hey, half of it is whole wheat flour.. ;)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Green tea ice cream

When I was exploring around Japan, I had an authentic, and interesting food journey there. Although it was on a tour, and there were set menus, the food was still pretty darn good. I loved the miso soup, the tempura, green tea Kit Kat (I am dying to find some in Melbourne!) and all these interesting foods.I even had a 'cherry-blossom' flavour ice cream.
I would go back to Japan in a heartbeat. There's something about the politeness of the Japanese that makes me feel welcome. And also how it is a seriously cool country (music and warm seat options for a toilet?!?!) But anyway, back on to green tea ice cream. I made this recipe by David Lebovitz last year for Christmas, and while I liked it, I felt that it was a bit too rich and creamy for my liking for green tea ice cream. I recently went to eat at Takumi in the city, and I ate some magical green tea ice cream (pictures later), that had the perfect consistency of it being not too creamy, but not too icy either. And the green tea flavour was just the spot. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Perfect chocolate cupcakes

The flavours of chocolate shortbread dance around, once the taste hits my tongue. A buttery biscuit, with a little hint of espresso, and a perfect crunch. Combine that together with some perfect chocolate buttercream, and the best chocolate cake I've ever made, you have yourself  'Perfect chocolate cupcakes'. Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. Triple chocolate: this is truly a chocoholic's dream. 
 The texture of the chocolate cake is really incredible. It has a sort of spongy, moist texture. The balance with the chocolate and sugar is pretty good too. I've made chocolate cake before where the cocoa definitely took over the sweetness, and people find that too bitter.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Healthy banana bread

 Banana bread can be healthy. It really can. Just take a look at my Greek yoghurt banana bread. But hey, this is even a more healthy recipe! There is absolutely no butter, oil or refined sugar. It uses applesauce and honey. Honey can replace white sugar or brown sugar in banana bread quite well, in my opinion. It's all good.

My oldest sister really enjoyed this banana bread. I quote her "This does not taste healthy at all!"

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flourless chocolate cake

Flourless chocolate cakes are really good. Like really, really good. Especially with some ice cream.

I achieved a very moist, spongy texture from this, and it certainly wasn't too sweet. I loved the contrast of the raspberries with the chocolate. It cuts through the dark chocolate.  The coffee flavour is also there, and in my opinion, essential in a good chocolate cake. It's not too obvious, but my piano teacher commented that there was a lovely 'after-taste' of the coffee. Am I the only one who has found chocolate cakes creates a bit more depth with the taste if you put some coffee in?
Sprinkle with icing sugar (to cover the cracks), top with some berries and eat with some whipped cream. Oh, and if you're feeling a little bit more indulgent, eat it with some ice cream.

Flourless chocolate cake
Slightly adapted from Taste

*Serves 8-12 people

125 g almond meal
125 g unsalted butter, chopped
3-4 tablespoons strongly brewed black coffee
200 g (1 bar) good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3-1/2 cup sugar, depending on your preference. Leave about 4-5 tablespoons of sugar for the egg whites.
5 eggs, separated
*Optional: Chopped raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F). Grease the sides of a springform cake pan (6 cm deep, 23 cm base) with some butter and line the base with parchment paper.
2. Combine butter, coffee and chocolate in a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in intervals, for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring every minute until smooth.
3. Add cocoa, sugar, egg yolks and almond meal. Combine well.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks. Add the sugar, 1 table spoon at a time. You should be able to lift a spoonful of egg white, without it falling over.
5. Fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture until just combined. At this point, add the chopped raspberries or any other mix ins. Just be careful not to overdo your mix ins!
6. Bake for about 40-45 minutes (I baked for 40), until a skewer inserted into the centre has moist crumbs clinging.
7. Cool completely in the pan. Release side and transfer to a plate. Dust with icing sugar or cocoa, top with fresh berries and serve with whipped cream.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Banana chocolate chip pancakes

 Do you have those early mornings, where you wake up at around 6-7 AM? Some days, you're in such a deep sleep or having such a wonderful dream but is ruined by the sound of your alarm buzzing off from your phone? I'm sure most of you have those mornings. And it's a pain in the butt, but once you reach the weekend, you could scream at the top of your lungs "HALLELUJAH!"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Chalet

Lake Tekapau is far by the purest, light blue water I've ever seen. Yes, even prettier than the water I saw in South-Eastern Europe.
I'm not actually joking about how blue that water is.
It is so beautiful, so picturesque! And the place we were staying was definitely the highlight. My favourite stay out of the whole trip actually.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Baking is somewhat therapeutic. It is somewhat comforting, when you have buttery fingers, pressing into dough, scooping cupcake batter into muffin cases or just simply, decorating cakes. Baking has become one of my stress-relievers, and on Thursday, I did that.

I had a pretty terrible week, so a good way on the day before Friday, was to bake some simple vanilla cupcakes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Japanese cheesecake

I admire the genius minds of the Japanese. I love all things Japanese; Japanese bidet toilets (after an experience in Japan in '10), sushi, tempura, cameras, anything matcha-flavoured, mochi and their breads. Especially with Japanese desserts, they somehow incorporated some French technique, and altered it to the Japanese style (crepes, cream puffs)
The thing I love about Japanese desserts, are that they are so inventive and also not too sweet. This isn't your regular heavy, cheesecake.  So even if you're not a cheesecake fan, try this! The author of Just one cookbook (her website is full of glorious Japanese recipes), does a really good step by step tutorial, so if you're afraid of how water baths work, like I was, it's good to refer to her tutorial.