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Archive for the ‘Experiments’ Category

After getting raw and exposed with my love life before and with Flo, what better way to wrap up the ‘raw’ series with a raw, vegan dessert I just tackled?!

Brownies that aren’t baked?! Cheesecake without cream cheese?! Cake without eggs?! 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I’ve never quite believed in desserts without eggs and butter but as more and more people shift towards having a healthier lifestyle, some have chosen to take the vegetarian route, some the vegan route, some the raw AND vegan route, and some the paleo route. Whatever the case, the world of desserts and baking has opened up to include all kinds of different lifestyle choices, and as such, the sweet life, too, has evolved.

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I shared not long ago my venture into the world of healthier baking using alternative flours such as rye, spelt, coconut and cornmeal; dabbling with coconut sugar and maple syrup; substituting avocados for butter. I’ve enjoyed my little kitchen experiments where different ingredients can yield different textures and create different flavours in my bakes. Even more, it feels good to be consuming small indulgences knowing that they’re that extra bit better for my health!

So rather than strike off another kind of dessert just because it doesn’t involve traditional baking, I decided to have a go and see just how a raw, vegan cheesecake would turn out. Obviously, I had to first make it in order to try it, especially since vegan desserts are still quite a rarity here in Singapore. I know that there are some places that make them but what better than to challenge myself and try it first-hand?

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Vanilla Raw Vegan Cheesecake (Makes 1 4.5″ round)

For the Base:
90g Dates
50g Walnuts
15g Desiccated Coconut
Pinch Salt

  1. Blend everything until mixture comes together and press into base of a 4.5″ round tin.

For the Filling:
120g Cashews, soaked in boiling water for at least 1 hour, and drained
25g Coconut Cream
10g Lime Juice
40g Maple Syrup (I used Grade B)
Vanilla Extract
30g Coconut Oil

  1. Blend everything together apart from the coconut oil.
  2. Drizzle in coconut oil and blend for no more than 15seconds.
  3. Pour mixture on top of prepared base and freeze for 3-4 hours to set.
  4. Allow to thaw in fridge for about 3 hours before serving.

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How did it fare?

I can assure you that this was exquisite with its creamy filling that carried the flavours of the seasons – the zest of Spring from the lime juice; the waft of Summer from the tropical coconut; the comfort of vanilla that whispers Autumn; and the subtle sweet woodiness of maple that spoke of Winter. The base, had some crunch from the walnuts, some chewiness from the dates, and that created contrasting textures to the filling.

But.

I can also say honestly that this was no cheesecake as we know cheesecake to be. It was creamy for sure, but not in that rich, luxuriant way that wraps around you in a hug. It didn’t have that buttery, addictive base (that I sometimes eat cheesecake specially for), nor the density of smooth velvety filling that we know to be comfort food.

But. 

I will say that this raw, vegan cheesecake did delight my palate on its own terms. Perhaps if named differently, non-vegans would have less expectations of it being like the traditional cheesecake, and more like a dessert that has a personality of its own. I would call this Cashew Cream D’lite or something cheesy like that. Can’t decide if that pun’s intended… =P

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I think the key here is knowing that with alternative desserts and baked goods, they are unlikely to ever replicate the original to a tee. They are however, undoubtedly tasty if we put aside the fact that they will be different in texture and flavour which doesn’t necessarily mean unpleasant.

Also, I have to admit that it’s amazing how those who have chosen to follow an alternative diet have managed to become so creative in quelling their need for sweet! This raw, vegan cheesecake did do the job and once again, I’ll have to admit that while it deviates quite a lot from the baked cream cheese cheesecake cheesecake we all love, it left me feeling pretty good about what I fed my body. Again, a different good. Not a ‘so naughty it’s good‘ good. More a ‘I feel like an angel‘ good.

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Since I had a recent request to blog about how I met Flo, I decided that a little booze before hand should lighten the mood and put us all at ease for an epic long post about our relationship which should turn up as my next blog post. I’ll probably break it up into two posts lest it become a novel – I’m thinking Before I met Flo and How I met Flo and beyond, because I think that some events in my life before Flo helped mould me into someone able to appreciate Flo and the amazing man that he is.

But first, a lug of Red Wine perhaps? 

In a batch of Coconut Flour Brownies?

With Cherries on top?… with some folded in?

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My first attempt at these brownies was a fail in that they came out dry, too dry. I wasn’t happy with them and after Flo’s confirmation that they were bordering inedible, I had to make them again, only this time with my trusty Coconut Flour Brownies recipe with a few light tweaks.

My initial thought was to experiment using a totally different recipe to see how it would turn out. I realise now that if you have a consistently faultless recipe to begin with, then you should stick to it and jazz it up from time to time. It’s amazing how a splash of red wine and some cherries can amp a good recipe up a notch or two.

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Coconut Flour Cherry Red Wine Brownies (8×8″ Square)

75g Butter, melted and cooled
50g Cocoa Powder
6 Eggs
150g Coconut Sugar
60g Coconut Milk
pinch Salt
60g Coconut Flour
125g Pitted Cherries, halved
30g Red Wine

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8×8″ square tin.
  2. Combine butter/oil with cocoa powder and mix well.
  3. Stir in eggs, coconut sugar, milk and red wine. Mix well.
  4. Add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Fold in 3/4 of the cherries and pour batter into prepared tin. Then press remaining cherries lightly on top, into the batter.
  6. Bake for 20-25min until just set.

Did I enjoy these Red Wine Cherry Brownies? Heck yeah I did. They were not only moist with a whispers of bitter chocolate and mellow coconut, they contained the deep, dark, fruity flavours leftover from the wine. The cherries complemented the beautiful berry tones and also added pockets of fudge from its naturally sweet juice infusing into the batter.

I’m not much of a wine drinker. Actually, I’m not much of an alcohol drinker at all. I’ve never liked the taste of it. Moreover, I get the Asian Blush whenever I take a couple of sips (yes, sips!) and this massive vein in the middle of my forehead appears if I continue to drink up even after my face starts flushing. So unattractive!

But in baked goods, I love how the alcohol evaporates to leave more flavour complexity behind while highlighting existing ones. One of my favourites to use is rum. It’s perfect with chocolate, and citrus, and coconut. If you’re baking with oranges or using vanilla, add in some Grand Marnier, or anything with berries like with this brownie, some wine will level it right up. For starters though, this brownie recipe is sure to put you onto the path of more boozy bakes! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

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Still playing with herbs in my kitchen… I went back to a good ol’ favourite –  Reliable Rosemary, from my last bake with Sassy Sage. I decided to pair Rosemary up with some toasty Macadamias and a nice dose of Chocolate Chips to liven things up.

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Instead of brown sugar, I decided to go with coconut sugar. You know, unrefined sugar and all. Interestingly, the use of coconut sugar with the rosemary created this wonderful spicy flowery gingery flavour that you either love or hate. I love the warmth of ginger and thankfully, so do a lot of people here in Asia. Ginger is known to be warming to the body and great in fighting colds and flus. It also makes a comforting dessert here where older aunties boil old ginger in water with some rock sugar. Sometimes they’ll add other awesome stuff like white fungus, or gingko, or the more extravagant glutinous rice dumplings filled with crushed peanut, sesame, red bean or yam paste, and it all goes down a treat!

But I digress. These blondies while looking a lot more like brownies due to the brown hue imbued by the coconut sugar, tasted almost nostalgic with the gingery tones and slightly sticky, chewy texture which reminded me so much of our Chinese version of nougat.

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Rosemary Macadamia Spelt Flour Blondies (9×9″ Square)

150g Butter
2 Sprigs Rosemary
1 Egg
2 Egg Yolks
200g Brown Sugar
Vanilla Extract
125g Spelt Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
120g Macadamias
50g Dark Chocolate Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line a 9×9″ square baking tin.
  2. Brown butter with rosemary sprigs. Let cool before removing rosemary.
  3. Whisk egg, yolks, brown sugar and vanilla into the brown butter mixture.
  4. Add spelt flour and baking powder to combine.
  5. Fold in 3/4 of chopped macadamia and dark chocolate chips.
  6. Sprinkle remaining nuts and chocolate on top. Scatter more chopped rosemary on top if you like.
  7. Bake 22-25min. Allow to cool before slicing into bars.

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I wonder if perhaps next time, with the memory of red dates and walnuts in mind, whether I can somehow make East and West meet in this blondie with the addition of rosemary and coconut sugar once more. Hmm.. That would certainly be an interesting baking project to undertake. I’ll start my trial tests and weasel out the errors, and fingers crossed, I’ll be able to share a nice recipe with you that will have the essence of our Asian Red Date and Walnut Candy in Blondie form!

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Good August everyone!

I just spent the weekend going solo in Hong Kong! It was my first ever time travelling alone and I have lots to share so sit tight for my upcoming blog posts on the City of Lights. But first, cake!

As I had some sage leftover from one of the days I made a beef burger patty from scratch for Flo for dinner, I wondered what I could do with it. I know that sage is not the herb most people think of when baking and to be honest, unlike with Rosemary, Thyme and Basil, I’m not too familiar with Sage and hardly use it even in my cooking. Still, I was determined to somehow incorporate it into a sweet bake and delved into the depths of my dependable friend, the refrigerator. Waddyaknow? Fresh Turkish Apricots, small and plump and perfect for making mini loaf cakes!

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I decided to go along the lines of honey and cornmeal, throwing some minced sage in for flavour, and ground almonds to keep things nearly gluten-free. I’m really not a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, fat-free kind of baker, but I’ll admit that it does feel good sometimes when you eat a baked good that you know might be that little bit healthier for you. And instead of using plain flour, I used a touch of spelt flour just to give that bit of lift in the cakes.

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This recipe made a nice round figure of five loaves, each about 3×2″ in size. It’s an excellent morning pick-me-up or tea time not-too-indulgent indulgence. It’s not too sweet, and has a slightly coarse texture from the cornmeal which I actually appreciated because it created a little something different from the usual soft, fluffy cakes I’m used to. I also added a bit of lime zest to add a refreshing dimension to the cake. I think citrus zests are awesome – just a hint and it takes a baked item to a whole new level of goodness!

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Apricot Lime Sage Baby Loaf Cakes (Makes 5 3×2″ baby loaves)

8 Turkish Apricots – finely dice 3 and halve the remaining 5 
100g Butter
80g Honey
100g Ground Almonds
100g Fine Cornmeal
35g Spelt Flour (or Plain Flour)
2.5g Baking Powder
2 Eggs
1 Lime, Zested
1 T Chopped Sage

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C and line baking tins.
  2. Cream butter with honey and lime zest.
  3. Add in eggs one at a time.
  4. Incorporate ground almonds, fine cornmeal, spelt flour and baking powder.
  5. Fold in chopped sage and diced apricots.
  6. Fill baking tins and top with two apricot halves on top of each loaf cake.
  7. Bake for 20-24 min until golden brown and skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for 15min before removing from tin to cool further.

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I was really stoked with how the flavours of sage played along nicely with the subtle floral honey tones and the natural sweetness of the apricots. The woody flavours of the herb was subtle and complementary to the earthiness of the cornmeal and gentle nuttiness of the almond flour.

So yes, please! If you happen to have some sage left after using what you need for your meats or salads, use it in this recipe. Or even better yet, set aside some so you can be sure to bake some of these gorgeous loaves of sunshine. Give sage a chance in this sweet bake and I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it!

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I stumbled upon this recipe a while back and was eager to give it a go. The combination of rye flour and bay leaf piqued my curiosity and so, I decided I would make it. As with always, I took the recipe and gave it a little spin of my own. Nothing too out there though since I wanted to maintain the basic flavours of this bake.

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I loved the density of these brownies because that made them very fudgy. I found it very much easier to cut after a night in the fridge, especially with the whole almonds which tend to break into the brownie if you cut it at room temperature. Of course, if, like me, you relish having your brownies warm, then dig right into them because seriously, the mess makes these babies all the more pleasurable to eat. Nothing like a hot mess they say!

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Bay Leaf, Almonds, and Rye Brownies (9×9″ Square)

200g Dark Chocolate (72% Cocoa and up preferably)
180g butter
2 tsp fine sea salt
4 Eggs
80g Sugar
75g Brown Sugar
150g Dark Rye Flour

90g Toasted Almonds
1/2 Grapefruit, Zested
30g Sugar

6-8 Fresh Bay Leaves

  1. Preheat oven to 170 deg C and line a 9×9″ baking tin.
  2. Take one egg, separate its yolk from the whites. Then take half the egg white and set aside. The remaining egg white and yolk will be used in the main batter along with the other 3 eggs.
  3. Melt dark chocolate, butter and 1 tsp of sea salt together over a bain marie. Then sat aside to cool
  4. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk eggs and both sugars together until light and fluffy.
  5. Slowly pour dark chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.
  6. Fold in rye flour until just incorporated.
  7. Pour mixture into prepared tin.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk egg white until white and frothy. Then fold in almonds, grapefruit zest, remaining teaspoon of salt and 30g of sugar.
  9. Pour mixture over brownie batter and spread nicely and as evenly as possible.
  10. Top with bay leaves. Press them into the batter lightly – they can be removed after baking.
  11. Bake for 20-25min until just set. Allow to cool before cutting – I realise that chilling it overnight makes cutting through the almonds even easier.

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So I reduced the amount of sugar used from the original recipe. For me, the brownies had the perfect sweetness level. The grapefruit zest was particularly refreshing but I couldn’t detect much of the bay leaf. If I were to make this recipe again, and I probably will, I’d infuse the bay leaves into the butter-chocolate mixture first, then remove them. For decorative purposes, they do look quite pretty sat on top of the brownie but sadly, they don’t leave much of their aroma behind.

Nevertheless, this recipe is quite a delightful one even with the extra trouble of using half the white of one egg to create the sugar crust. What can I say? I’m always partial to a batch of rich, fudgy, squidgy, chocolatey, brownies. As long as there’s chocolate, I’m in! And I am so in with these!!

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Confession: 

I’ve tried my hand at making zucchini bread before but being the lazy baker that I can be, I wasn’t too thorough in squeezing as much water out of the zucchini as I could have so I ended up a sad sloppy batter. As a result, I decided that zucchini was no friend of mine so while I’d gladly roast some up to eat, I would refrain from using them in my world of baking.

Of course, life has its way of making the things you shrug away from come creeping back at you. So there I was trawling through some of my favourite bake sites and seeing picture after picture after picture of freshly baked zucchini bread that promised ambrosia to the tastebuds.

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I couldn’t get the green zucchini the day I decided to bite the bullet and give zucchini bread a second chance, so I picked out a beautiful yellow zucchini instead and told myself that it’d better be worth it.

I grated it up and made sure to remove as much moisture as I could from the zucchini. Then I mixed the batter together, poured it into my prepared tin to bake, and prayed hard that it would turn out as flawless and as delightful as the ones in the pictures I was drooling over.

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I chose to bake these in a square rather than a loaf because *lightbulb*, if I baked it in a square, I could then slice it into bars and devour a piece, or two, while packing the rest up nicely either to be distributed amongst friends and family, or to be frozen for when a craving hits. Slice up a loaf to eat and give the remainder away might have people thinking that you’re passing them leftovers. #justsaying

Also, with my current penchant for putting good things into my body, I made this paleo and dairy-free. But honestly, it was so insanely delicious, light, and moist, that you wouldn’t be able to tell how clean this recipe is.

Paleo+Dairy Free Zucchini Bread (8×8″ Square or one 9×4″ Loaf)

200g Grated Zucchini, squeezed well of water
6 Eggs
2 Mashed Bananas
50g Coconut Sugar
20g Coconut Oil
75g Coconut Flour
1.5 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/8 tsk Salt
50g Cocoa Nibs

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line 8×8″ baking tin or a 9×4″ loaf tin.
  2. Whisk eggs, bananas, coconut sugar and coconut oil together.
  3. Add flour, spices, baking soda and salt, and mix until just incorporated.
  4. Fold in grated zucchini and half the cocoa nibs.
  5. Pour batter into prepared baking tin and scatter remaining cocoa nibs on top.
  6. Bake for 30-35min (or 45-50min for loaf) or until a skewer inserted comes out dry.
  7. Allow to cool before slicing.

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If you’re not bothered about dairy, feel free to use chocolate chips instead! I was gobsmacked upon biting into a slice of this freshly baked zucchini bread because it was incredibly delicious. I mean sure, I’ve put carrots into cake before, and bananas, and beetroot, but the addition of zucchini took it to a while new level of moistness! In a good way. It wasn’t too sweet, and the inflections of cinnamon and nutmeg made for more flavour complexity. Truly outstanding and definitely worth the work of squeezing out the water from the squash properly.

So yes, my mind’s been changed. Zucchini bread is a wonder in itself and if you don’t quite succeed at making it the first time, it’s definitely worth a second try, even a third. Practice makes perfect and this was pretty close to perfect in my opinion! *hops off to wipe out another slice*

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When I was little, I used to ask Mum who her best friend was. She’d always reply that Dad was her best friend. I was never satisfied with that answer and would say to her “Noooo! Dad can’t be your best friend. He’s your husband! You MUST have someone else who’s your best friend!”.

It took me years and years until I began to understand that your partner should indeed be your best friend. In the last year, I believe that Flo has become my best friend. I share with him my every joy, I wet his shoulder with my tears whenever my heart is overwhelmed with sadness, I run to him when I have exciting news to share, I gossip to him, I tell him the most mundane things, and I share with him my thoughts, my hopes and my desires.

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It boggles my mind, how two people from opposite sides of the world managed to come together, managed to meet, and managed to both feel that spark to want to pursue a long-lasting relationship together. I think that one thing that struck me the most about Flo was how incredibly easy it was for me to communicate to him. It felt so natural to want to open my heart to him and it amazed me how we could talk for hours on end, then stare into each others eyes for some more hours on end, smiling giddily at each other.

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I liken us to the nuts and berries in this recipe I’m about to share with you. I think I’m like the blueberries – sweet most of the time with the capacity to shock you with a bit of tartness every so often. I’m more sensitive so a little prick and you might find me busting with emotions. Flo’s more tough and protective of me. He’s usually the more calm, steady one, but he also makes my life a little nutty sometimes with his silly antics. He gives me strength to face fears and injects fun into my life like when I overcame my dancing-in-public phobia at Lesley’s wedding because of him.

What unites us is our goal to live the sweet life together. Like this brownie, life can deal you lovely, cushy, fudgy goodness, but there are also crusty, chewier parts to get through too. Our values, beliefs, hopes and dreams are what binds us together and while the road ahead may get bumpy from time to time, we’d like to imagine that on the most part, it’ll be a deliciously wonderful ride!

Now… Without further ado!

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Gluten-Free Pistachio Blueberry Brownies (8×8″ Square)

200g Dark Chocolate (I used 72%)
150g Butter
220g Coconut Sugar
3 Eggs
150g Ground Hazelnuts
125 g Blueberries
50g Pistachios, Chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C and line an 8×8″ square tin.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate together over a bain marie. 
  3. Stir in coconut sugar.
  4. Whisk in eggs.
  5. Fold in hazelnut flour. Then fold in half the berries and half the pistachios. 
  6. Pour batter into prepared tin and scatter the remaining berries and chopped pistachios over the top. Press them into the batter slightly so they stick after baking. 
  7. Bake 22-25min until just set. Cool before slicing into 12-16 pieces. 

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I think the blueberries and pistachios in this brownie worked swimmingly well together in creating an epic symphony of flavours! Feel free to switch blueberries for raspberries or sliced strawberries. The world of berries is your oyster! I enjoyed the nutty, slightly herbaceous earthiness of the pistachios in this brownie and the subtle grainy texture created by the ground hazelnuts. This is definitely a brownie that tastes indulgent but is a lot healthier for you so you can munch on them almost entirely guilt-free!

If you want to make this paleo, you may switch the butter for coconut oil instead. I imagine that would add a beautiful whiff of coconut which will surely be complemented by adding desiccated coconut instead of pistachios along with pineapple chunks to replace the blueberries to create a tropical flavoured brownie! Oooh! Lightbulb!!

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