A twist on banana cake – with green tea and lemon icing

Last weekend, there were three rather old bananas sitting at home so I decided to bake and made use of them. I would typically make banana bread from David Lebovitz’s recipe but this time I wanted to try something new. After some googling, I settled on Mary Berry’s banana and lemon drizzle cake recipe and put in my little twist in it and it turned out amazing!

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BANANA MATCHA CAKE WITH LEMON ICING
Ingredients:
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
300g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 ripe bananas – mashed
Zest from 1 lemon
2 tbsp milk
2-3 tsp matcha powder

Topping ingredients:
Juice of 1 lemon
80g granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the bottom and side of your round cake tin. Place all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-mixer, mix together until smooth. Pour batter into the tin and smooth the top out.
Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes, until golden brown. Use a skewer to see if the cake is cooked through. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is ready.
For the topping, mix the lemon juice and sugar together in a bowl. Pour it over the warm cake and leave it to cool completely before slicing.

This is such a simple cake to make but it definitely satisfy!

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World Baking Day! Banana, Matcha & a hint of rhubarb!

It’s World Baking Day and as I have some leftover ripened bananas and some teapigs matcha powder left, I decided to bake some banana, matcha and rhubarb muffins! The banana and matcha (green tea) goes really well together and the rhubarb gives the muffin a tangy contrast. So easy to make and great for breakfast and tea!

muffins

Ingredients:
2 tbsp matcha powder
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup caster sugar
rhubarb (cut up), optional
2 bananas (mashed up), optional
caster sugar, to top

Preheat oven at 170degC. Line muffin tin with muffin cups. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Then, slowly add in wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Then fold in the cut rhubarb. Fill muffin tin with mixture about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle granulated sugar to the top. Bake for around 15-20 minutes.

Cookery school – advanced pastry class

I have always considered myself as quite the baker. I enjoy baking and have taught myself a few tricks in the last few years. Perhaps the tricks were picked up when my mum asked me to fold in some flour whenever she bakes. One of my favourites is tart au citron. Making both the pastry shell and curd from scratch gives me a lot of satisfaction.

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When Cookery School at little Portland Street mentioned their advanced pastry course, I knew I had to go. The other half of Dishpiglets, Celia, had previously raved about her time there when she took up one of their intermediate cooking course. This was my first ever experience at a cooking class outside of school. The last time I was 13 and being taught how to cook during Home Economics class back in Singapore.

When I arrived at the Cookery School, there was a plate of delicious smelling gruyere cheese puffs waiting for the attendees. The gruyere puffs were light and had a slight tinge of saltiness to them. We were definitely off to a great start!

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The advanced pastry class was about exploring the use of puff pastry in both sweet and savoury recipes. Our tutor for the day was Ghalid, a pastry chef who was trained in France and has worked at many famous kitchens before deciding to switch to teaching. We were shown how to make a sweet short crust pastry to start with. The technique he taught was very different to the ‘shortcut‘ way which I normally used to make a lemon tart base. The key to a good sweet short crust pastry was the handling technique. There were many great tips given along the way and you could see all the students writing down ‘secrets of the trade‘.

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What intrigued me most was the making of puff pastry. Ghalid showed us the massive chunk of butter used in the making of a delicious puff pastry from scratch. Puff pastry is essentially BUTTER. The amount of time and strength used to roll the layers of butter and dough together to create all the layers requires patience and tenacity.

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There were a lot of hands on sessions with guidance from Ghalid when we were split into two groups of 3 to execute the provencal tomato tart and apple tarte tartin. As I was in quite the savoury mood, I headed to the provencal tomato tart group and tried to roll out a pre-prepared puff pastry. The handling of the puff pastry needs to be quick and precise. Manoeuvring of the pastry is crucial, with flour being regularly dusted onto both sides as you slowly roll it out. Ghalid gave a few pointers and we managed to roll out a decent length of puff pastry ready for our provencal tomato tart toppings.

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The other group prepared their apple tarte tartan and we were shown by the chef how to put it together. He then proceeded to show us other uses for puff pastry including the making of chicken sausage rolls and parmesan cheese straws.

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At the end of the class, we sat down together to enjoy our 3 hours of hard work, paired with wine. It was a ‘pastry’ themed dinner where we devoured our fruits of labour. The tomato provencal tart, apple tarte tartan and the parmesan cheese straws were the stand outs. This was a truly enjoyable class and I went away with a determination to make my own puff pastry soon! It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon, learning how to make pastry.

*The Cookery School participates in the Sustainable Restaurant Association Sustainability Rating and was rated as a Three Star Sustainability Champion in March 2012. They “have implemented numerous commendable sustainability practices, not only sourcing much produce locally and purchasing high welfare, organic food, but also sourcing most seafood from UK fisheries and stocking UK organic craft beers and some UK wines.

Cookery School
15b Little Portland Street
London W1W 8BW
Tel: 0207 631 4590

*Disclaimer: I attended the advanced pastry class as a guest of the Cookery School. All views are my own.

ANZAC biccies

The best ANZAC biscuit recipes are ones that deliver a slightly chewy biscuit with lots of rustic oats.  Here’s a recipe which delivers on both factors.  I’ve been using this recipe since I was a little tacker, and am never disappointed.  The key elements to the recipe is it’s low flour content, which doesn’t make them too solid and ‘biscuity’ (if you know what I mean?), and using unrefined whole oats.  Don’t, whatever you do, use instant oats!  The instant oats all mush together and there is no texture.  You need TEXTURE and CHEWINESS!  Another vital step is to rescue the ANZACs from the oven a couple of minutes before they’re cooked.

So, here it is:

2 cups whole oats

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar (tightly packed)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon golden syrup

2 tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1 pinch of salt

Mix all the dry ingredients together.  

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Then mix in the wet.

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Make into small balls and place on a baking tray.  Be careful to leave enough space on the tray for the biscuits to spread – they spread a lot.  Cook for 15 minutes in a 180 C oven.  Keep an eye on them – they may need to come out earlier.

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* Raw ANZAC mixture is by far my favourite mixture to eat from the bowl.  You may notice you make a few more biscuits than I did.  Whoops.

This easter…

I have never celebrated Easter in my life but since I was little, I know of the nursery rhyme “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!“. I had my first hot cross buns when I moved to Australia and I grew to love these spiced and fruited buns. I love to heat mine up in the oven to get the toasted top. Together with butter, the warm spiced bun is the perfect breakfast/ tea time treat.

Last year, I got the Heston Blumenthal x waitrose earl grey and mandarin hot cross buns. This year, I decided to make them instead. I read a few recipes and decided to test out The Little Loaf’s recipe. Given that I am a bit of a chocolate addict, I added dark chocolate bits to some of the buns I made.

Hot Cross Buns (recipe adapted from The little loaf)
Makes 13 buns

Buns

Ingredients:
225g strong white flour
225g wholemeal flour
7g dried yeast
5g salt
50g light brown sugar
2 tsp all spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g unsalted butter
250ml milk (full fat)
Orange zest (1/2 orange)
1 large free range egg
100g raisins
80g sultanas
85g mixed peel
Dark chocolate bits (depending on how much you want in your buns)

Crosses & Glaze

Ingredients:
50g plain flour
4 tbsp Water (adjust accordingly)
2 tbsp golden syrup

1. Mix the flours, salt, sugar, yeast and spices together in a large bowl.

2. Melt the butter on the stove then remove from heat and stir in the milk. Add the orange zest then beat in the egg.

3. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Use your hands and mix them together to form a soft dough.

4. Lightly flour the kitchen top and knead for about five minutes until the dough gets stretchy and elastic.

5. Flatten the dough out and sprinkle over the raisins, sultanas and mixed peel. Press them into the dough, then continue to knead for a couple of minutes more until fully incorporated. Shape the dough into a ball and put in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for about an hour until the dough doubles in size.

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6. Lightly flour the kitchen top again before tipping the risen dough. Flatten the dough slightly and then divide them into 13 portions. Each should weigh about 80g. Gently shape each one into a round and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 2cm apart. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for a further 40 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 200 degC. To make the crosses, mix the flour with about 4 tbsp water until a thick paste forms. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle or cut the corner off a sandwich bag. Slash the top of each bun with a cross and pipe the flour paste on. As I had neither, I basically used a spoon and spreaded mine into the slits.

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8. Place buns in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the buns get a lovely golden brown colour.

9. Gently heat the golden syrup in a small pan. Remove the buns from the oven and brush all over with sticky syrup. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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Serve warm with tea and butter!

Side note: Home made hot cross buns taste so much better than store bought ones!

We are not all perfect…

It’s been a few weeks since Chinese New Year and I have been wanting to make these almond cookies which I have had whilst visiting relatives during the festive season. Since finding out the recipe from Peaches & Donuts’ blog, I bought the ingredients straight away.

Almond Cookies that melts in your mouth
Recipe from Peaches and Donuts

Ingredients:
(Makes about 40)

100g ground almonds
150g plain flour
70g light brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
approx. 100ml light olive oil (adjust accordingly to pastry)
1 egg yolk, beaten

1. Sieve the flour, light brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into your food processor.
2. Add the ground almonds to the above mixture.
3. Slowly trickle in the oil while pulsing, until a cohesive dough is formed.
Adjust the amount of olive oil depending on the humidity/moisture levels – the aim is to achieve a dough which is just able to hold it’s shape (and doesn’t crumble) when you attempt to roll it into a ball. .
4. Heat the oven to 180degC.
5. Roll the dough into 2.5cm balls, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
6. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze the tops of the cookie balls with the beaten egg yolk.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cookies become slightly golden.
8. Cool on wire rack.

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Do keep an eye on your cookies as they cook. For my two batches which were in the same oven, the top batch came out brown. They still taste good but the golden ones are the ones which stand out.

To be somebody…

Over the last few days, I woke up wondering what I am doing with myself. Nearly 32 and nowhere near where I thought I would be. Perhaps it is normal for everyone to have days like this. I find it perplexing and it catapults me into a whole thought process. At age 16, I wanted to be a sports coach/athlete. Being the smallest girl in class, I was always sheltered by my parents and people often thought that I was too ‘small’ to make it BIG. This brought out the fighter in me, always wanting to prove others wrong. I did in some ways but in other ways, I lost. Losing my first dream was tough but I got over it and am an architect today. Today I fight a battle of my own, my struggle to find inspiration.

On days like this, I find a way of escaping. Baking brings me into a different world whilst eating remains my indulgence. From my total inability to cook nearly ten years ago, I have managed to learn and fumble my way through. The ability to produce a tasty baked end product makes me smile. There is just that therapeutic feeling I get whenever I bake. I am no masterchef but I am good at baking. There have been thoughts about a small cafe with my photography, baked goods and good coffee when I retire. A little bit like this amazing cafe, De Laatse Kruimel which I came across in Amsterdam (Stay tuned for Amsterdam Part II!). Satisfaction for me comes from my happy husband and friends who love my baking.

As I had some leftover matcha (green tea) powder left, I decided to have a second attempt at making another marbled cake.

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Lemon and Matcha marbled cake
Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker:

2 2/3 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
zest of one lemon & juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp matcha powder (depending on the matcha powder – I put 2 tbsp in mine)
150g melted unsalted butter (approx. 15 tbsp)

1) Preheat the oven at about 180 deg C.
2) Butter the loaf pan and dust the insides with flour. Tap out the excess.
3) Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
4) Whisk the eggs into the sugar until the eggs and sugar are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla extract followed by the sour cream.
5) Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in a few batches. The batter will become smooth and thick.
6) Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions.
7) Divide the batter in half into two separate bowls. In one bowl, add the lemon zest and juice. In the other bowl, fold in the matcha tea powder.
8) Alternate pouring the lemon and matcha batter into the loaf pan. Fill the loaf pan with about 2cm room at the top. Use a fork to swirl through the batter.
9) Bake for 55 – 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven.
10) Allow the loaf to rest in the pan before running a knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the cake onto a cooling rack.

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On this occasion, I had some leftover batter which I made into little muffins. Always a treat to have extras!

Feel free to experiment with flavours.

Bake your own bread – the lazy way

When I first came across Nigel’s lazy loaf recipe, I was wondering what the catch was. The naive me always thought that the bread machine is the answer to bread. I always imagined tedious kneading and a difficult process otherwise. I was proved wrong. This is probably one of the easiest thing to bake and I don’t even own a bread tin so go figure! All you need is a cast iron casserole pot and possibly 40 minutes and the bread is done!

sodabread

Soda bread with sunflower seeds
(adapted from Nigel’s lazy loaf)

Ingredients:
225g wholemeal flour
225g plain flour
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
350ml buttermilk
sunflower seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 220degC. Put the large casserole dish and its lid into the oven.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flours, sea salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda together with your fingers.
3. Pour in the buttermilk and begin working the mixture into a soft dough. Pour some sunflower seeds into the dough whilst working it.
4. Shape the dough into a shallow round loaf about 4cm thick.
5. Remove the hot casserole dish from the oven and dust the inside lightly with flour. Lower the dough slowly.
6. Cover the lid and put it back in the oven. (I have also baked the bread without the lid on and this browns the bread more)
7. Check the bread after 25 minutes as it should be ready.
8. Let it cool before turning it out.

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Soda bread is extremely tasty when eaten warm. It is such a satisfying feeling to bake your own bread and taste pretty good as well!

Chocolate bottom meringues with fresh berries…

I recently offered to whip up a dessert for a friend’s dinner party.  I wanted to cook something that reflected the warm weather we’re having in Melbourne, plus took advantage of the beautiful berries that are in season.  After a little brainstorm I decided upon one of Donna Hay’s recipes for meringues dipped in chocolate and stacked with whipped cream and fresh berries.  It was a super easy recipe which is great for the coming summer months.

Ingredients:

150 ml eggwhite (approximately 4 eggs)
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 tablespoons of cornflour, sifted
2 teaspoons of white vinegar
100 g dark chocolate (I used 85%)
1 cup (250 ml) of single pouring cream
400 g of mixed raspberries and strawberries
Icing sugar to dust

Method:

Preheat oven to 150°C.  Place the eggwhite in a clean bowl and mix with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Ensure the bowl is 100% clean as if it’s greasy, the eggs wont whip.  If in doubt, wash it twice!

Slowly add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy.  Add the cornflour and vinegar and whisk until just combined.

Spoon ½ cupfuls of the mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.  Immediately reduce oven to 120°C  and bake for 1 hour.

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Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool completely in the oven (allow a few hours).  Do not be impatient and take the meringues out of the oven while they are still warm as the sudden drop in temperature will cause them to collapse.  If time is on your side, it’s a good idea to make the meringues the night before and leave them in the oven overnight to cool.

Once the meringues are cool, dip the bases of them in melted chocolate, place on non-stick baking paper and set aside for the chocolate to set.

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Whisk the cream until soft peaks form.  Spoon over the meringues, top with berries and dust with icing sugar.  Serve immediately. Serves 8.

Are you scared?

It’s nearly Halloween! Celebrations are well under way as a few of my friends are dressing up for some parties this weekend. Just a couple of days ago, I was invited to Creepycakes event organised by Google+ Local. The event was described as ‘spooky high tea with a halloween twist‘.

As I love to bake, I was very excited to see what was in store for us. In my head, I envisaged spiders, pumpkins, witches hats… but when we got to Google Headquarters, the first thing I saw was ‘smoked cigarettes’ in an ashtray. They looked so real but I had a bite and it was actually cake!

Miss Cakehead was the brains behind the horrifying treats presented to us. It was a sneak preview to EAT YOUR HEART OUT – which is happening this weekend October 26-28th at St Bart’s Pathology Museum.

What followed were tastings of these ‘bad-taste cakes’ and we were in awe of the variety of gruesome baking.

It was a great evening where we devoured ‘phlegm’ (aka clotted cream) and ‘scab’ scones and even a ‘brain’ made out of marshmallow.

For those who are looking for some inspiration this halloween weekend, why not pop down to EAT YOUR HEART OUT and check out these amazing baked goods… You might not be able to differentiate between the real and the imitation! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

St Bart’s Pathology Museum
3rd Floor Robin Brook Centre
St Bart’s Hospital
West Smithfield
London
EC1A 7BE