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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The marriage between strawberries & rhubarb

Rhubarb and strawberries are currently in season thus when I found that the rhubarb is half price at my usual supermarket, I decided to get them and make a compote.

This strawberry and rhubarb compote recipe came from one of my favourite pastry chef, David Lebovitz. This is so easy to make and extremely delicious! I have had them over home made granola, frozen yoghurt and vanilla ice-cream. It just taste SO good. Shuhan from mummy i can cook made this jasmine rice pudding with poached rhubarb and I am sure this compote will go just as well with the jasmine rice pudding!

Strawberries & Rhubarb Compote (adapted from David Lebovitz’s recipe)
(the quantity below is adapted to suit store bought amounts and it makes about 6-8 servings)

155ml water
155ml ml unsweetened apple juice
5 sliced fresh ginger
50g sugar
50g – 80g honey (adapt to suit your sweet tooth!)
500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut
250 – 300g strawberries, hulled and quartered

First, heat the water, apple juice, ginger, sugar, and honey in a non reactive sauce pan.
When the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is simmering, add the rhubarb and cook until soft (not too soft though!). This may take about 5 minutes, depending on the rhubarb & your preferred texture. Remove from heat and add the prepared strawberries.
When cool, you can remove the ginger slices.

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ENJOY!

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.

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.

Figgin great summer salad

Summer eating is all about making the most of the amazing fruits on offer.  Without a doubt the best season for food, I often find myself adding sweet summer fruits to salads.  Mangoes, grapes, cherries, figs… The list goes on.

This fig and feta salad is delicious and can be whipped up in minutes (which means you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time outside having a pre-dinner G&T as the sun goes down)…

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Bag of rocket
1 slice of Greek feta, crumbled
2 handfuls of walnuts, toasted
4-5 figs, cut into quarters (I allow 1 fig per person, plus 1 for good measure)
Balsamic, drizzled on top

Arrange rocket on a plate, cut figs into quarters and scatter over the top.  Crumble the feta and add the toasted walnuts.  Drizzle with a balsamic.  Serves 4.

*This salad is also delicious with prosciutto.