salted dark chocolate and almond bars

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Homemade granola bars and I have had a long sordid and crumbly history. Recipes that I came across often relied on honey as an important binder which meant that it was used in quantities that semi-obviated why I wanted to make my own granola bars in the first place – I wanted to make something much less sweet! When I tried to reduce the sweetness, the recipes I made trembled at the sight of a knife, crumbling into pieces once I tried to cut them into bars.

A couple of years ago I thought that I had finally come across a granola bar that didn’t crumble and wasn’t too sweet, as it used more nut butter as a binder. But when I tried to make them a second time, full of confidence, huzzah for hubris! as they too crumbled on me.

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white cheddar & za’atar scones

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My introduction to Bouchon Bakery  by Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel began with my sister waxing poetic on everything she had made from the book. Even the chocolate chip cookies were probably the best cookies she had ever made.

This scone recipe is a riff off of their savoury bacon cheddar scones, and they are probably the best scones I’ve ever made.

What’s that – a good scone? Yes – a good scone: i.e. the perennial struggle! There are many things that I tend to make terribly over and over again, scones one amongst them. There have been tough scones, flat scones, scones that are just straight up proper paperweights.

These scones are actually, like, good scones – baking up light while tasting like blocks of butter and browned cheese and herbs.

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green curry banana bread

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It seems that right now banana bread is taking off! While I’ve never been too big a fan of banana bread, there are exceptions. For example, an exception flavoured with Thai green curry paste and crested with a crispy coconut fragipane of sorts.

I’ve been making banana bread with this flavour profile for years, inspired by a green curry banana bread that was once on the menu at milk bar. Over the years, on the rather rare occasions I’ve made banana bread, I’ve transposed the combination of Thai green curry paste and coconut from one banana bread recipe to the next until I settled on my current favourite. Then four years ago I threw some leftover coconut tart filling overtop and all of a sudden, I had a new motivation to make banana bread.

I’ve titrated the curry paste to be just enough to taste and to warm the mouth with each bite. The banana bread itself is on the fluffier and softer end of the banana bread spectrum, which I find a virtue, though still moist.

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banana & dulce de leche french toast

my favourite french toast inspired by bb’s diner in toronto – and i try my hand at describing food more …er, descriptively? properly?

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This french toast is based on the version at BB’s diner – a Toronto filipino brunch spot in a two-floor house, charmingly retrofitted with what could be pastel-coloured 80s McDonald’s booth seating, houseplants, vibrantly flowered tablecloths and mismatched vintage china. The food trumps even the charming interior design. Their tapsilog is a trifecta of runny-yolked eggs, addictively pungent garlic fried rice and crisp fried milkfish dipped in tart vinegar. Another one: an omelette of fluffed egg melded with melting, charred eggplant, showered in golden rosti. Out of all of this though, the french toast is my favourite.

It looks unassuming – square white bread, sliced at a regular thickness, the custardy interior cooked until a bit firm. But pale gold banana dulce de leche lies below a whispery canopy of powdered sugar, slivered almonds and shredded coconut. The toast itself rests in a pool of what I assume is warmed evaporated milk, tasting opaque and cooked. It is every sort of delicious and comforting; think the mellow flavours, and the tres leches-crossed-with-porridge vibe from the bath of warm evaporated milk.

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a lot of muffins – for comparison purposes

in which I make a lot of summery-fruited muffins and discover that sometimes it’s more so the technique than ingredients. 

a lot of muffins
a lot of muffins

My history of muffins has been spotty – some rather good, plenty very dry, and still no particular go-to muffin recipe. I thought it would be helpful for the efficiency of my muffin-making-future to try a few different base recipes to see what works best for me.

I chose three recipes that varied in their ingredients and technique, two of which I had made before, but never tried to compare. For comparison purposes, I standardized the amount of sugar, using 50g (1/4 cup) for 6 muffins – this was a comfortable slightly-more-than-subtle sweetness, so the sugar could certainly be reduced further depending on your preference. I also used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour in all the recipes.

Some key muffin pointers I tried to follow:

  • mix less, not more
  • mix the wet and dry ingredients together with a fork (a KAF recipe pointer)
  • test for doneness a bit earlier than you expect

As I included one cake-like recipe with creamed butter, I was fairly sure that would be the favourite. However, I usually want muffins to be fast and a relatively painless procedure. So this comparison was not just to identify a favourite recipe out of three, but also to answer the question: just how much are you missing out on when you don’t cream your butter?

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tahini, dark chocolate and banana muffins

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“Maybe you should make a banana bread,” my grandma suggested, in a thread that seemed entirely out of the blue.

“Oh, are you finished the banana bread already?” my mum asked, referring to the half loaf of banana bread she had brought to them yesterday.

The loaf, wrapped in plastic, was completely untouched.

“Maybe… banana muffins,” my grandma said next with a significant glance at the two brown bananas on her countertop.

Like most reasonable people, she does not like over ripe bananas.

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mango smoothie bowl with coconut and cardamom granola

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The first time I heard of smoothie bowls, I thought it sounded a bit gimmicky. How is this different from a normal smoothie? Why does putting it in a bowl all of sudden make it so hip and Pinterest-able?

Despite my placidly confused disinterest, my friend, with an enthusiastic and generous love for smoothie bowls derived from some time in California (apparently a smoothie bowl destination), decided we must have one. After he ordered this smoothie bowl from this smoothie chain, in a transforming manner kind of like macarons, everything came together and all the hype made sense.

Because it was thick and satisfying and you like ate it instead of drinking it.

And it wasn’t just that having an array of toppings on your smoothie bowl was pretty, but that it added textures! and different flavours! and different combinations of flavours! and it’s simply a pragmatic matter of surface area to explain why you need to put your smoothie in a bowl to achieve that number and variety of different toppings.

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pistachio, coconut and apricot granola

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Given my inability (or lack of motivation) to write anything coherent, let alone interesting or relevant, I have taken inspiration from that utilitarian structure of elementary school, that handy inspirational framework that helped me produce many a vapid and dull piece of poetry: the acrostic poem.

Really (oh that was bad), it is the writing of the posts that has become the bottleneck of the blog; I have countless (i.e. 40+) drafts of recipe + photos, without a single other word written.

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spiced bran muffins with rum-soaked raisins

Bran muffins are a strange thing to declare your confidence in. Is it because the only confidence one tends to have in bran muffins is their dietary fibre content? So while contributing to one’s regularity is nice, recently I’ve been eating bran muffins because they taste nice.

I have a lot of confidence in these bran muffins. I’m sure they are not the best bran muffins you will ever try in your life (at least not while these are around). However, if you were visiting and demanding bran muffins (gosh how impertinent can you be?) I would happily make you these and hope that you would be just the teeniest-teensiest bit impressed at how they are not quite dull and perhaps not quite what you expected.

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