Coffee-Scented Blueberry Yoghurt Muffins

James has been quite busy recently, what with juggling his 19th birthday celebrations, university assignments, group meetings and such. We’re all revved up to see the amazing Coldplay and The Temper Trap at Suncorp Stadium up in Brisbane tonight, so that should be a blast! I’m actually very excited to see The Temper Trap live. I really enjoy their music. The concert tickets are part of a birthday package I prepared for James. I also got him a fancy tie from Hugo Boss and a sexy shirt from French Connection. On Saturday, his lovely parents took all of us out for lunch at a brilliant Japanese fine dining restaurant in Broadbeach. Such gorgeous food. I shall elaborate more on the occasion in a future post, so check back for an impending restaurant review.

Blueberries are one of my favourite superfoods. While they do give us that satisfying burst of sweetness when added to our oatmeal or cereal, they also contain heaps of potent antioxidants that shield our skin against harmful free radicals and protect us against premature aging. In fact, much research has focused on the anti-aging role of blueberries.

They have been known to boost brain power and ward off Alzheimer’s. Researchers have also discovered that these amazing little berries can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol just as effectively as prescribed drugs. In short, eat plenty of blueberries to treat yourself to gorgeous skin, get a healthy mental boost, and protect your heart.

The following recipe is one that I’ve wanted to share with you for ages. These are probably my favourite muffins in the whole wide world right now. I took my inspiration from the traditional blueberry coffee cake, adapted them into muffin form, and worked some creamy magic into the mix by adding Greek yoghurt.

The resulting little cakes were soft, milky, fluffy and full of flavour. Surprisingly, they stay like that for several days in an airtight container, so you don’t have to gobble them all up right after you bake them for fear of them becoming dry or stale.

Who can resist the mingling full-bodied flavour of coffee and the mildly sweet taste of baked blueberries in a soft, velvety muffin?

Coffee-Scented Blueberry Yoghurt Muffins

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup raw caster sugar
1 cup Greek yoghurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 cup muffin pan with muffin cases.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the Greek yoghurt and mix until smooth.
  4. Gradually stir in the eggs, followed by the dissolved coffee granules and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Carefully fold the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture until just combined, then fold in the fresh blueberries.
  6. Fill each muffin case with the batter. The cases should be almost full.
  7. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the tops start to brown slightly.
  8. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before transferring muffins to a wire rack to cool.

Speckled Mango Tea Mochi Shortbread Cookies

I had the perfect opportunity to bake in James’ kitchen a couple of days ago. The lighting in his kitchen is excellent, thanks to the abundance of glass windows everywhere. All the natural light allowed for easier camera work, which is something I definitely welcome when taking still photographs of food.

The downside is that I don’t know his kitchen as well as mine, so of course, I had to patiently look through cupboards and drawers to find certain ingredients and utensils. And believe me when I say that his kitchen has way too many cupboards and drawers. That aside, one thing I really like is that the kitchen houses dozens and dozens of interesting cookbooks.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about these lovely little slice-and-bake mango tea cookies. Three parts plain flour, one part glutinous rice flour. This is a simple recipe for a crumbly, buttery shortbread cookie lightly flavoured with mango tea leaves. Don’t you just love it when a rich, buttery cookie just melts in your mouth? These cute little speckled cookies do just that.

They have a smooth, gorgeous texture that isn’t too hard or dry, like a lot of store-bought shortbread. The glutinous rice flour gives them a milky, soft, tender crunch. It makes the cookies almost fluffy, but still gives them a substantial amount of body that shortbread cookies call for.

The best thing about this recipe is that you can use whatever tea leaves you want. You don’t have to go with mango tea. Be daring. Pick healthy green tea, or calming chamomile, or light and aromatic Earl Grey! It’s really up to you.

Speckled Mango Tea Mochi Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup glutinous/sweet rice flour (mochiko)
2 tablespoons mango tea leaves*
A pinch of salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

* I used Legend Tea’s Australian Premium Mango Tea. You can use any kind of flavoured tea you want, really. As long as the leaves are fairly fine. You could very easily grind them in a small food processor or crush them with a mortar and pestle to get a desirable size.

Preparation:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine the flours, tea leaves and salt with a whisk or fork.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg yolks to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in 3 or 4 increments, mixing well after each addition. You will eventually get a soft dough.
  5. Shape the dough into 2 logs and wrap them in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 150°C and line baking tray with baking paper.
  7. Remove logs from fridge and, with a sharp knife, cleanly slice thin rounds (slightly less than half an inch thick) and lay them on the baking tray. They hold their shape well, so it isn’t necessary to space them too far apart.
  8. Bake cookies for approximately 20 minutes, or until the edges start to brown a little.
  9. Remove from oven and carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Eggless Honey and Chia Seed Brownies

In the last few days that I’ve been away from this blog, a lot has happened in the world. Perhaps one of the most important things is that the charming Mr. Obama has been re-elected as president of the United States. I’m honestly relieved and glad that America has decided to give their president more time to do what’s best for their country. The world is rapidly changing and I believe that Obama has what it takes to lead America in the right direction over his next four years in office.

Today started off dismal. Rain and gloom took over the usual morning sunshine. Of course, it was cosy weather, and I was tempted to bury myself under the covers and sleep my day away. But, alas, we had visitors coming over in the late afternoon and I felt the need to prepare a little something. So, I baked brownies. Except, I found out about the lack of eggs in my kitchen and had to improvise. This isn’t an odd occurrence. I improvise a lot in the kitchen, and doing so has led me to discovering many wonderful new recipes.

Sweetened with honey, sprinkled with tiny chia seeds, held together by ground flaxseeds. This is a different take on the ever popular chocolate brownie. Different meaning slightly healthier. Different meaning ridiculously delicious. “Mmm. You can actually taste the honey!” James exclaimed when I he took a bite. I glowed with pride. Baking ooey, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth brownies without eggs is actually achievable. And sinfully yummy. Possibly one of the best I’ve ever had. These are just so special.

The added honey gives the brownies an über soft, moist and delicate crumb, which is why it is so important to let them cool completely once out of the oven so they harden a little and don’t completely crumble when you cut them into bars. Once out of the oven, the chia seeds sprinkled atop the brownies will have roasted to crispy perfection. They add a fantastic crunch to an already crispy chocolate shell.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
180g good quality dark chocolate*, chopped
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup raw caster sugar
1/2 cup honey, warmed
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds**
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon black & white chia seeds, for sprinkling

* I used Lindt 70% Cocoa Specialty Cooking Chocolate.
** I used Melrose Organic Golden Flaxmeal. I find that the golden variety gives a more subtle flavour to baked goods. Brown flax might leave too strong an aftertaste.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line an 8″ square baking pan with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter together to get a smooth, shiny mixture. Here are some excellent tips on melting chocolate.
  4. Pour the hot mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes.
  5. Beat in the caster sugar and honey until well blended.
  6. Combine ground flaxseeds with the 6 tablespoons of water and stir until a gooey, coagulated mixture forms.
  7. Add flax mixture to chocolate mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  8. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, stirring until no streaks of flour remain.
  9. Pour batter into prepared pan and even out the thick mixture with a spoon.
  10. Sprinkle chia seeds all over the top and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the top looks dry. Take care not to overbake!
  11. Remove from oven and let stand in pan until completely cool before cutting into bars.
  12. Serve with a little drizzle of honey or chocolate syrup if desired!

Chocolate Rye Loaf | Eggless & Butterless

Well, look at that. It’s already November, guys! I hope everyone had a great Halloween. I thoroughly enjoyed all the innovative pumpkin recipes that have been floating around the WordPress community and the rest of the internet the past few days. Some of my favourites include this delicious-looking turkey pumpkin chili,  these lovely mini pumpkin pies, this impressive pumpkin orange cheesecake, and this healthy pumpkin granola.

What I have here is a recipe for a terrific chocolate loaf cake that is in every way delightful. Yes, this is the result of yet another experiment in the kitchen. Throw in some rye flour, some cake flour, some cocoa powder and a bunch of base ingredients and you’ve got just the right amount of sweetness and just the right flavours that make up a lovely chocolate loaf. You know what the best part is? This is a butterless and eggless cake. That’s right. No eggs in the carton? No butter in the fridge? You’re in luck! And honestly, you could whip this up in no time at all!

The inclusion of rye flour provides an almost chewy, bread-like texture and taste, which is always a welcome quality in yeast-free quickbreads. This chocolate creation reminds me of the sweet breads you get at Asian bakeries, where they’d display loaves upon cotton-soft loaves of wonderful delicately flavoured breads from taro to matcha to milk!

You’d think the deep, distinctive flavour of rye would be too overpowering and invasive on the tastebuds, but I was pleasantly surprised at how gorgeous it turned out. The rye lends the loaf a very subtle nutty, spiced flavour. It leaves a sticky, moist crumb that seems dense to the eye, but is actually fairly light and airy when you bite into it.

Chocolate Rye Loaf | An Eggless & Butterless Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup organic rye flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or canola oil)
1 cup milk, cold
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, rye flour, baking soda and cocoa powder until mixture is a uniform colour. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together. Then add the milk, vinegar and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
  4. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture until combined. You should get a fairly runny, glossy batter.
  5. Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan and bake from approximately 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven and let cake stand in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sticky Mango and Honey Cake

I do enjoy a sweet, sticky cake once in awhile. My experience with mangoes in baking is fairly limited, but I managed to shimmy my way past the awkward what-do-I-do-with-a-bunch-of-mangoes stage and scribble down a recipe that worked right off the bat. Apart from the fact that it is a sticky, sticky cake, it is soft and spongy, sweet and summery, and absolutely bursting with the scent and flavour of mangoes. And really, who doesn’t like a gooey, sticky cake infused with the sparkling amber goodness of honey anyway?

While the batter is a nice buttery yellow, the exterior of the cake takes on a deep brown colour once baked. It retains its lovely yellow on the inside and I’d like to take this moment to gush about how moist and soft the interior of the cake is! Alright, it may not be the prettiest cake, but that’s my fault anyway. Parts of the cake stuck to the pan because I didn’t grease it well enough. Or maybe it was just too sticky. Whatever the case, my cake emerged from the pan a two-toned creation. Well, at least it’s got that rustic feel to it. And I suppose it’s not a bad thing that some of the gorgeous yellow cake is showing through the golden crust.

This is a cake that goes perfectly with a cup of black tea or a dollop of vanilla ice cream. I’ve got one last university assessment piece to work on before the week is out and I know what I’ll be snacking on while I slave away on my laptop doing research and churning out a fabulous paper!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup raw caster sugar
1/2 cup fresh mango purée
2 tablespoons honey, warm
2 large eggs, beaten

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and liberally grease an 8″ ring tin.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the mango purée and honey to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  5. Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated. Mixture may be lumpy but as long as the ingredients are well mixed, it’s fine.
  6. In 2 increments, gently fold the flour mixture into the creamed mixture with a spatula until just incorporated. Do not over mix!
  7. Pour batter into cake pan and, with a spoon, even out the batter so the surface is flat.
  8. Bake for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted near the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  9. Remove cake from oven and let stand in pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. You may need to run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen the sides. Cake is quite sticky!
  10. Serve warm with some tea or ice cream if desired!

Brown Sugar & Cream Cheese Banana Bread‏

Alright, I have a confession to make. I bake a lot. Every week, I bake several somethings and it’s a habit I can’t seem to break. I think the best thing about baking is that when you whip up something amazing, you get to enjoy the praise that other people bestow upon you once they bite into it. When their eyes light up and they make loud orgasmic sounds or jump up and down excitedly, you know you’ve done your job.

One of the true benefits of constant baking is how efficient you become at it. Gather the ingredients, preheat the oven, mix this, cream that, melt this, beat that, combine this, fold that, bake. I become a whirlwind of productivity in the kitchen when I bake. And in between it all, I try to find perfect opportunities to take perfect pictures with my camera so I can visually let you into my world.

A few days ago, I was hit by a staggering wave of creativity both baking-wise and photography-wise. I’ve been dreaming up tasteful recipes, taking my camera for walks, using up all the ingredients in my pantry (damn, I’m out of brown sugar), looking for inspiration all over the place. Sometimes, you don’t have to look very hard. Looking at the simplest of things in a different light can turn the most boring ideas into spectacular masterpieces.

Brown sugar. Cream cheese. Banana bread. Three simple pleasures, when combined, form the most fragrant, moist and mouth-watering loaf of quickbread you could ever imagine. The resulting brown sugar-crusted cream cheese-infused banana loaf is, believe it or not, banana bread with a whole load of attitude. I’ve made plenty of loaves of banana bread over the years and this one takes the cake. The cream cheese is the star here. It transforms the cake into a soft, moist and almost creamy golden-brown pillow. Say goodbye to tough, dry, ultra bland banana bread and hello to heaven.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Additional brown sugar, for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C and generously grease a 9″ x 4″ loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix mashed bananas and softened cream cheese with a fork until thoroughly combined. The mixture will be lumpy, but that’s fine.
  4. Add melted butter and brown sugar to the banana mixture and mix well.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and stir until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  6. Fold the wet mixture into the flour mixture, taking care not to over mix (leaving a few streaks of flour in the batter is fine).
  7. Pour batter into loaf pan and sprinkle the top with a generous amount of brown sugar for your crunchy top coat.
  8. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and let stand in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Cinnamon Mocha Pretzel Cookies

It’s been a good while since I’ve put a cookie recipe up, so I decided to make something, well, cookie related. Actually, they’re cute, chocolatey, coffee-y, spiced pretzels. But also a cookie. Let me explain.

I have a book called The Chocolate and Coffee Bible. Inside is a recipe for ‘Chocolate Pretzels’ that require no yeast, no rising time and no soda water bath. Neat, right? I’ve made pretzels the old-fashioned way and this recipe intrigued me because of its simplicity. I tried it out, with a few good tweaks to the flavours involved (spices, coffee, et cetera) and made the magic happen. When it came to rolling the dough and shaping them into sexy pretzels, I started to get excited. Slathering them in egg wash and sprinkling them generously with spice and sugar seemed like an art.

When they came out of the oven (smelling amazing, I might add) and cooled down, I took a bite. I took several. They had the texture of cookies. Wonderful, soft-but-firm, crumble-in-your-mouth, cinna-mocha cookies. Not the texture I was expecting, but a texture I loved nonetheless. And now, I’m sharing this little experiment with you.

The taste of cocoa and coffee is far from subtle, and the generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon and nutmeg add a little something special to the aromatic blend. Take them out on a picnic or have them from breakfast. They’re easy enough to make and the ingredients you need aren’t at all hard to get.

I used CSR Premium Coffee Sugar Crystals in this recipe. It lends a full-bodied golden honey flavour to the sugar, which complements the cinnamon and mocha notes of the pretzels. Each sugar crystal is coated with a thin layer of syrup, thus the amber shade.

Cinnamon Mocha Pretzel Cookies
adapted from The Chocolate and Coffee Bible.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup raw caster sugar
2 teaspoons strong instant coffee granules (dissolved in 3 teaspoons hot water)
1 egg, beaten
1 egg white, for egg wash

For sprinkling:
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
Large sugar crystals

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Stir dissolved coffee granules into the creamed mixture. When fully incorporated, add the egg and mix well.
  4. Add the flour in 3 or 4 increments, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Gather the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  7. Divide chilled dough into 16 equal pieces and roll each piece into small balls.
  8. Roll each ball into a rope about 25cm long and form each rope into pretzel shapes.
  9. Place pretzels on baking trays and brush each with egg white.
  10. Combine cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and generously sprinkle each pretzel with the mixture. Then, sprinkle pretzels with sugar crystals.
  11. Bake for about 12 minutes, until firm, then transfer pretzels to a wire rack to cool.