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While browsing Christine’s blog, I came across this recipe to make muffins with glutinous rice flour, rather than the typical wheat flour. Apparently, the texture would be a bit chewy, like mochi. As I love mochi, I was intrigued as what the result would be like so I made a batch with green tea and chocolate flavour. Now that I have tried them, I can say that the texture was rather unusual. It wasn’t particularly chewy, just very strange. I wouldn’t say it was a bad recipe – in fact the muffins looked quite nice with a light shade of green and speckled with chocolate shavings. If you would like to try something out of the ordinary, this is the recipe for you.

This is the recipe that I used, with the addition of dark chocolate shavings.

Despite loving all things dessert, I never really liked the American style cheesecake. I found it too filling, too thick and creamy and I didn’t like the sourness. It was like really rich yogurt. However, having tried the Japanese style many years ago, I was an instant convert and I don’t know why it has taken this long to try and make it myself. The first time I made it was with a couple of friends and we divided it by four. I usually don’t make the same recipe more than once, but the cake was such a delight I made it again on the following weekend to bring to a friend’s house. So on the third consecutive weekend, I was resolute that I will make one just for myself – there was no chance I was sharing this one! That is how good this cheesecake is. Because it is so light and and fluffy, it doesn’t take much effort to consume it all in one go.

The recipe that I used was from Christine’s recipes. I used this one because it seemed like the simplest and I found her tips extremely useful. I think that the most important point is to make sure the water bath is topped up with water, so the cake is cooked with gentle heat. If you bake it without the water bath, you will find that the cheesecake becomes gummy. Another point to note is to cool the cake down in the oven by leaving the door slightly ajar for 10 minutes before fully removing the cake from the oven.

This is her recipe.

I find that muesli bars a a quick way to satisfy a rumbling stomach. The only problem is, with the amount of sugar in some of the commercial muesli bars, they should be classified as candy bars. Having said that, I’ve eaten my fair share, and I can’t believe it has taken this long to dawn on me that I should make my own. However, after seeing this recipe, I was enlighted, and proceeded to make healthy, delicious muesli bars without any artificial flavourings and ingredients which I don’t know how to pronounce. These are great for breakfast and as a snack any time of the day.

My recipe is based on Laurie’s
recipe on Carpe Season. I have adapted it to suit what I had in the pantry.

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

Makes 8 square bars

INGREDIENTS
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cups corn flakes
1/3 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons flax meal
1 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds)
1 cup dried fruit ( I used dried apricots and dates)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup (I’m a fan of 100% pure maple syrup)
1/4 cup peanut butter (I used natural peanut butter – ie 100% peanuts)
1/4 cup water

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 180c.

Line a square baking tin with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, including the nuts and dried fruit. Mix with a spoon.

In a separate bowl, mix together the maple syrup, peanut batter and water. If the peanut butter is a little stiff, heat the mixture in a saucepan until melted. Pour the wet ingredients over and dry and stir with a wooden spoon.

Pour the granola mixture into the prepared baking pan and press it down with a spoon. Place into the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes.

The granola bars will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

I hope you’re not thinking “Not another cake!” because I will never tire of cakes. Plus, I haven’t used sour cream in cakes before, so this is a first for me. As you can see from the recipe, simplest cake ever. I haven’t done this yet, but I’d imagine it’ll be perfect for morning or afternoon tea. If only I could do that everyday!

Sour Cream Apple Cake
Makes 1 medium sized cake

1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/4 SR flour
1 cup sugar (I used raw sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup roasted almonds (chopped coarsely)
3 apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs (lightly beaten)

1. Sift flours, sugar and cinnamon together. Mix in almonds, apples, milk, sour cream and eggs. Mix until just combined.
2. Line tin with baking paper and pour batter in.
3. Bake for 1 hour.

This may be considered blasphemy, but my favourite cake is no longer the humble chocolate cake. I use to love love love chocolate mud cake – from Safeway, from the Cheesecake Shop – you name it, I love it and could eat a whole one all at once if my conscience allowed me to. I loved the rich taste of the cocoa and the sweet, sticky icing. This isn’t to say that I no longer like chocolate cake, but I’ve discovered that recently, my tastebuds have *ahem* matured and nowadays, I prefer fruit filled cakes, because I love the natural sweetness that the fruit imparts and also the texture of the broken down fruit that’s been baked for an hour.

This is the reason why I was a little cautious about making a chocolate pear cake. I lke chocolate, and I like pears, but at the time, I just didn’t really feel like eating a chocolate pear cake. However, I haven’t tried making a chocolate pear anything before so I decided to make it anyway, because it sounded like a sophisticated combintation. Do you find that pears have have a tendency to upgrade something really ordinary to something that sounds really fancy – like rocket and walnut salad with caramelised pear, or Roast pork with pear compote? Thinking about those makes me feel hungry.

Well, I sure didn’t regret it! This was super tasty, and I’m thinking of ways how to give it a more prominent pear flavour. If you like chocolate cakes that are still fudgey in the middle, this is for you. I used 2 pears, but the cake didn’t have any pear flavour at all, I think the chocolate overpowered it. I’ll put down the proportions I used, but feel free to play around until you get a good balance of chocolate and pear – let me know what you come up with! I used Packenham pears, because that is my favourite brand (and they were handy) but I’m sure any pear would work. The linseed meal gives a grainy texture, so if you like a smoother texture, substitute the linseed meal with plain flour. My mum also commented that the cake could be a little sweeter, so up the sugar to 1 cup if you are a sweet tooth. Personally, I prefer it not too sweet, and if you are serving this for dessert, the rich cocoa taste would be offset wonderfully with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

Chocolate Pear Cake
Makes 1 Cake

1 1/4 cup linseed meal
1/2 cup Sr Flour (I used wholemeal)
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2/3 cup EVOO
2 pears (cored and chopped into medium sized peieces)
100g dark chocolate (melted) (I used 50% cocoa, but you can substitute milk chocolate if that is your preference)

1. Preheat oven to moderately high at 170c. Line a 24cm round spring form tin with baking paper.
2. Sift linseed meal, flour, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
3. Beat eggs lightly in a separate bowl and pour into flour mixture. Add pears and chocolate and stir until just combined.
4. Pour mixture into tin and bake for 45 minutes. Remember not to over cake it if you want the cake to be moist inside. Cake is cooked when skewer comes out clean.

This was not meant to be a banana date muffin. The ideas was conceived as a banana apricot, but alas, when I bought the bag of dried apricots home, I discovered that the bag was torn. Of course, I could have accidentally made the tear, but there was also more sinister possibilities (and I did not want to take the risk of food poisining). So, I went to the supermarket to buy another bag, but when I saw the dates next to the apricots, I didn’t need to think twice. It is long overdue, because I remember thinking I had to try this out two or three years ago (when I was in my sticky date pudding phase) but never got around to it.

All was going well in the kitchen when I discovered that I didn’t have bi-carb soda for the dates. To make up my mind whether to run out and get some, I had to find out why it is necessary to add bi-carb soda to dates. Looking at the recipe doesn’t solve the riddle, because there is no acid in it to neutralise it. According to one user of this forum , it is to “toffify” the dates. Another user added that without using bi-card soda, her dates turned out like regular dried fruit. From a technical point of view, the bi-card soda also breaks down the skin of the dates. With that in mind, I had no choice but to make a 20 minute trek to the supermarket up the road (which was actually quite pleasant on a Saturday afternoon).

Let me just say that the trek was definitely worth it. These muffins are bananary and are infused with a honey-like sweetness from the dates. The kitchen warm and the muffins smell so good. What could be a better way to ward off the oncoming winter with a muffin in hand, a book in the another, and a pot of tea brewing on the side?

Banana Date Muffins
Makes 12

1 cup seeded dates (chopped)
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups SR flour (I used wholemeal)
1 cup plain flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup EVOO
2 bananas (mashed)

1. Preheat oven to 180c. Grease a 12 hole muffin pan or line with patty pans.
2. Combine dates and the water in a medium saucepan, bring to boil. Remove from heat and add bicarbonate of soda. Stand for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sift dry ingredients into a bowl, stir in date mixture and the remaining ingredients. If mixture is dry, add a little more milk. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Muffins are ready when the skewer comes out clean.

Ever since I saw the chocolate cherry cupcake recipe in Nigella Lawson’s The Domestic Goddess, I’ve wanted to make my own healthy version – who am I kidding, how can chocolate be healthy? For those who have been reading my previous posts, you will notice that I seem to have an aversion to butter. Let me come clean: I have nothing against butter – I love my crossaints and pastries, but I work in a sedentary job 5 days a week and my exercise consists of walking half an hour or so per day. This is obviously not a good combination, which is the reason I try to follow a healthier diet. This also allows me to experiment using different grains, nuts and seeds in my baking, which is perfectly suited to my cooking habits, because I never follow a recipe to a tee.  
Instead of cupcakes, I made a loaf – because loaves are so much healtheir than cupcakes, am I correct? The recipe that I based my version on called for oats, so I did include it, but I won’t be doing that soon again – when incorporated with the wholemeal flour, it made the loaf very dry and crumbly. I used Coles brand dark cooking chocolate, which turned out quite well, but milk chocolate would work just as well. From Nigella’s comments about the cherry jam, it seems to be difficult to find in Great Britain, but luckily for us, the cherry jam was quite easy to find, and I used Bonne Maman cherry jam.

You will notice that this is a similar recipe to the Berry linseed loaf , and I am using it again, because it uses only one bowl, which means less cleaning afterwards!

Chocolate and Cherry Loaf
Makes 1 medium sized loaf

1/2 cup EVOO
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup soy milk (regular milk is fine)
1 1/2 cup SR Flour
100g dark chocolate (melted)
1/2 cup cherry jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line the base and sides of a loaf pan with baking paper.
2. Mix all ingredients together.
3. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested.

I recently bought a packet of linseeds from the supermarket, so on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, I decided to include it in the cake to see what the taste will be. I had never seen linseed in baked goods before, except in bread, so it was interesting to experiment. I didn’t know much about linseeds, except that it needs to be ground in order for the goodness to be released. After intense session of research some googling, I learn that it contains abundant levels of omega 3 oils (which is usually found in fish) and also high dietary fibre.

As I was baking it, an alarming thought crossed my mind – if the oil component of the linseeds was so high, would that change the flour-sugar-fat ratio of the loaf? Images of the loaf pooled in oil flooded my mind. To my relief, it was just my imagination going overboard, and I can happily continue to substitute the flour components of recipes with ground linseed without worry!

For those who are unfamiliar with linseeds, it is important to grind the linseed as you use it, as ground linseed can easily become rancid (because of the omega oil content). Ground linseed should be stored in the fridge/ freezer for a maximum of 6 weeks.
Whole linseed last for 1 year when stored in a dark, cool and dry area.

Berry and linseed loaf
Makes 1 medium sized loaf

½ cup EVOO
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup berries (any berry is fine)
½ cup soy milk (plain milk is fine)
1 cup wholemeal SR Flour
1/4 cup ground linseed

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line the base and sides of a loaf pan with baking paper.
2. Mix all ingredients together.
3. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested.

Hello friends! It has been such a long time since my last post. But lately, I have been doing some weekly baking and I am so excited to share this with you.

I have long been an avid reader of Smitten Kitchen. Some how, Deb is able to make me feel like making whatever she is writing about RIGHT THIS MOMENT, even if it involves Banana bread crepe butterscotch pancakes 8am in the morning. 

A recipe that caught my eye was her recipe for Apple Sharlotka, which is a Russian apple cake. Don’t be intimidated by the Russian heritage – there is nothing foreign about the process. It was unbelievably simple and delicious. Dare I add healthy to the list, as it doesn’t contain any butter? 

You may notice that the top of her cake is all knobbly with apples, while mine is quite smooth. This effect will depend on whether you pat the batter down into the tin. As you can see, I forgot, but luckily, no harm done.

Here is her recipe.

Apologies for the teeny picture – it was taken with my HTC Explorer. I should have believed the reviewer when they said that the quality of the photos is not as good as other smart phones. Galaxy S III here I come!

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