Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

Recession Proof Body Workshop | Peanut Butter Energy Bars (Vegan)



Well, a couple of weeks ago, Recession Proof Body visited us lot at CFP to give a workshop all about street workout and calisthenics.


The image above is of Lee, Ranjit, and Sai (from left to right), and I nabbed some of these images from their Facebook page (the others are either from my phone or from Claire Summers!).

Lee and Ranjit took the course that day, and of course, the first thing we all notice about them is the size of their arms. I knew what sort of movements we’d be going over today, and I had only ever seen people perform them on YouTube before, and so I feel that that standard of skill in calisthenics wasn’t actually real; I couldn’t wait to see them being performed before my own very eyes!

I do believe, as well, that these guys are being featured in every issue of Muscle and Fitness magazine for 6 months showcasing their various abilities and progressions to achieve their skills.

There were around 20 people in this workshop, and the workshop itself involved learning about some movements and their progressions, and trying them out ourselves, as well as watching some amazing demonstrations! The movements we covered were:
• Push up variations
• One arm push ups
• Pull ups
• One arm pull up
• Ring muscle ups
• Bar muscle ups
• Front lever
• Back lever
• And various progressions!

The picture above is Ranjit just before completing a strict one arm pull up, and Lee doing a strict ring muscle up with an extra 20kg plate!

The emphasis with street workout is that everything is strict! Most people have this idea that in Crossfit we ‘kip’ everything. Kipping is great to keep the intensity in workouts, but we do train a lot of strict stuff in Crossfit, too! I love it! I feel so bad-ass when I rep out strict pull ups and dips. Yeah buddy. I just find the gym memes on Facebook really hilarious! For example, take the one I found here:


The last time I checked, Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Dan Bailey, etc., sorta looked like the guy in that meme, am I right? Anyway, going a little off topic now! Back to the movements…

The great thing about these sorts of workshops, is that people discover their hidden skills; some people were pleasantly surprised with how strong they were! But of course, no one is going to be able to replicate the skill that these guys have, but they do give very useful progressions that people can follow, and how they achieved their ability. It’s a great reminder that we’re only human, yet with hard work and dedication, we can indeed achieve superhuman abilities. I will definitely be incorporating these things into my workouts, because I had no idea how to go about keeping strength training interesting and displaying strength in so many different ways.


Personally, the things I’m quite good at are the basic strict movements, such as pull ups, dips, and push ups. But I need to work with my front lever (I couldn’t get my abs to engage… just my arm pits!), and my explosive strength!

A lot of these moves are incredibly creative. We saw Ranjit perform strict bar muscle ups, which involves incredibly explosive strength, and then he showed us the sort of things they would do “for fun” or at comps, such as a cross grip bar muscle up, or a bar muscle up where you start with your hands with a chin up grip, and end with a pull up grip!

These displays of skills and strength were incredibly beautiful to watch, and these kinds of things are what I like to fill my weekends and spare time with. Some people don’t understand, but fitness is its own reward. I’m always working towards achieving various goals in a wide range of disciplines (currently it’s my PhD, Spanish, and Crossfit – all of which encompass many goals), and so I don’t understand why there’s so much hate in the world. Instead of hating another group of people or directing your energy towards destruction, why not create a better world for yourself, and others, by inspiring others and pushing yourself beyond your limits? I genuinely believe that if more people strived towards goals, there would be less hate.


So, yes, if you’re looking for motivation or even just a show, these are your guys! I was so buzzed the week after (and even now just thinking about the workshop) that I had such a brilliant week after, just because I was feeling so inspired after talking to these guys and being coached by them! I had rejuvenated energy, and more guidance for my own strength goals after just a one-day workshop, and so if they come back to the South West again, I’d love to see them in action again! Hopefully by them, I would have hit some of my own strength goals. 🙂



I’m definitely incorporating these progressions into my own training. I remember at the beginning of the workshop, Lee said that they don’t squat too much because they don’t want their legs too big for things like front levers, etc.! I still can’t tell if he was being serious or joking playfully :-/ Ranjit mentioned that if you did want to develop leg strength, pistols don’t really do anything for you, unless they’re weighted, and I agree, from personal experience! He also said that he runs and squats, but he focuses mostly on street workout now.



After being inspired by the amazing Recession Proof Body group, I thought I’d write up this recipe for peanut butter energy bars, because if you’re going to be doing their routines, you’re going to need a lot of energy! These bars are great to take into work or competitions, as they’re easy to wrap up or pop into lunch boxes.

If you store these in the fridge, I’m sure they’ll keep longer, but the texture changes as I suppose the peanut butter solidifies. I prefer these when they’re room temperature, if not warm!

Also, I LOVE these when they’ve come straight out of the oven, covered in the melted chocolate, popped into a bowl, and smothered with double cream… it is absolutely the BEST comfort dessert!



Not only does this recipe make for some amazing bars, but it’s a clever way to sneak in more fruit! Especially bananas; they can improve insulin sensitivity and provide an abundance of minerals to treat your DOMS… so these really are a great workout snack! Check out Well-Being Secrets to learn more benefits of eating bananas and the best ways to keep and store them, as well as for a few more banana recipes. 🙂

Peanut Butter Energy Bars
Adapted from: All Recipes, Peanut Butter Girl, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Enough for a 20 x 20 cm mould

Ingredients
Base:
• 4 x bananas
• 2 cups peanut butter
• 2 cups oats

Fillings:
• 2 tbsp chia seeds
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp nutmeg
• 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup seeds
• ¾ cup whole almonds (cashews, walnuts, etc.)
• ¼ cup whole pistachios, shelled (macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)
• A handful of toasted coconut
• ¼ cup goji berries (cranberries or other dried fruits)
• ¼ cup cacao nibs
• ⅓ cup honey (optional)

Topping:
• 200g dark chocolate
• 3 tbsp coconut oil
• Pinch of desiccated coconut, cacao nibs, or flaked almonds, to decorate

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mash the bananas with a fork in a large bowl. You may wish to gently melt the peanut butter over the hob in order to make it mix more easily. Add the oats and mashed bananas into the peanut butter, mix well, and then transfer back to the bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients (the above ingredients are what I added, but I didn’t use honey. Feel free to add in whatever you want!) and mix well, before transferring to a baking dish lined with non-stick baking parchment (I used a silicon mould, so it was non-stick anyway!). Bake for 20 minutes.

Break the chocolate up into small pieces and place in a saucepan with the coconut oil. Melt over a very low heat whilst stirring to combine. Pour over the top of the bars, and leave to set. When partially set, I sprinkled the top with cacao nibs and desiccated coconut. Flaked almonds would also work well, too!

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. I prefer to eat them when they’re room temperature, though!

First made: 19.07.2014

A Trip to Paris!! | Macaron Délicat à la Thé Vert

Beware: Photo heavy and ramble-y post! 🙂


“Like a good Chanel purse, the macaron is timeless and elegant, and always a treat!”
Bake Bellissima



I absolutely love a good cuppa tea, and being British, tea is a large part of our daily lives. However, I also love the Japanese culture, and have taken a very fond liking to their sencha 煎茶; whenever I’d have green tea in a Japanese restaurant or café, it would always have a delicate taste and leave my mouth feeling refreshed, although others would complain of how weak the tea appeared to be. But for me, I think that’s the key! I love the way these leaves are processed and I love how soft and subtle the flavour is. I bought some good quality sencha tea bags, but to use a whole teabag would make the tea so strong that it leaves a bitter after taste in your mouth, even when using warm water (as opposed to hot)! I had never liked Chinese green tea because of this reason, but perhaps it’s not the flavour of the leaf, it’s just its strength that I dislike. So now I simply rip open the teabags, and use literally a small pinch of leaves, pop them in the bottom of my cup, and pour over hot water, and I absolutely love the taste! I just keep the ripped teabag in my empty pot of Teapigs matcha, which has made a very useful pot for varying my sencha around! Not forgetting that the matcha itself was beautiful! I’ve converted dad to green tea because of this, too, and now I feel that I can enjoy this lovely Japanese daytime ritual into my daily life, too.

So yes, I love a good British cuppa, and also a gentle chawan of matcha. I’m very confused as to what to believe regarding the health benefits of tea; some say that it counts towards your daily water intake, although I think that these days most “experts” agree that it doesn’t because of its caffeine content. However, I have read that tea has as much caffeine, if not more, than coffee, but it simply releases it over a slower period. Both green and black tea contain around 30,000 polyphenolic compounds, some of which have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and inflammation, and their exact biomechanical mechanism is still not clear.1 Also, polyphenols can act as antioxidants, and for a long time this was thought to be the reason for their health benefits.1 However, recent studies have shown that this only plays a small part in their effectiveness.1 Yet, according to Disler et al. (1975), drinking tannin-containing beverages such as tea with meals may contribute to the pathogensis of iron deficiency if the diet consists largely of vegetable foodstuffs. 2



Anyway, regardless of whether it’s healthy or not, I believe that it’s a marvellous beverage! It’s perfect for any occasion: celebrations with loved ones, get-togethers with friends, consoling one who’s upset, as a snack, a post-meal cleanse, a breakfast necessity… and so I decided to infuse matcha (powdered green tea) into macarons in order to celebrate my love for tea and the Japanese culture, and also because I’ve just recently got back from a trip to Paris! These were originally a trial of green tea macarons to be had as a spring treat for Father’s Day, especially seeing as dad took quite an interest in the Japanese culture, and they were secondarily going to be for celebrating a trip to Paris should my abstract have been accepted. But they came out so well the first time I decided not to make them again, and the next time I will make them, I will try and feature a different flavour, I think. Flavours I’ve love to try and make include, and are not limited, to a few I have just quickly found on Foodgawker:


• Chocolate macarons with an orange ganache, or orange macarons with a chocolate ganache!
• Lime macarons (green) with a coconut buttercream (white), sprinkled with desiccated coconut
• Pistachio macarons (green) with a raspberry or strawberry buttercream (pink/red)
• Rose macarons (pink)
• Vanilla macarons (white/light) with a Nutella filling (dark brown)
• Basil macarons (green) with a strawberry ganache (red)
• Matcha macarons (green) with a match and white chocolate ganache (green and/or white) with a dusting of matcha
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a dark chocolate and pepper ganache (dark and spicy!)
• Lavender macarons (pink) with honey-early grey infused buttercream
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a peanut butter frosting (yellow-brown)
• Vanilla macarons (pale) with vanilla bean buttercream and a fresh strawberry (to make it very pale pink)
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a coffee ganache
• Custard cream macarons (or another English biscuit!)
• Wasabi macarons (with strawberry, ankou, or white chocolate filling)
• Savoury macarons with dill, cream cheese, and salmon

I went to Paris to present at my first ever international conference, the 10th International Conference on Diffusion in Solids and Liquids DSL-2014. Seeing as this is a food blog, I won’t talk too much about the conference, but will focus on my various pâtisserie exploits of Paris! 🙂 Originally, I was going alone, but then Ed suggested that perhaps he could come along. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out because our dates for various things clashed, which was a shame. 🙁 But I thought “hey, why doesn’t my bro come?” He agreed, and so he came! I could have gone alone, as I’m always up for doing things alone, but this was just a little holiday (as we spent a few days extra in Paris after the conference), and doing things in the capital is always much more fun with a friend than alone.

The conference venue, Le Tapis Rouge, was absolutely stunning, and I felt so privileged to have been there. I did feel rather out of place at first, so I was pleased that I decided to dress up relatively smartly, although there were others there in jeans and white trainers! We even had amazing live instrumental music and delicious pâtisserie in our coffee breaks, such as madeleines, pains aux chocolates, and even macarons, along with various other hors d’oeuvres… yum! The conference itself was interesting, and I met two lovely fellow researchers, Özer who is a fellow PhD student from Turkey, and Igor who is a researcher from Russia with 43 publications, and spent the evening gala meal on the Wednesday with them and my brother.



Myself, Igor, Özer, and Tim, outside of Cathédrale Notre Dame 🙂

I was really quite disappointed with my presentation. It didn’t go nearly as well as it did in the practice runs, and I was way more nervous when I presented at the CRES conference last year in front of about five times more people, including Iain Stewart! I think the proximity of the audience (i.e. I was standing really close to the audience in Paris) and perhaps knowing that the speciality of the audience in Paris was closer to my field than the geologists at the CRES conference, but I still don’t understand why I got quite so nervous. Usually, I read quite a bit from a script that I have, because I know then that everything will go according to plan, and that’s always worked really well for me and I can still project my voice well. But this time I was just a nervous and jittering wreck. I also think I had too much content to get through in the allocated time… which was fine when I was confident in presenting, but then as soon as I lost confidence, everything went out the window! I didn’t run out of time, but next time I will reduce my content so that I can speak slower and more thoughtfully, but it’s difficult to know until you’ve run through the presentation under more nerve-wracking circumstances. I wanted to put in as much as possible, but there were some things I should have left out, even though it was nice to have them in… oh well. It was an experience, and I was quite down on myself for a few days afterwards. As long as I learn from it then it would have been worth it. I just feel so lucky to have had this experience, because if it wasn’t for Omya and Plymouth University, then I wouldn’t have gone to Paris.

So, naturally, being in the capital of France, one has to sample as many pastries and delicacies as possible. Tim and I went to LOTS of places, and I tried a few of the things I set out to try. On the first morning, we had an early morning breakfast at Du Pain et des Idées. I wanted to visit this bakery as I had heard (more like read on blogs) a few things about it. As we walked to Rue Yves Toudic, Tim pointed the bakery out saying “that looks like a really nice place,” and it turned out to be the place! Tim had a snail pastry with raspberry and cream cheese, and I had a pain au chocolat with banana. It was absolutely delicious, although I have to say that mine was slightly burnt on the bottom. Nevertheless, the layers inside were soft, the pastry was crisp on the outside and the flavour was amazing. Tim also made a really good choice with his pastry flavours, although I think that whatever we chose would have been great.

Later that day we went to Jacques Genin, who according to David Lebovitz, may be the makers of some of the best caramels in the world. On the first of our visits, we tasted seven of their beautiful chocolates: milk chocolate, grapefruit milk chocolate (couldn’t taste much difference to the natural), ginger milk chocolate (lovely combination of flavours!), dark chocolate, dark chocolate infused with tea (what type of tea I don’t know, but the flavour was extremely subtle if non-existent), raspberry dark chocolate (I found it quite “fragranced,” but Tim really liked this one), and basil dark chocolate (very distinctive, and probably my favourite one!). We also had a green and purple pâté de fruit (or “Posh fruit pastels”), and we think the green one was kiwi and the purple was blackcurrant. The flavours were really delicious; they must use real fruit extract. We bought a couple of fruit jellies for friends and families, and left.


The following day we decided to return, and had a dégustation of six caramels this time, along with a thick hot chocolate to share, which is just like the Spanish chocolate a la taza that I love so much, and a mille feuille vanilla. The caramel flavours we tried were mangue passion, natural, café, pistache de Sicile, noix de cajon and cassis. I’m not a massive fan of caramels but they were definitely of the variety to make me want to try and make my own some day! We bought some caramels as gifts for others, and cried as I handed over my debit card. The caramels are sold at 110 € /kg, and the pâtés de fruits at 90 € /kg…

The next morning we had breakfast at a the bakery Liberté; I really enjoyed the clean and modern look of this place, and seemed really busy yesterday lunch time when we walked past. We bought all sorts of things, such as a pistachio financier (with a possibly raspberry filling), a large madeleine, pain au chocolates, pain aux raisins (which is Tim’s favourite), a Viennese chocolate bread, and a large chocolate log. Unfortunately, the chocolate log bread actually seemed a little undercooked, as it was quite doughy in some parts, but the quality of their cakes and pastries made up for this tenfold! The only thing I would complain about is that there was nowhere I could get a British cuppa to wash it all down with!


Of course, we tried some nouvelle cuisine, which was delicious, and again, I wept as I handed over my debit card. But it was definitely a lovely treat and something I’m going to try and do myself at home! We went to L’Office and Chez Marie Louise, but this is all for another blog post. 🙂 We also had an amazing falafel at L’As Du Fallafel, and delicious crepes at Crêperie Josselin, my two favourite hangout spots. Actually, I think L’Avant Comptoir was probably my favourite, and I made a special stop there just to try Le Beurre Bordier, or the Bordier Butter, that I’ve heard so much about. It took us a second glimpse to make sure we found the right spot, as the stand-up wine bar is a little hidden. The place smelt absolutely delicious and reminded me of the best Spanish tapas bars you could find, with cured meats in the background, wine glasses everywhere and their menu, with each of their different tapas, hanging on card from the ceiling. We each had a different glass of red wine, and ordered a portion of poitrine de porc caramélisée and a mini crème brulée; the only complaint I have is that there wasn’t enough. The pork was cooked to perfection, and the crème brulée was the best I’ve ever had, with a wonderfully caramelised top, yet not too caramelised (i.e. burnt), and a very smooth, creamy and rich pudding underneath. We also helped ourselves to baguette slices and Bordier butter… if I had the means to store the butter in our hotel rooms and carry it back, then I would have found some to buy to take back home. It was some of the creamiest butter I’ve ever had!

Of course, I visited Ladurée, and sampled six of their macarons: réglisse (liquorice; unfortunately we couldn’t taste any liquorice…), l’incroyable guimauve chocolat coco (chocolate and coconut “guimave;” the subtle taste of coconut was lovely), l’incroyable guimasse fraise bonbon (strawberry candy “guimave;” Tim really like this one!), caramel fleur de sel (salted caramel; by far my favourite, as the combination of salt and caramel is always a winner!), fleur d’orange (orange blossom; couldn’t taste any orange, but I guess orange blossom doesn’t taste of orange! It sounded intriguing, though), and menthe glaciale (iced mint; a seasonal flavour, and was nice, although not my favourite macaron flavour). We were quite lucky with queuing in this store, because I walked in when there were only a few others in there at the counter; after I arrived, suddenly a flurry of other people did, too! I would loved to have stopped off in their café for some tea and pastries, but we decided that we already had enough that day!



I also tried to visit Pierre Hermé, but unfortunately the queue was so large that it backed out into the street, and people were shielding themselves from the rain using their umbrellas. I had already dragged Tim around many pastry shops and things that day, so we decided not to queue, especially seeing as we were to have macarons from Ladurée, anyway. However, I’m by no means an expert in the art of pâtisserie, but I must say that going by other people’s reviews that the photos I’ve seen, I am slightly tipping to the side of preferring Pierre Hermé’s macarons over Ladurées. This is because the macarons from Ladurée usually have a shell that’s not as dome-shaped as Pierre Hermé’s, and their feet seem to protrude over the edges. Either way, I’m sure they both taste equally as great, and Ladurée do claim to be the creators of the first ever modern day macaron that we enjoy today. Tim also said that mine tasted just as good as Ladurée’s and so to me, that was a great compliment! Thanks, bro! 🙂

And finally, we visited Sadaharu Aoki, which is probably my favourite pâtisserie that I’ve found in life so far! We bought a bamboo, which is layers of biscuit joconde, crème au thé vert, ganache au chocolat noir, punch au thé vert (altering layers of matcha-infused buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, and biscuit sponge). I was tempted to go for matcha-adzuki, as it combined traditional Japanese flavours like matcha and ankou (red bean paste). But I love the combination of matcha and dark chocolate, which is also what prompted me to use this combination for this macaron recipe that I’ve posted. We also bought a tarte caramel salé, one of the most sought after pastries in Paris. They were both absolutely delicious, but as Tim said, nothing that I couldn’t make myself. Of course, I took this as a large compliment, and so my next baking mission is to make a lovely little entremet, that I will try and develop my own recipe for, and also a chocolate caramel tart, as there is a recipe I can follow for that here. These are the sorts of things I’d make for dinner parties, perhaps a trio of desserts, being macarons, a tart of some sort, and a joconde or opera entremet.



Macarons, in actual fact, are definitely better up to three days after they’ve been made (three days is what Ladurée recommends!). This is because the flavour from the ganache has its chance to impart itself into the macaron shell via osmosis. I find that macarons are nice when they’re fresh, nicest after a few days, and then after that they shell gets a little soggy; the flavours are there but the shell doesn’t have that crispness to it on the outside anymore. I remember biting into my first ever batch of chocolate macarons after a few days left to “marinade” in the fridge, and the flavour was so rich; much better than I had ever imagined!

I struggled deciding what filling to put inbetween green tea/match macarons; I love the visual impact pink and green has, because it stands out right away, yet they complement each other quite naturally, I find. So I decided to make a pink buttercream of raspberry and strawberries. Now, I absolutely love buttercream, but I found that it just didn’t complement the macaron that nicely, because it’s just too sweet. Cover a birthday cake in it, why not? But I don’t think it was meant for macarons, not this one at least. I also wanted to use typical Japanese flavours, such as wasabi and ankou (red bean). But the wasabi would have also been green, and I wanted to try and make a contrast of colours, but the ankou filling I made was too runny, unless I added lots of icing sugar, in which case it would have been a buttercream, which I didn’t quite want. So I decided to go for a rich classic ganache combo that I really love: green tea and dark chocolate.



Matcha and dark chocolate just go really well together; fact! That’s what made me choose the Sadaharu Aoki’s bamboo entremets over all of the others; because it had Japanese flavours that just meld really well with typical Western ones. I went really upmarket and used Tesco Finest dark chocolate in my ganache, and I had a choice of two flavours: Tesco Finest Peruvian 70% dark chocolate, single origin, fruity with subtle red berry notes and Tesco Finest Ecuadorian 74% dark chocolate, single origin, floral & spicy with subtle notes of green tea. I certainly preferred the latter; it was rich, dark and spicy, and really went well with the macaron shell. The other flavour was just too sweet and perfume-y for me. Here’s some more blub regarding the Ecuadorian chocolate (it sounds delicious!):

“Made with cocoa beans from plantations in Esmeraldas, Los Rios and Manabi in Ecuador. A slight hint of coconut aroma contrasts with the rich earthy tones of this Ecuadorian bar. The initial flavour of molasses is followed by notes of green tea, with a depth of gentle woody spices to finish.”

I also really struggled with what to decorate the macarons with. I would liked to have done so with a chocolate “paint” or a cocoa powder dusting, but decided to settle with a matcha paint and a sprinkling of broken sencha leaves from a teabag. The paint was a little too translucent, and when it dried it didn’t have the effect I was hoping for. I also didn’t have a brush so it was difficult to get the desired design, too.

To make the macarons, I decided to go for the chocolate macaron recipe, as it’s one of my favourites and has worked really well for me each time I’ve tried it. But perhaps the cocoa powder stabilises it in a different way to the matcha, or was it simply my technique this time wasn’t good enough? I think that I knocked too much air out of the batter during the macaronage phase, or perhaps I simply didn’t stiffen the peaks enough, because after the hour of waiting, the piped macaron batter had flattened almost entirely. And also, at 45 minutes, the tops weren’t sticky to the touch before baking as is the case with the chocolate macarons. This is the ratio of ingredients that I used(which yielded 10 shells, although 3 of them were green, oddly shaped, and undercooked, so fell apart…):

• 35g egg whites
• 40g ground almonds
• 67 g icing sugar
• 11g granulated sugar
• 1 tsp matcha

Ratios:
• Eggs: 1
• Almond: 1.14
• Sugar: 2.23; icing: 1.91; granulated: 0.31

I also put these macarons on the top shelf of my oven (top shelf out of three shelves in oven) and then some in the lower third portion. The ones on top rose nicely, but browned; that made me REALLY disappointed because they looked perfect except for their colour! I also think that rotating the pans, even if you think it’s unnecessary, to ensure an even rise of the foot, because you don’t know if there are hotspots in your oven or not. And the ones on the lower shelf didn’t rise enough because the top macarons were shielding them (do not use a fan assisted oven… so I used top-bottom heat!). Luckily I could practice this a few times because we make such small batches of macarons at a time! It’s a bit fiddly, but it’s worth it, I think. Patience is definitely the key, because I can only cook one tray at a time in the lower third of my oven for (almost?) perfect macarons! So, I put the lower macarons in the top shelf for a few extra minutes, and they then rose spectacularly, but collapsed with an uneven foot as soon as I took them out of the oven and sank unevenly (wish I had a photo of when they immediately came out of the oven!). Perhaps this is also a sign of them not being in the oven for long enough? Here, it says that if the tops don’t move from the feet when nudged, they’re done. I don’t know if they were done or not but I’ll test next time!

The next recipe I decided to try was adapted from Not So Humble Pie, and I think was successful, because I had to make my sugar ratio a little higher:

• 100g egg whites
• 120g almonds
• 200g icing sugar
• 30-35g granulated sugar

Ratios:
• Egg white: 1
• Almonds: 1.2
• Sugar: 2.3-2.35; icing sugar: 2, granulated: 0.3-0.35

I followed the same recipe as for the chocolate macarons, but I whipped the egg whites for longer and don’t think I “knocked” as much air out as previously.

I left them on the side for an hour and still thought that they were slightly “tacky” to touch, but put them in the oven anyway and they came out really well! I did pipe very small shells, as they do spread out a lot more than you think! I did this by drawing a small circle on the underside of the baking parchment with marker pen, using a cork from a wine bottle as the template, and I would make sure that my piped (*ahem* dolloped) macaron batter was within that small circle, so ideally they would all spread out to the same degree. They spread out perfectly and the “feet” were even! For me, the best results for even feet came from baking my macaron shells on the underside of a roasting dish that I have in the lower third of the oven (so that they don’t brown!). The ones on the circular pizza dish I rotated every 5-10 minutes to ensure that they feet were even, yet on the roasting dish I didn’t have to… I think I’ve found my method! 🙂

According to Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, having to leave the macaron shells on the side to “dry” before being put in the oven is a myth, and that not leaving them to dry works for her (and in Singapore the humidity is 60-100% every day!). I have to say that I’m a little scared of having cracked shells and no feet, and so I always have left them to “dry” before baking them as I’ve had those aforementioned baking disasters before. But it must have been other factors that contributed to those things, but perhaps drying them can be my own macaron ritual! 😉

I think I tried to fool myself into thinking that these were healthy; made with eggs and almonds, and infused with green tea! But then of course there’s the icing sugar in the shell, the granulated sugar in the shell, and the chocolate! I suppose that cream and butter in the ganache are healthy, though, but not the amount of sugar in the buttercreams. 🙂 I would love to try and make paleo macarons someday and see how well they come out!

Anyway, onto the recipe! I tried to be all posh and that by putting the name in French, as if they were part of my own pâtisserie shop (one can dream, can’t they?), but I came up with all sorts of combinations for names in French… I’m not sure which is correct, and I should probably ask Ed (especially seeing as I took some all the way up to Aberdeen when I saw him there!):

• Macarons à la thé vert avec ganache au chocolat noir ou de la crème au beurre de haricots rouges et fraise.
• Crème au beurre de haricots rouges et fraise.
• Macarons au thé vert avec ganache au chocolat noir ou crème au beurre aux haricots rouges et fraise.
• Macarons à la thé matcha et crème à la haricots rouges.
• Macarons à la thé matcha et la crème de haricots rouges.
• ???

Macaron Délicat à la Thé Vert
Kung Fu Café and Not So Humble Pie
Makes 8-12 shells (4-6 macarons)

Ingredients
For the matcha shells:
• 43g ground almonds
• 67g icing sugar
• 1 tbsp matcha
• 35g egg whites
• 15g granulated sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache:
• 100g dark chocolate
• 100g double cream
• 35g butter

To decorate:
• cocoa powder
• matcha
• sencha leaves
• cocoa powder or matcha “paint”

Preparation
For the macaron shells:
Add a splash of lemon juice to a very clean bowl together with the egg whites. Whisk for about 30-60 seconds until very frothy. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (the kind where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head!).

Then sieve in the icing sugar, matcha and ground almonds together over the egg white peaks. Now, this is the part some people refer to as “macaronage” (i.e. macaron-ing). Use a wooden spoon or pastry scraper to knock the air out of the batter. Use the spoon to scoop the batter around the outer edges of the interior of the bowl and then almost scrape the batter down the middle of the bowl in a zig-zag pattern until the final consistency is similar to that of magma. A useful video to watch can be found here.

A test to see if the batter is of the appropriate magma-like consistency is to take a clean plate, and dollop a spoonful in the middle. If the peak slowly disappears into itself, then the batter is ready. If it’s still visible after about 30 seconds or so, then it needs some more air knocking out! If the batter is too runny, then you’ve over mixed!

Prepare a heavy-duty baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the batter into your piping bag (or icing syringe, etc.), and dollop macarons onto the parchment paper, leaving at least an inch worth of space between each shell. This depends entirely on how large you want your macarons.

Bash the tray on the surface of the worktop 4 times, rotating each time. This forces air bubbles in the macaron batter to rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any large ones. Leave the macarons on the side for an hour to air dry, so that they’re not sticky or tacky to a light touch.

Preheat the oven to 155◦C, ensuring that you do not use fan assist. Pop the tray into the lower third of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before peeling the shells off the parchment.

For the dark chocolate ganache:
Melt the butter and chocolate over a very low heat until melted and combined. Remove from the heat, pour in the cream, homogenise well and pop in the fridge until thick enough to pipe. Before piping, leave the bowl out of the fridge for a while to bring the ganache up to room temperature.

Assembly:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and pipe some around a macaron shell leaving about a mm of edge, working your way into the centre. Then, very gently pop the other macaron shell on top, and press VERY lightly to make the ganache pop out and spread to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. Be very careful not to crack and break the shells with your fingers.

Pop in the fridge for anywhere between 2-5 days before taking out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before devouring. 😀

Shells baked: 16.03.2014
Shells filled: 17.03.2014

Du Pain et des Idées
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
Website

Jacques Genin, Fondeur en Chocolat
133 Rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris, France
Website

Ladurée
21 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

L’Avant Comptoir
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris, France
Website

Liberté
39 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010, Paris, France
Website

Pierre Hermé
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

Sadaharu Aoki
35 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris, France
Website

References
[1] Uncovering the secrets of tea, Chemistry World, January 2013, Page 31.
[2] Disler, P. B., Lynch, S. R., Charlton, R. W., Torrance, J. D., Bothwell, T. H., Walker, R. B. & Mayet, F. (1975) ‘The effect of tea on iron absorption’. Gut, 16 (3). pp 193-200.

A Planned Spontaneous Weekend | Chive and Cheddar Scones



There’s nothing like a warm, fresh, chive and cheese scone with a little goat’s butter for breakfast whilst watching the beautiful woodland life right in your back garden. 🙂

What a lovely weekend I’ve had, embracing the English summertime weather! It was certainly a weekend planned in advance, but everything was pretty spontaneous, as it completely depended on what the weather was doing, as is usually the case when planning what to do in the UK. Ed suggested that we could go surfing, but I said I wasn’t really up for it. I mean, I’m a complete novice and have really enjoyed surfing the few times I’ve been, and call me lazy, but I just can’t be bothered to get wet… I find that I stay cold for hours after (unless it’s a particularly hot day), can’t be bothered with wet and salty hair, and my skin dries out and eczema flares up.

The top left picture is the ledge off of which the boys were tombstoning/jumping… dangerous!

Anyway, the past few weeks I’ve managed to get a lot of work done, except for last week… I was procrastinating making my presentation for Paris in less than a few weeks, and preparing for Ed’s visit (by making a lovely paleo cheesecake and non-paleo bread!). But you only live once, and I’m sure that I’ll make up my slack last week once I’m back from the conference. And it’s all part and parcel of living and doing a PhD anyway! Speaking of living, I’m going through a phase with Crossfit in that I don’t really care how well I do anymore.; my perspective has completely shifted and it’s actually rather liberating. I mean, I’m still going to train, and hope that my hunger comes back for it soon, but it’s just a hobby! And even if I don’t progress as fast as others, who cares?! My family still love me, and I’m pretty sure that Ed wouldn’t think any less of me based on that. I also have a lot of other hobbies and aspects about myself as a person; Crossfit is just one of them and it doesn’t define who I am. I’ve been telling myself this for a while but it’s only recently I’ve actually felt it. And it feels great! 🙂

Anyway, Ed came to visit and we actually did a lot over the weekend! I was treated to a lovely Japanese meal (one of my favourite cuisines!) and then we just went for a walk around Plymouth. Although Ed used to study at the same university as me, he’d never seen where I do my work! So I showed him the office and some of the labs, and then continued along the Hoe. It was such a lovely day that we decided to jump into Tinside Lido! It looked so inviting and cool… and it was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING! The sun was quite hot and the breeze cool, but after one dip in the water I couldn’t stay in there for longer than about 30 seconds! So I just spent the rest of the time sunbathing. I did feel like a proper tourist and felt far removed from Plymouth! 🙂


The lido water looked soooooo inviting, but was freezing!!!

It seems that we chose the right day to go sunbathing and swimming, because it rained on the following day (even though it started quite warm and sunny!). We visited the old Victorian Hazelwood House (home of the Peek family), and things had certainly grown since last time! We went for a walk around the grounds before settling down for some tea, and it was at that time it decided to rain. It was so beautiful though; no one else was around and it was so typically British. I would absolutely love to stay for a weekend in a place like this; although I would love the weather to be warm and sunny (it would make splashing in the stream a lot more enjoyable!), I think that even if the weather was raining, it’d still be a charming place to stay and be cosy. They have beehives, beautiful scenery, and lovely scones and cream teas. What more could one want? 🙂



The foliage sure had grown since our last visit a few weeks ago… look at the size of these leaves compared to Ed!!!

On the way back we decided to visit a pet shop called Sign of the Owl and it is full of all sorts of birds and animals. I loved the chicken varieties and the ducklings, too! I’d visited before where my dad had a large bird on his shoulder (got a cracking photo of that!) and my mum had another cute little bird pecking at her shoes laces. I would also do anything to buy some chicks and ducklings and keep them as my own! Sooooo cute!!!


My dad with a parrot on his shoulder at Sign of the Owl Bird Pets Centre, and the other bird pecking at my mum’s shoes! May 2008.

We also stopped off at my parent’s house; dad was away working and Tim was away with the uni, so mum made us welcome. My parents have also had a cute little bunny take up residence in their back garden, and makes an appearance several times a day. Unfortunately, it didn’t show itself when Ed was there. But it’s so adorable and when I returned with a different lens I managed to snap some pictures of it! 🙂 We named him “Bunny;” how original, hee hee! We put out some carrot for him and he took forever to find it! We’ve now left him a bowl of fruit (lettuce, cucumber, cherries and a few other things), yet he still hasn’t found it yet!


Anyway, when Ed left, I decided to make some scones as a way to show how much I appreciate how much I love the British countryside (apart from the hayfever…) and for my family to munch on. I should have made these scones a little thicker and smaller so they rose upwards a little more; I suppose that’s because I used a small plastic bowl (my mum bought some delicious Christmas puddings from a friend last Christmas) rather than a biscuit cutter, and so it squashed the edges a bit, and my scones were more like buns. But that’s ok, they were still delicious! Especially when warm and fresh out of the oven, smothered in butter! It’s also a lovely dough to work with; it’s not sticky at all, and I just kneaded it in the bowl so there was no mess on my kitchen worktop. I think that when they’ve cooled, they’d be a great alternative to sandwiches with some cured hams and lettuce. Yum, yum, yum!

Tuesday’s WOD @ CFP with Samantha:
5 x 5 deadlifts, 2-3 mins rest between sets

5 x 5 back squat, 2 sec pause at bottom, 2-3 mins rest between sets

6 x hill sprints, jog back down, and at the bottom do 10 tricep dips and 5 tuck jumps

Chive and Cheddar Cheese Scones
Little Spice Jar
Made 11 scones, 2.5″ in diameter

Ingredients
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 2 tsps sugar
• 2 tsps baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 ½ tsps garlic, crushed
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• ½ cup butter, melted
• 1 x egg
• 2 tbsps water
• ½ cup sour cream
• 30g fresh chives, chopped
• 1 ½ cups mature cheddar, grated
• 1 x egg, beated, for brushing

Preparation
In a large mixing bowl, sieve in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add in the sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper.

In a separate, smaller bowl, crack in the egg, add the sour cream and 2 tbsps of water. Whisk until combined. Add to the flour mixture and combine. Add in the butter, chives and cheddar, and mix well until combined.

When you can’t mix well anymore, knead with your hands a few times until it all comes together. Preheat the oven to 205°C.

Line a tray with baking parchment. Roll the dough out on a separate surface, or press it out flat, until the dough is about 1 inch in thickness. Cut using a cookie/biscuit cutter and place on the baking parchment. Crack an egg in a cup and beat. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg over each scone. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pop into the oven for 16-20 minutes. These are best served warm with slathering of goat’s butter. 🙂

Baked: 08.06.2013 on a beautiful day, in many different ways 🙂

Plymouth Half Marathon | Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies/Cake with an Avocado Frosting

Yesterday was the day that myself and eight other CrossFit girls ran with a stretcher loaded with 50 kg, and ran the Plymouth Half Marathon in order to raise money for The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

We managed the whole thing in 2h 59m and 38s… sub-3 hours! Wohooo! Eight of the guys from CrossFit Plymouth also ran with a 70kg person on their stretcher, and completed it in 2h 36m and 50s. It was pretty cool that the guys could find someone to be on their stretcher… unfortunately, the person that we were going to carry couldn’t make it. So we carried a sandbag! It didn’t look as impressive because a lot of the crowd were saying “oh, what’s on the stretcher? Nothing.” It was pretty frustrating!

The weather was a little overcast, a little sunny at times, windy, and even a little rainy. It wasn’t as sunny as it was on Friday (we did a Hero WOD combo of DT and Murph… not fun!), and when we were training it was actually pretty hot running in the sun! So thankfully it wasn’t as sunny on the day, but I still managed to get tan lines on my legs!


The map of the route we ran, as recorded by my Garmin watch – thanks Ed!

We only did one training day with the stretcher and ran only half of what we were supposed to run. Not only that, but we didn’t even have all of our teammates on that day (think there were 6 of us girls). Oh, we did one other run with the stretcher in the pouring rain late in the evening in January sometime. We ran only a couple of km and realised how difficult it was going to be. That said, there were only 4 of us carrying the thing. Although it did feel really cool because it reminded me of the Xbox game Left 4 Dead I play with my bro (zombie apocalypse thing… standard).


The guys coming back to cheer us on for the last 800 m or so and over the finish line!

I personally made the big mistake of eating a few (*ahem*) jelly babies and drinking some Lucozade. At one water station they were handing them out and I missed the water. But instantly it made me feel sick (this was at mile 6, I believe) and felt that way for the rest of the run. I didn’t need any of the sugary stuff, and I wish I’d listened to my gut (no pun intended!). But when you have loads of people telling you that you need it for energy (i.e. websites, onlookers, other people), then you kind of start believing them. I wish I just had water for the whole thing!



But what was worse was my knees! I even said to everyone at mile 7 that this is loads easier than I thought it was going to be, to which they told me not to jinx the rest of the run! But by mile 9 or 10, my knees were in pain! I was really worried that it’d be my calves that would go (as I always complain about my calves on long runs), but I suppose the fact that we were running slowly and I was making an effort to strike on my heels first maybe meant my calves were protected? My knees became so painful and today, my hips are a little sore and my knees are rather bad. Although nowhere near as bad as I thought I was going to feel. I even feel so fine that I may go to CrossFit and hammer my shoulders tonight… There’s no rest for the wicked as we have DWF in less than 2 weeks… and I feel extremely underprepared…


There was PLENTY of this cake consumed, along with copious amounts of sushi and sake with my bro the evening after the race! Needless to say I’m very proud of myself, and proud of how we all pulled together and supported one another; that’s what the CrossFit community and friends are all about 🙂

We had quite a few supporters from CFP and others’ friends and family come out, which was really lovely. Thanks to those guys for coming out and shouting to us! 🙂

When I got home, I felt a little sick for a while, and wasn’t hungry at all. Still managed to eat loads of food in the evening though! My brother and I treated ourselves to some takeaway sushi (we’ve been saying for months that we need to do that!) and some warm sake. Then had some of these brownies in cake form for dessert! 🙂


I made these brownies on a very rainy Easter Sunday to share with my lovely family. The weather cleared by the evening so my dad, brother and I went for our usual walk. 🙂 I took some into work and those who tried them said they were surprised that there was no flour. Katie wants to recipe, hence why I’ve written it up! 🙂

I then made two brownies in the form of a cake. This was I could “treat” myself to dessert and control my portions every evening. So if I wanted to have a dessert, it would have to be a portion from the cake – nothing more! But having said that, within two days over half of it had gone between my brother and I… and that was us trying to be “conservative.”

I was going to decorate the cake with raspberries, as they’re so visually stunning, but I did so with the Oreo-crusted tart. So then I thought I’d decorate it with more frosting piped around the edges of the top, but then couldn’t be bothered to waste previous avocado frosting in my piping bag (as thare’s always loads leftover/stuck in the bag).

They’re similar to the sweet potato brownies I made for the CFP party, but different. And then basically covered in chocolate avocado pudding

This really is definitely one of my most favourite chocolate cakes, and with double cream it just tastes absolutely amazing. Really. It’s so moist, creamy, chocolate-y, yet sturdy enough to cut slices and look visually attractive. Just all the things that you could possibly want from a chocolate cake. I tried to catch the moistness and textures of the cake in my photos, so I hope I’ve managed to do that!

If you’d like to make the brownies, follow the recipe below. If you’d like to make it into a cake, simply double the recipe and then split the batter into 2 x 20 cm cake tins. 🙂

Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies with a Chocolate Avocado Frosting
Not Quite Nigella, Eat Drink Paleo, PaleOMG, and Kung Fu Café
Makes 20-25 squares

Ingredients
For the brownies:
• 800-900g raw sweet potato
• 4 x eggs
• ⅔ cup honey or maple syrup
• ½ cup coconut oil, melted
• ⅔ cup dark chocolate when solid, then melted
• 6 tbsp coconut flour
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 3 tbsp chia seeds
• 4 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder, sifted
• ½ tbsp baking soda, sifted
• ½ tsp mixed spice/allspice
• pinch of salt

For the frosting:
• flesh of 3 ripe avocadoes
• 4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
• 4 tbsp of cocoa powder, sifted

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Pop the sweet potatoes in for maybe 1.5 hours until the middles are soft. Take out and leave on the side until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the insides of the sweet potato (reserve the skins for sweet potato skin pizzas!), and place in a large bowl. Add all of the other ingredients and homogenise well. Pour into a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking mould (or a greased tin!), and pop back into the oven for 45-50 minutes. When the time is up, turn the oven off and leave the brownies in the oven for about 15 minutes. Take out and leave to cool on the side.

To make the frosting, blend the avocadoes, honey and cocoa powder in a food processor until smooth. Add more honey and/or cocoa powder until the desired taste has been reached.

Brownies made: 20.04.2014 (Easter Sunday).
Cake made: 24.04.2014.

Three-Tier Chocolate Oreo Cake | Birthday Celebrations

Last weekend was the birthday of a good Crossfit friend and training buddy. She’s famous for her Oreo cheesecake, so of course, the best way to celebrate was with an Oreo cake! 🙂

One of her good friends arranged a meal out at one of her favourite places. I said I’d make a cake, and got to it. She ended up with two cakes, because her friend was concerned that mine may not be big enough to feed all of the people at the meal, but it was THAT BIG that it did!

Geraint said that it was the best cake he ever had (yep, I had permission to put this on my blog as a direct quote 🙂 ), so if you’re looking for a good party cake that’ll go down well with everyone (I mean, who doesn’t like Oreos?), then here’s the cake!

However, I was faced with a predicament. How can I get photos of the inside of the cake without cutting the cake? I can’t give my friend a cake with a massive slice missing! Plus, my brother, Tim, was desperate for some. So of course, I made TWO cakes!

I was going to make two two-tier cakes, but I wasn’t happy with the first batch of chocolate cakes I baked (maybe I didn’t mix the batter well enough and assume that there was still sugar in the bottom, so it seemed that the cake didn’t cook for long enough). But then after making the other two batches of cakes successfully, I put the first batch back in the oven to soak up the residual heat, and they seemed ok. And hence, I had two three-tier cakes! One of which I covered in white frosting (I do like contrast; usually with a white cake one expects the cake inside to be light, I suppose), and the other turned grey because of the Oreo crumbs I mixed in (it tasted amazingly but it looked like plaster or wallpaper paste!).

So my plan was to give a cake away to my friend for her birthday, and to have the other cake to give to various other people. But I ate so many Oreos whilst baking these cakes and got through spoonfuls of the frosting. If I could just eat a slice and be done with it, great, but I eat most of the cake in its raw and deconstructed form! Damnit!

I didn’t really have big hopes for this cake, but it was so soft and moist, and I put that down to the copious amount of sugar and the hot water. Just make sure that you put the hot water in last, because it’s just easier to make sure it’s all mixed that way and then you get great cakes from the oven. Last week I made the cake in Ed’s flat with his very retro oven, and the cake just didn’t work. Although I blame his oven for that (because I’ve had the same issues when baking cakes when I was there in February; it would cook the outside so quickly but the inside would remain raw…)! Ok, so they say that a bad workman always blames his tools, but this is such an essential tool!

So I ended up eating about half of the cake with my brother and I, gave some to someone at Crossfit, to my parents, to my four work colleagues, and a load to Ed when I went to Aberdeen for the Unconventional Gas conference. Everyone said it was great, and I agree; it was a tasty cake! The cake on its own was nice, but combined with the Oreo cream in the middle and the frosting on the outside was great. Definitely make sure you put cream in the middle, rather than frosting; it adds a completely different dimension and all of the all of the flavours just meld together.

A lot of people also asked me how I made it, to which I replied that it’s full of sugar! Everyone then referenced the BCC Horizon documentary that says that the most palatable combination is half sugar and half fat, and that’s how we get fat. No wonder the frosting tastes so good! It’s literally butter and sugar! This is just the visual representation of diabetes. Seriously. But I want to watch the programme myself; I presume there’s lot of pseudo-science going on in there, especially if their whole programme is only based on observations of twins eating stuff, then generalising it to a whole population. But anyway, I’ve not seen it yet, but hope to at some point!

The restaurant we went to was really nice. It’s South American food, so all of my favourites. Tim ordered a burrito and I ordered a spinach curry as it sounded a little different from the things I’d usually order. But of course, Tim and I remain disappointed, as we usually do, with food when we eat it. It’s so overpriced for what it is. I felt so sorry for poor Tim, because he was so looking forward to his beef-stuffed Burrito, but he was so disappointed and actually angered by the burrito. Lol.

Anyway, this is definitely a cake I will make again in the future. It’s absolutely delicious, and the Oreo tastes definitely comes through. And one thing I have noticed, is that when I post food on Facebook, people usually comment, and tell me in person that it looks great, which is lovely.

Two-Tier Chocolate Oreo Cake
Two Tiny Kitchens, AllRecipes, and BBC Good Food
Makes 2 x 20 cm cakes

Ingredients
For the cake; 2 x 20 cm cakes:
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 ¾ cups plain flour
• ¾ cup cocoa powder
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 x eggs
• ½ cup groundnut/peanut oil
• 2 tsp vanilla essence/extract
• 1 cup boiling water
• Oreos

For the filling; three-tier cake (two-tier cake):
• 284 ml double cream (190 ml double cream)
• 1 tbsp icing sugar (1 tbsp icing sugar)
• 4 tbsp Oreo crumbs (3 tbsp Oreo crumbs)
• 1 tsp vanilla (1 tsp vanilla)

For the icing/frosting; three-tier cake (two-tier cake):
• 1 ½ cups (172.5g) butter (1 cup butter)
• 8 cups icing sugar (5-6 cups icing sugar)
• ⅔ cup milk (⅓ cup milk)
• 2 tsp vanilla (1 tsp vanilla)

To decorate:
• Oreos!

Preparation
For the cake:
Separate a pack of Oreos. Put the Oreos with the vanilla filling still attached in the bottom of two silicon cake moulds or pre-lined baking tins, filling side up. Reserve the other side of the Oreo.

Preheat oven to 175°C.

Sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt.

Then mix in the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well until homogenised.

Then add in the hot water (make sure you mix all of the other ingredients first before adding the hot water, because it’s more difficult to mix and you’ll end up with a weirdly textured cake). Mix well until 100% homogenised. The batter will be very thin and runny.

In the meantime, use a food processor to grind the leftover Oreo shells into Oreo dust (it looks like dirt!). Or you could pop them in a resealable plastic bag, and bash them with a rolling pin until they’re crumb-like (just don’t split the bag!).

Pour the batter into the baking tins/moulds, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins/moulds.

For the filling:
Empty the cream into a bowl, and whip using an electric mixer/food processor/beater until thick. Add the vanilla, Oreo crumbs and icing sugar, and whip until combined.

For the frosting:
Just before you want to assemble and frost the cakes: sieve the icing sugar in a bowl and add in the milk. Mix until combined. Then melt the butter in a large Pyrex bowl in any residual heat in the oven (or you can turn the oven back on, or do it over the hob). Then add the vanilla and mix well until combined. Leave to return to a consistency that’s easy to handle/use.

Assembly:
When the cakes have cooled, remove from the mould/tin, and put it on a plate. Use the frosting to make a ring around the top of the cake (this is a sort of barried for the filling). Then spread the filling all over the top, and then gently place the other cake ontop. Then cover the whole cake in the frosting, and decorate as desired with Oreos, cookie crumbs, etc.

Enjoy with friends and a huge glass of whole milk. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Baked: 20.03.2014
Iced: 21.03.2014
Enjoyed: 22.03.2014

Vegan Carrot Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting | Spring Has Arrived (as has the Exam Period!)

It’s now spring and the weather recently has been spectacular! Two days ago was the deadline of the last piece of coursework for the academic year of my brother’s course, and now he’s freeeee and can enjoy a summer of training hard. BUT, it is the start of the spring exam period… doh! But at least Tim prefers exams to coursework. 🙂

In order to celebrate the coming of spring and to help get Tim through his exams, I decided to make my most favourite carrot cake recipe! I’ve also made this into a paleo version (with paleo icing and everything!), and will hopefully post that soon. 🙂

Actually, the real reason to make this carrot cake was to take it to a friend’s housewarming party. However, Tim and I ended up eating most of it before the party… and so I had to quickly whip something up the night before and it turned into some ooey-gooey peanut butter bar things. They were delicious, but I did feel very fat for having eaten something I was going to take. But it was just so good and I have no self control! I’m sure many people can relate though… right? But the cake that was leftover, I took to the party, and was offered a place to stay in her house because of my baking. Woop woop!

Carrot cake is one of my all time favourite cakes. It has to be moist, with not too much frosting, but not too little, either. It has to be light, and slightly sweet, but not too sweet (i.e. no sugar in the frosting and not too much, if any, in the cake). It also has to have plenty of nuts and dried fruits of different varieties, and chocked full of carrot.

This carrot cake recipe, in my opinion, is pure perfection. The cake itself is soft and moist, full of nuts and fruits and plenty of carrot. The icing is smooth and delicate, and the cake satisfies a sweet tooth without being too sweet. The ratio of icing to cake is perfect, and one doesn’t overpower the other. Carrot cake, I believe, is the ultimate combination of flavours and is sheer bliss.

To decorate this cake, I used some crushed cocoa beans from Hotel Chocolat, and it made the cake look more like a white chocolate cake, but I really wanted to try and decorate it like this! Otherwise, I would have used pecans, walnuts, or pistachios to decorate. In some ways I wish I had made it distinctively a carrot cake, as I do usually, but I quite like this presentation. I think it looks soft and very eye-catching!

The cocoa beans are the ones to use in a cafetière, and I bought them when I was in Aberdeen visiting Ed. He influences me so much, and he makes coffee over the hob from a little moka pot; it’s so cute and I love the smell and the idea of brewing coffee over the stove, but I just don’t like coffee! So this is a lovely alternative. 🙂

When I first made this cake a few years ago, mum took a bit and asked if I had soaked the dried fruit in orange juice. She noticed! She said she bit into a raisin and it burst with flavour. So I definitely recommend soaking the dried fruit for as long as possible.

The frosting I tried to use when last making this cake was a Swiss meringue buttercream, but it failed miserably. In fact, the frosting itself tasted fine and the carrot cake was beautiful, as usual, but it just looked like someone had puked all over the cake and was quite off-putting and unappealing. And in actual fact, I do prefer cream cheese frostings because, yes, they’re easier than meringue frostings, but I find that the cheese compliments the carrots and spices in the cake so much better than a super-sweet meringue icing. Although, the very first time I tried a cream cheese frosting, it was really lumpy! This time, I actually bothered sifting the icing sugar and melted the butter and cheese together to ensure that it was well homogenised. Yes, the little extra effort is almost always worth it (yet another life lesson learnt through baking escapades!).

Failed Swiss meringue buttercream from 18.08.2011…

Anyway, back to this cake; it’s so delicious with double cream and fresh strawberries and blueberries. The flavorus complement one another and the tastes are indescribable. Seriously, try it for yourself! To me, it’s reminiscent of something you’ve have at Wimbledon. 🙂

I struggled for ages with the composition when taking photos. I’m not sure at first if I really liked the orange colour, but I think it looks nice with the brown of the cocoa beans, nuts, the paper cocoa bean bag, and the cream frosting.

And to end this post, I’ll leave you with some witty Little Britain dialogue (as I did with the banoffee pie!):

”Carrot cake, carrot cake, have ye any nuts?”

Friday’s WODs @ CFP:
DWF qualifying WOD 2 and WOD 3 with Samantha, Simon and Luke! 🙂

Vegan Carrot Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting
Apt 2 Baking and The Little Epicurian
Makes 2 x 20 cm cakes

Ingredients
For the cake:
• 2 ¼ cups flour, sifted
• 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp ginger
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1 tsp all spice
• 1 ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 cup pecans, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts…
• ¼ cup toasted coconut
• ⅛ cup dried goji berries
• ⅛ cup cocoa beans, crushed/broken
• 1 cup orange juice
• ½ cup mixed dried fruit
• ½ cup groundnut oil
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 cups grated carrot (about 2 large carrots)

For the frosting:
• 450g tub of soft cheese/cream cheese
• ½ cup (115g) butter
• 1 ¼ cups icing sugar, sifted
• pinch of salt

Preparation
For the cake:
Add the mixed dried fruit in a medium-sized bowl with the orange juice, and leave to soak for 45 minutes (overnight would be better).

Preheat oven to 175°C.

In a large bowl, sift in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all spice, baking soda, and baking powder. Add in the nuts, toasted coconut, dried goji berries, and cocoa beans.

In the bowl with the fried fruit, grate in the carrot, add the sugar and groundnut oil.

Pour in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, and pour into 2 x 20 cm silicon cake moulds, and pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the moulds on the kitchen worktop.

For the frosting:
Melt the butter in a large Pyrex bowl in the residual heat of the oven (or you can turn the oven back on, or do it over the hob). Then add in the soft cheese and mix well until homogenised. Leave to cool to room temperature before sifting in the icing sugar and salt, and mixing well.

Assembly:
When the cakes have cooled, remove one from the mould/tin, and put it on a plate (be careful, the cakes are delicate!). Spread a layer of the frosting on top, and then carefully place the other cake on top. Cover the assembled cake in cream cheese frosting, putting it all on top, and using a knife to spread it around the outside. Decorate as desired, with nuts, carrots, cocoa beans, etc. Keep in the fridge. When the cake is cool, it will be easier to move to another, cleaner plate.

Baked: 28.02.2014

Deep Dish Paleo Berry Pie | An Ode to Pie

Ahh pie. So comforting. There’s nothing like burying your problems, woes, and tackling procrastination by tucking into a large serving of pie with a heavy helping of clotted cream (hmmm, on further introspection, this is not a healthy habit; I should do something about this)…

I can’t believe it’s the end of January already; I’ve never understood the cliché phrase “Where does the time go?” more at any point of my life than I do now. I guess being busy is a good sign, because it means that my glass is full, overflowing if you will.

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, because I don’t believe that you need a new year to make goals. Why is a new year going to be any different to the previous one if you don’t make changes? Once the clock strikes midnight, and it’s no longer December 31st, but January 1st… how has your life changed in such a way that your goals are finally achievable?

What I’m trying to say, is that New Year’s resolutions are goals that you must have been holding dear to your heart and think of often, so why is it that overnight you can suddenly achieve your goals? Heck, you don’t even need a new week to start new goals and decide that you’re going to go for it. You just need a new moment, or the present. And I think that’s what commitment is; deciding that you want to achieve your goals at every new moment, rather just because it’s customary to do so at a particular time.

Anyway, the goals I am working towards, in no particular order (not resolutions, because these are things I’ve been working on for a while, and haven’t made just because it’s a new year!):
1. Start writing thesis;
2. Get better at running, rowing, and endurance-y stuff;
3. Get really strong!
4. Try my hardest to fit in Spanish studies;
5. Eat clean and to not be influenced by bad eating habits and the eating habits of others;
6. Be happy and continue my spiritual growth.

Last week, I had some good news with my PhD! I was in contact with a Japanese researcher, who invited me to study in his lab if I could obtain a JSPS Fellowship. However, Omya will not allow me to go because of patents, secrecy of research, etc. Nevermind! Perhaps this is something for a future endeavour. 🙂 And I also received an email saying that I was “accepted” to present at a conference… in Hawaii! Well, I’ve made the first hurdle! My abstract was accepted, and now I need to hand in a manuscript, and from there, they’ll decide if they really do want me to present. But to be honest, I doubt I’ll be able to get adequate results in such a short space of time, and even if I was, I don’t think I’d obtain the funding to be able to go. This saddens me, however I will try my hardest, and if it doesn’t happen, then it just wasn’t meant to be.

Anyway, I still made time to post this pie recipe this week, and bake a few other things, as well as take photos of them (and post them to Facebook). There’s no point in saying “I’ll wait until I’ve done this to do my hobby” or something similar… you just have to grab it. Which is why I bake and take photos; I love it! It reminds me that life is something to be enjoyed NOW and not to be put off for another time. You have to MAKE time for your achievements, for your work, for your family and hobbies, and you have to sacrifice and prioritise for them all. I personally think that you can have and do it all, but just not at once.

And, onto the pie!

I didn’t really expect much from this pie… I just sort of threw it together. I felt like making something hearty and relatively healthy (compared to other desserts). But now I think it’s going to be a delightful addition to my repertoire of recipes! I mean, sure, it’s a paleo pie, but even if you’re not on the paleo diet, this pie is absolutely fantastic and I really prefer it to conventional pies, as it’s not too sweet. I used cherries and blueberries, but you could easily use other fruits. Favourite combinations of mine are apple and blackberry, forest fruits, and peach and raspberry (my mum makes a delicious peach and raspberry crumble… mmmmmm!).

I made this for one weekend when we were all together at my parents’ and we had this with mum’s rib-eye beef! Was delicious!


The morning that I had baked this pie, my brother and I were working in the living room, and the pie was cooling on the kitchen worktop. I went into the kitchen with the lights off, and the light from the living room was shining through the serving hatch and illuminated the pie in such a picturesque and angelic way that I had to capture it was it was! I’ve never been a fan of using indoor lights, and always try to use natural lighting, but I had a good tripod and the right angle, and I think the pictures below came out beautifully, despite the darkness and small amount of fake light!

I also took photos at my parents’ house, because I absolutely love their rustic kitchen as it’s large and beautiful, and full of light, but I really struggled with the composition. Well, more so the lighting and angles to make it look delectable without making the colours look flat. The typical example would be taking photos of salads: with the right lighting and angles they can look crisp and delicious, but with the wrong lighting (i.e. in a dark restaurant with a flash) it can look limp, boring and lifeless.

I love how the crust of the pie is stained purple, and the colours inside. 🙂 And how it looks so impressive yet is so simple to put together! And, a great gift idea would be mini pies!

The pie is delicious when hot and straight from the oven, with a generous dollop of clotted cream. But then this is also wonderful cold with double cream as well. If you leave it for a day after baking and before eating, the flavours mingle with one another and with the pie case. It’s perfect all year round: hot in the winter, and cold in the summer!

The pie case is also great for savoury pies, because it’s not sweetened with coconut flour, it goes with every taste! I used it to make a savoury beef pie that was absolutely delicious! 🙂

Thursday training:
1km run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
800m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
600m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
400m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
1 min pull up rig hang (weighted if possible)
400m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
600m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
800m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
1km run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg

Deep Dish Paleo Berry Pie
Serves 8-10
Case adapted from: Elana’s Pantry; filling adapted from The Yoghurt Pot

Ingredients
For the pie case:
• 4 cups almond flour
• 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted (approx. 2 heaped tbsp coconut oil if hard)
• 2 x eggs

For the filling:
• 350g cherries, pitted (fresh or thawed from frozen)
• 350g blueberries, (fresh or thawed from frozen)
• 250g mixed dried fruits (soaked overnight in hot water)
• 3 generous tbsp maple syrup/honey
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp arrowroot powder (optional)

Preparation
Drain the dried fruit that has been soaked overnight in water. Mix all of the ingredients for the filling together in a saucepan, bring to the boil, and let simmer for around 10 minutes (if not using arrowroot powder, maybe simmer for 15 minutes to evaporate a little more of the liquids?). Then set aside.

In the meantime, prepare your pie cast. Mix all of the in a large bowl and homogenise well with the back of a spoon. Line a cake tin with baking paper (my cake tin had a removable base, and was 15cm in diameter and 8 cm in height), and press the case mixture all around the cake tin, ensuring that the walls are thick enough to hold the weight of the fruits. (I used about ¾ of the mixture for the base and walls, and the remaining for the top.)

Pour in the berry filling. Then pat the remaining pastry mixture on top of the filling. Make sure to seal as best as you can any gaps between the lid and the walls of the case, without splashing juice anywhere!

Pop the pie into a preheated oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 160°C for 15 minutes. I then let my pie cool in the oven.

If you wish to present the pie to guests, I recommend to cool the pie entirely before removing it from its tin, so that it holds its shape better.

This is delicious straight from the oven when hot and fresh, but is also beautiful the next day, as the juices inside become a sauce, and the flavours mingle with each other and the pastry case.

Bon appétit! 🙂

Baked and constructed: 24.01.2014 @ the Kung Fu Kitchen! 🙂

Rave at the Box (any excuse to bake!) | Quadruple of Primal Treats

Menu du jour:
1. Banana & nut brownies
2. Coconut brownies
3. Honey, lemon & almond cookies
4. Chocolate & pistachio biscotti

What a week and what a crazy weekend! Where do I start?

Firstly, I should probably apologise for a very photo heavy post. But these brownies are just so damn photogenic. I love the colours of these banana brownies in particular, and the fact that they’re a little thicker/taller than the coconut ones (although the coconut brownies are a little gooey-er) makes them slightly easier to shoot.

I also tried a slightly different set up when taking these photos; I put my white boards on a coffee table so I could get differently angled shots easier than before, and it seemed to work! I took the Friday afternoon off because a) I was being incredibly unproductive that afternoon and all of the labs were packed, and instrumentation I needed was in use, and b) it was sunny and so I wanted to make the most of the light (as it had been dark and raining all week!). Although, it did get too sunny that afternoon (too sunny?! Yes!) and the direct sunlight made the shadows too harsh! Can’t win, eh? But I managed to get around it. 🙂 (I have posted a photo of my set up, but please excuse the cables; I was testing my internet connections and there usually aren’t that many!)

So anyway, onto the food!

Although these treats are technically primal (paleo for the most part), they’re still concentrated (i.e. too many nuts, lots of honey, maple syrup, dried fruits, etc.), and so they’re still only a treat. I need to keep reminding myself of this; I swear there were twice as many of these treats before I took them to the party at CFP, but I just ate most of them in the space of two days. I tried my hardest to resist, but I just couldn’t. I would have eaten them all if it wasn’t for the potential shame of turning up with an empty box and broken promises!

Of course you can alter the sweetness with the amount of honey/maple syrup you add, and as well as the squidgy-ness with the amount of sweet potato and flour. Also, the more things you add, the less squidgy they will be (hence why the coconut brownies look a lot moister than the banana ones!).

These also go superbly well with coconut cream! How do you make coconut cream, you ask? Just open a tin of coconut milk, mix well, put in a mason jar and pop into the fridge overnight, et voilà‎! Coconut cream! It’s light to taste and so delicious! Although these brownies are moist enough to enjoy without anything else. 🙂

Just make sure that the brownies are cold before you cut them, otherwise they’ll crumble a bit too much! Although if you’re like me and put a million different things in them, it’s always going to be difficult to cut a clean slice every time.

And don’t get rid of your sweet potato skins! They make excellent pizza bases! Just put on some toppings and pop them in the oven. 🙂 I would love to try and make these with avocado or beetroot. I would also like to try these with oats, too. I’ve used black beans in brownies, and they came out really well, although a little drier. I think my next test will be to try them with mung beans as they’re a little bit mushier in texture and may make for a softer brownie. We will see and I will post the results at some point! If they come out well, I may well try and scale it up to make it in to a cake for my brother’s birthday. He’s into health foods and getting as much protein as possible. Beans have a lot, so I’ll make it into a protein cake! I could even add protein powder and peanut butter, but I think adding a large chunk of meat will be taking things a bit too far…

The honey almond cookies were supposed to be biscotti, but I think I accidentally put in twice the amount of honey and syrup, as well as too much baking powder! So when I popped the batter (yes, batter, not dough!) on a baking sheet, I thought that it was too runny, but it sort of kept its shape. And when I had baked it for the first time, it was as flat as a pancake (and just about spilling over the edges, too!). It still tasted really nicely though, and would have been a shame to have got rid of those lovely ingredients. So I scooped the batter back up, made them into cookie shapes, and baked them again. And ta daaaa! Saved biscotti turned biscuits!

I’ve never even been a big fan of biscotti. They definitely have nice feelings and associations… when else do you have biscotti other than with tea or coffee? And tea and coffee means either a break, time to relax, or good old ramblings and nattering with someone special. Or that first cup of tea in the morning… that’s to die for! Anyway, getting off topic… the photographs on the other blogs made the biscotti look SO divine, so I thought I would give it a go! But one thing that puts me off of biscotti is that they are SUPER crunchy! I like crunchy things, but sometimes they’re too hard… maybe I’ve just had bad biscotti in the past? But either way, the ones I baked weren’t hard at all – they were still quite soft and fairly chewy with a really nice taste! More like soft biscuits/cookies than hard biscotti and remind me of Roman sweets. 🙂

The brownies are definitely my sort of thing though! Especially the banana ones, as I love banana! But then again, the coconut ones were so chocolately and moist, so I liked those, too. I did have a lot of complements the night that I took them to the rave at the box! And even afterwards, on Facebook, someone posted that they only remembered having little brownies/cakes that tasted delicious. I’m glad they went down so well! I’ve even had several people ask me for recipes, and so, here they are! Today, someone from the box even posted photos of this sweet potato pie that they had made, but added pumpkin in, too, and served it with Swedish glacé (dairy free ice cream)… and it looked so good!

It turns out that I have inspired quite a few people to cook more things and eat more paleolithically, and I’m always really pleased to hear such feedback. And not even regarding food and nutrition, but I’ve recently had feedback about how I inspire some people down at the box with their training and various other things. It really touches me every time I hear something like that, and really makes me feel great, as though my work on this planet is helping me to fulfil what I set out to do. If I can inspire people to try new things and push harder in order to try and better themselves in some way, then I am very happy, indeed. 🙂 That’s what I believe we’re all here for, and I believe that’s what optimises the human experience!

Earlier that day we had a “leaving WOD,” beautifully crafted and it was a partner WOD, too, which are always fun. The atmosphere was epic! I was with Emily and we kicked butt! The WOD was as follows:
Cash in: kettlebell handwalk in plank position in pairs (using 3 KBs)
WOD: 30 partner alternating wall balls 9/6
30 partner alternating pull ups
30 partner alternating sit ups
30 partner synchro skips (1 rope)
30 partner alternating press ups (legs of one partner on another)
30 partner alternating plate complex 20/15
-burpee
-cluster to overhead
-2 x alternating OH lunges
Both partners then stand on a 2.5kg plate for 5 seconds to finish WOD!

The photos from Crossfit are not mine, but nabbed from Facebook. 😀

The photos of the hoodie are also another surprise in the post I received last week from a friend I made at PrimalCon a few weeks ago! It was such a thoughtful gift, and the postcards are of Emerald Bay around Lake Tahoe, as we toured there one evening on a beautiful boat. In return, I have posted a load of English tea to the US! He has tea most probably for life! Although if he drinks it at the rate I do, it certainly won’t be for life! I was very touched by this gift, as it was incredibly thoughtful, and will take place in my heart along with a few other special gestures I’ve received in my lifetime. Thank you. 🙂

Oh, what else? Plymouth Raiders won their basketball match on Sunday night again Durham Wildcats! It was a great match to watch and I’m so glad I was with my favourite people!

I could go on about a lot of different things, but I will stop there, and maybe save it for next time. 😉 Here’s Monday’s WOD!

Monday’s WOD at CFP:
(After-party WOD I think!)
“The Grim Reaper and his gurned up mate”
In pairs with a 40 min timeout:
100-70-40
Push press 35/25
SDHP 35/25
KB swing 24/16
Press ups
Sit ups

Banana & Nut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

Ingredients
• 3 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x large bananas, chopped (+ 1 for decorating!)
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ~1 cup dried fruit and nuts (I used a mix of walnuts, dried cranberries, dried goji berries, pecans, dried physalis, large raisins, golden raisins and a handful of macadamias!)
• 1 cup of good quality, unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp coconut/almond flour
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder (gluten free)

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skin and mash the insides in a large bowl (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!). Add the rest of the ingredients (dry ingredients first, followed by the wet ingredients) and mix until well homogenised.

Spread in a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment paper (I used a silicon baking tin; they’re fantastic!) so that they’re 1″ thick. Use the one banana reserved for decoration by chopping it into 25 slices and arranging them on top of the batter. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 185°C, and let cool. Carefully remove the brownies and cut into sizes as big as you like. (In my case it’ll just be one big portion all for me!)

I used a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking tray, but I think a slightly smaller one would have been better for thicker brownies.

Coconut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

Ingredients
• 3 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½-1 cup of toasted, flaked coconut
• 1 cup of good quality, unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp coconut/almond flour
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder (gluten free)
• White chocolate and double cream to decorate

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skin and mash the insides in a large bowl (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!). Add the rest of the ingredients (dry ingredients first, followed by the wet ingredients) and mix until well homogenised.

Spread in a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment paper (I used a silicon baking tin; they’re fantastic!) so that they’re 1″ thick. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 185°C, and let cool. Carefully remove the brownies and cut into sizes as big as you like. (In my case it’ll just be one big portion all for me!)

I used a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking tray, but I think a slightly smaller one would have been better for thicker brownies.

I melted white chocolate (not paleo, I know!) with double cream, spread it across and sprinkled flaked coconut all on top for decoration.

Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from: Paleo Spirit

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond flour
• ¼ cup coconut flour
• ¼ good quality cocoa powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup pistachios, halved/crushed
• 100 g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until homogenised. The dough should keep its shape when pressed together, otherwise you may have added too much syrup!

Form the dough into one 1″ thick log on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely (about an hour).

Cut into ½” thick slices, place on their side, and put back into a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Allow to cool before decorating and serving. I covered the biscotti in the white chocolate/double cream glaze I made for the coconut brownies, but it didn’t look as nice as I hoped it would! I think pure, intense white chocolate would have been better, but we live and learn! 🙂

Honey, Lemon & Almond Cookies
Adapted from: Steak, and Sass

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond flour
• ½ cup coconut flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• zest of 1 lemon
• 8 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup slivered almonds

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until homogenised. Spread onto a baking tray (with large sides!) lined with baking paper, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely (about an hour).

Scoop the dough up, shape little balls of equal size, and press onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Let cool entirely before serving.

All baked in my lovely kitchen: 24.10.2013

Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

Blog post is here.

Photo: I actually find this book really quite useful; but there’s a lot of material to get through. How do people finish doctoral projects in 3 years?! With the amount of mistakes and wrong turns I’ve made…

I have a love-hate relationship with studying and writing, although I think most people do.

I’m kind of stuck in a weird limbo at the moment. I’m writing and revising from home, because that way I can start early, use cooking and preparing food as a break, and walk around, talk to myself, have limitless cups of tea, and stay in my PJs. I also have my brother to chat to and I just feel more comfortable at home. When I get restless from sitting down all day, I can stretch, walk around and do whatever without looking weird.

Some days I really enjoy writing and being productive, and really get into what I’m learning, and I actually learn for the sake of learning. Whereas other days I just can’t do it.

My productivity is really determined by my emotional state. I don’t mean “if I’m happy I do well, if I’m sad I do badly,” but more a case of mental clarity. I suppose it’s because most days I have to think meticulously about what I’m doing, so when I’m clouded mentally with mind junk (which happens often) I just can’t focus. And doing only a few hours of work a day (whether it’s writing, lab work, planning, revising…) just isn’t enough.

And it’s not just a case of brushing off a bad day; it’s the guilt and worry that comes with wasting a day, which further adds to the mental bog and decreases further productivity.

I’ve been trying to read through the Foundations of Colloid Science, and it’s a good book. I find it clear and interesting. I also am reading through Dani’s thesis, and now I have a better understanding of colloid science and the background of the stuff I (think I) need to know, sometimes I think “hey, I get this, and last week/month/year I didn’t! Maybe I can do this! This doesn’t seem so bad!” And other times, I really worry as to whether I can actually produce anything like that, and worry and guilt start to enter my consciousness. And depending which line of thought dominates my mind will determine my attitude towards the PhD, studying, and sometimes even life.

Last Friday, I only did a few hours revision, and again on Sunday, and as a result, I felt really refreshed yesterday. I have also been getting more sleep too, and that really helps. Although sometimes it does make you resentful when your whole day is dedicated to working – I usually get up earlier so I can pursue my own hobbies, but what’s the use if you feel tired all the time? I tend to go through cycles where I sleep more and do fewer hobbies, and then I sleep less and do more hobbies, which eventually leads to me being quite tired and run down, so I sleep more.

The other day I made some these chocolate oatmeal peanut butter bars as a break, and I really do find cooking, trying things, etc., relaxing. It’s a nice break and makes you immerse your mind into something completely different!

Photo: There’s nothing like reliving Japan days (ahem) by drinking some delicious green tea – very soothing!

I also used to cook a lot of Japanese food when I was younger, which stemmed from a love of martial arts, to Oriental culture, and to the unique language, customs and of course, food! Even the icon for my blog is a little piece of sushi! 🙂

Of course, there are just too many things to do in a lifetime! Not only is there the stuff I do now: science-y stuff, Crossfit-y stuff, and the occasional cooking, but I’d love to learn Spanish, French and continue Japanese, as well as pick the piano up again, play badminton again, and all sort of other sports too long to list here! (That’s another post!)

I used to study a lot of Japanese and its culture, including its history (inspired by video games – how geeky!), and I feel as though I’ve already been there! I “relive” it often 🙂 It’s a dream to go to Japan one day, maybe with someone I feel close to and can have a good time with, not just for a typical “holiday,” but to do all sorts of things. For example, on my life, I’d love to visit Kyoto, Himeji Castle (and others, too!), go on a pilgramage around the island of Shikoku stay in a traditional ryokan and have some kaiseki, climb Mount Fuji, bathe in an onsen, see a Kabuki play, visit lots of cultural sites, Shinto and Buddhist shrines, take all of the JLPT tests, see a Kabuki play, visit the Ninjutsu dojo (my ultimate dream at one point in my life, hehe!), spend time on the lovely beaches in Okinawa (of course, maybe get some Karate training in, too – and visited Crossfit boxes around Japan, of course!)… and stop off at other places like Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines 🙂

One can dream, right?

Wednesday’s WOD:
In teams of 3:
a) 5 mins max ring dips
Rest 3:00
b) 5 mins max HSPUs
Rest 3:00
c) 5 mins max kb swings 24/16
Rest 3:00
d) 100 burpees
100 press ups
100 wall balls

Chocolate Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars
Syrup from: Yummy Recipes
Makes 10-12 bars or 20-24 squares

Ingredients
• 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil (no substitutes, this is what gives its creamy texture and flavor)
• 2 cups rolled oats
• 1 ¼ cups milk (and/or) white and dark chocolate
• ¾ cup dried dried fruit and a few glaceed cherries

Preparation
In a milk pan, melt the peanut butter, honey, coconut oil and chocolate over a low heat. Remove from the heat, add in the oats and dried fruit, and stir until combined. Line a 23 x 23 cm pan with baking/non-stick parchment, and then spread the mixture in that. Put in the fridge until hardened. If you want to speed it up, pop into the freezer. Keep in the fridge! 🙂

Macarons au Chocolat

Chocolate macarons are my most favourite macaron. They’re so beautifully rich, and the osmotic-like absorption of the ganache’s flavour from the shell makes them so much more delectable. But they’re also incredibly simple to make… once you’ve got the technique. After I made the macarons for the second time, I knew the recipe and what to do off by heart. It’s not the recipe itself that’s difficult; it’s just keeping an eye on the consistency of the batter (i.e. knowing what to look for), and getting to know your oven!

Perhaps I’ve finally mastered the recipe and got to grips with my oven?! Or perhaps not… just because I’ve made decent looking macarons a couple of times doesn’t mean a thing! Especially as on a more recent attempt, they failed completely.

I ran out of icing sugar, and used desiccated coconut in place of the almonds. When I baked the cookies, they developed no foot at all, and had a completely different texture to regular macaron shells. However, I still sandwiched them with the chocolate ganache and put them forward in the badminton league buffet. I did get compliments though, as they were quite tasty, although nothing like the macaron I was hoping for!

There are many variations of making macarons posted all over the internet; some people try it and have great success, while others try and have little. Sometimes it’s just that the instructions can be quite ambiguous. When a recipe states something along the lines of “now, incorporate the almonds and icing sugar with the egg whites, being sure not to over mix. You know that you’ve over mixed when the batter is dull,” it can mean anything! But for me, the most important part of making macarons was the “macaronage,” which some people use to refer to the part where the almonds and icing sugar are incorporated into the egg whites, and the right amount of air is knocked out of the whites. If the batter is over mixed it will become very runny, and won’t be able to hold its shape when piped. However, if it’s under mixed, you won’t get a perfectly smooth shell and too many air bubbles inside. The piped macaron shells are then left on the worktop for about an hour to air-dry. This helps to create a hard shell, so that when the air inside of the macaron shell expands in the oven, the shell is forced upwards thus creating the “foot” at the bottom. If the shell isn’t tough enough, then it’ll crack and no foot will develop. I have read on a few other blogs that leaving them out to “air-dry” wasn’t a necessity for them, but in my experience, is it a necessity for me!

The following video is a great instructional video on how to make macarons. The part about knocking the air out of the egg whites was what I found the most helpful: if you plop some of your batter onto a plate before baking, and the peak slowly disappears, then you’ve got the perfect batter. It should have a “magma” like consistency. I found that to be a top tip!

I use a roasting tin with parchment paper to bake my macarons, because it doesn’t distort with the heat of the oven, therefore giving lopsided shells. Also, I place the roasting pan on top of a broiler pan in the lower part of my oven. This stops the heat from the bottom of the oven being too harsh on the shells, and also keeps the macarons perfectly at mid/lower-level in my oven! However, I can only bake about a maximum of 12 shells at a time. So macaron baking requires patience!

The temperature at which people bake their macarons is also a hot topic. Too low or too high temperatures result in undesirable consequences, which is why it’s important to “get-to-know” your oven. A further note is that the size of the macaron shell I believe is entirely of your choice, as I’ve seen and bought macarons of varying sizes. Some like them rather large but other prefer them bite-size. Personally, I prefer slightly larger maracons, that require two or three minute bites. But that’s just me. 🙂

And finally, macarons do taste better with time, which probably goes against almost all rules of French pâtisserie! But I suppose that as macarons aren’t pastry, the rules of pastry don’t apply. It takes time for the shells to absorb the flavour of the ganache, which gives them a very soft and flavourful interior. Some people recommend eating them after 2 days, but the ones that I bought from Zürich airport (along with other sources) suggested up to 5 days for maximum flavour. In fact, the blog Not So Humble Pie suggests that if you’re leaning towards either over or under-baking your macarons, go towards over-baking them, because if they’re a little too dry, the moistness from the ganache can help to rectify the issue after a few days of mingling!

A great trouble-shooting guide, as well as other tips and discussions, can be found here.

Macarons au Chocolat
Adapted from: Not So Humble Pie and Kokken 69
Makes 8-10 shells (4-5 macarons)

Ingredients
For the shells:
• lemon juice
• 40g ground almonds
• 57g icing sugar
• 10g cocoa powder (or replace with icing sugar and add some vanilla essence instead)
• 35g egg whites
• 11g granulated sugar

For the ganache: (enough for about 15-20 macarons!)
• 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
• 200g double cream
• 70g butter, at room temperature

Preparation
For the shells:
Add a splash of lemon juice to a very clean bowl together with the egg whites. Whisk for about 30-60 seconds until very frothy. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (the kind where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head!).

Then sieve in the icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground almonds together over the egg white peaks. Now, this is the part some people refer to as “macaronage” (i.e. macaron-ing). Use a wooden spoon or pastry scraper to knock the air out of the batter. Use the spoon to scoop the batter around the outer edges of the interior of the bowl and then almost scrape the batter down the middle of the bowl in a zig-zag pattern until the final consistency is similar to that of magma. A useful video to watch can be found here.

A test to see if the batter is of the appropriate magma-like consistency is to take a clean plate, and dollop a spoonful in the middle. If the peak slowly disappears into itself, then the batter is ready. If it’s still visible after about 30 seconds or so, then it needs some more air knocking out! If the batter is too runny, then you’ve over mixed!

Prepare a heavy-duty baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the batter into your piping bag (or icing syringe, etc.), and dollop macarons onto the parchment paper, leaving at least an inch worth of space between each shell. This depends entirely on how large you want your macarons.

Bash the tray on the surface of the worktop 4 times, rotating each time. This forces air bubbles in the macaron batter to rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any large ones. Leave the macarons on the side for an hour to air dry, so that they’re not sticky or tacky to a light touch.

Preheat the oven to 155◦C, ensuring that you do not use fan assist. Pop the tray into the lower half of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before peeling the shells off the parchment.

For the ganache:
Melt the chocolate and cream over a low heat in a saucepan; allow to cool to around 50C. Cut up the butter in a bowl, pour over the chocolate sauce, and whip until smooth. Pop into the fridge until thick enough to pipe. Before piping, leave the bowl out of the fridge for a while to bring the ganache up to room temperature.

Assembling the macaron:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and dollop a splodge into the centre of a macaron shell; not too much or too little. It takes a little practice to get the right amount, so that when the two shells are sandwiched together, the ganache spreads to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. Pop in the fridge for anywhere between 2-5 days before taking out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before devouring. 🙂

Bon appétit!!

Shells baked: 19.12.2011, shells filled: 20.12.2011.