sweet potato bread

One of the great things about this bag of organic produce we receive each week is that it forces us to use produce that we don’t always buy. Like sweet potatoes. For some reason we rarely ever buy it, even though I really enjoy it. The smell of sweet potatoes roasting in the oven or boiling on the stove- there’s something very right about it.

We received a couple in our first order from Wild and I decided to try something different with it from our usual roasted version. When Monday rolled around I felt like attempting bread and after hopping around online for a bit I found a recipe for sweet potato bread that sounded simple enough for me to manage. I tweaked the ingredients a little bit, using a mix maize meal and blue corn meal, giving it a South African/ New Mexican texture and flavour. The two kinds of meal worked together perfectly and complimented the chunks of sweet potato in the bread beautifully.

For this potato bread you need:

400g sweet potatoes

4 large eggs

1.5 cups plain yogurt

1 cup blue corn meal

1 and 1/3 cups maize meal (in South Africa) or yellow corn meal (elsewhere)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoons salt

½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes

The process:

Preheat the oven to 190C and prepare a square baking pan. Scrub the sweet potatoes clean and cook in boiling water until soft, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and then mash it up, skin and all. Fill 1 cup with the mashed potatoes. If there’s any left you should just eat it like that. It’s delicious! Mix the eggs and yogurt together with the cup of sweet potato in a large mixing bowl.

Set aside, The next step you can do in a food processor if you have one, I did it manually. Whisk together the dry ingredients and cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add it to the sweet potato mixture and mix well until it all just comes together. Pour it into the prepared bowl and bake for about 45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack and start enjoying.

If you cannot find blue corn meal, use yellow if available or maize meal.

We were going to give some to our neighbors, but enjoyed it so much that we ate most of it ourselves (I did give a big piece to a friend, so I was not entirely selfish!) with my dad’s kiwi preserves, butter and peanut butter.

many cupcakes

I got reprimanded by Alexander one evening last week for not using one of my birthday gifts often enough. Since he gave me the book cupcakes back in March I have, admittedly, only made one of the recipes in the book. I have used it as inspiration for a couple of other ideas. None of which I ever, unfortunately, took pictures of.

So I decided that instead of going to bed at 8:30 we should bake. He picked a recipe for peanut butter cupcakes and suggested we add some apricot jam (inspired by another recipe for jam cupcakes) to make peanut butter and jam cupcakes. Clever fiancé I have.

By the time they came out the oven I was seriously in the mood to crawl in (I’ve been waking up in increments of 30 minutes earlier each day this week and then feel beat pretty early) and so we decided to leave them to cool and do the frosting the next morning.

unfrosted cupcakes
It does not take a genius to notice something seriously wrong with these cupcakes, both frosted and unfrosted. They are decidedly dark. This is because our apartment’s oven has issues. I think the owners skimped out on quality, so it does not heat up really well and it is always a bit of a mission getting the temperature just right. I had more success with our tiny oven in Bangkok. Lately almost everything I bake comes out a little too dry around the edges and too moist in the center. Oh well, it all still tastes good and hopefully I’ll figure out the heat settings soon. Perhaps being out of cupcake liners was part of the problem in this case.

If you felt like attempting these you should have:
1 cup self-raising flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon apricot jam
150g butter at room temperature and cut into cubes
½ cup soft brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)

And for the frosting:
¼ cup peanut butter
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam

And to make them:

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin baking tray with cupcake liners, I made about 12 large ones. Sift the two flours together and set aside. Measure the tablespoon apricot jam into a quarter cup and fill the rest with milk, set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the peanut butter and beat until combined. Add the flour and milk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Fill the cupcake liners with spoons full of the batter and bake for about 12 minutes until ready. Let them cool while you whip up the frosting.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, peanut butter and apricot jam until smooth. Spread over the cupcakes and serve with some tea on a sunny lazy morning.

two cupcakes

I found out last night that today would be Alexander’s dad’s last day of radiation therapy. He started just before we arrived and left the house early each morning for his sessions, returning a little tired every time, but always trying to stay positive and take it in his stride. To celebrate his final session I decided to try my hand at clafouti again. The first time I made it was for an HHDD challenge and it came out a bit of wreck I think. Why I decided to make something I thought I was no good at for a special occasion I don’t know, I’m weird that way.

Luckily for me (and the other people at the breakfast table) it came out fine. A cake crust-like texture on top with the center the consistency of custard. I found the recipe at and followed it exactly, only reading some of the suggestions afterwards. Again, I am weird that way. One person suggested adding more flour to the batter to ensure that the clafouti’s crust is nice and cake like and also do not fall after baking, which is what happened to mine, but just a little. But only when using fruit that’s more moist, like blueberries, if using cherries you’d probably be fine using the amount of flour used in the recipe.

So to make blueberry clafoutis you need to take out:

1 cup fresh blueberries (I added a couple of blackberries too)

3 eggs and 1 yolk at room temperature

1 cup white sugar

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour

a pinch of salt

And the process:

Heat the oven to 350F and grease an 8*8 inch baking dish. Arrange the berries in the dish and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk until light and foamy, add the sugar and mix until the mixture starts thickening. One-by-one, add the milk, vanilla and flour, and salt, stirring between additions. Whisk until the mixture is light. Pour over the berries and bake in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes.

Let the clafouti cool slightly, dust with confectionar’s sugar, cut and serve right away for breakfast, or tea. Ours we enjoyed with some fresh strawberries on the side and plain yogurt. I think it was the perfect breakfast for a celebration!

I was trying to get back into reading blogs after the holidays three days ago and saw a recipe (and sublime pictures) for a tomato and quinoa bread on Cooking Books. Right away I knew I had to make it. Bread intimidates me something awful, but this one looked so good that I just had-had-had to try it.

But it is winter and you cannot go around making bread like this without having a bowl of steaming soup of some kind of vegetable to eat it with.  Tomato soup would be overkill, pea soup sounds too mushy, mushroom soup would be too creamy. I’m picky about soup, you see. My maternal grandfather would have soup for lunch 6 days a week, regardless of the season. During childhood summers on the farm, when it was in the high 30C’s outside, we’d be eating soup at his lunch table and had to keep quiet about it. Today the thought of soup as a meal is hugely off-putting idea to me, but every now and then I get a craving and then it has to be good.

I finally settled on a celery soup. Celery and tomato juice works well in a bloody mary so no doubt it will work well as a bread and soup combination.

I’m not going into the details of making the bread, Andrea did a great job of that, so head over there for the tomato and quinoa bead recipe. One thing I added to the dough was a couple of cubes of tomato flesh, without the seeds and juice, for some extra color and texture in the bread.

For the celery soup you need to collect:

– 500g of celery stalk, cut into about 1 inch pieces

– 1 medium sized potato (peeled and cut into cubes) or a cup of uncooked rice (brown would be a healthier choice)

– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

– 1 medium onion, chopped

– 2 crushed garlic cloves

– 2 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock

– salt and pepper to taste

Making the soup:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the celery, onion and garlic. Cook until the the onion is light, then add the stock and the potatoes or rice. Bring everything to a boil, lower the heat and let everything simmer until the ingredients are soft, but not mushy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the soup to cool. You’re going to blend the ingredients and blending hot soup can have very nasty results. I know from experience.

Once the soup has cooled a bit, blend it in batches until it reaches the consistency you like. I prefer keeping some chunks in my soup, so I blend just a little. Pour the soup back in the saucepan and heat until ready to serve.

Enjoy it with slices of fresh bread, tomato and quinoa in my case, at a sunlit table on a winter afternoon.

Told you I was going to get into the season. I found this recipe for cranberry and oatmeal cookies on Martha Stewart’s website and Alexander suggested we bake it to serve with the pumpkin pie as part of his dad’s late Thanksgiving dinner for the family (we were stuck in Thailand for the holiday).

As we’re back in a house with a fully stocked kitchen there was no need to rush around trying to find ingredients and I got to work right away. Sweet!

For the cookie dough you should collect:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 cups oats

1 cup dried cranberries (I used half a cup cranberries and half a cup chopped almonds)

The process:

Start the process at least 2-3 hours before you want to bake it as the dough needs to be refrigerated.

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and soda in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the butter (cut into smaller pieces) and the sugar in a mixing bowl with the mixer on low (if you use a mixer without paddle attachment) or medium (if you have the paddle attachment) until it is light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk mixture until well-combined. Next add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finally stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

When it’s time to start baking, preheat the oven to 350F (yes I am in the US now and trying to convert). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place them about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Martha suggests flattening them with the bottom of a glass, but we used the spoon to kind of flatten them, which gives them more of a home-made look me thinks.

Finally, bake the cookies for about 16  minutes (or less, my first batch burnt a little on the underside). Remember to rotate the baking sheets halfway through so they bake evenly. When baked, transfer the cookies with the paper to wire racks to cool and serve.

As I only remembered to start baking halfway through the fantastic turkey dinner, the cookies were still warm and fresh when they were served along with the pumpkin pie. In retrospect I found that I added double the cinnamon and salt! Luckily it did not ruin the cookies and they tasted pretty good, in fact, I thing the extra cinnamon made the cookies even better.

And they were even better the next morning with some soy nog!

Oh! My efforts to get more seasonal was rewarded this morning with the first snow of winter. It did not exactly stick, but it looked pretty drifting down and had me quite excited.

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Ever since my first visit to Vanilla Industry in Siam Square I’ve been thinking about taking one of their patisserie classes, so when Alexander gave me a class for my birthday this year I was super excited about the prospect. But it seemed I was going to have to wait, first they were renovating the property, and then we went to Taiwan. After a very long wait I finally got to attend my class yesterday.

I selected vanilla cupcakes with butter cream frosting and strawberry shortcake from the menu for my lesson. Two items I feel are good staples to know and expand from. I was nervous about the class, not knowing what to expect from it. What if my teacher was dull? What if she was really strict and I made a mess?

Luckily, all my fears were dispelled as soon as I met my teacher, Darin. We clicked almost instantly, as if we knew each other forever. In between demonstrations and baking we discussed travel, global politics, our shared love for baking and Thann, the story behind Vanilla, family and shared personality traits like being extremely particular about where things go in our kitchens.

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The course is held in Vanilla’s gorgeous kitchen, upstairs from the café at Vanilla Industry. I received a Vanilla ledger with my recipes cards with all the ingredients needed, the instructions I had to write myself, which is a great idea as I wrote it down and made notes so I could follow it more easily when I attempt it myself at home.

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Darin (who turned out to be the creator of the Vanilla Crepe cake which inspired my panCake) would demonstrate a process to me first, and I would then get the opportunity to measure and make my own. She was very informative and explained to me a lot of the science involved in baking, which cleared up a lot of past mishaps in baking to me. For example, turning your mixing bowl in various direction when mixing the wet ingredients and flour together will cause the batter to become more dense, as the protein in it develops and expands more, which is something you do not want.

First we baked and decorated the cupcakes.

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Followed by the shortcake for which we prepared some whipped cream and strawberry syrup and filling. Delicious!

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The morning whizzed by far too quickly, and before I knew it the class was over and Alexander was waiting for me downstairs. Reluctantly I took off my cute Vanilla apron and started collecting my handiwork, all neatly packed in Vanilla’s trademark boxes, only to be told by Darin that I get to keep the apron!

With a heavy heart I said goodbye to her and exchanged email addresses. Not only did I have an incredible patisserie class, I also made a new friend.

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Pudding seems to be a bit of a national obsession here in Taiwan. It’s something that I was only vaguely aware of when I lived here. Kids bringing little cups of pudding to school to snack on, pudding being added to milk tea, and pudding popsicles. But I never thought about it much until my ever-aware boyfriend pointed out how it is everywhere. Pudding drinks at 7/11, notebooks with pudding cartoon characters, pudding on shaved ice, pudding candy. It is literally everywhere!

So when I decided to bake some muffins inspired by something local I did not spend a long time pondering inspiration. It was going to be pudding muffins. Which turned out to be more like cupcakes, and they looked horrible to be quite honest. So I’m going to be very honest with you here, I did a lot editing on these in Photoshop.


As I have not had time to bake them again and perfect my recipe I decided to only blog the images for now.

I used a lemon poppy seed muffin recipe, but did not add enough pudding flavoring, so they ended up being very plain. I also attempted to make brown food coloring for the tops by mixing red and green, or red and blue, I forget, and it came out looking rather gray. That is where the editing came in handy.

After baking and cooling the muffins I cut off the tops and turned them upside down to resemble the popular local pudding.

I know this is being very lazy of me, editing pictures, not posting a proper recipe and all that. But I promise I will make amends and bake them again and make them look real pretty and have everything ready right from the start and blog a decent recipe with un-edited pictures soon, maybe!


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