Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Banana-only 'Ice Cream'

    How do you like your ice cream? Soft and creamy like soft-serve? Thick and creamy like Ben & Jerry's? Do you like it smooth or with chunky bits in it? I'm a Ben & Jerry's fan. I have a reputation for finishing entire pint-sized tubs in one sitting. We all know that's very, very unhealthy so when I saw a recipe for a one-ingredient ice cream, I had to try it!
     The one ingredient is: Bananas. "But just bananas? Isn't that very plain?" you ask. Yes, it is very plain. And that is why I added some extras to it. I added some honey, praline almonds and maple syrup.....anything goes really. The point is that you CAN make something similar to ice cream using just bananas!
Pardon my bad lighting

      For me, the texture of this turned out to be on the icy side. I would describe the texture as a cross between a sorbet and soft-serve. Nevertheless, if it's ice cream that you want but not all the sins that go along with it, this makes a decent substitute. It will taste of bananas, but there are plenty of possibilities for things you can add in to customize this 'ice cream'. There is a lot of potential to make this into a Ben & Jerry-esque chunky ice cream.
      This is also a great way to use up brown, speckled, overripe bananas that might be sitting in your fruit bowl. In fact, overripe bananas are perfect for this because they are naturally sweeter than just-ripe bananas. Of course, you can also use overripe bananas in cakes and other bakes....but I digress.
      I now present you with my take on this one-ingredient ice cream, using more than just one ingredient.....

Banana 'Ice Cream'
makes 10 small scoops

4 large bananas 
(the riper the better!)
2 to 3 TBSP milk or cream
(cream will give a nicer texture but will add to the fat content)
1 to 2 TBSP honey/maple syrup (optional)

1. The night before you plan to make this ice cream, cut the bananas into 1cm-thick disks and freeze in a container. Alternatively, lay the sliced bananas in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for about 4 hours, until frozen solid.

2. Take the bananas out of the freezer 10 minutes before you are ready to make the ice cream. Get your food processor ready.

3. Separate the slices of banana as much as possible, then tip into the food processor.

4. Turn the food processor on to high speed and process the frozen banana until they look like small grains.

5. Scrape down the bowl then process at medium speed for another 1 to 2 minutes.

6. While the food processor is running, add the milk or cream into the feeder tube of the food processor 1 tablespoon at a time, until the bananas look creamy.

7. Stop the food processor and scrape down the bowl, then turn the motor back on to medium-slow speed.

8. Now add the honey 1 tablespoon at a time, depending on how sweet you want your 'ice cream' to be.

9. If you want your 'ice cream' plain as it is, you can now scoop the mixture out of the bowl and into a freezer-safe container or eat it right away (soft-serve texture)

10. If you want to add mix-ins, now is the time to do it.

       I scooped out half the banana mixture into a container so that I could compare the plain banana 'ice cream' with the other half. I then added my praline almonds to the other half and turned the food processor on to break up the praline pieces. I scooped it out into a separate container then swirled in some maple syrup before putting the tub in the freezer.

      My verdict? The maple-almond praline version is nicer than the plain version. But that's just me. Maybe you like yours plain? Here's a link to other mix-in options. I think maple-cinnamon would be go well with the bananas. 

      Please note that you will have to take the tub of 'ice cream' out of the freezer 5 to 10 minutes before serving so that it softens enough for you to scoop it. By the way, scooping it can be a real pain the butt so I made a few scoops at one go, then froze the scoops of 'ice cream'. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Better-for-you Peanut Butter Cookies

     I bought a jar of peanut butter a few days ago because I needed a tablespoon of it for something. I love peanut butter, but it has to be the right kind. It is easy to go wrong with peanut butter (too salty or too sweet) and this jar that I bought wasn't the kind that I would keep spooning into my mouth. I knew it would just sit in my pantry looking desolate, so I thought of making peanut butter cookies.

     Peanut butter cookies are not my favourite thing in the world. Actually I wouldn't even say that I like them very much; but maybe I've only had greasy, butter-laden artery-cloggers that were too chewy. I looked up recipes and was quite horrified and puzzled as to why people would use butter AND peanut butter in the same recipe. Peanut butter has a high fat content so surely that provides sufficient fat in baking recipes...? I don't know. I'm not a food scientist.

     I did find a recipe that used only four ingredients: peanut butter, sugar, egg and baking powder. However, even that didn't satisfy me so I played around with the proportions of the ingredients and ended up having to add an extra ingredient to it: flour. The result is a cookie that is lower in sugar because I halved the amount of sugar used. You can add an extra tablespoon or so of sugar if you want your cookies sweeter. This recipe will give you crispy cookies with slightly chewy middles. That's just the way I like it! The cookies can burn quickly so please watch the oven while the cookies are baking.


Peanut Butter Cookies
makes 24 small cookies or 8 large cookies

1 large egg
1/2 cup white sugar
120g peanut butter*
40g self-raising flour (approx 1/4 cup)
1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Line 2 large cookie sheets with lightly greased baking paper.
2. Put the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together for 1 minute.
4. Add the peanut butter to the egg/sugar mixture and whisk to combine.
5. Lastly, tip the flour in and mix well.

The batter will have the consistency of thick honey

6. Drop the batter onto the cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls or tablespoonfuls, depending on the size of cookies that you want.
 Be sure to leave space between each cookie to accommodate spreading! 
1-inch space around each cookie should be sufficient.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes (timing depends on your oven), until the edges of the cookies are medium-brown.
8. Remove from oven, leave to cool on the baking sheet for a 5 to 10 minutes, then lift the cookies onto a cooling rack.


These cookies can be stored for 3 days in an airtight container.
*To measure 120g of peanut butter, put the jar of peanut butter on a digital weighing scale, set the tare to 0g then spoon out 120g. Easy!

The large sized cookies make a great base for a dessert. This was my creation for a girls' night in dessert: Peanut butter cookie topped with Banana-only 'Ice Cream', with a smaller peanut putter cookie on top!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cranberry Oat Biscotti

     Today I decided to bake something that I used to bake when I was in Singapore: biscotti. I think it has been almost 2 years since I have baked biscotti. Biscotti is a twice-baked biscuit that originated in Italy. It's lesser known name is cantuccini. There is also a Jewish version of this called mandelbrodt. While biscotti is often made with many variations such as pistachio, aniseed, almond & chocolate, mandelbrodt is traditionally made with almonds (because 'mandel' means almond in Yiddish). 

     Biscotti is easy to make but it does require more time because of the slicing and double-baking. It is certainly so easy that it makes no sense to pay something like $2 for a piece of biscotto (singular form of the word) in a cafe. I reckon you can make the entire biscotti recipe below with $2. And you will get 48 pieces for that! AND my biscotti are low in fat. They are definitely suitable for people who like a cookie with their coffee but want to watch what they eat. Each biscotti is a very reasonable 52 calories. I will provide the full nutritional values after the recipe.

       I added a little wholewheat flour and some of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's White Chocolate Powder because I have a jar of it at home that will expire soon. You can choose to leave this out or substitute with powdered milk and sugar. The most difficult part is forming the batter into log-shapes. I halved the recipe when I made it, so feel free to do so BUT you will have to deal with weird amounts like 1½ egg!

You CAN bake these

Cranberry Oat Biscotti
makes 48 pieces

2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wholewheat flour
1/2 oats (rolled or quick)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (substitute with cinnamon)
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs 
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 TBSP white chocolate powder (optional)
4 TBSP powdered milk + 2 tsp sugar
100g dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Line a big baking sheet with greased baking paper.
2. Whisk flours, oats, baking powder/soda, salt and spices together in a bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar for 2 minutes until smooth and light.
4. Add vanilla extract and white chocolate powder to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
5. Now add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir until well-combined. Stir in the cranberries.
*The mixture will be a thick batter, not a dough.
6. Drop ¼ of the batter by large spoonfuls side-by-side onto the baking sheet, then use a spatula and spoon to form into a log shape. Repeat with the remaining batter. You should have four logs, making sure there is enough room to accommodate for spreading

Make sure there is enough space for spreading.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until the logs are lightly browned.
8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 150°C

9. Using a serrated knife, slice the logs into halves first then slice each half into 1/2 inch-thick slices.
*Some people say don't use a sawing motion to slice, but I did.

Sliced and ready for second round of baking

10. Lay the sliced pieces on their sides in a single layer on baking sheet

11. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.
12. Flip the slices over and bake again for about 10 minutes.
13. Remove from oven and leave to cool.

Your biscotti is now ready to enjoy with your coffee as a healthy alternative to a cookie!

Nutritional values per biscotto:
52 calories
Fat 0.6g, Saturated fat 0.3g, Carbohydrates 10.9g, Sugars 5.2g,
Fiber 0.4g, Protein1.2g

Friday, October 5, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Muffins

     So what do you do when a bad dream awakens you at 5:30am and you have a bar of dark chocolate that's not very nice for eating on its own? Me...I bake. I've recently returned from a vacation in Spain and bought a bar of sugar-free dark chocolate to take home with me. Something about that chocolate made me put it down when I started eating it, and that doesn't happen very often. However, it wasn't so bad that it had to go in the bin right away. I decided I could use it for baking. However, if you are making this recipe at home, regular dark chocolate would be perfect.
     The Spanish seem to have some sort of love-affair with sugar-free chocolate. The most prominent Spanish chocolatier Valor sells sugar-free versions of many of its chocolate. Even Nestle, which doesn't make very nice chocolate in my opinion, rolls out its own sugar-free milk chocolate in Spain. 

Furthermore, the sugar-free chocolate is always kept on the supermarket shelves right next to the regular chocolates, not in a separate aisle or shelf for special dietary needs like in most other countries.

     So anyway, having been awoken from my sleep, I did a quick search for recipes. I knew I wanted to bake something that would use that sugar-free chocolate up and I knew I wanted to add oats in it too. I found recipes for oatmeal cakes, oatmeal cookies and the like. I didn't have butter on hand, so cookies were out of the question. I ended up basing my muffins on a  recipe for chocolate chip muffins which I tried a month ago. I adapted it to suit myself and it worked out well.

     The oatmeal gives the muffins a nice 'bite' and a crispy top. The addition of cinnamon complements the oatmeal nicely. On hindsight, some desiccated coconut would have given the muffins a more irresistible allure. In future, I will add 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut to the batter. This is a simple recipe that is quick to make, especially if you use chocolate chips.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Muffins
makes 12 regular or 16 smaller muffins

175g plain flour
75g rolled oats
110g caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
85ml vegetable oil (1/3 cup plus 2 tsps)
180ml milk (approx 3/4 cup)
1 large egg
85g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
(or semisweet chocolate chips)
2 TBSP desiccated coconut (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease the bottoms of 12 muffin cases.
2. Put all dry ingredients except chocolate & coconut in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine.

3. In a smaller bowl, combine all the wet ingredients
4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients
5. Whisk the batter till well-mixed

6. Finally, reserve a small handful of the chocolate then stir the remaining chocolate and coconut (if using) into the batter.

7. Fill each muffin case 2/3 full and scatter some chocolate chunks on the top.

8. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. 
Don't overbake or the muffins will become a little tough.