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Archive for the ‘Pastry’ Category

We went to a once a month market that sold clothes and other knick-knacks this past weekend and at the back were the food sellers (majority selling baked goods) and this young man had a stall piled with very attractive-looking, rustic and authentic items such as croissants, pannetone and banana bread.  But much to our surprise, a whole loaf of banana bread was going for $25!  Mind you, it was a very sexy and large banana bread but I thought…”wow!”  At home, I whip up banana bread so fast that I couldn’t imagine any banana bread being worth that much money.  Now I wish that I had bought a slice of it to see how good it was…next month perhaps.

I always keep bananas in my freezer ready to defrost and make into banana bread.  It started out one year with a market stallholder selling me 10 kilos (22 pounds) of bananas for $2AUD at the end of the day!!  We put two in a snack Ziploc bag and froze them – over a year later, we’re still eating them!

My standby foolproof banana bread recipe is an adaptation from the American Sunset magazines classic cookbook first published in 1963 called “Breads”.  It takes me less than an hour and a half from the prep to the baking and it tastes divine toasted under the grill with lashings of butter.  My recent find has been ground nut meals at the Wayville Sunday market and have been topping my banana bread with ground walnut meal as well as in the batter. The extra oils and texture add an extra dimension and crunch.

This was the first time I put chocolate chips on...

This was the first time I put chocolate chips on...

Foolproof Banana Bread

2 cups flour OR 1 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup walnut meal

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp each baking soda & salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, melted

Chocolate chips are optional

In a bowl, stir together flour, nut meal (if using) baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and nuts until thoroughly blended.  In a separate bowl, combine bananas, milk, egg and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until well blended.  Pour batter into a greased 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch (10 x 20 cm) loaf pan.  Sprinkle top of loaf generously with walnut meal and/or chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 1 1/4 hrs or until bread begins to pull away from sides of pan and a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes one large loaf.

 

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Before I left for Bangkok, I was like a mad woman checking out as many blogs and travel advice websites I could for the best places to eat.  As you can imagine, it started to be a huge task and with only three days there, I had to really pick and choose what experiences were on the top of the foodie list.  While searching through blogs, I stumbled upon this short post for the Sukhothai Hotel’s chocolate buffet offered on the weekend and I decided that I had to try it.  My only regret is that we decided to have the buffet on the same day that we were going to have the big show and buffet that night at the Mandarin Oriental (more on that later) so it was hard to totally gorge at both places!

We caught a cab to the Sukhothai Hotel and it was so nice to see a beautiful, low-rise hotel in the middle of all those buildings.  The style of the hotel is similar in so many ways to the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki (5 star/5 diamond) in its minimalist elegance, Asian influence and tropical surrounds.  As soon as you walk into the tea salon, you sort of feel like you walked into an elegant library where people are speaking in hushed tones and relaxing in big, comfy upholstered chairs.

Sukhothai

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Immediately, you are greeted, your tea order is taken (or coffee if you like) and then a curiously cold, golden drink is served in a glass.  This is the lemongrass drink that I read in that blog!  I was so excited because it was described as refreshing but I was so sorely disappointed because for me, I found it much too sweet.  Oh well, to each is own.  The one thing that our servers did not explain to us was that there were two sections of the buffet.  We were sat in the chocolate buffet but across the hall, there was another savoury buffet displayed as well.  For people not used to buffets, they probably wouldn’t have ventured out across the hall to see what was on the other side.

Lemongrass Drink

Lemongrass Drink

Because we didn’t have lunch, we started with the savouries first.  I went straight for the sushi and little dim sums while my husband went for the mini sandwich rolls and cheese.  The fresh tropical fruit served at this buffet were fabulous.  The quality of everything is very high and everything looked impeccable.

After the savouries came the serious stuff – CHOCOLATE!!  I was so overwhelmed with the choices that I didn’t know what to start with first.  There were chocolate crème brulées, white or dark chocolate mousses, tri-colour cakes, white chocolate mousse cake with passionfruit topping, dark chocolate truffles and much more.  I tried nearly everything there and I was really impressed with it all.  My favourites were the lighter textured desserts like the mousses but the truffles were divine as well.  There were also a few homemade ice creams:  on that day, the flavours were white chocolate/coconut, wasabi chocolate and I think strawberry (sorry, memory is vague).

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The savoury buffet

Tropical fruit with the savoury buffet

Tropical fruit with the savoury buffet

Chocolate buffet

Chocolate buffet

We both left the pièce-de-resistance to the end – the chocolate cart to make your own custom chocolate drink!  On that day, there were 14 separate bowls of different types of chocolate.  Each bowl had a label describing either the flavour or sometimes the origin of the chocolate and the percentage of cocoa.  Displayed were everything from white chocolate, milk, orange flavoured, Gianduja (hazelnut, think Nutella), African, Central American, you name it!  An attendant would put as much chocolate as you wanted into a pot simmering over a heat source and stir it together and serve it to you in a demi cup.  The result?  An absolutely sublime and dense chocolate drink that you custom made!

Hot chocolate trolley

Hot chocolate trolley

Attendant mixing the hot chocolate

Attendant mixing the hot chocolate

Before we finished, I saw the chef walk out to check on the display.  He started speaking to one of the guests who seemed like his friend and I knew it, he was French – I recognized that the desserts displayed were definitely made by someone who was trained in the French technique.  After gorging ourselves for two hours, we stumbled back to our hotel room realizing that we had another big meal in a few hours – oh the dilemmas of holidays.  🙂

Sukhothai Hotel offers the Chocolate Buffet on Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 2 to 6pm.  The price for two people was approximately 1860 Baht.  It is best to book the buffet if there is a lot going on that weekend as the tea salon is not that big.

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I love being in Sydney’s Chinatown area because it is almost like being in Asia – after all, Australia is part of Australasia. I get to fulfill all my Asian cravings whenever I visit and this time, I discovered a bakery that specialises in Asian-style cakes. It is on George St. right in the thick of the action and according to other Aussie food bloggers, it’s been open since 2006 (how did I miss it?!)

Anyway, as much as I wanted to try more as many flavours as possible, I could only eat two cakes to take away with me and I chose the two that intrigued me the most – Calpis Cookie Cake and Mango Mochi Cake. For those of you who do not know what Calpis is, it is a tasty, sweet and milky/yoghurty drink that you dilute with water (like a cordial) or that is pre-diluted with water or soda. It has been a childhood staple in Japan since the early 20th century. What’s funny is that in the U.S. market, it is called Calpico probably because Calpis sounds too much like…yup, you guested it, COW PISS!! And no one wants to be caught dead drinking cow piss…and I digress.

All the cakes in the display were gorgeous and reminded me of Japanese-style bakeries – visually exciting. As for the taste of the cakes, I was just a little bit disappointed. The Calpis Cookie Cake didn’t taste like Calpis at all but tasted more like a non-descript mousse of some kind. The Mango Mochi cake was decent – tasted like the Mochi Ice Cream we have in the states and was filled with a lightly flavoured dense mango mousse. The outer mochi “skin” was very soft and tasty but overall, I thought it was just ok. You can read a blog that I found that raves about this shop and definitely took much better photos than I did:

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