Healthy Pancakes

healthy pancakes I’m not even going to try and convince you why these are healthy. They just are. And they’re delicious. It’s a recipe I’ve found through almost a year of experimenting with “The Healthy Pancake” which is more or less the holy grail of indulgent breakfast desires. But these *are* significantly healthier than your regular pancakes. This combo is a riff off the popular “Two Ingredients Pancake” with the addition of baking flour and a pinch of salt. Which still makes these babies: gluten, wheat, and dairy free. The following makes enough for 8 small pancakes.

Healthy Pancakes:
1 large banana, ripe
2 eggs
1 tsp baking flour
1 pinch of sea salt flakes
Some rapeseed oil

What I’ve found in the past is an issue with flipping these, or even sizing. So I’ve developed a bit of a work around to this which you may or may not want to follow, but I use two pans. One normal non stick frying pan and an egg frying pan to control the size. Because. Well I’m a designer by trade. Anyway, get these both on the hobs at low-medium heat. Add a tiny bit of the oil (not butter as it burns) and with a paper kitchen towel lightly coat each pan with the oil. You’ll need to do this every time you cook a new batch.

In a blender break your banana roughly into 3 segments, add the rest of your ingredients. Pulse until the banana is *just* mixed, I use 4-5 pulses and there are still maybe little bits of banana, this is okay as it helps with the rise of the batter. When your pans are at heat, pour the batter into small rounds, wait a few minutes until bubbles start to form. Use a palette knife to loosen the bases (if not following my slightly anal technique, flip now). Place the other pan on top and flip over! Easy, now let the other side cook for a few minutes while you re-oil and cook the rest. Repeat as necessary.

That’s it! Cook as you may really but this is how I do them. When it comes to serving I smear a bit of almond butter between each layer and top with berries and maple syrup. Maybe a sprinkling of cinnamon…and some butter…Hey! I’m not insane, I said the pancakes themselves were healthy! Didn’t say they had to be tasteless!

Now, what do I categorise these under? I’m going for “eggs” & “cakes”…

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Success! After about two failed loafs I have now cracked a gluten-free recipe for some tasty banana bread. I’ve been experimenting with my own mixture of cornmeal, rice flour and almond flour but the results were too firm and too dry. So I caved and bought some Dove Farm white flour and tweaked my recipe accordingly. I’ve definitely just eaten a slice and it’s really yummy! So I can finally post it up.

To make things even better, in my supreme efficiency (or let’s be honest: laziness) it’s all just 1 pot and so fast to knock up! So if you have a stand mixer, don’t even bother mashing the bananas, if you’ve only got a hand-held one, maybe mash them up a bit with a fork.

Gluten Free Banana Bread:
2 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 a block of butter softened (125 g)
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar (150 g)
2 eggs
6 ripe bananas (one set aside for decorating)
3 tbsp soft dark sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water

Oven onto 170°C. In your mixing bowl put the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in. Stir these dry ingredients up a bit. Then add the vanilla essence, butter, light brown sugar, eggs and 5 bananas (remember to set one of the 6 aside).

Now turn the mixer on low to medium speed and prep your bread pan.

Butter the pan thoroughly and place a greaseproof sheet at the bottom. The mixing should be done now so pour in your batter. Slice lengthways your banana for decorating and place on top.

In a small bowl mix the 2 tbsp of dark soft sugar with just enough hot water to dissolve it all. With a pastry brush, carefully  wash the top of the raw batter mixture and banana with 2/3 of the sugar mix. While this bakes it should turn into a crunchy caramel topping.

Bake for 60-65 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. In the final 5 minutes use the remaining sugar wash. Leave the banana bread in the pan for another 10-15 minutes before removing and it should come out really easily after you go round the edges with a knife.

I couldn’t help but try a still warm piece straight away! Honestly, fastest bake to blog post ever.

Xavi’s Cookie Monster Cake

My fellow Eurasian friend Xavier is leaving the UK to try out Hong Kong for a bit. As I grew up in Hong Kong and chose to come over to Blighty, it’s the inverse move I made – so all in all: Exciting times for Xavi. When I offered to make a cake for his leaving do held at one of my fav Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road,  Song Que, I got this response:

“I don’t care what flavour cake you make… …So long as it looks like Cookie Monster”

Interesting brief.

I’ve never made a novelty cake before. I knew I’d have to make an awful lot of icing to make that furry looking decoration. I was initially contemplating colouring desiccated coconut blue and slathering it on a pre-iced blue cake. But the thought of how much desiccated coconut I would need or how I would even get the two blue elements the same shade was driving me a bit potty so I opted for the icing technique – because no one needs a blue cakey melt down. I didn’t want to send all the guests into an instantaneous diabetic coma so I went for a more neutrally flavoured cake of banana, pineapple with walnuts and cashews. The following will make a 3 layered sponge cake with 20cm cake tins and a shed load of frosting.

Ingredients for Cookie Monster Cake:
300 g caster sugar
3 eggs
300 ml sunflower oil
270 g banana peeled, roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
300 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g tinned pineapple, chopped into small pieces
100 g walnuts and cashews - I went with a 70:30 split

Oven to 170°C. Roughly chop the nuts and pineapple, set aside. With your electric or stand mixer: incorporate the sugar, eggs, oil, banana, vanilla and cinnamon at medium speed.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and bi-carb. Add this to your wet mixture bit by bit until even. Finally stir in the pineapple and nuts with a wooden spoon.

Smear your cake tins with butter and line the bottom with parchment. Evenly pour in your mixture between the three tins and bake for 20-30 minutes. Mine took a bit longer so check with a skewer when they are looking golden brown on the top. Once the skewer comes out clean, take them out and leave them to cool in their pans while you sort out the icing.

Icing & Decoration:
900 g icing sugar
375 g cream cheese
150 g unsalted butter
1 bottle of blue food colouring
Black food colouring
A couple of chocolate chip cookies

You’re meant to mix the butter and icing sugar first before you add the cream cheese, then mix it all at medium to high speed for 5 minutes. I just whacked all three into my stand mixer and it turned out okay. But I really must recommend you roughly make a teepee with a tea towel because icing sugar really goes everywhere, especially at these huge quantities.

Before you add your food colouring prepare your cake. Slice the rounded top off your base layer (keep these tops for later). Blob a bit of icing onto your plate or whatever you’ll be serving the cake on. Stick base layer on said blob. Get your palette knife and spread some of your plain cream cheese frosting on top of your base layer. Cut the dome off your middle layer. Place on your base layer. Frost top. Place your final cake layer on top, I didn’t slice the top off this as I thought the rounded dome helped with the face shape.

Remove 2-3 tablespoons of the frosting and mix in some black colouring for the mouth. Using a mixer again, you can now add the blue colouring to the rest of your frosting to make your desired blue colour.

Googly Eyes:
Some of your cut off cake tops
Tennis ball sized amount of natural marzipan
2 large chocolate buttons
2 tsp Black food colouring

Make those eyes! With the cut off sponge tops, use a small cup or egg cup to trace around and cut a couple of circular pieces of sponge with a knife. Roll out your marzipan to 5mm, cut two large circles out and wrap each round a sponge disk. Coat the tops of  your chocolate buttons with black food colouring. Let these dry before fixing them on to the marzipan with a bit of frosting (I didn’t let them dry enough as I was running a bit late – error).

Use a palette knife and spread a thin but even coat of blue frosting around your whole cake. Affix those big marzipan eyes onto the top of the cake. Pipe out your black mouth shape. Fit a clean piping bag with a star nozzle, fill it with the blue icing. Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. Furry muppet monster! Shove the cookies into his mouth. You’re ready to go.

By the time it came to eat and cut the cake, Cookie Monster’s eyes were melting…causing him to cry black deathly tears as I ruthless carved into his face with a novelty cake knife that serenaded out tinny versions of Happy Birthday and the Wedding March. Outstanding.

Bon Voyage, Xavi. I hope you fall in love with Hong Kong, 一路順風!

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