Chocolate & Rosemary Wholewheat Bread

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Greetings once again!

That sounded so tacky.
It’s been so long since I last posted and I’m so happy to share this amazing bread with you. I never knew chocolate and rosemary could go so well together! But let’s be real. Chocolate and rosemary are two things I absolutely love so maybe it’s just me…?

I’m back home for the Summer and with the great climate for bread-making I’ve been getting my ‘rise-on’ (haha). I saw this post on food52 (or was it thekitchn…) talking about peanut butter sandwiches and I just had to try making this bread.

To be honest I thought it wasn’t going to turn out edible at all because my dough was so wet I was adding so much extra flour and getting so flustered with the dough. I was 100% sure it was just going to end up as a ball with this hard outer shell and weird doughy shizzle inside. However I allowed myself to be a little hopeful seeing the dough rise so well after eventually adding enough flour to make the dough knead-able. Gosh. The frustration levels were on the rise (no pun intended).

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This recipe uses a dutch-oven or some may call a casserole pot. You have no idea how happy I was when I realised the the Creuset pot we have at home is actually a dutch-oven. Sounds like a really blonde moment but there were (almost) tears in my eyes :’) Nah I’m exaggerating. But the elation though.

Apparently baking bread this way allows it to cook without forming a crust too quickly. The lid is removed towards the end of the baking time to allow the browning of the crust. Also, having it bake within a closed pot allows the moisture to evaporate and the dough to steam. I’m curious as to how it would turn out if I just baked it on a tray. I may endeavor to find out if I’m up for the challenge of altering the liquid in the recipe/amount of flour. Sometimes I’m just so lazy!

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The use of dark chocolate gives the bread just enough sweetness as the bread itself has no extra sweetener to make it a sweet-tasting bread. Plus, can I just emphasize how it’s healthy as it’s a 50-50 blend of white flour and wholewheat flour? ;)

I was a little concerned that the flavour of the rosemary would not come through as I remember making Rosemary Soda Bread and the flavour was so light. However it seems like the dried rosemary i got here is a lot stronger than the one I had in London so you can really taste rosemary in every bite.

It’s great on it’s own but I had to spread some peanut butter on it because you know how I am with peanut butter. I’m practically married to that stuff.

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As much as I love Skippy peanut butter because it’s sweet and more-ish. I opt for the healthier choice of all-natural peanut butter with no added stuff. Every time I come home there would be 2 jars of peanut butter in the pantry hurhur. I’m just really particular since I eat so much peanut butter, it has to be at least somewhat healthier/better/nutritious! Or so I tell myself.

I won’t be posting up a recipe for this since as mentioned earlier it did not work out entirely well for me but here is the link to it and hopefully it turns out well for you! Maybe eyeball the liquid as your pour it in as I was a little suspicious of how much water I was pouring in but I just trusted the recipe so much and dumped it all in without thinking.
On another note, I have moved to a new place in London! It’s absolutely great but I still miss my previous flat. Especially (as mundane as it sounds) the daylight I got. I had a lot of sunlight shining through the windows and hence great lighting for my photos. I don’t know how I’ll cope in the new place but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

In the meantime, I’m considering making baozi and Spinach bread. Anyone love spinach bread? It’s amazing. Really.

Late Post: Hot Cross Buns

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I know, I know.

Easter was like eons ago. I just was so busy and did not have time to post!

It was my first time making hot cross buns so I was naturally nervous about the dough. It usually turns out too wet and sticky, then I get myself into a huge mess. Ugh. It gets me so frustrated as well.

Luckily it didn’t happen this time round!

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Doesn’t it look so cute?

The smell of cinnamon just filled my flat and it was gorgeous. I felt so, so happy. When these came out of the oven, I had to stop myself eating them all…

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Add a little jam and oh my days. Happiness in a mouthful.

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The funny part was not having a brush to brush on the sugar syrup after the buns came out of the oven. I used my finger… which of course was clean. When I told my friend my little scenario, she asked me why I didn’t just dip them in the syrup instead. Yeah. Oops.

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Banana Rum Bread

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Yes you read the title correctly. Rum.

Not kidding with you here.

This cake is pretty loaded with the flavour of rum (for me at least). The original recipe calls for dark rum but I only had light rum. Not sure if this may have affected the flavour in the cake.

I’ve been craving banana bread for ages and finally got round to ageing my bananas. Then I realised, “oh crap. I’m going to have 5 over ripe bananas that I’ll need to eat ASAP…” I’m not a huge banana fan so that got me worried. Out of desperation I told my friend my dilemma and what he told me was amazing.

“Just throw them in the freezer”

It never occured to me that bananas were freezable! Yes, I’m really behind time…

Anyway that totally saved the day for me. It’s a big plus as well because frozen bananas make such good desserts! There was one night I melted some chocolate to go on top of my frozen banana. And obviously we can’t miss out the very special ingredient – peanut butter. Yes girls & boys, ladies & gentlemen. Peanut Butter. It makes the world go round. Unless you have a nut allergy, then no, it wouldn’t make your world go round.

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And so I digress.

I read that it’s best to ‘age’ the cake so the flavour of the rum gets stronger. As seen in the photo above, I couldn’t wait and had to have a slice. Chomp!

So. Good.

I was worried my bananas weren’t ripe enough because it’s best to have on-the-edge-of-rotting bananas for banana bread. But it still turned out okay!

The rum is added at the very end and boy was I amused. Pouring in a half cup of rum into cake batter. It was oddly satisfying. Had a little taste and it was strong.

Ingredients
113g butter, softened
150g brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed,
125g plain flour
120g whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark rum (I used light rum)

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or a a 8″ round cake tin.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the bananas until well combined. 
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold in until just combined. Stir in the rum. 
4. Bake for 55-65 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in tin for 10 mins before removing to cool on a wire rack. 
*for an 8″ round tin I baked my cake for 50 mins only
**If it gets too brown, cover with foil.

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I brought this cake to share with some friends in orchestra and it was a big hit! Made me really happy :) It also helped me make new friends, as weird as that sounds.

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This recipe is definitely a keeper. Can’t wait to make it again, next time with dark rum ;)

No-bake Cheesecake (without cheese :o)

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Whenever I make this, trying to describe it to people always gets me confused faces.

“What do you mean there’s no cheese… then what’s in it…”

Naturally, people would be so hesitant to try it as well. I remember making this for my family and they were so skeptical about it. Then they realised there’s nothing weird about it and the texture is just like regular cheesecake. Yes. If you eat this, you’re eating cheesecake without all the extra calories and without all that heaviness from the richness of cream cheese! I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I’m really not a cheesecake person but everytime I see the amazing flavours people come up with or that creamy texture, I wish I could eat it. I had a bad experience with it once so hence the staying off.

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So I re-used this recipe but added melted dark chocolate to the yogurt mixture. Yes yogurt! I must say yogurt is an amazing ingredient because you can use it in everything – cakes, salad dressings, dips, as a substitute for cream. The list goes on.

I don’t really know why I made this yesterday. I think I was feeling a little sad and knowing my B loves cheesecake, my subconscious just made it happen. My random baking flings always seem to turn out well. I should have them more often :p

Call it lazy but I did not weigh out the chocolate or consult google as to how much I should use. So if you’re wondering how much to use, just melt a good quantity (go on, put those estimation skills to use!) and gradually add it into the yogurt mixture. Taste, taste, taste. If you have any leftover melted chocolate, that’s not a problem at all! Warm up some milk and add it to the chocolate = hot chocolate! Cut up some fruit and dip it in the chocolate = simple chocolate fondue! Or just eat it. Yeahhh go on, treat yourself. Lick the spoon. Use your fingers.

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I was a bit worried it turned out a little thin but when I cut a slice it isn’t actually too bad. I love a good biscuit base anyway!

This ‘cheesecake’ cuts like cheesecake and eats like cheesecake. I hope I can convince you. It really is amazing. When I first made it I thought the gelatine would make it wobble like jello and make it sticky and shiz but it doesn’t do that at all.

Also it’s a lot healthier. Think about it – it’s just eating flavoured yogurt with crushed biscuits!

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I laugh at my lack of decoration/equipment. Sometimes you just have to improvise!

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So, have I convinced you yet?

Rosemary Soda Bread

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Have I mentioned how much I love rosemary? It’s my favourite herb at the moment!

I once ate an entire box of rosemary biscuits in one sitting. Yep. I told myself to stop at 2 but it didn’t happen.

I had a bad experience with soda bread previously. An Irish friend gave us some and it was like eating baking soda. It was horrible.

I don’t know why I decided to bake soda bread this time round but I did some reading up on it and apparently if it’s bitter, there has not been enough acid in the mix to neutralise it. Obviously forgotten a bit of my chemistry lessons oops.

If you’re looking for a recipe that uses self-raising flour as well as plain flour and you don’t have buttermilk or milk to make a substitute, this is the recipe for you!

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It has a close crumb texture, slightly denser than normal sandwich breads. I love cakey bread if you know what I mean. Ciabatta and breads that are very hollow/holey, hm. Not much of a fan.

Ingredients
170g wholemeal self-raising flour
170g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp dried rosemary (I started with 1 tsp and added extra because it didn’t seem like there was enough rosemary)
145ml milk
145ml plain yogurt

*I used skimmed milk and 0% fat yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Whisk together the milk and yogurt in a bowl/jug. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and rosemary.
2. Make a small well in the centre of the flour mixture and gradually pour in the milk-yogurt mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon. I recommend switching to using your hands to get the dough together. Some recipes ask to knead the dough slightly but I don’t think it’s necessary as the raising agents would help give fluffiness to the bread. 
3. Shape into a ball and flatten slightly. Use a sharp knife to cut a cross on the top. Bake for 30 mins until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. I turned my oven down to 180C for the last 10 mins to prevent it browning any further, depending on your oven you may need to do that. Just keep an eye on it!

Even though it’s sort of a savoury bread, I ate it with blueberry jam (my favourite jam) and it was perfect!

I confess, this bread did not last long at all. At. All. I ate it all by myself over 2 days. Or 1.5 days to be exact. I ate half of it once it was cool enough and then the rest of it with soup the next day. Do I scare you? Don’t worry, I’m still a normal human :)

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Random photo of my table when I was having lunch! I’ve treated myself and bought new green tea that has matcha in the mix <3

Happy Easter Holidays everyone! (If you’re a student that is)

Red Velvet Cupcakes (the natural way)

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Red Velvet Cupcakes with stabilised Coconut Whipped cream.

A bit of a twist with the stabilised whipped cream. I chose this as my mum does not like frosting and neither do I, so the traditional cream cheese frosting would’ve been a bit much.

I wasn’t really for the idea of getting a bottle of food colouring just to use a few drops to make these cupcakes so I looked for alternative recipes using beetroot! Once again, veggies in mah cakes but they always make your cake deliciously moist. 

I’ll have you all know that red velvet cakes weren’t actually red to begin with. Due to the chemical reactions with the raising agents in the cake, it turned out slightly red but it was more of a brick-red rather than a bright red that you get today. Then people started using beets to get a darker red and today we use food colouring. Obviously you will not get as bright a red using beets but for me I’d rather go with a natural food colouring!

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I think they turned out a nice red, no?

It was my first time frosting cupcakes too! I don’t have a palette knife so I was a little worried I couldn’t get the control I needed but it worked out fine with a butter knife.

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So, stabilised whipped cream.

I think it’s the best thing ever.

As I said, I’m really not a frosting kind of person. Neither am I a cream person so if I have to, I usually prefer a light whipped cream. Obviously you can just whip up some cream and top it on a cake. However if you’re thinking of keeping the cakes for a day or two, it’s not going to hold up. I’ve done my research and there’s 2 ways you can stabilise whipped cream – corn starch and gelatine. I went down the gelatine route and it’s so, so simple you have to try it if you’re looking for something light to frost cakes. Also, whipped cream is so versatile to play with flavours! Hence, the coconut flavour ;)

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Carrying on with the topic of coconut, you can actually use coconut cream to make coconut whipped cream! The only thing is you need an extra day. Why? You need to set a can of full-fat coconut milk upside down in the fridge overnight so that you can get the water and cream to separate.

Coconut Whipped Cream
Heavy cream or Whipping cream
Icing sugar
1-2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp gelatine
1 tbsp boiling water

1. Dissolve gelatine in boiling water and allow to cool slightly. If it cools down too much and hardens, simple reheat. 
2. Whip the cream and when it’s beginning to thicken, sift icing sugar to taste. Continue to whisk, pouring in the gelatine gradually. Just before you achieve stiff peaks (making sure not to over-whisk!), add the coconut extract to taste. 

I’ve not included the red velvet recipe because I think I could find a better one, however if you’d like it do drop me a message and I’ll be happy to send you the link :)

I really really can’t stress how much you should try stabilised whipped cream! It’s so good. The next thing I’ll have to try is coconut whipped cream using coconut cream!

Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes

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This week has been pretty hectic and I decided to treat myself by baking. Some people find it stressful but I find it therapeutic and relaxing :)

You can always find me looking very intensely at my phone or laptop and you’d think I’m busy emailing or reading up on something. I guess you could say that – busy reading up on recipes! Especially when I’ve decided to make something, I actually search up multiple recipes and compare them to see which may be the best. Sometimes I even do recipe mash-ups haha!

This week’s cake is something I’ve never tried making before. I absolutely love coffee walnut cakes if they hit you well with coffee flavour and have walnut in the cake. I’ve had trouble getting flavour into cakes, especially with citrus fruit I can never seem to get enough of the flavour in the cake. I was worried with this cake as well since most recipes call for espresso powder and I didn’t have any. IMG_5859

I was initially going to make an 8″ cake but I figured if I was giving them away, making cupcakes would be so much easier and neater. I got very excited by that thought because that meant making an icing or frosting! Which is also something quite new to me. I couldn’t decide on a buttercream frosting or just an icing sugar glaze but seeing as my cupcakes had such flat tops and it was getting late, I thought the glaze was a better option ;) Didn’t want to risk messing up frosting with just a jam knife in the flat!

Ingredients (this makes half the original recipe)
112.5g butter, softened
112.5g caster sugar ( I used a mixture of caster and brown sugar because I ran out)
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water (I used 3 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee, more could be better)
100g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
25g walnuts, chopped plus extra to decorate
1/2 – 1 tbsp milk
Icing sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line cupcake tin or grease an 8″ cake tin, lining the base with baking parchment as well. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add in 1/2 tbsp of the coffee mixture and mix well.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Sift flour mixture over the wet ingredients and fold in until well combined. Add milk slowly until you get a soft, smooth/creamy consistency. Finally, fold in the chopped walnuts. 
3. Scoop into prepared tin and bake for 12-15 mins (cupcakes) or 20-25 mins (8″ cake) or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes up clean or with a few moist crumbs.
4. When the cakes have cool completely, sift icing sugar into a bowl and add water 1/2 tsp at a time until you get a thick and slightly runny consistency. Add the remaining coffee mixture to taste.

*The original recipe used a food processor to blitz everything together, pulsing the walnuts until they were flour-like. I don’t have a food processor so I used the method as above. Also, chop the walnuts up to a size that you’d like :)

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In order to have cut the cake in half, I took off the walnut on top teehee.

Funny story: I saved this cut one for myself, intending to eat it after college when I get home. My mum asked me after seeing it in the morning if I was going to eat it. I thought she meant there and then so I said no. When I got home both cakes (I saved 2 for us giving the others away) were gone so I asked if she ate them and then she goes “Yeah. Oh you haven’t eaten one?” :/

I guess that means the cakes were good but sadly I didn’t get to eat any!

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Recipe was taken from this amaaaaazing blog. Please do check her out! She’s got really lovely things she’s made and her photos are gorgeous. Just so gorgeous!

Chinese New Year: Pork Dumplings

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Being away from home means I don’t get to celebrate Chinese New Year with family. Mostly bummed because I don’t get any of the glorious food. It’s been 3 years now since I had any of it. I loved going visiting because you always get offered goodies and with my sweet tooth, it’s always a good thing.

This year, seeing everyone having so much New Year fun as well as being in a city where there are Asian supermarkets I decided to make some effort. I say ‘some’ but it’s really just me making what I want to eat – dumplings. I think dumplings are currently on my list of favourite foods. I’m not really a ‘favourite food’ kind of person but rather I go through phases of wanting to just eat one particular thing the whole time.

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I’ve been really excited to make dumplings because there’s so many ways to wrap/fold them! The one’s that are pleated were done by my mum. I did the simple purse-like folds which look so elegant. I found the whole folding process really calming as well. Yep that’s me for you, food makes me happy.

The best thing is that you can make dumplings in advance. I made these in the afternoon in preparation for dinner so all I had to do was just get a pot of water boiling and cook them. Furthermore, you can freeze them on a tray/plate and once they’re frozen solid, put them in a freezer bag. Your very own frozen dumplings! Amazing.

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I’m just singing praises for dumplings right now but they’re just so versatile! You can fill them with anything , like really. Mushroom and tofu or pork and chives or chopped up veggies. It’s just up to you.

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*happy dance*

Ingredients
220g mince pork
100g spring onions
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp arrowroot
Dumpling skins (20-25 skins would be good)

Note: All the quantities are just a rough guide as I find with Chinese cooking a lot of it is eye-balling and tasting.

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I almost forgot to mention! The dipping sauce! It is just as important as the dumpling itself. Don’t worry, it’s nothing complicated. Literally takes 5 minutes to make or rather, put together.

All you need is finely slices ginger, soya sauce and rice vinegar. I’d say 1tbsp each of soya sauce and rice vinegar then add according to your taste.

And finally,

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! 

Butternut Squash Gnudi

First of all, I want to say how happy I am that these were a success.

After a day of rehearsing in my head the timings and all that (I was also pan-frying fish), everything went so well!

The thing I find about cooking stressful is the timing. I’m really on about having all the food on the plate hot and nothing lukewarm at all. Hence I’m always like “OKAY DINNER IS READY PLEASE COME AND EAT IT NOW.” whenever I cook for the family. Oops haha!

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I don’t really know the definition of ‘gnudi’ but I think it means something like ‘naked pasta’? From reading what some people say, it’s like the filling of ravioli and so a pasta without the ‘skin’. It’s almost like gnocchi but softer and lighter since there isn’t as much starch in it.

I really enjoyed eating this. It’s really comforting and could even make a good snack in my opinion!

Ingredients (serves 3)
2 cups butternut squash mashed and possibly drained of excess moisture
1 1/4 cups parmesan, grated
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2- 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tbsp butter
10 or more sage leaves

Directions
1. Heat a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. 
2. In a bowl, mix together the squash, parmesan and egg. Add 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Add another 1/4 cup if needed to form a sticky ‘dough’. I say ‘dough’ because it’s really more like a paste. Test the consistency by dropping a small ball in the boiling water. It should hold it’s shape.
3. Meanwhile, heat butter in a pan until it begins to brown. Add the sage leaves. Remove from heat.
4. Cook the gnudi for about 2 mins or until it floats to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in the sage butter. Serve immediately. 

With this I feel confident about trying out gnocchi now. They’re really so good and I love how I got them to be in quinelle(?) shapes!

Fluffy Greek Yogurt Pancakes

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One of the most important days of the year is coming up real soon.

Pancake Day. Or Shrove Tuesday if you’re familiar with that.

PANCAKE DAY!!!

If you’re a busy bee like me, it may not be possible to make pancakes on the day itself. So I make them in advance. As an excuse to have a nice breakfast as well.

I’ve been using this recipe for ages and came across this new one on Tumblr one fine day. I’m always up for using yogurt in baking or substituting ingredients to make the end product healthier. I would say this pancake recipe is pretty healthy and good for you! Or maybe I’m just lying to myself to make myself feel better about eating them hoho…

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Topped my beautiful stack with the remaining Greek yogurt swirled with some blackcurrant jam and a tiny (don’t judge it’s tiny-ness) drizzling of honey. I know this may sound odd, but I don’t fancy honey. It kinda smells weird…

Pancakes are just so versatile and fun. You can put anything in them. They can be breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. A 4-in-1 whoohay!!! Okay, clearly getting too excited. I mean, they’re so yummy I just. Can’t.

Ingredients
1 cup self-raising flour (I used wholewheat self raising for that extra healthiness!)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
*sprinkling of cinnamon (just because I love cinnamon)
1 large egg
1/2 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup milk (use skimmed for a healthier option)
1 1/4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries of your choice
2 tbsp chocolate chips 

Directions
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a measure jug/cup or another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
2. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined. The mixture will be thick and don’t worry about the lumps. Fold in the berries and chocolate chips, taking care not to bash up the berries (yeah we can get a little too excited about food sometimes).
3. Heat a pan over medium heat and grease it lightly. Use 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake, spreading it out slightly. Cook for 3-4 mins or until golden brown. The batter may not bubble because of the thickness. Flip and cook for another 1-2 mins. 
For those who make pancakes regularly or have just made them enough times to notice, the very first pancake is always ugly. Okay, maybe ugly is too strong a word but it never browns evenly! Compare photo #1 and photo #2. Anybody can tell me why? What’s the science behind this pancake mystery?! Not that I’m very concerned about it but it’s just interesting hmm…

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If that can’t convince you (if you need any convincing at all), then I really don’t know what can. Oh my mama.

I don’t have the best plates or deco for photos but I like to tell myself the food will speak for itself. In this photo I think it’s saying “Eat me, Human.”

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Are you a fluffy all-American pancakes kinda person or a French crepes kinda person? I think it’s wonderful how every country has their own version of what a pancake is.

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Today is actually the first time I’ve eaten 4 pancakes in a stack :o In my family we usually put all the pancakes on a plate and then eat them one piece at time. I can finally say that eating them in a stack is 1) so much more efficient 2) prevents any dispute on who has more or fewer pancakes 3) so much more satisfying *dreamy face*

Just seeing my knife sink into that pillowy fluffiness (I could even replay it in my head in slowmotion). Oh my days. Somebody help me. I’m going to end up obsessing over food in my own kitchen one day. Goodbye society. Goodbye social life. Hello food.

And also, I have no shame in smears on my plate. I’m that person who scrapes up every last bit of dessert on her plate. I don’t get why people don’t really. It’s such a waste. Even more so when you’ve paid for it! Hurhur.

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So this Tuesday get creative with your pancakes and if you can, make your own from scratch. It’s really worth it, trust me. <3