Wholewheat Masala Chai Muffins

Happy Deepavali!

I’m not an expert on Indian cooking, have attempted a few dishes but they never taste as good as the restaurants. A friend recently gave me a bag of masala chai blend (Black tea spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, clove). So I combined it with something I’m more confident at – baking! I also have a masala chai recipe using soymilk. That was approved by two Indian friends, so I’m pretty sure it’s good.

masalachaimuffins

This is my first muffin recipe using 100% wholewheat. I used Pillsbury Gold Atta flour, which is meant to make rotis. I find that generally atta meant for chapati or similar Indian breads works excellent in baking. Texture is slightly denser than my usual muffin recipe using white flour, but still soft and moist. Also has a more rustic and hearty flavour that complements the spiced tea taste well.

masalachaisteep
Steep the tea in non-dairy milk first.
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Add wet to dry ingredients.
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Batter will be thicker than ones made with white flour.

 

wholewheat masala chai muffins

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups wholewheat atta flour (available from Indian grocery shops)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp quality masala chai blend (use more if you want a stronger chai taste)
  • 2 cups coconut milk (also works with oatmilk)
  • 2/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 175C. Bring the coconut milk and tea blend to a light simmer over low heat. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 20mins. Strain out the tea mixture with a sieve. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk tea mixture with other wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Make a hole in dry ingredients, add wet mixture and stir with spatula until just combined. Scoop batter into muffin cups till 2/3 filled. Bake at 175C for 15-20mins until a toothpick inserted into each cup comes out clean. Rotate pan halfway for even heating. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Let cool before serving or storing.


Notes to ensure a good rise and moist texture:

  • Make sure your baking soda and powder is still active.
  • Do not overmix, stop immediately when you see no more flour.
  • Do not over bake, start checking at the 15min mark for doneness with the toothpick test.

Check out my chocolate chip pecan muffin recipe too.

masalachaimuffin

Acai lemon no-bake cake

As a culinary and health enthusiast, exotic and nutrient-packed ingredients always excite me. Recently, local artisanal food company Poppy and Co kindly shared a sample of their frozen, organic acai pulp and some amazing insights on this super food.

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Individually packed for convenience!

Their acai berries are harvested from wild acai palm trees in the Amazon rainforest. The berries are ground into pulp and frozen within the same day to maintain maximum nutrients. Due to the labourious process required to harvest acai and the highly perishable characteristics of the fruit, acai is more expensive than other fruits. You can see a detailed process of the making here.

Acai: Exactly how “Super”?

Most people know acai is a superfood, but exactly how is it better than regular food? Here’s USDA’s data on this fruit compared with our other favourite berries.

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Image credit: Poppy & Co

Compared to regular berries, acai has

  • much higher antioxidant and vitamin levels
  • Acai has omega fatty acids, which is very rare in fruits (the other being avocado)
  • It has high protein – again, that’s very rare among fruits!
  • 50+ minerals and electrolytes including iron, zinc and potassium, making it a perfect post-workout fuel.
  • Surprise – it is slightly cheaper compared to regular berries available in Singapore! More value for money considering the higher health benefits.
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Price per 100g in SGD.

The only one downside I can think of is taste-wise, it pales in comparison with sweet, juicy berries. Acai is bland on its own – not sweet, slightly creamy with a light earthy flavour. Luckily, that makes it much more versatile than other superfoods (like kale and spirulina) with strong flavours and easily made delicious by mixing with any flavour-giving ingredient.

This no-bake cake recipe uses the refreshing tartness of lemons with the creaminess of soaked cashews and coconut oil to help you enjoy this superfood. A protein and nutrient packed cold sweet treat for a hot day!

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Ingredients for cake’s crust.
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Ingredients for cake’s filling.

Acai Lemon no-bake cake

Prepare one day in advance prior to serving. Makes one 9″ cake.

For the crust:

  • 4-5 tbsp peanut butter (unsweeted preferred)
  • ½ cup of any roasted nuts/seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
  • ½ cup of almond meal (Or same amount of instant/rolled oats)
  • 3 tbsp syrup (I used gula melaka as it’s cheap)
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Mix or blend in food processor until it holds together well when pressed or shaped. Grease your pan/mold with oil and press crust firmly into the base.

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Stop at this consistency.
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If it’s too crumbly, simply add more peanut butter or syrup for more moisture.

For the filling:

  • 1 bar of frozen acai pulp
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 and ½ cup dry cashews, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • Zest from 1 medium sized lemon
  • ½ cup syrup (I used gula melaka)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder (optional, for colour)
  • Desiccated coconut (for topping)

Blend everything except the acai pulp together to a smooth yellowish paste. Pour on top of crust into the pan/mold.

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Add the crust followed by filling.

Using the back of a spoon, push indents into the filling. Spoon the melted acai pulp into the indents. Mix with the yellow filling gently in circles with a fork to create dark purple swirls. Flatten the filling with a spatula or back of a spoon. Add toppings and place into the freezer. Freeze overnight, or for at least about 5 hours.

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add acai, swirl then top it off!

Notes:

  • To quickly remove lemon skin, cut a lemon into half and slice off the skin with a knife like such. Avoid cutting too much into the white area.
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Some practice needed, still much faster than removing with a grater!
  • If you want to skip the swirl effect, simply blend the acai together with everything to get a brownish – purple filling (skip the turmeric if this is the case).
  • Use a pan with either a removable base (like a springform pan) or a soft mold (like silicon pans or aluminum cups). A piece of greased baking paper can also be used to make removal easy. Very important to grease with a neutral flavoured oil like grapeseed or canola. Don’t use coconut oil as it will be solid in the freezer, making the cake hard to remove.
  • Best eaten frozen – does not hold well in our weather! Simply take out of freezer 2-5 mins before serving, depending on size.
  • If cutting is needed, use a heated metal knife. Heat it by immersing in hot water for 5 mins or holding the metal blade over a low-heat stove for around 10 seconds.
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Eat now before it melts!

Poppy and Co’s organic acai pulp is available from NTUC finest at $12.90 for 400g.

Tropical Christmas pudding (non-alcoholic)

Happy holidays! I love the idea of British Christmas pudding – moist, cake-like, warm spices and oozing with fruity bits and flavours. Why is it called pudding when it’s..cake-y? Anyway, I made it more relevant to the Southeast Asia context by using tropical fruits, no alcohol (halal), reduced sweetness, regional spices. AND, a handful of a quirky addition for more textural interest – black glutinous rice (pulut hitam). Pulut hitam is an Indonesian sweet rice porridge already used to make chiffon cakes and cream cakes here, so I wanted to explore its potential in other baked sweets. Turned out the spices covered the nutty rice flavour, but the rice grains give an interesting chewy bites in between moist fruit and spice!

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Traditionally Christmas pudding is steamed for hours and matured at room temperature (brushed with brandy regularly) for months. Ain’t got time for that! Plus it might not last a few days at our humidity and temperature. This is a simplified baked version that significantly reduces time and effort. Recipe adapted from The Vegan Society.

For the fruit mix:

200g dried mixed fruits
100g chopped dried mango
100g chopped dried pineapple
3 teabags of black tea (assam or darjeeling works best)

Brew the tea for 10mins with about 800ml of hot water in a large bowl. Add in dried fruits and soak for 30mins – 1 hour, until they swell up to a plump mass. Sieve out the fruits and drain. DON’T pour the soaking liquid – it should taste like a delicious fruity tea now!

Other tropical fruit mix ideas can include tamarind, coconut (desiccated should give best flavour), banana, jackfruit, lychee, and if you’re feeling adventurous, durian (Honestly, try it! Might give the alcohol taste without using actual alcohol). Basically any flavourful fruit that is not too wet should work well. You can steep the fruits a day in advance too.

For the base:

200g vegan butter
2 tbsp gula melaka (coconut sugar syrup)
100g wholemeal flour
100g oatmeal flour (simply pulse oatmeal in food processor)
3 tbsp baking powder
100g soft brown sugar
1 grated granny smith apple
3 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp ginger powder (or 1 tbsp grated ginger)
1 tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp salt
Juice and zest of half lemon
3 tbsp fruit mix soaking liquid
1 cup cooked black glutinous rice (Optional. Can tapao from food court, but remember those are sweetened already!)

Preheat oven to 180C. Cream butter and syrup in a large bowl. Add all base ingredients and fruit mix, mix until just combined. Grease a large metal basin (around 1.5 litres) and line the base with parchment paper. Pour in the mixture, leave 2.5 cm till the top free to give room for rising. Cover basin with parchment paper and aluminum foil, tie tightly with a non-plastic string. Bake for 2 hours or so until a skewer comes out clean from the center. (I cut the string after an hour and lifted the papers to check then sealed it back without string – didn’t seem to affect the baking). Let cool in bowl for 5 mins before removing gently onto cooling rack.

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Can be kept in fridge for up to a week. Brushing with soaking liquid everyday will help develop richer flavours. To reheat after taking out of fridge, brush with soaking liquid and steam for 8-10mins. Serve with a drizzle of coconut milk or cream and enjoy with tea or coffee.

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