Heavenly Almond Milk with Vanilla Bean and Dates

Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (16 of 31)

Save the money buying almond milk and make your own. Creamy, lightly sweet, and so satisfying—homemade almond milk (without the additives and preservatives) is a true luxury!

It also contains no animal byproducts, allowing vegans and vegetarians to enjoy it without guilt.

Personally, my favourite flavour combo comprises of utilising an entire vanilla bean, a couple Medjool dates, and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt. The secret to an intense vanilla flavour is blending the entire vanilla bean; just chop it up and toss the whole bean into the blender. Not to worry if you don’t have one on hand though: a half a teaspoon of vanilla extract will work just fine in a pinch.

This milk is delicious served with cookies, cereal, in a smoothie, or simply on its own.

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Almond milk’s high vitamin E content makes it a superfood for skin, helping to protect it from the  sun damage. 

I am now going to rave on about the merits of almond milk. First, for those who are looking to lose weight, almond milk is your solution. Did you know that one cup of almond milk contains only 60 calories, as opposed to 146 calories in whole milk, 122 calories in 2 percent, 102 calories in 1 percent, and 86 calories in skim? Enough said – it makes for a great substitute that will help you lose or maintain your current weight.

Moreover, almond milk won’t impact your blood sugar levels. Home made almond milk (with no additives) is low in carbs, which means it won’t significantly increase your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk for diabetes. Because of its low glycemic index, your body will use the carbs as energy so the sugars aren’t stored as fat (score!).

Almond milk also keeps your heart healthy as there is no cholesterol or saturated fat in almond milk. It’s also low in sodium and high in healthy fats (such as omega fatty acids, typically found in fish), which helps to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.

For those who care about beauty and skin, the vitamin E boost in almond milk will work wonders. Containing  50 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E, almond milk contains antioxidant properties essential to your skin’s health, such as protecting it against sun damage.

For those who are lactose intolerant (i.e. have difficultly digesting the sugar in cow’s milk), almond milk is particularly fitting as unlike cow’s milk, there is no lactose. Lactose intolerance is prevalent amongst the Asian population and impacts about 25% of the US population.
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Almond milk is a suitable, lactose-free substitute for cow’s milk.

Heavenly Almond Milk with Vanilla Bean and Dates

TIME: 15 minutes | SERVES: 4 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large cup of  almonds
  • 3.5 cups of filtered water
  • 4 pitted dates
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of himalayan sea salt

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METHOD:

  1. Soak the raw almonds in a bowl of water overnight. Hint: the longer you soak, the creamier the almond milk will become.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (30 of 31)
  2. Drain water in colander. Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (29 of 31)
  3. Place drained almonds in a Vitamix (or any powerful blender will do).Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (28 of 31)
  4. Add the dates, vanilla bean and a pinch of himalayan sea salt in the Vitamix. Fill up the container with filtered water at a ratio of  roughly 3-4 x as much as the volume of the almonds. Here I used 3.5 cups of water.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (26 of 31)
  5. Hit the on button, at first on low, before slowly increasing the speed to high and blend for 1 minute.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (25 of 31)
  6. Once everything is blended, strain the contents into a large bowl using a cheese cloth or nut milk bag/sprouting bag (as if milking a cow).Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (20 of 31)Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (19 of 31)
  7. Once done, pour the almond milk into a jar and store in the fridge. Almond milk can be stored for 2-3 days (since there are no preservatives) in the fridge.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (10 of 31)
  8. For variations, feel free to blend in some cacao and banana for an almond milk smoothie to best kick start the day. Otherwise, the almond milk makes for a refreshing alternative to milk when served chilled.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (18 of 31)

 

Grilled vanilla peaches on truffled ricotta rye

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (23 of 26)

VANILLA DREAM | Vanilla and maple glazed peaches layered on a  ‘truffled-up’ ricotta rye toast.

If the thought alone of grilled peaches is enough to excite your taste buds, try adding a smidgen of vanilla bean and a dash of maple before subjecting them to grill pan. Trust me, you won’t regret. It adds that extra oomph of sophistication to coat the soft, warm fruit.

These grilled peaches are as versatile as you want them to be. Serve them as a dessert, with vanilla bean ice-cream and drizzle of warm balsamic if you may. For me though, since the occasion was to host  a birthday lunch for my dear friend, I decided to deploy them as a convincing starter.

With the aid of creamy ricotta – which I magnificently combined with a drizzling of Pukura’s much loved truffle flavoured extra virgin olive oil (yes, going gourmet I am) – you can transform this simple fruit into an attractive starter even for the most discerning palate. Simply grill some sourdough or rye bread and spread a generous layer of the truffled-up ricotta cheese, then top with two slices of these grilled peaches. Finish with a drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze and chopped mint for garnish. Voila…a crowd pleaser.

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A simple to make crowd pleaser sure to impress even the most discerning palate.

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Crostini anyone?

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Grilled Vanilla Peaches on Truffled Ricotta Rye

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INGREDIENTS (makes 5-6):

  • 250g tub of ricotta
  • 6 slices of rye bread, cut 1 cm thick and about a palm size each.
  • 2 peaches, cut into wedges  (1/8th each).
  • 1 vanilla bean (substitute for powder of essence if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of Pukara’s truffle extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of truffle salt (optional)
  • Balsamic glaze (or reduce one cup of balsamic vinegar)
  • Handful of shredded mint (for garnish)

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METHOD:

  1. Wash peaches, pat dry. Slice open and take out seed. Cut into 8 wedges.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (7 of 26).jpg
  2. Mix cut peaches with vanilla bean (I have a vanilla bean grinder) and tablespoon of maple syrup.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (8 of 26)
  3. Turn heat on grill pan on high. After pan heats up, layer wedges on the pan and grill until beautiful char marks form on both sides (roughly 2-3 minutes each side). Be careful not to overdo it.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (10 of 26)
  4. In the meantime, mix the ricotta with the truffle oil using a tablespoon. Add a pinch of truffle salt (or regular salt) and combine thoroughly.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (2 of 26)Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (4 of 26)
  5. Toast the rye or sourdough bread on a grill pan or oven. Generously spread the done up ricotta over each toast. Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (11 of 26)
  6. Layer 2 grilled peaches on top of each crostini. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Finish off with a sprinkle of the shredded mint for garnish. Serve while warm. Enjoy!Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (18 of 26)

 

Raspberry and Vanilla Bean Financiers

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Financiers are the perfect delicate treat for a tête-a-tête with friends or a special someone.

After recently spending 3 weeks in Paris learning french and completing a one-day workshop at the famous Le Cordon Bleu – a much needed mini-sabbatical in life – I must confess, I am still missing the City of Lights a lot. A hell lot. Despite I’ve frequented this beautiful city several times, there is always something intriguing and captivating about it every time I go. I always discover something new amidst the mystical charm of this city and continue to be arrested by its rich culture and historical beauty.

They often call Paris the City of Love. I can understand why (and no, just as a disclaimer, I did not meet “the One”– or I think not –  whilst I was there). So why am I infatuated with this city? I am in love with Paris because I feel completely content each time I visit: the feeling of freedom and serenity provides a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and calms me down instantly.

Moreover, Paris is a truly beautiful walking city. I love the feeling of the freedom of being able to walk everywhere – along the river Seine (my favourite scenic walk), across the Jardin Des Tuileries (my favourite park), among the beautiful boulevards – and know that even when I get lost, I will be rewarded by beautiful scenery, a new cafe or bistro discovery, friendly (or not so friendly) Parisians who will be happy (or do so begrudgingly) to point me in the right direction (if not, I resort to the ever so reliable Google Maps).

One thing I really paid attention to this time round was the sheer number of patisseries that litter literally every street. I lost count of how many eclairs, millefeuilles, croissants, pain du chocolats, and macaroons I’ve consumed during my stay. I just hope that my daily attempt to walk everywhere has exceeded the number of calories I unnecessarily consume. One thing is for sure though, the patisseries are A-grade and two notches sweeter than those found in Asia (attribute it to the different palate among the races). I am not a big fan of millefueille at home (namely because no one gets it right) but when I am here, my favourite millefeuille is the praline one at Laduree (must have!). Meanwhile, on the eclair front, Christopher Adam’s L’eclair de Genie wins the crown (though be forewarned, you may be confronted with a decision-making problem if you were to only pick one amongst his impressive kaleidoscope of eclairs).

Given my nostalgia still for all things Parisian, I decided to bake something distinctly Parisian this Sunday afternoon: financiers (pronounced fee-nahng-syehr). Bonus is that I got to debut the new silicon Teflon financier moulds I bought on my trip 🙂

Before I begin, some basic trivia: did you know the financier was an early and classy form of fast food created for bankers (hence the name ‘financiers’)? They were created in the late 19th century by a pastry chef named Lasne, who had a shop on the rue Saint-Denis near the Bourse, the city’s stock exchange. Recognising bankers in the area were rich, discriminating and always in a hurry, Lasne designed his little unglazed cookie-cake so that it could be eaten without a knife, fork or spoon and without risk to the suit, shirt or tie. He baked the financiers in rectangular moulds that were said to resemble bars of gold.

Financiers are as rich as the bankers they were named for. The batter is made by combining flour with ground almonds and powdered sugar. To that is added lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla extract and brown butter, beurre noisette (or melted unsalted butter will do). They are baked until golden brown in rectangular pans to resemble ingots.

These cakes are beautiful in their simplicity. Sweet, tender, and available in a multitude of variations (throw in some berries or nuts if you wish), they are deliciously soft and have a nutty flavour from the brown butter. Perfect to have alone, they can also be paired harmoniously with a cup of coffee or tea as a great treat during a tête-a-tête with friends or a special someone 😉

Raspberry Financiers (7 of 22)
INGREDIENTS:

(Makes 6)

  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 140g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 100g almond meal
  • 40g plain flour
  • 90g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • 2x punnets or fresh raspberries or 200g of frozen raspberries

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METHOD:

  1. Preheat an oven to 180C (350F). Melt butter and cool to room temperature. Grease a 6-hole rectangular pan well (or muffin tin) with butter. Raspberry Financiers (22 of 22)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites to just combine.Raspberry Financiers (21 of 22)
  3. Add the melted butter, almond meal, flour and sifted icing sugar and combine well. Stir in vanilla bean paste (or essence).Raspberry Financiers (20 of 22)
  4. Mix in three quarters of the raspberries into the batter and pour into prepared pans to two thirds full.Raspberry Financiers (19 of 22)
  5. Place two or three raspberries on top of each financier and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out the center clean.Raspberry Financiers (2 of 22)
  6. Let the financiers cool slightly and then remove from the pan carefully and dust lightly with icing sugar.Raspberry Financiers (3 of 22)
  7. Serve warmed and with extra fresh raspberries, if you like.

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