There is something about food that mesmerises me. Perhaps it’s in the way it has the power to bring people together, or maybe it’s in how it magically connects with the soul of a person.
It’s amazing that something so simple, ritualistic and essential can turn into something that strengthens bonds and create new connections between people. Be a vehicle for celebrations, or a celebration in itself.
And my recent trip to Japan and Singapore showed me just that.
Whilst in Japan, I could feel the deep respect that the chefs had for nature and for their produce. How each dish felt unmasked, stripped back and a tribute to each ingredient through its simplicity and seasonality. And alongside the importance of the ingredients was the role of ‘time’ and how it played a factor in bringing out the essence of each ingredient.
Time to let flavours develop through natural fermentation, time to let the ingredients meld together to create a whole new flavour that is neither one nor the other but a harmony of two, time to change the physical composition of the ingredient through stewing, slow cooking, poaching etc.
And most importantly, time to refine the craft that defines them, to be able to follow the same structure day in day out yet create a different dish each day because each moment and ingredient is never the same.
Where Japan showed me the finesse and treasured respect that they have for their produce, Singapore showed me soul. It showed me the heart of food and what happens if ingredients and time takes a back seat to emotions. Soul and heart can bring warmth and make each meal worthy of a memory.
The dishes I had during the trip and loved the most were not the ones that were a result of a practiced craft but ones that conjured up the memories of the past and new shared happiness with the people surrounding us.
Where in Japan it was like watching a skilled actor performing on stage, my experience with food in Singapore over Chinese New Year was like being part of the play. The movements and cheers whilst tossing the Yu Sheng, the laughter resulting from too much food, too much drinks and an overwhelming family presence felt like a ritualistic dance that my body remembers.
And whilst not all memories of my time in Singapore were good, I personally like treasuring those that were instead of dwelling on of how lacking the others were in comparison.
Both cultures different, but yet the importance of food and love for food each culture had was evident. We celebrate new starts over food, we find peace and calm in food, we find our livelihoods in food, we tell our stories through food, or we may simply find it as being something purely ritualistic. To me, I can’t image a life without food, without having to eat, without wanting to eat, and I feel blessed being able to appreciate this aspect of my life.
= The Bars =
These bar were my way of being inclusive, of trying to share the joy and love with those who might be excluded otherwise. It’s also a result of wanting to combat wastage. Having had too many egg whites (as a result of a massive shortbread bake that I did), coupled with wanting to share a sweet treat with a colleague who is gluten intolerant, I came up with this bar.
A melt in your mouth bittersweet buttery cocoa base with a chewy layer of coconut above it and a caramelised crust that forms during the bake that is then drizzled with gooey melted chocolate.
This was a bar that brought happiness.
It’s relatively straightforward to make despite it’s layers, and the buckwheat compliments the cocoa beautifully. So whilst you can substitute buckwheat flour with regular flour, you will lose some of the essence of this bar and that meltingly tender texture.
This bar is birth from wanting to share the joy of food with those with allergies, but it’s not a bar specially catered for them as I treasure flavour above necessity and it aches me to even consider compromising.
I do hope that you will enjoy it, share it with your love ones and create a happy memory that you will look back upon with a smile.
Cocoa Buckwheat Macaroon Bars
What you’ll need:
Cocoa Buckwheat Base
136g buckwheat flour
21g cocoa powder
113g unsalted butter (room temperature)
67g granulated sugar
Coconut Macaroon Layer
150g egg whites (approximately 4 eggs)
220g caster sugar
200g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50-70g dark chocolate (depends on how much chocolate you like, I used 70g)
Cocoa Buckwheat Base
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 180C. Line a 8” pan with baking paper.
- Whisk the buckwheat flour and cocoa powder together.
- In a standmixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt together for 2 minutes until smooth
- Stop the mixer, scrape the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture in.
- Mix on low until it comes together into a cohesive dough (this might take a longer than you expected it to).
- Scrape the dough into the lined pan and use your fingers to press the dough down to form an even layer.
- Bake for 21-23mins rotating the pan midway. The dough will feel firm around the edges but the middle may not feel completely firm.
Whilst the base is baking, you can start on the coconut macaroon layer.
When the base is done, transfer the pan to the rack (leave the buckwheat base in the pan, do not remove it) to cool for at least 5 minutes before you top it with the coconut layer
Coconut Macaroon Layer
- Add all the ingredients together in a medium size pot and on medium-low flame, stir the mixture constantly with a heat proof spatula.
You will notice that the mixture will go through a few stages. It will start off dry and as the sugar starts to melt it will turn wet and sloppy (like thick porridge), the mixture will then start to thicken as the sugar and egg white cooks and finally it will start to dry out.
- You want to start off at medium-low heat just to get things warmed up, once it starts to turn wet and sloppy, reduce the flame to low, this is to allow you to take your time to get it to the right stage without any fears of burning/overcooking it.
- Constantly stir and scrape the mixture in the pot to prevent any bits from burning/clinging to the pot. (You don’t have to do this vigorously, you just want to cook it nice and slowly without anything burning)
- When the mixture starts to dry out and can form large lumps when you press it together with your spatula, it’s done.
- Scrape the mixture on top of the buckwheat base and use a spatula to spread it out evenly and lightly compact it by pressing down with your spatula.
- Bake for 15-18mins until the top turns a nice dark golden color. The darker the “crustier” it will be, but please do not burn it.
Transfer the pan to a rack to cool fully before removing the bar from the pan.
When your bar is cool, melt your chocolate over a double boiler or by placing it in a heat proof bowl and microwaving it in 20seconds burst stirring it between each burst of heat until it is fully melted.
Drizzle it on the bar and leave to cool at room temperature until the chocolate hardens, or if you are like me, you will slice into it and enjoy the melted goodness of the chocolate before it cools and hardens.
2 Comments Add yours
They looks so good!!!! Beautiful photos too (:
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