Healthy Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

Give me moist, dense pumpkin bread or don’t give me any at all. Sorry, was that rude? If the bread could be extra heavy on the pumpkin puree, that would be great too. I can be pretty particular (annoying) when it comes to baking. I’m almost certainly that person at the party/brunch/xyz celebration that will nibble on other people’s desserts while going back for heaping seconds and thirds of their own. Sorry in advance.

This pumpkin bread recipe is one I keep returning to for more. While I have posted other (lesser) varieties of it in the past, this exact one is the champion. It’s #1 status is largely thanks to the extra fat dollops of (freshly roasted) pumpkin puree I decided to stir into the batter last minute. The beautiful matrix of flavors is also due to the addition of a very heaped 1/2 cup of dates, 2 tbsps of coconut oil, and 4-5 tbsps of maple syrup. Yes, this recipe calls for a lot of wet ingredients. And yes, this pumpkin bread does in fact bake up into a sweet, spicy, packed loaf that has never so much as grazed shoulders with the words dry or bland.

I’m not a fan of overtly sweet anything, unless it’s perfectly ripe and juicy mango. But that’s a different kind of sweet than the type that most breads and cakes are saturated in. Well, I’ll be upfront and say that there’s none of that intense, sky-high-then-crash, sugar here. Just dates and maple syrup. And more of the former than the latter. Is it possible to make a loaf of ‘sweet’ bread that is truly tasty and, uh, sweet, with no more than the former two ingredients carrying the weight? Yes. Yes. And Yes!!!! It’s stupidly easy to do.

I opted for 4 tbsps of maple syrup and have to say that I found the bread a tad on the sweeter end of my baked goods spectrum. Still, it is far from white-sugar-sweet, so if you’re entertaining for people who still have a lot of refined sugar in their diets, you may want to increase the syrup to 5 tbsps. As for the dates, please don’t leave them out or try to replace them with more syrup. Or do, but don’t tell me about your sneaky swap. The dates help boost the sweetness, sure, but they also provide a heap of wet, stickiness that binds the ingredients and keeps the loaf from drying out. Like I said, only moist, dense bread here.

So maybe you prefer fluffy sweet breads; my use of the word ‘dense’ made you hesitate to keep reading. That’s fine. We all have our own tastes and preferences. But…. you’re here now. And have you ever had a dense pumpkin bread like this one? You won’t know until you’ve tried it, obviously, so… maybe you should just do it. Oops. I’ll take a step back now. I respect you’re palette, no matter how different it may be from mine, so all attempts at trying to convert you to team moist-and-dense-and-perfect-pumpkin-bread end now. All done.

Ingredients~

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
3 tbsps bran flakes
1 cup roasted pumpkin puree
1/2 packed cup dates (deglet noor or medjool)
4-5 tbsps maple syrup (add 5 for a noticeably sweeter loaf)
2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
1 egg
2 tbsps water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 heaped tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, dried fruit, or chocolate chips to top or stir-in

Instructions~

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Blueberry Tahini Bran Muffins

Instructions~
Makes 6-8 muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
1/3 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup plain soy milk or other dairy free milk
3-4 tbsps fine raw sugar (or other granulated sugar)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp table salt
1/3 cup blueberries, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, or other stir-in of choice

Instructions~

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Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Since making my way to more whole-foods based baking, I’ve grown attached to pumpkin bread. I’m also incredibly, fingers-clasped-on-hard, attached to banana bread, zucchini bread, sweet potato bread, and, uhm, you get the idea… pretty much any baked loaf that has a packed half or more cup of pureed fruit or vegetables in it. Vegetables in bread? I know, it doesn’t connote the happiest, warmest feelings, at first that is; once you have a hand at making healthy root vegetable based bread, sans the refined sugar and oil, you will feel weird…. weird because, well, surely this isn’t real life? A bread loaf heavy on the pumpkin and light on the not-so-loving ingredients? After a few bites of moist, spicy pumpkin bread you will realize that yes, this is real life, this wholesome pumpkin bread is tangible and tasty and deserves all the praise it can get. Also, you deserve a little praise for treating your body and mind with so much thought and care.

Pumpkin puree, as well as sweet potato and banana puree, are the best replacements for oil in baking. Oil lends in creating a moist loaf of bread or cake, but adding 1/3 cup or more to a supposedly healthy pumpkin bread doesn’t feel right to me. If I’m in the mood for something a little bit more indulgent, say a bread that I’m sharing at a party or brunch, I may dump in a bit of the oil, but when it comes to a lazy Sunday morning lounging around the house with my loved ones, I’m going to make something that I can eat two or three slices of without feeling lethargic and cloudy after. So, I scrap the oil and the heaps of sugar. Now what? Things are looking pretty pitiful… no oil (or butter), no sugar, and, because I’m really striving for the utmost nutrient-dense ingredients, not even any syrups (rice malt, maple, honey).

While the pumpkin puree works to replace the oil, the mashed dates and tiny bit of banana puree/applesauce replace the sugar, offering up some of the sweetness one usually expects in a slice of pumpkin bread. Seeing as the fruit is sticky and wet, it’s not necessary to add milk or even eggs to the batter, making it 100% plant-based and vegan-friendly; the sticky dates help bind the ingredients together, resulting in a finished loaf that doesn’t fall apart.

Of course, replacing oil and sugar with pumpkin and fruit will create a different kind of loaf, there is simply no way to perfectly emulate conventional, coffee shop pumpkin bread without the former ingredients. This pumpkin bread is definitely on the denser side. I happen to very much enjoy a slice of extremely moist and dense pumpkin bread, especially more so than moist and dense banana bread, but that is just my preference. So, if you don’t need fluff in your pumpkin bread to fully enjoy it, then this recipe still has a chance at winning you over. It’s also worth mentioning that when you take a bite of this bread your immediate thought won’t be ‘wow, this is yummy, *because it’s sweet*’. Instead, you’ll probably think something along the lines of ‘hmm, this is yummy, *because I can taste the spices and sweetness at the same time*’. If you have a very big sweet tooth that can’t be pleased with fruit alone, then add 1-3 tbsps of fine raw or brown sugar, but truthfully, I don’t think it’s necessary. Leave the gut-destroying pumpkin bread to Starbucks to perfect and give your insides something good to feed on.

Ingredients~
Makes one small loaf or eight 1-inch slices

3/4 cup & 1 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat)
1 tbsp wheat bran
1/2 packed cup pumpkin puree
5 medjool dates
2 tbsps mashed ripe banana or applesauce
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 heaped tsp ground ginger
1/4 heaped tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, dark chocolate chunks, dried berries, etc., take your pick!

Instructions~

Preheat oven to 180 C/365 F. Bake for 37-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean except for a few loose crumbs.

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Fiber-Packed Graham Muffins

These muffins miiiight not be sweet enough for you. Unless you’ve been weaned off refined sugar for a while or very actively try to avoid it (i.e. you don’t even reach for the Heinz ketchup anymore, knowing how much corn syrup is packed into each squirt), you may consider these muffins to be a bit too rugged; rugged because of the uneven texture provided by graham flour, but also rugged in taste. Does that word put you off? I apologize, but I mean ‘rugged’ in the most positive, endearing way; these muffins transport me to a cozy log cabin in lush, deep green woods I’ve never been to (yet). Refined sugar can’t be found in these woods, but fruit can, and fruit these muffins do contain.

These muffins are not standard sweet muffins; they contain one ripe banana and a handful of gooey medjool dates, both of which lend in creating a subtle, gradual sweetness unlike the tooth-shocking, eye-popping kind found in packaged pastries and, much to my dismay, trendy coffee shop pound cake. I enjoy surprises (so long as they don’t involve people popping out behind curtains and corners), so I dumped chunks of walnut and diced red apple into these muffins. Considering how simple and versatile this batter is, any sort of stir-in should work; next time around I’ll definitely step up my muffin game and add dark chocolate covered berries.

Replacing white sugar and even so called ‘healthier’ sugars, such as honey and rice malt syrup, with fruit, will take your baked goods to miraculous heights. I still rely on liquid sweeteners sometimes, but upon recently discovering the world of fruit-sweetened ‘treats’, I’ve become Cinderella at the ball and I’m not quite ready to lose my slipper and return to normal sugar laden life. Also, the more online research I do, the less convinced I am that occasional unhealthy indulgences are worth it (also, the word ‘occasional’ allows for a dangerously vast pool of interpretation! My ‘occasional’ may = three times a week, but yours may very well be once or twice a day. And honestly, how often do we stick to plans that are so ridiculously vague?) When I look back on the past few years, it becomes increasingly obvious how often I would use the ‘once in a lifetime’ excuse when presented with sweets and junk food. In reality, choosing not to taste a donut or cinnamon roll from one particular cafe somewhere in the world will not affect my potential for happiness in the future (or even in that moment!) Coming to terms with the former fact has been tough; I’d like to believe one single cinnamon roll could alter the course of my future and be tasty enough to cause a lifetime of regret if not eaten, but the truth is, the only affect it may have on my future is by increasing my risk of heart disease, cancer, and I’d rather not think about what else.

I used to reserve muffins and cookies for my shameful snack times after school; the drudgery of the weekday always got to be too much, too boring, too demanding, and highly processed, sugary and fatty foods offered themselves up as the perfect escape; indulging in a box of Oreos melted away the stress of a failed Math test and a big bag of sweet chili chips covered up the chatter of social anxiety and insecurity. Weekend nights presented the most different avenues for escape; everyone feels more apt to lose themselves, whether to sweets or alcohol or insert vice here, on the weekends. Indulgence is easily justifiable when you’re feeling down in the dumps and lethargic, so it’s no surprise that the more sugar you eat, the more unhappy and tired you feel, and thus, the more you want, no, the more you NEED, sugar; it’s a vicious cycle that kills and ruins lives and exponentially lowers one’s potential for happiness.

So, can you really be happier with a date and banana filled muffin as opposed to a sugary, frosted one? Yes. Giving up the devilish sweet stuff can sometimes feel like giving up a big chunk of happiness; but if you think about it, try reasoning with a smoker or drug addict and they will tell you the same thing, how can I ever be happy again without my daily pack of cigarettes? Replace cigarettes with conventional pastries and sweets and I can say that the same words have rolled off my tongue many more times than I can remember. Am I a sugar addict? Apparently so. Apparently, lots of people are. In fact, most people are (in the USA at least). It’s a little chilling. And frightening and startling and spooky to think of all the children growing up with sweet tooth’s the size of canines and appetites for sugar that may very well land them in hospitals one day. It’s sad, but it’s the reality at the moment. I find that reality deeply unsettling and am quite simply unwilling to accept it into my little sphere of life; sugar sugar, go away, come again another day in the form of caramely medjool dates and ripe bananas and dried figs and juicy, juicy mangos. Thank goodness for fruit.


Ingredients~
Makes 5 muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat graham flour
1 small VERY spotty banana
3 medjool dates, mashed
5 tsps unflavored/unsweetened soy or nut milk
2 tsps chia seeds
1/4 cup finely chopped red apple (pear would probably be nice)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or nut of your choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
Pinch of nutmeg and/or ground ginger (optional)

Instructions~

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/365 F. In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork before stirring it together with the mashed dates, milk, and vanilla extract. Once combined, add the flour, chia seeds, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, dash of salt, and nutmeg/ginger if using. Lightly stir together the mountain of dry ingredients before thoroughly stirring them together with the wet mixture. Add the chopped apple and walnuts. The resulting batter will be quite thick and rocky in texture, thanks to the bran in the graham flour and the seeds, nuts, and apple. If using silicone muffin tins, don’t bother oiling them down, but if using metal ones, it would be safe to do so. The batter equally divided among 5 of my tins, but it may be closer to 4 or 6 depending on the size of your tins. Bake for 14-18 minutes until fully set and an inserted chopstick/toothpick doesn’t come out gooey and wet. Allow to cool on a rack before enjoying with peanut butter or 100% fruit jam!!

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Vegan Cinnamon Doughnuts (oil-free & date-sweetened)

Ingredients~
Makes 6 small doughnuts and 6-8 doughnut holes

113.5 g whole wheat pastry flour (plus 1 tsp for dusting)
50 ml vegan buttermilk*
3 medjool dates (72-74 g), mashed/pureed
0.87 g instant yeast (just under 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of table salt

Cinnamon sugar topping:
2 tsps rice malt syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
1 tbsp fine raw sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

*to make vegan buttermilk, simply add 1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup and pour in unflavored soy/nut milk until the mixture reaches the 50 ml line; allow it to rest for 10 minutes until noticeably curdled

Instructions~

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A Simple Fruit Crisp

Ingredients~
Serves 4; makes a heaped amount for one 7-inch pie pan 

Filling:
1 medium-large red apple
1/2 cup fresh cherries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries*
2 medjool dates, mashed
2 tsps fresh grapefruit juice, including the pulp (or sub with orange)
1 tbsp potato starch
2 tsps chia seeds
Pinch of table salt (scant 1/8 tsp)

Topping:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 packed cup whole wheat pastry flour*
2 tbsps mild olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsps rice malt syrup or maple syrup
1/4 heaped tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp table salt

* using fresh berries is fine, but know that they may contribute e a tad less liquid to the filling as they cook
* you can substitute the whole wheat pastry flour with half regular whole wheat and half all-purpose

Instructions~

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the topping takes on a deep golden/light brown color. Check on the crisp after 2o minutes to ensure it’s not browning too fast; if it is, loosely cover it with foil.

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Healthy Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (gf/vegan)

Ingredients~
Makes 5-6 pop-tarts

Pastry:
1/3 cup & 1 tbsp white rice flour
1/3 cup & 1 tbsp buckwheat flour
3 tbsps & 1 tsp cornstarch or potato starch
3 1/2 tbsps coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp agar agar powder (you can probably sub with 1/4 tsp xanthan gum)
2 tsps fine raw sugar (or sub with 1 tsp white and 1 tsp brown)
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1-2 tbsps ice water

Filling:
5-6 medjool dates or about 1/3 cup date puree
1 1/2 tsps coconut oil, melted
1/2 heaped tsp cinnamon

Instructions~

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Flaky Buckwheat Croissants

Am I a little nutty for adding buckwheat flour to my croissants? Maybe a little. These croissants are a little nutty, too. The standout flavor is definitely butter, but unlike standard croissants, these ones take you to unchartered territory, where buckwheat and butter can be found living in harmony.

In all seriousness, these croissants are very tasty. As I made them my mind wavered from concernedly questioning the addition of buckwheat, to excitedly exclaiming how cool it would be if the grey sheet of dough in front of me actually resulted in flaky croissants. I wanted to believe that the buckwheat had the potential to puff and crisp up alongside it’s totally opposite pal, all-purpose flour, but I was afraid it might smell my eagerness and desperation, so I tried to remain level-headed, disinterested and cold. Of course, I was practically inflating my insides with giddiness, so much so that I think it started to run through my veins.

From the outside (i.e. as you view videos of professional pastry chefs making 10 kg’s worth of croissants on Youtube), making croissants yourself sounds unattainable. After enough video viewing and jaw dropping you will realize that it would be inaccurate to say you lack the capabilities/utensils/ingredients to make croissants (unless you really don’t have a rolling pin, flour, or butter in your home), but it would be 100% true to say that the flaky pastry requires way too much time. And not just plain ol’ waiting-for-the-brownies-to-bake kind of time, but actual fiddling and rolling and turning time. It’s kind of like you’re on babysitting duty for a few hours; you check to see if it’s risen, you check to see if it’s too cold, and you really hope that it isn’t sitting in a big yellow puddle when you check on it for the last time. If you’re schedule can’t allot you a handful of hours over a two day period, then homemade croissants may sadly be out of the question (although you can find same-day croissant recipes on the internet).

The first time I made croissants I was not nearly prepared enough. The weather in Melbourne was hot and slimy, but I didn’t think much of it, I’ll just work super quickly, I told myself, not realizing how difficult it is to super quickly roll out delicate layers of melting-by-the-millisecond butter and soft dough. My work did result in a batch of croissants, but they were a little lot on the wonky side. Buttery and tasty, yes, but lacking the visibly layered interior that makes croissants the stuff of reveries. This time around I was determined to at least inch a little bit closer to golden flaky galore. And I did. A lot more than a little bit.

It is summertime in Tokyo and the worst time of the year to make croissants. Some days it feels like the temperature won’t stop climbing; the sun is out to scorch and turn naively proofing croissants inside out. In an effort to bypass the unforgiving hot weather, I began my croissant-making in the early hours of the morning, waking at 6 AM to roll out and fold the dough twice before the clock even struck 9. I also turned the air con way up and chilled my rolling pin and cutting board in the freezer before working with the dough. I can now say with certainty that attention to detail truly pay offs (in the form of crispy, buttery pastries).

If you finish reading this thinking, yeah, I’m never going to attempt croissants, I’ve probably done a good job of over exaggerating how lengthy and intricate the process it. There are no handstands and juggling clowns involved, not even the metaphorical ones. There is, however, a little bit of dough handling (rolling, turning, folding, x2) and a fair bit of waiting. Here is a simple breakdown of events:

1. Make dough. Allow dough to rise for 45-60 minutes. Roll, fold, and set dough in fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours.
2. The next day, create the sheet of butter. Allow the butter to chill further if it is melting. Roll dough, sandwich butter in between, and roll again. Perform one book fold and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.
3. After dough has chilled, roll and perform one letter fold. Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before performing one more letter fold. After the last fold, allow the dough to chill for 1 hour.
4. Roll the dough out one last time. Cut into two rectangles and then slice into four triangles. Trim off blunt edges. Roll each triangle into a croissant. Brush each croissant with egg wash. Cover and let proof at room temperature (22-25 C) for 30-45 minutes until puffier.
5. Preheat oven to 190 C as croissants proof. Bake croissants for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy croissants while they are warm.

See? It’s not that challenging of an endeavor. There may be a longer than ideal waiting period in between making the dough and baking it, but a little bit of waiting and a lot of bursting-at-the-seams excited anticipation is supposed to be healthy for the mind, body, AND soul. I know because I made these croissants, ate them, and feel just about as good as they look: glowing!!!! But with good vibes, not butter. Okay, maybe a little bit of butter.

Ingredients~
Makes 4 small croissants

1/2 cup & 2 tbsps (87.5 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup & 2 tbsps (46 g) buckwheat flour
2.5 g instant yeast
70 ml (70 g) milk, lukewarm (I used soy milk, but you can opt for dairy milk)
Scant 1/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp rice malt syrup or other liquid sweetener
55 g unsalted butter (if using salted, don’t add the above salt)
1 egg (for brushing the croissants)

Instructions~
These instructions may appear long and daunting, but I’m only trying to be thorough. Not knowing exactly what to do when you’re in the middle of a recipe is NOT fun! 

1. Combine the flours, salt, and yeast. In a saucepan, mix together the milk and syrup and lightly heat the mixture up (alternatively, use the microwave). It should only take a handful of seconds to reach ‘baby bottle’ warm, so let the mixture cool down if it heats up too much. Pour the liquids into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring until well combined and it becomes too tough to stir. Very lightly knead the dough (less than 1 minute) in order to form a ball. Allow the dough to sit in a moderately warm place (around 22-25 celsius) for up to an hour or noticeably doubled in volume. If you live in a warmer climate, the dough may very well double in 45-50 minutes!
2. After the dough has risen, gently roll it out into a roughly shaped rectangle and fold the right half on top of the left half, forming a book. Wrap in plastic wrap (any dough that’s exposed to the fridge air will dry out, so wrap well) and set in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours.
3. The next day, cut up the cold butter into a few thick slices and layer them beside each other in a small ziplock bag or in between two sheets of plastic wrap. Proceed to roll out the butter until you have a 3 by 4.5 long inch rectangle. If your environment is very warm and the butter is beginning to melt, pop it back into the fridge for a few minutes before continuing to flatten it. After rolling, put it back in the fridge to chill as you roll the dough. Know that you do in fact want the butter to be a little soft and malleable; hard butter will shatter when rolled into the dough.
2. Unwrap the dough and roll it out into about a 6 by 4.5 inch rectangle. You want the dough and butter to be of relatively equal softness before rolling them together. If you have to, very lightly dust your workspace, but don’t over do it or you’ll get extra bready croissants. Place the sheet of butter on one half of the dough and fold the other half of dough on top of the butter, creating a butter sandwich. You want to make sure that the butter pretty much reaches every inch of the dough; if there is a big gap between the butter and edge of the dough, separately roll out the butter a bit more. Roll the butter-dough sandwich into a rectangle, about 6.5 by 8 inches long. Now you’re going to complete one book fold. With the rectangle laid out horizontally in front of you, take the left quarter and fold it onto the second quarter of dough. Now take the far right quarter and fold it over the remaining exposed quarter. Lastly, fold the right half of dough over the left half, creating a book. Wrap the dough in plastic and set it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
4. After the dough has chilled, roll it out into a rectangle again and complete a letter fold. With the dough laying in front of you horizontally, take the left third and fold it over the center third of dough. Next, take the third of dough on the far right and fold it over the dough to the left. So far, you’ve completed one book fold and one letter fold, which results in 4×3 or 12 layers. Wrap up the dough again and set it in the fridge for another 15-20 minutes to rest before completing the former step (one letter fold) again. The resulting dough will have 4x3x3 or 36 layers. After the last fold, allow it to sit in the fridge for 1 hour.
5. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out into a 6.5 by 8 inches long rectangle. Trim off the uneven edges so that the remaining rectangle has straight edges and pointy corners (you can reserve the dough trimmings to make 1-2 tiny croissants or pan au chocolates). Cut the rectangle in half to make two smaller rectangles. Slice each of the smaller rectangles diagonally, creating two long triangles per rectangle. Each triangle will turn into a croissant. Take one triangle and, with the wider edge or crust facing towards you, use a rolling pin to very lightly roll each point out to create a wider edge. Doing this will result in a croissant that has more visible curls on either end. Now, lightly use your fingertips to roll the croissant toward the single tip, being careful not to squash down the down as you roll. Rolling should feel swift and light. Once shaped, lightly brush each croissant with the egg wash (you should have a lot left over), and loosely cover the croissants with plastic wrap or a thin kitchen towel. Allow them to sit at room temperature (22-25 C) for 35-45 minutes or until they take on a marshmallowy appearance (they won’t be quite doubled in size). Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F as the croissants proof. When the croissants are puffier and you can notice the separate layers from sideview, they are ready to go into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until noticeably golden all over. Enjoy immediately with (my favorites) strawberry or apricot jam and maybe even an additional swab of butter (don’t say I told you to)!!!

Important note: this recipe was adapted from David Lebovitz’ whole wheat croissants!

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Rice Flour Matcha Loaf with Black Sesame Streusal

In elementary school I had a hand in making Oobleck’s green goo. It was the fourth or fifth grade and as a science experiment we created the famed substance from Dr. Seuss’ book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. It was clearly a worthwhile venture, given that I remember it to this day. As I stirred together the green batter for this loaf this morning, the Oobleck pathways in my brain were activated, and I was suddenly overcome with a strange, but familiar, childish desire to dunk my hands in and feel the sliminess.

I didn’t end up creating the mess that usually accompanies the green goo, but I did direct my Oobleck-inspired excitement and energy into this loaf of rice flour matcha cake/bread.

Sometimes baking can get a little dreary. There isn’t much variation on the color spectrum, as flour can only offer white, brown, or somewhere-in-between shades. Synthetic food dyes could insert themselves into the discussion here, but I’m not interested in them because of what they usually contain. It’s true that freeze dried fruit can be blended into a highly concentrated fine powder which can then be used to dye batter, but that tends to get a little expensive and would require an online purchase here in Tokyo. So what do you do when it’s 6 AM and you want some color on your breakfast plate? A tangy green apple won’t cut it. Enter matcha.

Matcha is my go-to baking ingredient when I’m bored of the same ol’ white and brown. I try to preserve it’s novelty by using it scarcely, but here in Tokyo just about every sweet thing has been turned green; ice cream, mochi, every pastry to ever exist, they all have a little Oobleck in them. Sometimes I give in to the temptation emanating from a vibrant green bread bun or donut, but usually, the store-bought bready products that meets my taste buds are shockingly sweet and difficult to enjoy. In an effort to eliminate the former cloud of too sweet or to eat, I whipped together this little green loaf fit for a tea party.

This loaf is a much healthier version of the green treats I come here in Tokyo; I decided to sweeten it with two ripe bananas and a little dash of rice malt syrup, and my prevailing love for mochi inspired me to incorporate rice flour into the batter and an awe-inducing black sesame streusel on top (the streusel really is that good). Given that Japan is the birthplace of matcha and gooey glutinous rice sweets, I think it’s was only appropriate that I married these ingredients together and made this loaf. They are truly meant to be.


Ingredients~
Makes one small loaf or about 7 inch thick slices

Loaf:
1 cup white rice flour
1 1/2 medium bananas or about 3/4 cup mashed banana (very spotty and ripe)
2 tbsps coconut oil, soft/melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsps matcha powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
Scant 1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)

Black Sesame Streusal:
2-3 tbsps ground black sesame
2 tbsps white rice flour
1 tbsp vegan butter or coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp rice malt/maple syrup

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Batch #3: Healthier Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

If I told you that these rustic little things were made of half wholemeal flour and zero refined sugar, you might not expect much from them. I wasn’t sure what to expect either, until a divine smell wafted through my little apartment and I scurried to find it’s source: my oven. Or more specifically, the healthy, plant-based cinnamon rolls baking in my oven.

I’ve been on a heavily cinnamon infused adventure the past few days, making a new (albeit small) batch of cinnamon rolls as soon as I discover that the one I’ve just baked and tasted are not quite good enough. While all of my rolls have been significantly healthier than the average one you’ll find in a bakery (don’t even get me started on Cinnabon…), I was still consuming a fair bit more all-purpose flour, coconut oil, and syrup than I did on a typical day before cinnamon rolls took over the reigns to my life. Cue whole wheat, banana-sweetened, still-uber-tasty cinnamon rolls.

I stuffed these rolls with cinnamon banana puree and a little dash of rice malt syrup. I also tossed in some chopped walnuts and raisins at the last minute, both of which added a significant amount of flavor to the finished roll. The walnuts offered a crunchy variation from the gooeyness and provided such a wild, walnuty (?) flavor despite being being so scarce in the filling. Next time I’ll probably toss in another small handful. While I wish I had allowed the raisins to soak overnight in water or liquor to plump up to their juicy potential, they still added a little something. Mine had an almost tangy, tart flavor, which married well with the sweeter filling. The fruity filling may deter you, but one look at these oozing rolls should put you in the right direction. Like I said earlier, I was specifically out to create a healthy cinnamon roll that truly belonged at the breakfast table. If you aren’t after that sorta thing, no problemo. I’m the kind of person that will make decadent (relatively speaking, of course) cinnamon rolls three days in a row, only to insist, ‘healthy cinnamon rolls or NO rolls,’ by the fourth day. One can only eat so much of a good thing before never wanting to taste it again.

Think of these healthy buns as an ode to the O.G., white flour and all, cinnamon bun. Without the chance to stop and refuel with truly heart and tummy healthy ingredients, I may have had to cut the cinnamon bun project short all together. I’ll get back on track with my slightly less healthy roll making in a few days. But first, fruit and fiber, please. And a little bit of golden fat.

Ingredients~
Makes 6-8 smaller rolls or 4 large rolls

Dough:
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (sub with regular ww, but know that the rolls may turn out a bit more dense)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
1/3 cup & 2 tsps unsweetened soy milk or other dairy free milk
1 1/2 tbsps vegan butter/margarine
1/2 tsp rice malt syrup or maple syrup
Large pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Small pinches of nutmeg and ground ginger (optional)

Filling:
1/2 large ripe banana (or about 1 small), mashed into a puree
1 tbsp rice malt/maple syrup (add up to 1 tbsp more for a sweeter filling)
1 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 heaped tsp cinnamon
2-3 tbsps raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Vanilla Yogurt Drizzle:
1/3 cup smooth yogurt (unsweetened coconut or soy)
2-4 tsps rice malt/maple syrup (add to taste)
Scant 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Drop or two of fresh lemon juice (optional)

Instructions~

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