The Best Vegan Pizza and the Best Kind of Holidays

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 This past week me and a couple friends stole a few days to drive down the coast. One of my friends grandfather’s has a beautiful beach house that he kindly shares with the whole family. Even in the first month of winter the weather was amazing. So sunny and beautiful! We spent the whole time sun-baking, reading and eating pizza. 

Best holiday ever??

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I wasn’t even allowed to swim because of my recent tattoo but my new swimming costume literally arrived in the mail the day before! It was a sign that I should definitely put it on and pretend right? Also the water was absolutely freezing so I feel I may have got the best of both worlds. Plus the sun setting over the ocean was worth seeing just in itself. I can’t get over how beautiful the colours were. 

Going away even for just a handful of days made me realise how claustrophobic the city can get sometimes. Especially during semester when you spend so much time indoors working or staring at some kind of screen. It felt so good to get away from it, even briefly, with some of my favourite friends. 

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It’s become a tradition to make pizza every time we go to the beach house together. I think this year’s pizza definitely deserved some kind of medal because it was the best thing ever. If you follow my instagram you might have seen just how many vegetables we managed to squeeze on top. I know it’s not traditional! I know my version of pizza is sacrilege to any one who has been to Italy and eaten real pizza. But think of it more as a vegetable dish that happens to be constructed on a pizza base. 

Literally the best pizza I have ever eaten was sitting in a gutter. I was in Rome, we’d just been to see the Vatican, it was drizzling with rain and we were all starving. I got a piece of the tomato and pepper pizza with drizzled olive oil. Holy moly it was incredible. This pizza is inspired by that, with the addition of a wholemeal base and a few added flavours. 

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I think my favourite part is the tangle of basil and spinach leaves tossed over the tomato base, but you can really stylise your pizza to suit whatever you want. I baked slices of pumpkin as a topping but you could also use zucchini, flat mushrooms, sweet potato, onion, any root vegetable you like! Whatever you want really. 

If you eat cheese I highly recommend adding feta or halloumi as well 🙂 Have a nice week everyone! 

One Year Ago: Chocolate Caramel Truffle Cake

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Wholemeal Vegan Pizza (Based on Bourke Street Bakery) – Makes 1 pizza

300g strong wholemeal flour

1 sachet dried yeast (7g)

1/2 tsp sea salt

220ml lukewarm water

10ml olive oil

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1/3 butternut pumpkin, sliced and roasted until soft

1/2 jar of tomato paste

1 garlic clove, crushed

large handful of chopped basil and spinach leaves

1-2 sliced tomato, capsicum, zucchini

handful of sliced mushrooms

handful of sliced and pitted kalamata olives

optional: handful of feta, cheddar, mozzarella, halloumi, or all of the above

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Combine all the dough ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and beat slowly for 3 minutes. Increase to high and beat for 7 minutes. Put ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to proof for 20 minutes, then turn onto a floured board and use a rolling pin to flatten. Carefully transfer dough onto a baking sheet lined with paper. Preheat the oven to 220C (428F). Top pizza with tomato paste, then crushed garlic, then the spinach and basil. Arrange the vegetable slices according to what is flattest and fastest to cook from the bottom up, starting with the pumpkin. Top with olives and optional cheese. 

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the base is crispy and the vegetables cooked. You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd. Makes about 4 servings. 

Perfect Avocado Brownies with Cinnamon and Blueberries (vegan)

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 This is such a momentous day. I finally, finally perfected avocado brownies. Celebrate with me! It’s been a long and arduous journey, but we made it. If you follow me on instagram you will have seen the highs and lows, the almost perfect and the completely ruined brownies that came before these mighty ones today. I feel like this might be one of my baking life’s biggest accomplishments, not to toot my own trumpet too much! 

But seriously. Let’s talk about brownies.

I’ve made a few healthy brownies on this blog before. These black bean ones were like a healthy, protein-rich fudge. I’ve made tea-infused raw brownies (so good!), and these banana brownies are so popular with everyone I make them for. But in my mind none of these recipes were really “brownies”. They were various shades of chocolate cake/slice. Brownies must be rich. Like these caramel brownies. They must be super fudgy but also chewy and they must taste so chocolatey you have to drink a glass of milk (or almond milk) alongside it. 

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They shouldn’t taste like banana or almonds or orange or any other such nonsense! They should taste like BROWNIES. And also be really good for you, because I want to eat the whole pan. 

My experiments started to take a turn for the awesome when I bought My Darling Lemon Thyme‘s new cookbook. I seriously recommend it to anyone who loves whole-food recipes and stunning photography. Emma’s book is actually inspirational it’s so beautiful! I used her raspberry and pistachio brownies as a starting point on my quest for the perfect brownie. 

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Over a series of experiments I replaced the olive oil with avocado to squeeze in those healthy fats, and replaced the combination of gluten-free flours with wholemeal wheat. (Because I eat wheat and it’s much cheaper). I’ve included her measurements for gluten free in the recipe, but I’ve never tried them so I can’t give any tips for how it will go unfortunately. I also squeezed in lots of cinnamon and blueberries in there because hello?! Match made in heaven! 

The result was incredible. Rich, fudgy, sweet, holy crap. Crackly top, vanilla ice cream, you can see where this is going. Brownie heaven. I actually can’t believe how healthy they are. Compared to my normal recipe which has 2 1/2 cups of sugar, half a kilo of chocolate and a whole block of butter, these only had one block of chocolate, one cup of raw sugar and no butter at all! Plus wholemeal flour! No brownie coma for me 🙂 The trick to making dessert recipes healthier but still delicious is to replace the traditional ingredients with just as good healthy ingredients. You can’t just cut out sugar and fat and expect it to taste good.

The combination of sweet blueberries, cinnamon and vanilla extract add natural sweetness that in my mind tastes much better than plain old sugar. And the avocado, as they say, really is impossible to taste. It does give the texture a slightly thicker consistency and the brownies smell a bit like avocado, but don’t fear that your brownies will come out tasting like baked avocado. They won’t. I 100% believe everybody should make these brownies at least once in their lives. They’re that yummy 🙂

One Year Ago: Rhubarb and Coconut Crumble Slice

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Avocado and Blueberry Brownies: Adapted from here

200g (7 ounces) dark vegan chocolate, broken into chunks (plus extra 50g chopped)

185g (1 cup, about 2 avocados) perfectly ripe and green avocados

1 tbsp olive oil 

200g (1 cup) raw or brown sugar

3 eggs OR vegan replacement (3 tbsp chia mixed with 6 tbsp water, or 1.5 very ripe mashed bananas)

3/4 cup (75g) wholemeal flour OR 1 cup almond meal mixed with 2/3 cup fine brown rice flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

40g (1/3 cup) raw cocoa powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

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Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and line a 20cm by 20cm tin (8 inch) with baking paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. 

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, or mix the chia seeds with the water or mash up your bananas. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the sugar until it is mostly dissolved. In a blender, blend the avocado with the eggs (or chia/banana) and tsp of vanilla extract. 

Mix together the chocolate mix and the avocado mix well. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until mixed. Stir through the blueberries and extra chocolate, and smooth in to your brownie pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is set. Serve warm, with ice cream (you know you want to). 

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Coconut and Easter Chocolate Banana Bread (vegan!)

Vegan and Wholemeal

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 What happens when you have a law assignment + Easter chocolate + overripe bananas + desiccated coconut + free afternoon minus any rational thinking?

= The best banana bread in the world. 

It’s scientific and you can’t fight science. 

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 My house right now is like an Easter wonderland. There are so many eggs! Every kitchen surface is adorned with colourful piles of rabbits and caramel balls and chocolate freckles.  It’s beautiful but it’s so overwhelming! My tongue doesn’t even register sweet anymore: everything just tastes like chocolate. 

I put my fancy chocolate Belle Fleur egg to the perfect use this year, making David Lebovitz’ chocolate sorbet. It was so rich and just wow. I’m going to go have some more as soon as I finish writing this. 

But what to do with all the little Easter Eggs? I don’t want to hurt any Easter Rabbit feelings, but those little cadbury eggs you get buckets of every year aren’t exactly top quality. They’re kind of overly sweet and chewy. They somehow TRANSFORM when you add them to a banana bread. 

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 They melt into little pockets of Easter flavoured sunshine. I threw in all the little eggs on the counter, which included caramel eggs and white chocolate eggs. All of them tasted awesome! For a completely vegan bread, obviously use vegan chocolate. Bittersweet eggs went in there too and were amaaazing. 

I halved the amount of flour the recipe asks for and replaced it with finely desiccated coconut. The bread was softer and denser than normal, and in my opinion much better. The coconut gave the bread a slightly buttery texture? If that’s a thing? Super soft and crumbly and moist. (Mooooist.) 

I really recommend making this with your Easter chocolate, even if you have to freeze it for a week or two until you come out of your chocolate coma. I especially recommend making this right in the middle of the time you have allocated to writing your assignment. Trust me, it will make you feel much better.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Brownie Caramel Sandwich Cookies

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 Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread (Adapted from this recipe

Dry Ingredients- 

1 cup (125g) wholemeal or plain flour

1 cup (80g) desiccated coconut

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

100g chopped up chocolate eggs, or normal chocolate

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line a loaf pan with baking paper. Whisk together all of your dry ingredients and set aside. 

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 Wet Ingredients:

110g (1/2 cup) brown sugar

110ml (1/2 cup) butter or olive oil, for vegan

2 eggs at room temperature (or 2 tbsp chia mixed with 4 tbsp water)

2 medium bananas, mashed 

80ml (1/3 cup) black coffee

Beat together the oil or butter and sugar until fluffy, Slowly incorporate each egg, until combined. Beat in the banana and coffee, then stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into the tin and bake for 35 minutes (check from this point, it may take longer) until the top is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Enjoy!

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Black Tea and Currant Hot Cross Buns

Wholemeal, Low Fat

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 Is it just me or is Easter kind of the coolest holiday ever?!? You’ve got chocolate by the bucket load, all kinds of exciting buns and spiced cakes in bakeries, holidays galore, it’s wild! 

And don’t even get me started on the Easter Show. I don’t know if it’s just Sydney, but every year here there’s a huge fair with a theme park, food markets, baking competitions, wood chopping and largest animal competitions, which are all somehow very connected to the concept of Easter…

I think it’s super fun but all my friends and family think it’s lame (they’re lame!!) so I haven’t gone in years. Sad face 😦 But this year I might just go with the kids I babysit so woohoo get ready for the biggest chicken weighing competition!!! I know I am.

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My family isn’t actually that into Easter. I never even knew about the whole ‘Easter Sunday Lunch’ thing until I went away one year with my friends family. It was amazing! We ate all the traditional meals like pies and lamb roast and simple fish the night before (well I didn’t because I don’t eat meat but I creepily watched them eating it). And on the celebrated morning, we came down to the dining table which had been completely covered in decorative chocolate nests with Belle Fleur chocolate sculptures for each child. Oh my God. I was in heaven.

We set up an Easter Egg hunt for the little kids, hiding the colourful chocolates in tree branches and under piles of autumn leaves. We boiled eggs and decorated them with paint and glitter, then cracked them open and drizzled olive oil and vinegar in the yolks. We walked through the forest and drove in her older brother’s rally car around the paddock behind the house, then watched the sun set over the trees eating chocolate leftovers.

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After that year I realised how good Easter can be. I decided to start making hot cross buns as my own family tradition, even if the first try was a couple of weeks late. Now the heady smell of cloves and cinnamon, and the calming roll of dough and currants is familiar to me. It makes me think of Easter. It makes me think of hot Autumn rain showers and uni holidays, of early sunsets and browning leaves.

It makes me think of the Easter Show, with the turkey pavilion and the poodle parade and hot curly fries with tomato sauce and mustard. It makes me realise that Easter is a pretty great holiday, whether you celebrate it traditionally or not.

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These hot cross buns are the best I’ve made so far. They’re classic of this blog made with wholemeal flour and a good dose of cinnamon, but still rich and soft from butter and lots of dried fruit. I steeped the currants in tea for half an hour before adding them in, and it made the buns taste lovely and complex. You can always skip this step if you don’t like tea, or use a different flavour if you’re feeling adventurous.

I originally got the recipe from Poires au Chocolat, because she is my bible for all English/traditional buns and cake recipes and I trust her yeast expertise with my life! Also, you may have noticed I forgot the crosses. I know, I know! I’m sorry!

For a vegan version, I’m planning on adapting these Coconut Scones, swapping the vanilla for cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and adding in sultanas for that traditional flavour. If you want to give it a try before me, please tell me how it goes!! I hope all of you have a happy Easter 🙂

One Year Ago: Apple and Cinnamon Cupcakes with Honey Icing

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Black Tea and Currant Hot Cross Buns: Adapted/Copied from Poires au Chocolat
50g unsalted butter
225g whole milk (I used light and it worked fine)
300g strong white flour
150g wholemeal flour
7/8g instant yeast
50g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each nutmeg, ginger, cloves
1 egg, cracked and lightly beaten
110g (1 cup) each sultanas and black currants
1 cup of strong black tea

Method: In a saucepan, heat the butter and milk until the butter melts and the milk scalds (this will keep the buns extra soft). Place in the fridge or freezer to cool down, it needs to be room temperature otherwise it will kill the yeast!
Steep the dried fruit with the tea until the fruit is soft, then drain and dry the fruit well with paper cloth.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the flours, spices, sugar and dried fruit. Mix in the egg and milk (it has to be room temperature or slightly lower!!) until combined. Mix on medium for 6-7 minutes until the dough is elastic and bouncy. Put into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave for an hour to an hour and a half until doubled in size (I take a photo of it with my phone so I can work this out).

Pour out onto a floured surface and punch down. Cut into 14 pieces and roll into balls. Working quickly, place the balls on a lined baking tray and cover with plastic wrap for 45 minutes until puffy. Preheat oven to 200C (390F) and bake the buns (take off the plastic!) for 15-20 minutes, until risen and golden. Drizzle a little honey or marmalade over for a glaze. Enjoy! For a cross, mix flour and water and use the back of a spoon or piping bag to mark a cross on before you bake them. Enjoy!

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A Healthier Spiced Carrot Cake with Maple Orange Icing

Optional vegan, low fat and refined sugar free

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 I was craving carrot cake like a wild woman this week. Every day at uni I would walk past the cafe eyeing those dodgy wrapped carrot cake slices covered in buttercream and almost ALMOST  buy one. 

But I managed to hold out partly because they don’t use cream cheese in the frosting (who even are they?!) and partly because I had no money…

By the end of the week, it was carrot cake time. At first I was thinking to myself you can’t make that, you’ve already made a banana carrot cake to end all carrot cakes on this blog. It was mile high and adorned with chopped nuts and creamy ricotta frosting! But that was a carrot BANANA cake. Subtle difference my friends. And a very different recipe too!(Perfect for Easter!!)

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When I was first coming up with this recipe I mainly wanted a carrot and cinnamon centred vehicle to transport cream cheese frosting in my mouth. I looked at lots of recipes trying to gather together the best of all, and I couldn’t believe how unhealthy most carrot cake recipes are! For something made of carrots I was surprised.

Just to be clear, my definition of ‘healthy’ is definitely not low fat or low calorie! Wholemeal grains, real fruit and unprocessed sweeteners plus some natural fats from avocados and nuts are much more my scene. However I’m aware that some people want to have their cake and they want to eat the whole thing too, without spending an extra hour at the gym. So this is my fat-free (almost) and refined sugar free carrot cake!

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 Sweetened with maple syrup and the natural sugars of the carrots, this carrot has no butter or oil in it (none!). I was feeling daring so when the recipe called for ‘butter’ I just subbed in a whole load of buttermilk. The recipe is based on the Moosewood carrot cake recipe, which is already a very wholesome and tasty loaf to begin with. It came out so cinnamon scented and warm and delicious, I could not even deal. Carrot cake heaven. 

The best part of carrot cake is the icing (can I get an amen please) so I didn’t skimp on that. Instead of using low fat or substitute; the cream cheese is mixed with half ricotta, which is naturally low in fat and high in calcium and protein. Mixed with maple syrup and orange zest it was so delicious! I ate quite a bit of it with a spoon (shh). Topped with naturally delicious and healthy nuts, this cake is perfect for breakfast as well as the best dessert ever. 

Also vegan friends, I’ve given substitutions below for how to make the cake completely free of animal products. I’ve made the cake without eggs and buttermilk before and it worked well, but I haven’t tried it low fat so if you do try that method, tell me how it goes!!

One Year Ago: Sweet Plum Jam

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 Healthy Carrot Cake with Orange Maple Frosting: Adapted from here

1/2 cup maple syrup

3/4 cup buttermilk (or for vegan, sunflower oil or half oil half vegan yogurt)

2 eggs (for vegan, 2 tbsp chia seeds mixed well with 4 tbsp water)

1 finely zested orange

1/2 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and 1/4 tsp allspice

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup plain flour

1 + 1/4 cup carrot, grated

Frosting:
250g each ricotta and cream cheese OR cashew/coconut cream for vegan
1 finely zested orange
1/3 cup maple syrup
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For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 180C (356F) and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Whisk the 2 eggs until pale and fluffy. Mix the remaining wet ingredients (buttermilk or oil, maple syrup) together well. Stir in the orange zest. Stir in the grated carrot. Sift the flours and baking powder, plus the spices. Stir the dry into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour into tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean.
For the icing, blend together all the ingredients well and ice the cake once completely cool. Top with chop nuts if you want!
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Fresh Peach and Brown Sugar Muffins

Vegan and Wholemeal 

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Guys I’m back! Did you miss me?!?! Europe was so amazing and I had the best two months of my whole life, but! I was very excited to come back and blog again. Mainly because the last few posts have been horrendous! I squeezed them out just before I went away and they’re so horrendous… why! It makes my eyes burn. 

My new years resolutions (of which I made 25…) included using only manual on my camera and spending more time making my photos pretteh. So that started out today! Ok, so I haven’t mastered manual yet, and the peach muffins I made decided to come out as little butt ugly troll muffins, but they’re waay better than I was expecting for my first attempt.

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I have so many recipes that have been building up in my head to make as soon as I got home, but when I got off the plane yesterday after sitting in front of a screaming baby for ten hours, I just couldn’t do anything except make muffins. I just couldn’t face the world!!

Plus as a welcome home present my step-dad bought me a box of peaches. And they’re all ripe RIGHT NOW! So I whipped out the trusty Moosewood Cookbook and made some wholemeal brown sugar muffins, studded with lots of juicy peach slices. And they turned out so so good. I have a very evolved and scientific method of testing my recipes: I take a small bite, and if I don’t want another huge bite in the next two seconds, the recipe isn’t very good. These guys passed the test. I ate the whole thing in about 4 seconds. 

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I didn’t realise until I went away how big muffins are in Australia! I seriously don’t think I saw any the whole time I was away. I ate scones in Ireland and crepes in France and gelato in Italy, but where were the good old muffins hey? I missed these little guys. 

Starting the new year (my new year starts in February, shh) made me think about what this blog is going to be about more. Last year when I started it I had no clue what kind of things I wanted to make and what kind of photos I could of taken. I think most of the recipes from now on are going to be more centred in my everyday diet. Lots of wholemeal, mainly vegan, healthy and colourful recipes with some celebration things as well. I’m so excited! Happy belated New Year! 

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Vegan Fresh Peach and Brown Sugar Muffins

Update: On repeating this recipe they did not turn out well- word of warning, I no longer trust this recipe
125g (1 cup) wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

25g (2 tbsp) brown sugar

1/2 medium banana, mashed

2 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil

120g (1/2 cup) soy or coconut yogurt

310g (2 cups, 2 medium peaches) cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) chunks

Preheat the oven to 170C (350F). Line 6 muffin tins with papers. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the mashed banana, oil and yogurt. Stir together well. Stir through the sliced peaches and spoon into the muffin moulds. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden and the muffins spring back when pressed. Makes 5-6 but the recipe can easily be doubled!

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Wholemeal Cinnamon and Rhubarb Muffins

optional Vegan and Sugar Free

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 I made a chocolate birthday cake for my friend recently, and I was so impressed with myself. It was a fudge layer cake with chocolate ganache and I decorated the top and everything! With little edible sugar flowers and silver drops spelling out HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I took a photo of it and snapchatted basically every single person I knew, claiming I was Lord of the Cakes and they must bow down to me. 

And then I looked at the photo more closely, and realised I’d written HAPPY BIRTHAY. Birthay. Wow. I really set myself up there. The worst part is, it’s not even the first time I’ve spelt birthday wrong on a cake. Last time I forgot the H! But last time, I was smart, and didn’t send a picture of it bragging to everyone on my contacts list. THE SHAME!

ImageI kind of made these muffins to comfort myself that I can, indeed, create something worthy of photographing and sharing with everyone. I wanted to use the last few sticks of rhubarb leftover in the fridge. They were getting quite sad and floppy in there (that’s what she said hehehehe…) and I kept picturing the delicious pairing of cinnamon and poached rhubarb I have on cereal every morning, but in muffin form. 

I looked up a basic muffin ratio on the internet, pre-sugar and add-ins like buttermilk and fruit, and decided I’d adapt it myself. I was nervous because the recipe didn’t have any sweetness in it or fruit measurements yet, and the batter came out looking clumpy and strange. But they turned out absolutely perfectly. 

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You can see from the photos how perfectly they rose and how crunchy the top layer became. I’ve adjusted the recipe I used slightly to give more rhubarb in the centre and a slightly sweeter batter, because I used almost no sweetener at all. The spices in the batter came out really sweetly and perfumed my house while they were baking. Soo good fresh from the oven. 

I talked about that amazing moment you get when you produce the perfect muffin when I made the Best Banana Muffins, and the Chocolate Fudge Vegan Orange Cupcakes. Well these are my favourite fruit filling muffins. You don’t have to fill it with fruit, you could put nutella, a chocolate ball, anything really. The muffin mix is strong enough to hold anything!

There’s no refined sugar or butter in these muffins, and the addition of wholemeal flour makes them a little healthier than the usual muffin affair. They’re still rich and a little bit naughty though! Perfect for weekend mornings 🙂 

ImageRhubarb and Cinnamon Muffins: 

200g (1.5 cups + 1 tbsp) plain flour

130g (1 cup) wholemeal flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla extract

125g (1/3 cup) runny maple syrup or honey

3 eggs (or flax eggs for vegan)

125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

120ml (1/2 cup) natural or coconut yogurt

450g (1 pound) rhubarb, cut into chunks + 2 tbsp maple syrup

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 Preheat the oven to 165C (330F) and line 10 muffin holes with papers. In a small saucepan, stir the rhubarb and honey together with a splash of water. Cover with a lid and stew until soft for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and add in the oil and yogurt. Combine the wet and dry together, add a splash of milk if the batter is too dry. Spoon half the batter in to the muffin cups. Make a depression in the centre and put in a few pieces of rhubarb. Add the other half of batter and press down to cover the rhubarb completely. 

Bake for 25 minutes, until risen and golden on top. Eat them warm! 

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