Strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie.

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It’s been 25 days since my last blog post. The longest interval in between posts since I re-started blogging last October. To begin with, life outside of the kitchen has been too busy lately, and my head too preoccupied with other things besides blogging recipes. Moreover, Belgium’s been struck by a heat wave for the ten days or so, and those temperatures wear me down completely. A thunderstorm was initially announced for this evening, and although the forecast has been readjusted (no rain to be expected until Monday!) , a cooler wind is currently blowing, and I wanted to seize the moment to finally share a recipe which I’ve wanted to get out into the world ever since I created it last summer.

As rhubarb and strawberries are in season (you might even grow your own?), this is absolutely the time to go for this easily pleasing tangy-sweet dessert. It’s not in the pictures below, but of course you can serve this pie with some whipped cream, ice cream, or vanilla sauce (like this one from Oatly, which I wish were available in Belgium, and which my in-laws were so kind to bring home a couple of packages of from their Sweden trip recently – thanks again!).

 

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strawberry-rhubarb crumble pie

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 2h
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

PIE
  • 120 g cane sugar
  • 150 g vegan butter
  • 8-10 TB aquafaba
  • 3 TB cornstarch
  • 1 tl vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegan cream (I used soy cream)
  • 50 g vanilla pudding powder (which basically is cornstarch + vanilla)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 300 g spelt flour
  • 150 g strawberries, quartered
  • 150 g rhubarb, chopped
EXTRA FRUIT
  • 75 g strawberries
  • 75 gram rhubarb
CRUMB LAYER
  • 75 g vegan butter
  • 100 g spelt flour
  • 75 g cane sugar
  • dash of salt

Directions

  • Mix sugar and margarine until creamy. Add the vanilla and the aquafaba, and subsequently the cream, until you get a creamy mixture. Add the flour, cornstarch vanilla pudding powder and baking powder and stir decently.
  • Now mix in the strawberry and rhubarb pieces.
  • Distribute the batter evenly over a pie pan (28 cm in diameter)
  • Now layer the extra chopped fruit on top of the batter.
  • Finally make the crumbs: mix all ingredients until they form crumbs, and use them to create a top crumb layer.
  • Bake the crumble pie for 60 minutes in a preheated oven on 175-180 degrees Celcius.

 

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Liège waffles.

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A blog post on waffles on a Belgian blog – it’s the worst kind of cliché, but there’s hardly any way avoiding it. And why would one, actually? There’s a reason why waffles are as highly acclaimed a treat as they are, right?

Of course there’s no such thing as ‘the’ Belgian waffle. There are different types of waffles. They come in various shapes and consistency (rectangular, round, thick, thin, hard, chewy, soft and crisp), they can have a creamy vanilla, syrupy, or fruit filling, they can come with toppings (strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sugar,…), or they can just be eaten plain.

In this post I’ll restrict myself to the sturdy Liège waffle, which is the type of waffle you most commonly find in Belgian shopping streets, penetrating the air with their irresistible, seductive sweet smell, thus luring tourists to street vendors’ waffle stalls.

I won’t lie: I don’t have any street vendor’s recipe, though I wish I had. But I am also totally honest when I write that these waffles are totally awesome too. They have been multiply assessed and approbated by the most critical audience: children between 5 and 8, also those who are accustomed to the ‘regular’ waffles containing eggs and dairy.

So there you go, try for yourself!

Liège waffles

  • Servings: 16-18
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 dl water
  • 1 dl soy milk
  • 500 g spelt flour
  • 6 TB aquafaba
  • 2 TB chickpea flour (besan)
  • 180 g unrefined cane sugar
  • 60 g pearl sugar
  • 175 g vegan butter, melted (or a combination of butter-flavoured rapeseed oil and coconut oil)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 package dry yeast (7 g – equivalent of 21 g fresh yeast)

Directions

Mix all ingredients, let sit for half an hour, and then bake away in a hot and greased waffle iron. You can eat them immediately after baking, or you can cover them with melted chocolate first, and then ket them cool. They can easily be frozen and thawed.

Apple-vanilla tartlets.

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Since 2011 there’s this initiative in (the Flemish part of) Belgium  called “dagen zonder vlees” [days without meat] that challenges people to abstain from meat (and fish) during the 40 days of Lent. A good initiative, as it might help some realize that, one, their standard way of eating is very much centred around animal products, and two, that eating vegetarian is not as hard as they initially thought it would be. A few among those already adhering to a vegetarian lifestyle might seize the opportunity of this challenge to take their vegetarianism one step further and look into the new horizons veganism might open up for them. One of my friends is currently doing exactly that, and has become aware of how dairy and egg-based her day-to-day diet actually is. Another acquaintance made the actual switch to veganism during such a previous edition.

So what’s in it for vegans? Well, there are of course some options for them (us) too if one wishes (but I don’t 🙂 ). One acquaintance decided to go raw during those 40 days a couple of years ago, and another edition inspired him to temporarily ditch sugar. Whereas I absolutely can’t see myself either limiting myself to a raw-food lifestyle, even if it isn’t but for a short period of time, or cutting out all sugar – I neither aim for such a restriction, nor do I see the point if one already eats a balanced plant-based diet -, I can see the benefits of increasing the amount of non-processed foods and limiting the use of sugar. The latter inspired me to make a healthier version of the vanilla-apple tartlets I’ve been making for nearly a decade (apples needn’t always be paired with cinnamon – vanilla makes for more than a worthy variation). This healthier version includes – instead of ready-made puff pastry – a homemade crust containing chickpea flour and olive oil, and also subs date caramel for the cane sugar in the apple filling. Although this date-sweetened version is slightly less sweet than the original, it definitely tastes as good, and I liked the – very neutral tasting and easy-to-handle – crust so much, that I definitely regard it as a keeper.

So go ahead, try this, and enjoy!

And if you’re short on time or don’t have dates at hand, just go for the quicker, puff pastry- and sugar-based tartlets after all :-).

apple-vanilla tartlets

  • Servings: 12 tartlets or 8 handpies
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

Apple filling
  • 4 sweet apples: peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 60 g sugar or for the sugar-free option: 5 soaked and subsequently pureed medjool dates + 2 TB of the soaking water
  • 70 g, finely chopped (I used a mix of almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts)
  • 60 g raisins
  • 100 g flour
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla (I used scraped vanilla)
  • 2 tsp vanilla-infused rum (which is basically vanilla essence)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Dough

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 3/4 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup soy yoghurt
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • pinch of salt

The amount of dough is sufficient to either make 8 handpies, or to line about 12 tartlet forms like the ones I used.

Directions

Apple filling

Mix all ingredients. (See, this was easy, wasn’t it?)

Dough

Making the dough is as uncomplicated as making the apple filling: mix all ingredients and knead until you obtain subtle dough.

Roll out and either use it to line your tartlet forms or to make handpies (I used a breakfast bowl to obtain the round shape for the handpies).

For tartlets: line the forms with rolled-out dough, and scoop some apple filling into them.

For handpies: spoon some apple filling onto one half of the (round) dough, then fold the dough and press the edges (I didn’t need/use water to seal the edges).

Bake in a preheated oven (175 degrees C) for 20 minutes, or until the crust turns golden.

 

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Fabulous aquafaba crêpes.

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Fabulous aquafaba crêpes

Officially it’s not carnival yet (Shrove Tueday is first on 28/2 this year), but since next week is a school holiday in Belgium, today is the day all children celebrate this festival in school (and outside of school, since they will be parading out in the city streets in the afternoon). Our two were pretty excited, had neatly laid out their outfit yesterday evening, and for once, we did not have to rush them to get dressed this morning. After some extra brushes of make-up here and there, off they went, Zorro and the Elf, but not without taking a pile of pancakes with them.

At our children’s school volunteering moms and dads help a hand in baking pancakes, the traditional Shrove Tuesday treat over here. Our children are the only vegans at school, so of course I did my part. I have been baking pancakes ever since becoming vegan, usually relying upon Isa Chandra’s recipe in Veganomicon, thinning out the batter, as we actually bake thin pancakes – or crêpes, as you may (but we call them pannenkoeken) – which are nothing like the thick and fluffy pancakes eaten in Northern America. At one point I started using Karolina Tegelaars pancake recipe (Swedes are avid pancake eaters too – even in the, to me,  quite odd combination pea soup – pancakes – lingonberry jam), which is really excellent, but uses quite an amount of vegan butter. And that part I did not like so much. So lately I’ve been experimenting with aquafaba and chickpea flour (actually besan), and I have arrived at a recipe which really nails it. It still uses margarine, but not an awful lot, and next time I’ll try substituting it with rapeseed oil (with butter flavour) or a coconut oil/rapeseed oil combination. I’m quite confident this next step will be successful too.

Totally craving crêpes now, right? 🙂 I won’t let you wait for the recipe.

(And in case you would have missed it, I added a recipe index to this blog, so that all recipes from previous blog posts become easily searchable and clickable.)

 

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Zorro & the Elf

 

Fabulous Aquafaba Crêpes

  • Servings: 16 pancakes
  • Time: 30 min + 1h resting time for the batter
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 l plant-based milk (I used soy)
  • 400 g spelt flour
  • 80 g vegan butter (easily to be substituted, I think, by 50 g (deodorised) coconut oil and 20 g rapeseed oil; or just 80 g coconut oil, if you prefer that)
  • 6 TB chickpea flour
  • 12 TB aquafaba
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp vanilla (not essence, but the real vanilla from vanilla pods)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Just fill your blender to the brim with all ingredients listed above and mix!

Then let the batter rest for about an hour, before you start baking (with a well-oiled pan). Go ahead with a ladleful of batter for each pancake, gently turning it when the batter has dried on top. Grease the pan in between pancakes.

Serve with muscovado sugar, nut butter, date syrup, blueberry jam, or whichever topping you like!

 

Lemon curd cheesecake.

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vegan lemon curd cheesecake

Everyone knows cheesecake (I guess). But the cheesecake I grew up with was not the kind of cheesecake made with cream cheese. Instead, it had curd cheese in it, and the one my mom used to bake (and still does) was based upon a recipe she had gotten from a neighbour who, in her turn, had it from her husband’s German relatives. In German, this is called Käsekuchen or Quarkkuchen. The Austrians have their own word for it, Topfenkuchen. As far as my research indicated, the correct English term would be lemon curd cheese (the recipe indeed includes lemon zest and juice). But do correct me if I’m wrong.

When turning vegan about 12 years ago, I stopped having this marvellous cake which, apart from curd cheese, also has quite some eggs. But then after analysing numerous recipes of veganised versions, I started making my own curd cheesecake based upon a mixture of silken tofu and firm tofu. It actually worked and it was quite a decent cake. But now I have been able to bring the art of lemon curd cheesecake baking to top-level quality. And all thanks to two new ingredients. The first one being the soy-based curd cheese alpro has launched  (its organic counterpart provamel did the same), and which really tastes like I recall curd cheese to taste. The second one being aquafaba (ok, admittedly, that is not something new, but the insight that this chickpea liquid actually has distinct eggwhite-like qualities still is relatively recent). The addition of aquafaba is not strictly necessary, but it does add a sublime airiness to the cake’s texture. Take these two ingredients, and you’ll get a curd cheesecake that no one will ever suspect to be vegan in the first place.

So here you go!

 

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vegan lemon curd cheesecake

 

Lemon curd cheesecake.

  • Servings: 12 decent slices
  • Time: 1h 30 min
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

Crust

  • 300 g flour
  • 100 g vegan butter
  • 75 g cane sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 1/4 cup water

Curd cheese filling

  • 2 packages (400 g each) alpro Go On plain (curd cheese/strained yoghurt)
  • 100 g cane sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 50 gram package vanilla pudding powder
  • 4 TB cornstarch (maizena)
  • 2 tsp vanilla-flavoured sugar
  • 250 g plant-based milk
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • liquid of 1 can drained chickpeas (about 10 TB)

Directions

Crust

Mix all ingredients and knead until you end up with a smooth ball of dough. Roll it out with a rolling pin and line the bottom and side of a (relatively large) springform pan with it. Use a fork to perforate the dough here and there.

Curd cheese filling

Whip the aquafaba until it forms stiff peaks (and you can hold the bowl upside down 🙂 ). Set aside.

Mix all other ingredients. When you have a smooth batter, gently fold in the whipped aquafaba. Pour into the springform pan.

Bake for an hour in a preheated oven on 160-170 degrees Celcius. Your cake will be rising during the baking process, but will somewhat collapse afterwards. When done baking, leave it to cool in the oven (with the oven door ajar) for 20 more minutes before removing it.

Let cool completely (and thus firm up) before serving.

 

 

Belgian bread pudding.

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I am all in favour of maximally efficient food use (not that I am a champion in this – I know some who are – but I try my best). Which means that I aim at buying only those items that I need, that I like browsing the fridge for vegetables on the brink of wilting and then transform them into soup, that I save broccoli stalks and so on (also for soup), and that I always keep the leftovers of dinner. It also means that I freeze slices or chunks of bread that have gone stale. And at regular intervals, when having saved up enough of this leftover bread, which then starts to take up too much precious space in my freezer, I decide it’s time again to make bread pudding.

Converting stale bread into bread pudding is apparently apparently also a practice common outside of Belgium. But I haven’t seen any foreign recipes including vanilla pudding, as we usually do over here. Anyway, bread pudding is quite plainly stale bread, soaked in milk, which is baked again in a springform pan, with some vanilla pudding powder and gingerbread spices and raisins added (and traditionally also eggs, but I leave those out). I like having some chunks of apple in it too, as they add moisture to this dense pudding (which in the dialect I was brought up in is called poting), and I usually go for a decent splash of brown rum as well. Not just rum, really. It’s rum turned into vanilla essence, as I at all times keep some stalks of vanilla soaking (for months, for years) in a bottle of rum, turning this amber-coloured liquid into a vanilla spiked delicacy. The end result is a quite heavy cake, which cannot boast of any delicate qualities, but it’s a reminder of my childhood, and I like its moistness, its sturdiness and cinnamon taste. You can have it at tea time, just as a snack, or you might even eat it for breakfast.

The recipe below is the result of some eyeballing. It’s quite hard fixing this recipe in exact measurements, as the amount of bread one works with varies from time to time, and the type of bread used likewise influences the amount of liquid needed.

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Belgian bread pudding

  • Servings: 12 decent pieces
  • Time: 1h 20 min + soaking time
  • Difficulty: easy
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Bread pudding

Ingredients

  • Ca. 750 g stale bread (could be somewhat less or somewhat more, but I usually take an amount which fills my largest baking bowl to the brim.)
  • Ca. 1 l plant milk (again, this is variable. It’s important to use enough milk to soak every tiny bit of bread, but don’t overdo it, otherwise the bread pudding won’t solidify enough during the baking process).
  • 1 package of vanilla pudding powder (the ones I use weigh 50 g a package); if you want a more vanilla-y taste, you perhaps could use two, but you’d need a bit more soy milk in that case, I guess.
  • 1 TB rum + 1 tsp vanilla essence (or you could just use vanilla-infused rum, like I do)
  • 1 heaped tsp gingerbread spices (or if you don’t have that at hand, just mix in some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and/or cardamom)
  • 1,5 tsp baking powder
  • 100 sugar (if you really have a sweet tooth, add some more – I like moderate sweetness)
  • a handful each of raisins, chopped apple and nuts
  • a dash of salt

Directions

  • Take a large bowl for the bread and soak the bread for at least a couple of hours, or more easily, overnight.
  • Preheat the oven (180 degrees C)
  • Mix the bread so that you end up with a sticky, even mixture that shows no more traces of bread lumps
  • Add in all the remaining ingredients, mix well, and ladle into a springform pan.
  • Bake for an hour, until the outide is crispy, and the inside has set.
  • Let cool (more or less) completely before cutting.

Elisenlebkuchen.

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Although Christmas 2016 is officially over and only few hours separate us from New Years Eve, you might still be looking for a treat for this evening’s coffee table. Or not (this is most likely the case). At any rate, Elisenlebkuchen are a rich tasting German holiday season treat which I think you can eat from November to February, or actually, if I am honest, I myself could enjoy them all year round.

German-style gingerbread cookies or Lebkuchen are hard to find over here in Belgium – this year a local Loving Hut restaurant carried some, however, which was a nice surprise -, but luckily the German border is not thát far off, and in the past I have managed to find some over there in time for the holidays. This year the same thing happened during a one-day visit to Aachen. I found Lebkuchenherzen from Alnatura at Edeka and Lebkuchen from Veganz at dm, but no Elisenlebkuchen, the type which contains plenty of nuts and marzipan (an important distinction). The best purchase this time, therefore, was a couple of boxes of Backoblaten – baking wafers -, another food item which Belgian supermarkets do not sell, and which is, albeit not crucial, pretty convenient when you want to bake Elisenlebkuchen yourself. So the day after our trip I immediately started baking, using the recipe below.

The result was amazing and the recipe absolutely a keeper. The Elisenlebkuchen taste as they are supposed to taste, and more than equivalent of the ones you find in stores. The yield of two batches – about 40 pieces – already being completely gone, I’ll pretty soon have to bake some more. They are easy to make, but be prepared to invest some time in shaping and decorating them.

This being said, enjoy your New Years Eve, and set aside some time in 2017 for baking these beauties.

Elisenlebkuchen

  • Servings: 20 pieces
  • Time: 60 mins
  • Difficulty: high
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Elisenlebkuchen

Ingredients

  • 150 g flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 200 g ground almonds
  • 200 g ground hazelnuts
  • 130 g cane sugar
  • zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 5 TB jam (preferably from berries)
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tsp gingerbread spices
  • 200 g marzipan
  • 1 dl water
  • 2-3 tsp baking powder
  • baking wafers (I used 20 – 22 round ones, 7 cm in diameter). You can also bake Elisenlebkuchen without them, but then make sure fully coat them in chocolate or sugar after baking.
  • chocolate and/or powdered sugar for decorating. Grated coconut or almond slivers are nice for decoration as well.

Directions

  • Mix the flour, sugar, ground nuts, spices, salt, baking powder, zest, salt in a bowl.
  • Add the marzipan, jam and water to a food processor and mix. Add to the bowl and mix all ingredients until a sticky dough forms.
  • Take about 1 TB dough and shape it to fit the baking wafers. I used a small saucer lined with plastic film to this purpose, but online shops also sell “Lebkuchenglocken” in different sizes which simplify the molding process.
  • Bake for 20-25 min. in a preheated oven on 150 degrees Celsius.
  • Once removed from the oven, you can immediately brush them with a powdered sugar/water mixture or with melted chocolate.

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Celebrating the cinnamon bun.

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You might not have been aware of it, but 4 October is not only World Animal Day (yay for the animals!) – in Sweden it also means Cinnamon Bun Day (double yay!). Kanelbullens dag, as it’s called in Swedish, can even boast an official web page by the Hembakningsrådet, the home baking council, which in fact initiated this day in 1999 to mark its 40th anniversary. The website hosts all kinds of trivia, such as the conjoint history of the omnipresent cinnamon bun and the concept of fika or coffee break, which is very much ingrained in Swedish culture. There’s also an overview of the yearly cinnamon bun design contest winners (and a recipe, which you can simply disregard, as it’s of course not vegan). So as you might guess, Swedes are fond of there buns, and do not take the art of cinnamon bun baking lightly.

Once living in Sweden, I gladly embraced all celebrations of baked goods, because there are, apart from cinnamon buns, quite a few other sweet items that claim their own piece of the culinary heritage pie. There’s also Pancake Day (9 February), Waffle Day (25 March) , and moreover, there’s the celebration of St. Lucy’s Day (Sankta Lucia or Luciadagen; 13 December) with its lusekatter, and Shrove Tuesday (fastelavn), which are inseparably linked to semlor. So after having settled down in Stockholm, I quickly bought some baking booklets by Karolina Tegelaar, including one on Swedish Classics, for the higher purpose of a smooth cultural integration (why else 🙂 ?).

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Although I no longer live in Sweden, if there is a good excuse to eat cinnamon buns, I can still act as if. So I decided to bake some today. I mainly followed Tegelaar’s recipe, with some tweaking, however, since Svenska Klassiker was published in 2012, a whole 3 years before the Great Discovery of  the Vegans’ Magic Ingredient Aquafaba. I got some inspiration from Vegan Richa’s 1-hour cinnamon rolls as to the amount of chickpea liquid to use here. To avoid the dough from sticking to the working surface, I also find a higher amount of flour is necessary than what Tegelaar’s original recipe calls for. It may be due to the fact that I always use spelt flour, but in principle a 1:1 substitution (spelt for wheat) should be the rule.

Want to try and find your inner sweet-loving Swede as well? Here come’s the recipe:

Ingredients for the dough

  • 150 g margarine
  • 1/4 cup aquaba
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 package dry active yeast
  • 2 dl cane sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch of salt
  • 7-8 dl spelt flour (add a bit more if needed)

Ingredients for the cinnamon filling

  • 2 dl sugar
  • 200 g softened margarine
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon

Instructions

  • Melt the margarine and add the soy milk – make sure the mixture doesn’t exceed a lukewarm temperature
  • Mix yeast and sugar, and add in the liquid ingredients
  • Add the remainder of the ingredients, and make sure that the dough is not too sticky, but still very elastic and soft
  • Let the dough sit for at least 45 minutes, and longer if you can
  • Knead the dough, and roll it out as a rectangle, using additional flour
  • Spread the cinnamon filling over the dough, and start rolling the tightly into a cilinder
  • Cut the cilinder in about 25 equal pieces, which you then place in a cupcake liner, flattening out the surface
  • Brush some plant-based creamer on top and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and/or sugar.
  • Bake at 250˚C for 6-10 in the middle of  a preheated oven, until golden.

 

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