Cornflake-crusted Stuffed French Toast

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Well, hi guys, it’s been a while. With everything seeming to happen at the same time, it feels almost strange to be typing on this platform again about things closest to my heart (aka sugar, spice and all things nice).

Above all, and most importantly, let there be french toast. The one food I will gladly eat every day three times a day. The one thing I love so much that I have a whole section in my recipe page dedicated to it.

There have been pockets of time in the past few weeks which have granted me access to memories only of the sweetest kind. I’ve tried making all sorts of fancy french toast get-ups, usually never with any regret (hello bagel french toast and black sesame french toast), although I have to say this childish cornflake-crusted banana-stuffed one is  not only a weekend winner, but a fanciful play on all things childhood-sweet. It’s any golden childhood memory on a plate– swinging through falling leaves on a swing, drinking hot chocolate by a fire.

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I understand that french toast isn’t considered french toast unless made with real, proper egg, so perhaps me going plant-based (it’s been over a year now) has put, on a subconscious level, the idea of good weekend french toast aside. But coming across multiple mouth-watering french toasts on Instagram and elsewhere on the www has made me determined to recreate a vegan version that’s just as good, and possibly better, than what most of us may find out there in the cafe-sphere. So if you’re quite the purist, go ahead and use real or vegan egg. But perhaps just once, try this combination of mashed banana, cinnamon and milk, which saturates your soft bread to the most ideal degree, resulting in french toast that’s neither too soggy nor rubbery. Oh, rubbery is the worst, isn’t it?

As human beings we require simple sustenance. But sometimes the simplest matters turn out to be the most delicious, and the smallest twist using something as ubiquitous and childish as cornflakes makes all the difference. Making a most delicious french toast right in your own kitchen is truly the most rewarding thing. Not much fuss, no wallet-burning, and a 100% goodness guarantee. So you can make this, and get back to whatever you’re doing the rest of the day, all the while knowing you’ve done something terribly good for yourself.

Quote of the day: ‘We are human beings, not human doings’

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Cornflake-crusted Cinnamon Banana French Toast (serves 1)

Ingredients

2 slices vegan brioche/ any soft bread of your choice

2 bananas, one mashed, and one sliced thickly at a slight angle.

60ml (1/4 cup) almond milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

handful of cornflakes

3 tbsp brown sugar

vegan butter for caramelising

handful of frozen berries (optional)

icing sugar (optional, for decoration)

Directions

Place the cornflakes in a bowl and use your (clean, hopefully) hands to crush them into chunks. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow dish. Don’t worry if you are left with quite a few larger chunks– this will only give more texture to your french toast. In another bowl, use a fork to briefly mix together your french toast batter– the mashed banana, almond milk and cinnamon. Don’t worry about little chunks of banana in there. Add a pat of vegan butter or oil to a medium nonstick pan to start making the caramelised banana.

Once the pan is hot, add a little more vegan butter to the pan, together with the brown sugar. Add the sliced banana to the hot pan and let it caramelise for a minute. Once the side facing down is a nice caramelised golden colour, use a spatula to flip the banana slices and cook the other side. Once the bananas are nicely soft and caramelised, set them aside in a bowl while you make the french toast. Leave the pan on medium heat.

Dip both sides of one of the bread slices into the mashed banana mixture, then dip one side into the crushed cornflakes. Repeat for the other bread slice. Place the cornflake-side of one bread slice onto the hot pan to cook, add the caramelised bananas on the side facing up. Add the handful of berries if you wish– I think it adds a lovely tang to cut through all that sweet chimerical flavour. Then close your french toast sandwich with the other slice of bread. Once the side facing down has been cooking for a minute or so, use your spatula to check if that side is golden-crisp and cooked. If it is, flip the sandwich over and cook the second side.

Once finished, cut your french toast sandwich on the diagonal, then top with any leftover caramelised banana you have, and a sprinkling of icing sugar. Serve with more berries and a splosh of yoghurt. HELLO Saturday.

No-bake Strawberry Cheesecake

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Rain, outside. Currently listening to Millie Vernon’s That Old Feeling, and feeling swingy. I haven’t given enough verbal weight to the importance of smooth jazz to my creations. Its silky notes have a way of churning the cogs up there. The rain is helping, too.

Cheesecake, cheesecake! Inspired by none other than my favourite Ben&Jerry’s ice cream flavour as a child. Am I the only one who thought it was better than every other flavour they had? Phish food was fine, Cherry Garcia was an atrocity only because I had no appetite for cherries in any form at that age, the banana thing was a no. It was a picky phase, I could only stick to solid chocolate and cheese sort of flavours, and anything nutty or fruity was sacrilege. Except for strawberry cheesecake.

I approach most vegan cheesecake recipes with caution. Cashews and coconut? The furthest things from that signature dairy taste? I think not. But this one proved me (and will hopefully do the same to you) wrong. A good soak of your cashews will yield a fine, smooth texture, similar to your typical New York cheesecake, I promise. I kept this one base-less to keep the focus on the pure filling, but you can use this crust if you wish. That crust is also featured in my recipe for a classic vegan cheesecake, if you wish to try a proper baked one instead. It’s good to remind oneself of why it’s important to use more plant-based foods and proteins in anything you cook and bake. Just look at the power of cashews, the main star of this event:

  • They are almost a quarter total protein
  • 62% of its fats are monounsaturated, and have less fat than most other nuts
  • They are brimming with a sort of flavonol that starves cancer tumours
  • They help manufacture enzymes involved in the formation of haemoglobin and collagen, and are therefore key in skin and hair health
  • I keep forgetting that full stops don’t belong in bullet points

So you see, I guess this whole cashews-not-milk-plus-save-cow-exploitation sort of headspace isn’t so bad. The better you blend all this up, the better your result. You really want it to be as smooth and creamy as possible. What’s great about this recipe is also that i’s no-bake, which means it satisfies all you lazy bakers (me included sometimes).

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Ingredients

250g raw cashews, soaked overnight or for a couple of hours in lukewarm water, and drained. You can leave the cashews in the fridge or on the counter. Alternatively, you can add boiling water to the cashews and let this sit for half an hour before using.

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp fine salt

120ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed from about 3-4 lemons

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

80ml maple syrup

60ml vegetable oil (sub: melted vegan butter/melted coconut oil)

3 heaped tbsp coconut yoghurt or any yoghurt you like (sub: applesauce or milk)

3 heaped tbsp strawberry jam

Directions

Blend all ingredients except for the jam in a high-speed, powerful blender. Continue to blend until you get a smooth, pale consistency. It should be thick and runny. Pour the filling into a bowl, add the strawberry jam and then use a spatula to fold the jam in, creating a ripple effect. Tip this into a 8 or 9-inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom and place it into the freezer to set.

*To create the swirly effect as you can see above, take the cheesecake out of the freezer after 30 minutes, and run a small knife or spatula in the formation of a spiral from the outside to the inside. You may get this all messy the first time, especially as the cheesecake starts to thaw, but don’t worry, the fact that the cheesecake thaws easily means it’s also easy to scrap whatever pattern you’ve done and start again. You can also put the cheesecake back in the freezer and take it out 10 minutes later to re-mold whatever pattern you want. Enjoy with coconut yogurt and strawberry jam.

Rhubarb Phyllo Galette

4288212 Processed with VSCO with a5 presetNothing like sitting down in a cosy café to write up another yummy recipe. Just had a double salad full of gorgeous greens and beans, the sort of thing which this recipe perfectly complements. Going through recent journal entries always bring forth the necessity of consistency, self-belief, self-growth, and routine, but they also revealed how easy it is for me to get lost in a tangle of unhealthy mentality and unnecessary indecision. I guess it’s okay to excuse oneself for wondering which food photography backdrop to get next and whether the bananas I just caramelised with vegan butter and a lush deep muscovado sugar would pair better with melting dark chocolate or a simple cinnamon and coconut nectar drizzle (the former was quite the mouth show, and I need to do that more often. It’s basically a wholesome sundae for breakfast). The peril of freedom of choice! How superficial it seems, and yet, what changes they bring– to my entire outlook on life, on the way I behave. Just like how I had mushrooms on toast for brunch last Saturday and I could actually feel my heart leap with joy upon seeing perfectly caramelised onions, browned and gooey, stuffed between morsels of juicy oyster and morel mushrooms heaped on a bordering-carcinogenic piece of toast lovingly slathered with homemade hummus. Sweet moments make themselves known. Because they do make life that much sweeter.

Yesterday I ate a delicious carrot cake chockfull of walnuts. Not the most salubrious thing to have at 2pm, but it did hit the spot like nothing else. Typically a big green apple does it, but yesterday, that fine Tuesday, the cake was a brio in my mouth. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’d know just how much I resonate with the idea of moderation, so necessary in this age of health and nutrition information advertised to propagandic effect. Cake and coffee by myself, mindful and beautiful. Life is about health, and also about letting go. A pure, one-dimensional sweet this cake was, but what was missing was the hint of tart from the cream cheese component (if only vegan cream cheese wasn’t so pricey, right?) in the icing. Tart, the cousin of sweet, is sometimes necessary to balance whatever saccharine loveliness a baked good or breakfast item has to offer.

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Tart, this pinch of sour, to round off the sweet. Tart, like this rhubarb phyllo galette. Thank you Aldi for 50p on-sale fresh, seasonal rhubarb! This is a twist on a recipe recently written up by Linda Lomelino, one of my favourite baking and dessert bloggers. With plenty of phyllo pastry left over in my freezer, I thought it would be interesting to see what would become of it. Phyllo pastry may be delicate, but it’s also incredibly versatile, and should not be reserved just for baklava and other Middle Eastern desserts. Here is what happens: You layer half-sheets of phyllo pastry on top of each other, each layer brushed with a delicate layer of olive oil to help them stick together, whilst allowing the galette edges crisp up nicely in the oven (without burning). Broken pastry? No big deal. A galette is meant to be rustic, and tears and breaks here and there will only enhance, not detract, from this.

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Notes:

  • For whole, unscathed sheets of phyllo pastry, leave the frozen pastry in the fridge overnight, so do that the night before baking, or at least a couple of hours before. Microwaving the phyllo pastry to heat it up in a rush might leave some parts too delicate and others frozen stiff. That being said, you may still try microwaving the pastry (cover removed but still in its plastic wrap) for 30 seconds at a time, on medium power. Not the highest!
  • Cutting up the rhubarb into batons of equal length may leave you with little pieces of rhubarb. Don’t discard these, you could try fit a few cut-up pieces into nooks and crannies in the galette. Any remaining pieces can be eaten there and then.
  • The seeds and sugar sprinkled on top of the galette before baking is optional but highly recommended. The crunch gives the galette more textural fun.
  • It’s important to watch the galette carefully as it bakes– it’s done once the pastry is pale brown and edges are crisp. Baking time may vary depending on the brand of phyllo pastry you use, or strength of the oven.

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Rhubarb Phyllo Galette (adapted from Linda Lomelino’s recipe for a rhubarb almond galette– makes one 6-inch galette)

Ingredients

200g rhubarb (about 4 large stalks), washed and leaves/ other possible dirty bits and bobs cut off

juice and zest of half a lemon

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tbsp sugar (coconut or brown)

9 half-sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed (from frozen) in the fridge overnight

60ml vegetable oil or melted butter (use vegan butter or margarine if you are vegan)

2 tbsp granulated or turbinado sugar

*optional: sprinkle of mixed seeds (I used a very random mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some homemade buckwheat granola)

Directions 

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). After weighing out the rhubarb, cut each stalk in half lengthways, then cut into batons, each 4cm in length. Put the rhubarb batons in a bowl, add the lemon juice and zest, cornstarch and sugar, and mix well with a spoon, until the batons are all coated in the lemony-sugar mix.

On your work surface, place one half-sheet of phyllo pastry down. Brush this with a thin layer of oil or melted vegan butter, then place a second layer on top. Repeat, until you have three layers on top. Rotate this thin stack 90 degrees, then do the same with the next three half-sheets, not forgetting to brush each layer with  oil each time. Rotate 90 degrees again until you are at the same orientation as you were in the beginning with the first three sheets, and then layer on the last three half-sheets so that all 9 half-sheets are used up at this point. You should get what looks like a thick cross shape, with 8 corners

Fold each of the 8 corners down, so that you have an octagon shape. Take your rhubarb batons and place them in whatever pretty pattern you wish, in the centre of the octagon. I did a series of horizontal and vertical batons, but you could also just heap the stuff in the middle. Then fold over, somewhat in a rough and random manner, the perimeter of phyllo pastry, over the border of rhubarb to get the shape of a galette. Brush the pastry with more butter/olive oil, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the optional sprinkle of mixed seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes. Watch the galette carefully– it’s done once the pastry is a pale brown.

Leave the galette to cool a while on the counter, before slicing and serving with coconut yoghurt or a refreshing scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.