Cranberry and pistachio oat cookies

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Cranberries and pistachios. Red and green. Christmas par excellence.

Ingredients:

  • 150 g rolled oats
  • 50 g butter or coconut oil
  • 1,5 tsp baking powder
  • 70 – 100 g water
  • 30 g peeled salted pistachios
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • chocolate to garnish

Preparation:

  1. Roughly chop cranberries and pistachios.
  2. Finely grind rolled oats into a flour consistency.
  3. Mix oats and baking powder. Add butter (or coconut oil fi using) and evenly mix with hands. Add nuts and cranberries.
  4. Add water, mix and let sit. Oats will soak up. It it gets too dry, add a bit more water.
  5. Make small balls and form a thin cookie. Bake at 180º for 20-30 mins depending on thickness. Let cool and garnish with melted chocolate.

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Orange and chocolate avocado truffles

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This are my new favorite chocolates! Rich chocolate flavor and silky texture. And some oranges for nice Christmas flavor.

Pack them in a thin foil box covered with some nice paper and you will get a truly deluxe present!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 big avocado
  • 40 g pitted dates*
  • 80 g chocolate (at least 70%)
  • 4 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • peel of two organic oranges
  • cocoa for dusting

Preparation:

  1. Using a blender or food processor mix avocado, orange peel and dates into a smooth cream.
  2. Mix in 4 tsp of cocoa using a spoon.
  3. Melt chocolate over water bath and mix it in the avocado cream.
  4. Put it in the fridge for 2-3 hours to get firm.
  5. When firm enough, form balls with your hands and dust it with cocoa.

* I find this sweet enough. However, my friend who tested it said it wasn’t sweet enough. I might have lost the perception for sweetness since I don’t eat sugar anymore. Add more if necessary 😉

 

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Coconut butter and Macadamia spread

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The most delicious things are often the easiest. And I finally understand what all this coconut fuss is all about… Homemade coconut butter. Yum on toast, great for baking and making spreads or even using it as a scrub. It’s done in less than 5 mins.

What about coconut??

  • coconut butter: mixing shredded coconut using a food processor, or even better a blender, you will obtain a nut butter, as you would for example with almonds or hazelnuts. Coconut butter has the same nutritional properties as shredded coconut, meaning it is rich in fibre and healthy fats. Same as coconut oil, it will harden at around 24ºc.
  • virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil: there is actually no difference between the two, it’s just a market trick. The process starts with fresh coconuts and there are two ways of extracting the oil. The first one consist of drying coconut flesh and cold extraction by mechanical means without any chemicals. The second is a “wet-milling” process without drying: coconut milk is expressed out of the wet coconut meat and oil is then further separated from the water by different means.
  • refined coconut oil or coconut fat: most commercial grade coconut oil is made from copra. Copra is dried meat of the coconut. It can be made by smoke drying, sun drying or kiln drying. The way most copra is dried is not sanitary, so the unrefined oil from copra must be purified, that is refined. That’s how in short you will get refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. You can also find certified organic refined coconut oil which is higher quality and presumably untreated like the rest of the coconuts in mass production.
  • coconut water: clear liquid inside young green coconuts, rich in minerals, low fat, low carb. As coconut continues to grow it will disappear.
  • coconut milk: pressed out of fresh coconut meat. It contains water and oils. Depending on the recipe, you can use two kinds: un-emulsified, where fats and water will clearly separate, and emulsified, to which emulsifiers (like guar gumi) are added to form an even mixture. Coconut milk can also be made by simmering equal parts of water and shredded coconut meat.
  • coconut cream: has less water than coconut milk. Coconut cream can also be made by simmering 1 part of water and 4 parts of shredded coconut meat.
  • coconut flour: after extracting oil from shredded coconut, what’s left is coconut fiber or coconut flour. That’s why it has low fat content and high fiber, and is also rich in protein and low-carb.
  • coconut flakes, coconut chips, shredded coconut: are made from dried coconuts. Most dried  coconut on the market is often treated with sulfites to keep them white, so check the label. Coconut flakes are bigger than shredded coconut. Coconut chips can be dried or lightly roasted (brown).

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As you will blend shredded coconut, it will eventually start getting hotter, the oils will extract and you will get a pretty liquid ream in the end. Coconut butter will harden at room temperature, so put the jar in hot water or use a microwave to heat it up (this might not be the best thing to do, but if in a hurry, that’s the best solution. Check often as coconut oil melts really fast).

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Once you have your coconut butter done, you can mix in some melted chocolate or some cocoa, or make a cashew, almond or macadamia spread, as I did.

Ingredients:

Coconut butter

  • 500 g shredded coconut

Macadamia coconut butter

  • 2/3 macadamia nuts
  • 1/3 coconut butter (if starting with shredded coconut use 1/3 weight of macadamia)

Preparation:

  1. Put shredded coconut in a blender and pulse. Occasionally you will have to scrap down coconut from the edges towards the middle. Keep doing that until you get a liquid cream. In a blender it takes around 5 mins, in a food processor up to 20 mins.
  2. For macadamia spread mix together macadamia nuts and shredded coconut or make coconut butter first and than blend with macadamia.

 

Last minute DIY Christmas gifts

 

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Work. Work. Work. This has been my mantra for the last month. Somehow all the things managed to collide at the same time. I realized it’s almost Christmas and that I’m still missing half of the christmas gifts for my friends, because the only time I was serious about getting them, there were so many people on the way to the mall, that I just made a turn and didn’t even see the shops.

Giving and receiving. The more you give, the more you will receive, they say. It’s true. It doesn’t have to be much. It’s more about the story and it’s more about making them on your own. Little things made with love.

…and in the end… practical gifts are pretty cool.
(Except pajamas. 10 years in a row. But who can blame them grannies…)

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So here are some pretty nice, pretty good and pretty healthy DIY Christmas gifts.
Or maybe just treats for the Christmas morning…

 

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Vanilla & Earl Grey fig cookies

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This cookies were actually inspired by one of Sarah Britton’s recipes. She’s one of my favorite blogger and her fig newtons were the first thing that drew my attention to her blog. My recipe came out as a result of falling in love with oat crackers.

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They’re really simple to make, without any added sugar since figs are already sweet enough and made out of whole grains. I tried making them both with butter and with coconut oil. The butter pastry was easier to work with, but it turned out to be more compact and dry when baked. The coconut version vas more hard to work with. It was more crumbly and there were occasional cracks. But baked, those cookies were delish. Despite those cracks, they did hold together and they looked gorgeous. So I opt for vegan. Coconut.

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Ingredients:

Pastry

  • 200 g rolled oats
  • 45 g coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50 – 70 g water

Filling

  • 140 g figs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 Tbsp cognac or spiced rum
  • 2 teabags of Earl Grey in 1,5 dl water
  • 3 tsp chia seeds

Preparation:

  1. Prepare the fig filling. Pour 1,5 dl water on 2 teabags of Earl Gray. Let infuse for 3-4 mins. Chop figs in quarters. Pour over tea and let sit for 15 mins. Using a hand blender mix well in a smooth paste. Add vanilla, chia and cognac and let infuse.
  2. Grind rolled oats in flour consistency using a food processor or a coffee grinder.
  3. Add baking powder and salt.
  4. Add coconut fat to oat mixture and combine evenly with your fingers.
  5. Add 50 g water. Add more if necessary, it depends on the oats. Mix with a wooden spoon and let sit for 10 – 15 mins. Do consider that oats will soak up and adding more water might be necessary if too dry.
  6. Kneed the pastry. Make a ball and put it in-between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll the pastry 0,5 cm thick.
  7. Make a rectangle at least 12 cm wide. Cut off excess. Generously add fig filling in the middle. Fold both sides and seal (spread some water on the pastry, it will act as a glue). If the dough cracks while folding, don’t worry, the filling will hold it together.
  8. Cut the roll on small rectangles.
  9. Bake at 180ºc for 30 mins or until golden brown.
  10. Cookies will be at their best two days later!

 

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Celebrating with a chocolate coconut pie

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This week the christmas lights went on in Ljubljana. Well, I wasn’t there, but this didn’t stop me from celebrating. I’ve realized it’s been actually eight months since I started writing my blog. I have no idea when did the time go by. I remember planting tomatoes on my balcony in april. And I still haven’t eaten the last one. I remember the rainy summer we had this year. But I loved it. Every time I looked trough the window I saw that freshly washed green under the dark grey sky. I remember a morning when the road was covered in gold. Fallen leaves and the smell of winter. They say time passes by quickly when you’re enjoying your life. I must have had an amazing year. It’s december now.

I am here. I am now. And I celebrate every moment of my life. I live! And I am grateful for being given that second chance. Diabetes has completely changed my life. In the end, for the better. And I sure wouldn’t be writing this today if it hadn’t happened.

A reason more to celebrate is my first post in Slovene! After eight months I finally have the courage to write and read after myself in my mother tongue. Words are a powerful tool. They make us dream and create stories. And I will continue to create mine.

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It’s also the beginning of a holiday season. One of my favorites in this part of the year is the 6th of december, Saint Nicholas day. I have good memories of  it. Because it’s simple. And all I got for presents was always warm and from the heart. Oranges, dried figs and chocolates. That’s what my grandparents gave me.

I am celebrating all this with a rich chocolate coconut pie. It has a crunchy spiced almond cookies crust that gives it a hint of Christmas scent and velvety chocolate cream. And thanks to coconut it has a sort of caramelly taste.

And the best for the end: it is vegan and gluten free (just use your favorite cookies, mine were Balance Almond cookies that are sugar free), it is lactose free and I actually didn’t add any sugar (I used Blance chocolate sweetened with stevia and that was it).

It’s rich, dense and smooth. Share it with your friends!

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Ingredients*:

  • 100 g hazelnuts
  • 140 g almond cookies (I used Balance by Klingele since it has no added sugar)
  • 30 g virgin coconut oil
  • 200 ml coconut milk (homogenized, I used Vegalife)
  • 25 g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 200 g chocolate (I used Balance milk chocolate sweetened with Stevia)
  • 40 g virgin coconut oil
  • unsweetened cocoa for dusting

*I’ve been using a cake ring measuring aprox. 20 cm. You will get 8 pieces with that. But the cake is really rich, so that size is more than enough. Also, if you prefer thinner layer of cream, use 1/4 less ingredients for the cream.

Preparation:

  1. Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until you get bread crumbs consistency. Melt 30g of coconut oil and pour over. Mix well and press to the bottom of a cake pan (with removable bottom) or even better, a cake ring. Let cool in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  2. Preheat oven at 180°c and roast the hazelnuts until golden brown. Shake the pan two or three times to get them evenly roasted. To remove the skins, put the hazelnuts between two kitchen towels and roll over with your hands. The skins will go off by itself. Chop bigger pieces.
  3. Melt chocolate using a double boiler. Chocolate should always be melted at low heat, up to 32°c so it doesn’t get grainy and lumpy. Add cocoa and 40g of coconut oil.
  4. Meanwhile, heat coconut milk just to have approx. the same temperature as chocolate. Add chocolate mixture. Do not over mix.
  5. Take the cake ring with the crust from the fridge and pour four or five tablespoons of coconut mixture over, just so that the hazelnuts will stick to the crust. Add 2/3 of chopped hazelnuts and carefully pour over the rest of the coconut chocolate mixture.
  6. Let sit in the fridge at least 12h.
  7. 10 mins prior to serving take the cake out of the fridge, dust with unsweetened cocoa and garnish with the rest of the roasted hazelnuts. Raspberry or two won’t do harm either.

The smell of chocolate bread on a sunday morning…

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It’s been two years since I first laid my foot in Canada. At that time I was staying in the northern part of Quebec, in Val d’Or, to be more precise. Don’t ask me how I got there… Anyway, I stayed there for three months and was lucky enough to escape before the real winter began.

In the 1920s, gold was discovered in Val d’Or and today it still remains a mining city. For someone like me, who grew up in a country where Alps are 30 mins from the capital and the sea some 150 km southern, Val d’Or seemed like in the middle of nowhere. When I arrived all I could see were the lakes and the forest. And the Transcanadian.

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There was a farmers market with great products, but I only discovered it by the end of my stay. And there were some really nice restaurants and cafes in the city. However, there was no bakery. And honestly, after eating toast for a week, I had enough of it. I wanted to eat real bread. I went to the bookstore, bought my self the prettiest book about bread making and started baking my own bread.

I actually never made a sourdough bread before. I only used yeast so far. I really wanted to make it, but has always been a complete failure. I somehow didn’t get it right from my book. So, last week I went to the first food bloggers convention in Ljubljana, called Njam Zgodbe and met Nataša, the author of Zapečenega kruha se največ poje, an amazing blog about bread making. She explained me how she does it and I decided to give it a try once more. This time it definitely was a success. The starter worked and the bread rose.

This sunday I was woken up to the smell of freshly baked chocolate bread. And there is nothing better to put on than some home made beurre sallé.

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Bread is something that takes time to get it right. For me this try was a huge success because I did make my own starter. And the bread was crunchy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. But there’s no shortcut. Just practice and patience…

Sourdough starter:

adapted and taken after Zapečenega kruha se največ poje

Day 1: In a glass jar mix 40 g flour and 40 g water. Let ferment 24 h at room temperature. Use wholegrain or rye flour. Do let air get in.

Day 2: After 22 h it should increase in volume. There should be small bubbles appearing. If not, put it in the warm oven (up to 25°c) for two hours. Then add 20 g flour and 20 g water.

Day 3: After 24 h add 15 g flour and 15 g water. Let it rise (it should double in volume) and use it immediately for baking or put it in the fridge if you intend to use it later.

Now this is your starter. Your base. You can have it as long as you want, but you have to feed it regularly by adding 15 -20 g of flour and water every couple of days, leaving it in the fridge. Before you intend to bake, always add flour and water and let it rise. And don’t forget to put some starter aside for future baking.

The making: So you have your starter done. Now mix 45 g starter with 65 g flour and 65 g water and let it rise. This is what you will use in the bread

Chocolate bread ingredients: 

adapted and taken from Pains & Viennoiseries maison 

  • 70 g raisins
  • 70 g dried cranberries
  • 50 g chocolate
  • 330 g spelt flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 40 g cocoa
  • 170 g sourdough starter
  • 250 ml water

Preparation:

  1. Chop the chocolate and mix with raisins. Set aside.
  2. Mix dry ingredients: flour, salt and cocoa.
  3. Mix wet ingredients: sourdough starter and water.
  4. Put dry ingredients and chocolate raisin mixture into wet ingredients. Mix, cover and let sit 10 mins.
  5. Flour you work surface and knead the dough. Let aside 10 mins and repeat.
  6. Sprinkle a kitchen cloth with some flour and put the dough to rise for 3 – 6 h or until it doubles in volume.
  7. Preheat the oven at 240°c and place in a bowl to create steam.
  8. Cut couple of lines on the bread, lower the temperature to 220°c and bake for some 30 mins. The bread should sound void if you tap it on the bottom side.
  9. Don’t hold yourself back: freshly baked bread with salted butter is the best!

 

 

Three ingredients, three cakes

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Every year round the first of November I pack my bags and head to Budapest to a swing dance event called Lindy Shock. This one has been 6th in a row for me! Unfortunately I don’t get to see the city that much because I’m mostly going through a cycle dance-eat-sleep. What I do get to see is that mysterious part of the day when the sun has not arisen yet, but it’s bright enough to see those grayish mists rising from the river up the city walls. There is something magical in those early morning hours when the city is waking up and all you see are those lost souls from yesterday’s party returning back home… suddenly I realize I smell winter. Clean. Sharp. Cold.

So yes, I’m in need of something cosy and warm. From Italy. And I run by this classical italian (or should I rather say Piemontese) dessert. It’s called Torta di nocciole:

  • 200g toasted hazelnuts
  • 200g sugar
  • 4 eggs

Three ingredients. Minimalistic. Simple.

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No butter needed and I’m replacing sugar with mashed bananas. It’s lightly sweet, but I find it just perfect. I’m making two versions of this. One is with almonds the other with roasted hazelnuts. Both work well, it’s up to you to decide. The one with almonds has a mild taste and is perfect for spreading some cinnamon butter on top. Thanks to roasting the nuts, the hazelnut version has more pronounced and rustic taste and topping it with some coconut cream is pure delight. Or, you can always try the original recipe.

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Ingredients:

  • 200g almonds or roasted hazelnuts
  • 200g bananas (without peel)
  • 4 eggs
  • vanilla pod (optional)

Toppings:

  • butter + cinnamon + maple syrup
  • coconut cream & roasted hazelnuts

Preparation:

  1. For hazelnut version, put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and oven roast at 200ºc until lightly brown (If you want, you could do the same with almonds, but that’s optional).
  2. Ground the nuts into flour consistency using a food processor. Add bananas and pulse several times. Than add egg yolks and vanilla and mix on the highest speed until you get a smooth consistency.
  3. Beat the egg whites, than add one third at a time into the banana mixture. Do not over mix.
  4. Bake at 180ºc until lightly brown (it took me aprox. 25 mins, but the time depends on the oven).
  5. Let cool and top with cinnamon butter or coconut cream and sprinkle with some roasted nuts.

Pumpkin tiramisu

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Leaves changing their colors. The wonderful smell of trees, mushrooms and fallen leaves. Sun. And sunglasses on. Almost as if it was still summer. L’été indien they call it in Canada. The last sunny days before the fall strikes with its grayish mists.

Tiramisu. One of my favorites. In line with the season. On a sunny terrace. Warm and spicy. And a glass of red vine to finish. The ultimate dessert for last warm days of fall.

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Where s’the catch? Pumpkin puree.

It will give the tiramisu lovely warm color and flavor. Plus, since my recipe is without egg it will bind the whole thing, add a hint of sweetness and help to reduce fat content.

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First thing that comes to my mind when I think of fall are warm wooden flavors. To spice it up a bit, use cookies like speculoos or this lovely Balance almond cookies by Klingele. They’re made without sugar and remind me a lot of speculoos, so they’re just perfect.

And the ultimate ingredient? Cognac. To give it a punch. And a lovely caramel flavor.

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Ingredients:

makes 3 – 4 single servings

  • 300 g mascarpone (you can also replace it with 1/3 of ricotta, best using Galbani)
  • 200 g pumpkin puree
  • 14 tsp strong espresso
  • 6 tsp spiced rum
  • 10 tsp cognac
  • sweeten according to taste (it depends on the sweetness of the pumpkin)
  • hokkaido pumpkin
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • Balance almond cookies or speculoos
  • 2 Tbsp 100% cocoa powder

Preparation:

  1. Preheat owen at 180ºc. Cut pumpkin and remove seeds. Grease the pan with coconut oil. Sprinkle with salt. Slow roast until softened, between 40 – 60 mins (depends on the size).
  2. Cool the pumpkin, remove the skins and puree using a hand blender.
  3. Make some strong espresso. Set aside and let cool.
  4. Mix mascarpone (and ricotta, if using), pumpkin puree, espresso, rum and cognac as follows. Sweeten according to taste.
  5. The best is to make individual portions: layer of cookies, than layer of cream (making at least two layers of each).
  6. Let cool in the fridge for couple of hours.
  7. Sprinkle with bitter cocoa powder just before serving.

Wholegrain pumpkin cinnamon roll

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Morning. Opened window. Rain drops. Light breeze. Air filled with oxygen. Deep blue sky with a hint of grayish mist. Freshly washed green leaves. Silence. Happy. And calm. I get up and walk to the kitchen. Barefoot. I like that feeling. It’s slightly cold in the apartment. Coffee. I like the smell of the coffee in the morning. It warms up the house. Fall is coming. I can feel it in the air.

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Colors are changing. And so is food. I want something to warm me up. I think of cinnamon rolls I had when I was in Sweeden. Nothing better to warm your heart up during those cold winter days. And I want colors. It’s pumpkin season. Sweet orange hokkaido works perfectly with cinnamon. And there are plenty in my mom’s garden.

To start a day with something sweet is a must, but I never like to load up with sugar in the morning. I like to feel the earthly tastes of the food. Lightly sweet wholegrain bread cinnamon roll style is just perfect.

To avoid adding sugar in the dough, I use hokkaido instead. It has dense flesh, but its taste depends largely on how it’s prepared. Roasting on a low temperature will bring out the sweetness and will give it an amazing caramel flavor. The dough will be sweet just enough.

Traditional cinnamon filling is a mixture of butter, sugar and cinnamon. Use ground nuts and dates instead.

Cut the roll if you want individual portions. You can also make a beautiful wreath following this instructions:

  • roll the dough to rectangle
  • spread with filling
  • roll lengthwise
  • cut the roll lengthwise in the middle
  • spiral one half around another to crate a braid
  • form a wreath by connecting the two ends together

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Ingredients:

Dough

  • 150 g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 150 g finely ground rolled oats
  • 1 Tbsp dry active yeast
  • 30 ml milk + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup
  • 300 g hokkaido pumpkin puree
  • 50 g butter or coconut oil
  • 1 egg yolk

Filling

  • 75 g dates
  • 80 ml water
  • 6 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 60 g ground pecans or walnuts

Instructions:

  1. If you’re not using bought pumpkin puree, cut and clean one medium size hokkaido pumpkin and oven roast until soft (aprox. 30-40 mins at 180ºc). Let cool, than, leaving the skins, place in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. Mix warm milk with one teaspoon of sugar and dry yeast (do not overheat the milk since it can kill the yeast).
  3. Use coffee grinder to grind rolled oats in flour consistency. Mix with wholegrain flour.
  4. In a separate bowl mix pumpkin puree, agave syrup, softened butter or coconut oil and egg yolk. Add yeast mixture.
  5. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough by adding enough flour so that it doesn’t stick to the surface. Form a ball and place in a floured bowl. Cover with tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 mins. Repeat kneading once more and let rise for another 40 mins.
  7. Meanwhile prepare the filling. Roughly chop the dates and make a smooth paste using a mortar. Place in a saucepan with water and bring to simmer. Stir in ground nuts and cinnamon. Set aside and let cool.
  8. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll to approx. 25×30 cm rectangle. Spread with even layer of filling and roll lengthwise. Follow the instructions above to form a wreath or slice the roll to create individual mini cinnamon rolls.
  9. Cover and let rise another 30 mins.
  10. Bake at 180ºc for about 30-40 mins, until golden brown. Let cool

 

* If you want the dough to be sweeter add some more agave syrup or the sweetener you’re using in the wet mixture. If you want sweeter filling you can always double the amount of ingredients used.

* If you’re using sugar, you can sprinkle the wreath with icing sugar when completely cooled.

* If you have too much pumpkin puree left, don’t panic. You can always make a soup 🙂