Huevos Rancheros Tuesday, Apr 27 2010 

When I went to the farmers market last week, they had a ton of avocados…and they were on sale.  I love avocado.  To me, it screams SUMMER! and BARBECUE! and PARTY! and I wait for them to show up in the spring and summer in all their celebratory glory.  But when they’re finally back, I have no patience: I’ve squeezed their hard green skin twice a day, every day, since the instant I bought them.  Believe me, if there had been riper ones for the taking, this post would’ve happened three days ago.

Alas, this morning, they finally felt ready, but in the blur of my espresso-making, high-heel-wearing, can-I-put-together-a-matching-outfit-for-work-today morning, I didn’t have a spare second to do anything with them.  So, for another day, I pined for them.

Finally, after the gym, I sliced one open and scooped out its supple, buttery interior.  Ahhh, summer – I’ve missed you.  I whipped up a quick riff on huevos rancheros to make my dinner a little more, uh, substantial, but I won’t lie to you and say that it wasn’t all about the avocado.  Well, I suppose it was also a little about the cilantro I cut from what has become a very eager, thriving little plant, considering it lives on my windowsill and I forget to water it more often than not.  But mostly?  Mostly, it was the avocado that did it for me.

Huevos Rancheros

No beans, and I used canned salsa.  Sue me – I couldn’t wait another minute to eat my precious avocado.

1 egg

1 tortilla

1/2 avocado, cubed

1/4 cup shredded cheese

2-3 tbsp salsa

2 tsp minced onion

Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Cilantro (optional, for garnish)

Spray a skillet (large enough for the tortilla to lay flat on the bottom) with cooking spray.  Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and lay the tortilla flat inside.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the tortilla, letting it start to melt.  Crack the egg over the top of the tortilla.  Cover the pan with a lid, and let the egg cook for two minutes or so, until the white is nearly set.  Flip the entire thing, tortilla, cheese, egg and all, over in the pan. Cook until the egg is set, then slide out of the pan, egg side up.

In a bowl, mash the cubed avocado, onion, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes together.

Pour salsa on top of eggs, then add avocado on top of the salsa.  Sprinkle cilantro on top.

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Double Chocolate Scones Saturday, Apr 3 2010 

Easter is one of those holidays where, like Christmas, everyone gets up early.  For Brother and I, it was because there were gifts to be opened (in the form of adorable, bunny-shaped Easter baskets) before Church started.  And, of course, I had to allow time to dress in my frilly, white Easter dress and matching hat.  Of course.  But a girl never grows out of dressing for the occasion, so if you think for one second that I’m lying when I tell you that Cousin and I went searching for Easter hats last week…well then, please reread my last hundred or so entries.  Because of all the bad life choices I’ve made, Easter-hat-shopping, even though we came up empty-handed, will never be one of them.

So for all of you who will be up early tomorrow to dress up for Church and egg-hunting, might I suggest some  scones for breakfast?

Double Chocolate Scones

I used half whole wheat flour, half white flour here, and you really can’t tell the difference…plus it makes me feel better about it.  I also cut the scones into the shape of crosses…mostly because I like holiday-themed anything.

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

4 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup half-and-half or cream

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 oz. white chocolate, chopped

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder together.  Using a pastry cutter, incorporate the butter.  When it is broken up into small clumps throughout the dough, add the cream, milk, and vanilla, and stir just until a dough is formed.  Add the white chocolate and mix just until evenly incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead to bring all the bits together.  Once the dough forms a cohesive ball, either press it into an 8-inch cake pan, then turn back out onto the floured surface and cut into wedges, OR use cookie-cutters to create shapes, pressing the extra dough scraps back together and repeating until you’re out of dough.

Place the scones on the lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.

White Chocolate Pistachio Scones Thursday, Mar 11 2010 

It started simply enough.  I woke up last Friday morning in desperate need of a scone.  This was admittedly bizarre for several reasons.  First, because I eat oatmeal almost every day and my body is generally too sleep deprived to react terribly vehemently to this automatic behavior.  Second, having gone out for a “few drinks” that lasted to the wee hours of the morning the night before, I expected myself to be in the sausage-egg-and-cheese-bagel mood I’m usually in on mornings when I go out the night before.  But, nevertheless, there I was at 7:45am, on my way to work, needing a scone.

Normal humans in this dilemma would’ve taken the easy route and bought a scone when they stopped for their morning latte.  But no.  Not this human.  This human is a snot.  And this human, having enjoyed homemade scones a few too many times, just couldn’t bring herself to purchase one that was undoubtedly mass-produced from some mix.

Instead of making the correct simple choice, I went grocery shopping after work.  I bought butter and flour and, in a fit of St. Patty’s Day anticipation, pistachios and white chocolate.  Couple things: pistachios? I know.  They’re green.  I kid you not – that is the one and only reason I bought them.  I swear to you that I’ve had pistachios a total of one time in my entire 24 years of life, and that was at a bar in Prague (where they evidently believe “barnuts” to be unshelled pistachios).  But here I was, shelling out $5 for a bag of something I wasn’t entirely sure I remembered liking, and deciding (based on literally nothing but the colors green and white being indicative of this whole March holiday thing) that white chocolate, rather than my prefered dark chocolate would be the way to go.  Alright, self, let’s take a risk.

Of course, because nothing I do can ever be easy, I couldn’t find a bag of shelled pistachios.  Again, normal humans would have either a) abandoned the idea, or b) gone to another store.  Not this girl: I was committed.  I took them home, plopped myself down at the kitchen table, and shelled half of the bag of pistachios.  Thirty minutes later, I thought that toasting them up might be nice, and popped them in the oven.  Not four minutes later when I checked on them, they were burned.  Ruined.  Black.  And I shit you not, rather than surrender to whatever God it was that obviously was against my quest to have a goddamn scone on Friday, I shelled the other half of that bag.  Say it with me, friends: COMMITMENT.

Anyway, despite my best efforts to eff up as much as possible in one single evening, I eventually had my scones.  And they were green and white, and incredibly tiny and cute.  And by Saturday afternoon at 1:00, they were also very much all gone – courtesy of a family who “doesn’t really like pistachios.” Riiiiight.

White Chocolate Pistachio Scones

Adapted from here, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

1 3/4 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp (chilled) butter, cut into small cubes

3/4 cup pistachios

2 oz. white chocolate, chopped

1 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 425.  In a spice/coffee grinder or food processor, grind 1/4 cup of pistachios into a powder.  Whisk this powder together with all of the dry ingredients except the other 1/2 cup of whole pistachios.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender (you can do this in a food processor as well, but I did it by hand) until it is mostly blended into the dry ingredients (there will still be some chunks of butter).  Stir in whole pistachios.  Mix in heavy cream until a dough is formed, then turn out the dough and all of the floury bits onto a countertop.

Knead just until it comes together in a sticky ball, then press it into an 8-inch cake pan.  Turn the dough back out of the pan and onto your countertop.  It will retain the shape of the pan, and you can then cut the dough into 12 equal wedges (I actually made 24 mini scones this time).

Place wedges on a baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper) and bake 12-15 minutes (scones will just be turning brown).

Carrot Cake Pancakes Saturday, Feb 13 2010 

I know, no one but me thinks that it’s cute when I do themes.  I know.  And I promise, I didn’t really mean to do this one.  But the cookies were so good, and the inclusion of grated carrot got me thinking.  Why wouldn’t this be good in other things?  I know I’m far from being a pioneer in this respect, and that I’m far from the first to make carrot cake pancakes, but these were a first in my house.  And if I can have pancakes in a way that allows me to not only side-step the guilt of eating something sweet for breakfast, but actually makes them borderline good for me?  Then yes please.  Sign me up for that plan.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

I actually wished I had a little more nutmeg/cinnamon flavor going on in here, so maybe add an extra pinch of each.  Not feeling adventurous?  They’re still delicious as written – even Brother ate some.

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup milk

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp baking soda

1 (largish) carrot, grated

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cooking spray

Butter

Syrup

Mix together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Add grated carrot and mix to coat well with the dry ingredients.  Mix the remainder of the ingredients together, then add wet ingredients all at once to the bowl of dry ingredients.  Stir until everything is combined and you see no more dry flour.  Batter will be lumpy.

Heat griddle/frying pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.  Drop batter onto the griddle in 1/4 cup scoops.  Once bubbles form on the top, flip and cook until the underside is golden brown and pancake is cooked through.  Remove from griddle, place on plate, top with a pat of butter.  Repeat until the batter is gone, then add syrup and enjoy breakfast.

Birthday Scones and Apologies Monday, Jan 4 2010 

Ok.  So, I lied.  But I have a good excuse…seriously, wait until you see how busy I’ve been.  You won’t see it all today of course, because it’s the kind of busy that will take me a week to explain adequately enough to do justice to all the wonderful things I’ve been doing these past few weeks.

Boyfriend and I got back from across the pond last night, and it took me four shots of espresso plus a cup of tea to get through work today.  Not only was my body clock five hours ahead and a week’s worth of sleep behind the rest of the world, but I could not stop pining away for a glass of mulled wine and some scones.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself though, because Londontown isn’t the only item on the list of things to share – far from it, in fact.  We’ll start way back when, with the fact that I, being possibly the most annoying unborn child ever, was two very frustrating weeks late when Mom was pregnant with me.  I figure it’s a lot like my desire to stay in bed on cold, dreary Mondays (I’m looking at you, frigid NJ weather)…it’s loud and cold and hectic out there in the real world, and I’m perfectly happy riiiiiight here.  Overshare?  I think so.

Anyway, when I finally decided, in my tiny, mischievous brain, that I was ready to greet the bright, shiny world, it was New Year’s Eve.  The doctors asked Mom if she wanted to wait it out and have the first baby of 1986, and I think it would be an appropriate guess that her response was something to the effect of “HELL NO.”  And so here we are, 24 years later, still torturing my relatives with the fact that my birthday falls just six days after Christmas, and yes you do have to celebrate my birthday as its own distinct holiday and not merely as an addendum to Christmas or New Years.

As I’ve mentioned, my family hosts a mean birthday party.  And, being just as childish and demanding about my birthday at age 24 as I was at age, um, four, my birthday party this year had a theme.  Yes, you read that correctly: a themed 24th birthday party.

The theme, in honor of my approaching trip to London (combined with the teeny detail that the only time we could have said party was at 1pm the day after Christmas), was British High Tea.  If you’re thinking this means we broke out the 3-tiered serving tray and cut the crusts off of eensy little cucumber sandwiches…….then you are correct.  If you think this means that I wore something more sophisticated than my fuzzy teal slippers to the party, you are incorrect.  It’s my party and I’ll [do what] I want to….

I also took this opportunity to try out a scone recipe I’d been eyeing for, I don’t know, a year?  I mean, if you’re going to have a High Tea, you had better make some scones.  And they had better be flaky, creamy, and decadent.  And fortunately for both party-goers and the Birthday Girl, they were just that.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.


Cranberry Scones

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

2 cups AP flour

1 tbsp baking powder

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp (chilled) butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 425.  Whisk together all dry ingredients except cranberries.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender (you can do this in a food processor as well, but I did it by hand) until it is mostly blended into the dry ingredients (there will still be some chunks of butter).  Stir in cranberries.  Mix in heavy cream until a dough is formed, then turn out the dough and all of the floury bits onto a countertop.

Knead just until it comes together in a sticky ball, then press it into an 8-inch cake pan.  Turn the dough back out of the pan and onto your countertop.  It will retain the shape of the pan, and you can then cut the dough into 8 (I made 12 instead) equal wedges.

Place wedges on a baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper) and bake 12-15 minutes (scones will just be turning brown).

Pumpkin, Revisited Tuesday, Nov 24 2009 

In case you haven’t glanced at your calendar lately, November is rapidly coming to a close.  As in, Thanksgiving is in two days.  As in, I only have to do this daily posting stuff for another week (!!).  As in, holy crap, I have to start Christmas shopping! 

So before we fastforward into the snowy months, and I go into hibernation with my Penn State Snuggie and Chouffe, pining for the days of 50-degree weather and the urge to post every day, I thought we could revist all the pumpkin recipes that scream FALL! to me one last time. 

Thanksgiving breakfast, anyone?

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Scones

 

Sides:

Pumpkin Souffle

Pumpkin Bread

 

Appetizers and Munchies:

Pumpkin Ravioli

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

 

And, of course, the ever-important cocktail:

Pumpkin Martinis

Pumpkin Scones Saturday, Nov 21 2009 

Are you counting down the days till I stop talking about pumpkin?  While my beer tastes have progressed to deeply dark, heavily spiced, warming brews, my culinary tendencies are still lingering over pumpkin – and probably will be until it becomes December, the season of gingerbread.  I can feel you rolling your eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always been mildly terrified of scones.  They’ve always seemed prissy and fussy, and not at all like something I’d be able to create in my kitchen.  Pastry always gets me that way, and I’m not sure why.  A recipe is a recipe, but it’s all the italized “make sure the butter is cold” and the numerous bowls and funny words like “slurry” that make me quickly pass those recipes by.  I don’t have time for fuss (says the girl who will tolerate multiple bread-risings), especially on a weeknight, which is when I chose to make these scones.  But the recipe seemed too perfect – I just happened to have leftover heavy cream and pumpkin, both of which needed to be used up soon.

Of course, I have to mess with even the most perfect recipes, and this one was no exception.  I changed out all the white flour for whole wheat and decreased the cream, sugar, and butter (I know, I know, all the best parts are gone), upped the pumpkin, and added toasted hazelnuts.  And for all the substitutions?  Well, let’s just say that even Brother ate one.  And Brother eats nothing that I like.

Pumpkin Scones

Adapted from Pinch My Salt

 

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground ginger

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

Scant 1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the butter into small pieces, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use them.  In another bowl, combine flour and wheat germ, baking powder, salt, and all the spices.  Whisk together.  Refrigerate this as well.

In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Whisk together.  Get all of the bowls out of the fridge, and combine the butter and flour, cutting them together with a pastry blender until they resemble course crumb.  Stir in the nuts.

All at once, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.  Mix everything together, then turn out the dough onto the counter and push it together to form a dough.  Knead it if necessary, then pat it into a rough circle, about 1 inch thick.  Cut it (as you would a pie) into 16 pieces.

Place all the scones onto the baking sheet, and bake until the bottom is golden and they are completely set.  Cool completely.

Pumpkin Pancakes Thursday, Nov 12 2009 

Sometimes I crave pancakes.  And sometimes, it’s 7:00…. PM.  And sometimes, I just bite the bullet and make the damn pancakes.  For dinner.P1040386

 

And sometimes, they’re awesome.  I tend to say that about a lot of pancakes, because pancakes, like waffles, are rarely crappy.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m just saying that as long as you have a basic recipe to work with, you can change the flavor profile and the components and still get the result you were after – buttery, soft, melt-in-your-mouth tasty breakfast.  Or dinner. Even random roadside diners in Tennessee can make a decent buttermilk hotcake.  Trust me – I’ve done the legwork.

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Pinch My Salt even went and created a recipe that I felt good about using as dinner.  I tweaked it a little, but it’s the same general idea – even if I couldn’t resist adding a handful of chocolate chips.  And, um, eating a handful of chocolate chips?  What!? You know I have no self-control when it comes to these things…

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Pinch My Salt Pumpkin Pancakes

Adapted from here

 

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

1 cup buttermilk (or my ghetto-rigged version, which involved a cup of milk and a splash of lemon-juice)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 eggs

1/2 tsp all-spice

1/2 – 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, wheat germ, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar.  In a separate (smaller) bowl, mix together eggs, milk, pumpkin and oil.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix together: batter will be lumpy.  Add walnuts and chocolate chips, and mix just to incorporate.

Heat a griddle or large saucepan over medium/medium-high heat.  Drop 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, and flip once – when bubbles start to form in the batter.  Once both sides are golden, remove it from the griddle and repeat the process until your out of batter.  Then eat them slower than I did, because my tummy hurts a tiny little bit.

 

What’s that? You’re not sick of pumpkin yet either!? This must be why we’re friends!! CHECK IT OUT:

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Martinis

Pumpkin Souffle

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Ravioli

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Bread Pudding Friday, Oct 30 2009 

Welcome back, everyone.  So glad you’ve decided to join us for the continuation of the crappy photo display here at Mozzarella and Merlot.  We appreciate it deeply.  Tonight’s focus will be the result of leaving last week’s chocolate bread on the counter a leeeeeeeetle too long, thus allowing it to become, well, stale.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the first (and I sure won’t be the last) person to make such an error in judgment, and we have the genius inventor of bread pudding to thank for creating such a fantastic way to salvage otherwise useless bread.  Especially when it’s really, really good bread.

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Really, it wasn’t the travesty I’m clearly making it out to be because I only left out two slices.  But hey, I’m good at exaggerating and making a big to-do over routine occurances and aren’t we all having more fun because of it?  (Shut up, Boyfriend, I wasn’t talking to you.  Yes, it is a big deal when you don’t watch Grey’s and I have no one to discuss it with promptly at 10:01PM on Thursday.  I don’t care if you have homework and I am not overreacting! GOSH.)  So I figured that it would be a terrible, tragic waste to throw away food I’d slaved over the week before, and I made myself a little individual (and by individual, I mean I had to eat it in two sittings because it was too big to eat all at once – this kind of behavior is where a little thing called foresight would come in remarkably handy) bread pudding.

This is also the continuation of the Katie-feels-she-no-longer-needs-to-consult-recipes portion of the program, so I basically decided to wing it.  I chopped up the bread, beat and egg with some skim milk and a little cinnamon and nutmeg, dumped the whole shebang in a dish, poured almonds on top, and put it in the oven for a half hour.  And wouldn’t you know, it turned out wonderfully!  Not that I’m getting a big head.  No, no – whenever that happens, I just think back to the hot peppers and shudder quietly.  Clearly I still have a few things to learn.

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Chocolate Bread Pudding

2 thick slices of chocolate bread, cubed

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chocolate skim milk

1/4 cup slivered almonda

Dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a small baking dish.  Mix egg and milk together with spices, then pour into the baking dish.  Add cubes of bread, and press down to make sure all of the bread is submerged in the liquid.  Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until set.

Chocolate (Non-Pumpkin) Bread Monday, Oct 12 2009 

Get excited, folks, because I’ve broken the cycle.  That’s right – no pumpkin here.  Who’s proud of me?

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Anyway, enough patting myself on the back for branching out.  The real story here is the bread.

I adore bread-baking, as you can probably tell from the recipes collected here.  There’s just something so basic and tranquil about it…more so than anything else I can think of.  It’s comforting, really. I mean, how long have people been baking their own bread?  Forever?  Definitely longer than they’ve been baking cookies.

But I don’t necessarily like baking the same kind of bread each time, because, as we all know, I have a rather short attention span and if I already know how something is going to turn out, it’s not that big of a surprise.  It’s not a challenge, a gamble, to pull the pan out of the oven, and I don’t hover over it with a mixture of trepidation and glee, waiting for it to cool enough for me to take that first experimental bite – the very bite that will ultimately determine whether the recipe is a success or failure.  Sometimes the waiting (especially with bread and it’s multiple rising times and lengthy baking) is too much for me and I can’t even wait for the food to cool down – I have to have it right that second, even though the steam rising off of it tells me that it will burn the roof of my mouth and interfere with my ability to taste for days to come.  But that excitement?  That anxious waiting period?  That one moment of bliss when the recipe succeeds and you’ve created something delicious?  That, my friends, is why I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, and largely why I enjoy cooking in general.

But back to the bread – the chocolate bread.  I may have mentioned 10 or 12 times that I’m a full-fledged, over the top chocoholic, and this bread filled my house with the deep, rich smell of baking chocolate long after the loaf itself had been pulled from the oven.

I enjoyed it last night on its own, and again for breakfast this morning, drizzled with some creamy peanut butter and sliced bananas.  Never was a better sandwich made.

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Chocolate Bread

Adapted from the great Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup warm water

2 – 2 3/4 cups white flour

1 packet active dry yeast

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

2 tbsp butter

In a small bowl, add warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.  Add butter (I melted mine and stirred it in.  This is called bad technique/laziness, but it worked), egg, and yeast mixture, and mix into a rough dough.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes – until dough is smooth.

Oil a large bowl (I used the same one I mixed in – again, lazy but effective), and roll the dough ball around in the oil to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour – until its size has doubled.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, and press with palms to deflate.  Mold into a rectangle, and fold down sides to fit buttered loaf pan.  Place seam-side down in pan, and allow to rise again for about an hour, covered in plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Once dough is completely risen, place on middle rack of the oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.  Cook 30 – 40 minutes, until dough is rough/hard to the touch and deeply brown.

Unmold and cool on a rack.

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