Cheater Key Lime Pie (Gluten Free!)

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If you’ve been following our shenanigans for a while then you’ll be familiar with my recipe for Key Lim Pie, which I have slowly perfected over time. It’s the Pie’s favourite pie that I make, so when his birthday rolled around this year I decided to do my best to make it again. The thing is, it’s been really hot, and I didn’t want to do much heavy baking. Also, LongJohn decided to go through the growth spurt from hell that week as well, so I had to make something easy that I could do while pretty much wearing him constantly.

I found a few recipes online for no-bake versions but one of them required the use of a frozen can of limeade, and the other was bottled lime juice and Cool Whip. While I DID still have leftover Cool Whip in the freezer from the pre-labour cheesecake, I was reluctant to cut TOO many corners. That meant that I was at least going to use real key limes in my recipe.

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And as Fussellette was staying with us at the time, we went with gluten-free Oreo-like cookies for the crust. This recipe makes two 9″ pies. Easy peasy.

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So start by chucking two packs of Oreos or Oreo-like cookies into your food processor with about 1/2 cup shredded coconut.

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Buzz, buzz, buzz. Then tip in about 1/3 cup softened butter and give that a whaz until you get crumbs that stick together when you press on them.

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Press the crumbs into two 9″ pie dishes and bake at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Let those cool completely. I did this pie over the course of three days, so the pie crusts were done on day one. If you really don’t want to bake at all you can buy a pre-made graham crust, but I like my key lime to have a chocolate crust and they really don’t have gluten-free versions of that at the grocery store near my house.

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Next, we deal with the limes. For two pies you’ll need 2lbs key limes. Grate the zest from each one. It takes for-freaking-ever.

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Next, you’ll need to juice them. This many limes should yield between 1 and 1 1/3 cups of juice.

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I did the grating and juicing while wearing a grumpy newborn. Pro tip: roll the limes between your palm and the cutting board before cutting them open to juice them. It bruises the little globule things that hold the juice and makes it easier for you to extract the liquid.

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When you’re ready to assemble (day three in my case), grab as well 2 cans sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups Cool Whip (frozen), and 1 cup whipping cream.

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Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and stir to combine.

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Additional pro tip: frozen Cool Whip acts like a shovel and literally scoops all your liquids out of the bowl when mixing, so I would recommend breaking it into chunks first.

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Then you can taste your filling. I may have spilled some on the baby, but he was asleep and didn’t mind.

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Your batter will be whitish with green flecks. Totally not authentic, but nice and tart.

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Divide the filling between the two shells.

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Clean up your mixer after the filling explosion.

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Chill the pies for a couple hours until set.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Mocha Latte Fudge

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This recipe from Real Simple is not your typical fudge, but it’s relatively easy to concoct and would make a nice gift to your favourite coffeephile. You don’t even need a candy thermometer to make it, which is handy for those of you who aren’t familiar with making candy.

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Do keep a close eye on it, however, as I burnt the bottom of one of my pots quite badly the first time I made it.

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Start by lining an 8″ square pan with parchment paper and spraying it with cooking spray. I had neither a square pan nor cooking spray at the time so I used this 6″ x 10″ pan and I buttered it instead. You do you.

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Set that aside for a spell and grab a large pot. Dump in 1/2-lb butter, 2 cups brown sugar, and 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk.

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Stir that frequently over medium-low heat until it’s all melted and starts to boil.

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Then tip in 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon espresso powder. Once that’s mixed in, stop stirring and leave the whole thing to boil (but not burn!) for 8 minutes.

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Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla. Remember, it’s gonna fizz.

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Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes; then grab an electric mixer and beat the crap out of it for about 5 minutes, until it looks and feels like almost-melted peanut butter.

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Spill that into the prepared pan and smooth it down. Shove it in the fridge for 4 hours, until it’s all firm. Run a knife around the outside edge and use the parchment to pull the whole thing out of the pan. Cut it into cubes.

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EAT. (Store leftovers sealed in the fridge. PAH. Like there will be leftovers.)

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Coconut Cream Bars: REDUX

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The problem with this blog is that people I work with READ it. And then they EXPECT me to bring them baked goods. And then when I DO, they demand MORE. So sometimes I have to make things AGAIN. So these I’ve made before, and they were awesome. And I brought some to work. And one of the ladies I work with send me a calendar invitation for her birthday (which was MONTHS away) with instructions for me to make these for her (again). And so that’s what I did. I tweaked the recipe a little bit to add some more flavour, and I think I like them better than the originals. Conveniently they’re also Papa John’s favourite and his birthday is coming up …

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper and spray it as well. Set that aside. In a large bowl, dump in 20oz shredded unsweetened coconut, and 14oz sweetened condensed milk. I like to stand there and stare while the milk ever-so-slowly comes out of the can.

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Now here’s where I changed things up a little bit. I have some genuine Caribbean coconut extract that I added in for more flavour (I tipped in about 2 teaspoons) and then I decided to add a hint of orange by pouring in about 2 tablespoons Cointreau. I recommend doing it just for the subtlety of the flavour over the straight sugar taste you got before with the original recipe.

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I was actually amazed at how thick the coconut extract was – it was more of a syrup.

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Anyway, stir that up, together with 2 cups icing sugar, until you have a lovely gooey coconutty paste.

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Smooth that into your baking pan and level the top. Freeze that for a couple hours.

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When you’re nearly ready to go, melt up about 24oz chocolate of your choice – I used half dark, half milk in this batch. It’s also useful to do the chocolate in a couple of batches, adding more unmelted stuff to the mix as you run out.

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Let that cool a bit, and slice up your coconut goo into squares.

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Then start dipping! Remember that the cooler your chocolate is, the faster it will set, so act accordingly. Sprinkle the tops of each bar with more bits of coconut before the chocolate sets – for decoration.

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My chocolate was cooler (because it’s February and this is Canada) than last time so it set a little messier and less smooth than the previous version, but they’re still super tasty!

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Dulce de Leche Cookies

I told you it would be sticky.

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I made these for a coworker’s birthday (oh how quickly I have fallen yet again into the baking trap!) and they were very well-received.

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If you already have dulce de leche on hand, good on you (I’m especially amazed that you didn’t use it all up pouring it into your mouth because that’s kind of what I do). If you don’t, I’ll show you a super easy and pretty much fool-proof way to make it. Grab a can or two of condensed milk. For this recipe you will barely use half a can but if you want some more on hand for other things, you might as well make it all at once because it takes for ever.

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Peel off the paper. You’re going to be boiling these so you don’t want that paper in there getting all gummy.

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Grab a large pot and fill it with water. Plop the can(s) in on their sides (so they can roll around and cook evenly). Ensure that they are covered completely with at least an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and then let it simmer for 3 hours. You will likely need to top up the water occasionally so it’s always covering the cans. If the cans become expose then the whole convection element of the water stops working and the cans could explode. You don’t want that.

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After three hours, carefully remove the cans from the boiling water and set them upright on a rack to cool completely. Do not under any circumstances attempt to open a can while it is hot. You will be covered in horrible caramel burns as a result and that is a good way to ruin a nice day.

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Once it’s cool, you can make some amazing cookies, which I actually found on the Land o’ Lakes site. Those people know things about butter, which makes them my kind of people.

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Start by stirring up a bowl with 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom. Set that aside. Your cookies are going to wear that later.

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Now, in the bowl of a mixer, beat up 1/2 cup softened butter with 3/4 cup packed brown sugar.

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Tip in 1 egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla and keep beating until smooth.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

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While mixing the egg/butter/sugar madness, slowly add in the flour and stir until fully combined.

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Separate about 1/4 of the cookie dough from the bowl. Chill both blobs of dough for about 30 minutes.

When you’re ready, preheat your oven to 375°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper. Grab from the larger blob and make 24 balls of dough. Set the balls onto the baking sheet at least 2 inches apart, because they do spread.

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Dip the handle of a wooden spoon into flour and drive it into the center of each ball so that there’s a good-sized divot in each.

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Pile about 1/4 cup dulce de leche into a small resealable plastic bag and snip off a bit of one of the bottom corners.

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Pipe the caramel into each divot until the caramel comes level with the top of the hole.

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Now grab your smaller blob of dough and divide it into 24 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a patty and use it to seal over the top of the caramel hole.

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Smooth down the edges to get a good seal.

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Bake, rotating halfway through, for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are slightly browned.

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Let the cookies stand on the sheet for 1 minute, then dip them in the sugar until thoroughly covered and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack.

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I don’t know how well these store because they didn’t last that long …

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The From-Scratch-iest Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Some day I’m gonna be super hardcore, growing my own pumpkins in my magic pumpkin patch and harvesting my own gluten-free flour from the enormous gluten-free flour tree on my massive acreage. Until then, however, I will acquire all my ingredients from fairies, just like everyone else. Or the grocery store. Whichever is more convenient.

Still, there’s a certain satisfaction to be garnered from taking a thing from the absolute start to its completion. For me, for now, that means making things as from scratch as I possibly can. And for this particular recipe, that means pie crust from scratch and pumpkin that I slaughtered and roasted myself. Don’t question my wording on that. Have you ever cut up a pumpkin? Yes, “slaughter” is appropriate.

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Let’s start with that, shall we? Look at these beautiful pumpkins. These are NOT carving pumpkins. They are sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, specifically grown for their tender sweetness and exactly the sort of thing you want to dismember and roast for this pie.

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Give them a good washing to remove any dirt.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a nice big rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.

Decapitate your pumpkin by gently sawing off its stem.

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Cleave the pumpkin in two vertically.

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Eviscerate your pumpkin by scooping out the seeds and guts. You can wash and dry the seeds for roasting later on. They’re very good for you but may make you a little gassy. Just sayin’.

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Brush the fleshy surfaces of the pumpkin with vegetable oil. If you’re roasting this pumpkin for savoury purposes, then you would probably dust it with salt and pepper as well, but we’re using it for un-savoury purposes (as in, sweet, not nefarious), so you probably shouldn’t do that.

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Place the pumpkin halves face-down on the baking sheet and let that roast for about 45-60 minutes (depending on your pumpkin size). If you want this whole thing to go faster, then cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces.

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When the pumpkin is done the whole thing can be stabbed easily with a sharp knife.

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While that is baking, try to figure out how to scrub the residue off your hands. It’s harder than you think.

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Let the pumpkins cool a little bit so you don’t burn yourself, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skins.

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I ate some toasted pumpkin seeds while I waited for the pumpkin to cool a little bit more.

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I puréed the pumpkin flesh in a food processor to make it extra smooth.

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Because fresh pumpkin is more watery than canned pumpkin, you might want to drain it a bit. These mesh bags are actually for picking produce at the farmer’s market, but they’re also perfect strainers for thick substances like mashed pumpkin.

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I ended up with about 4 cups pumpkin goo, which is pretty much exactly what I needed for two pies. I shoved it in the fridge for a couple of days before I made the pie.

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Now for the crust, which I prepped the night before I made the pie. Gluten-free pie dough still needs to rest, just the same as regular pie dough, so that the flour can absorb all the liquid properly. This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, makes one pie shell bottom, so I did it twice.

As with regular pie crust, you still want all your ingredients to be ice cold when you work with them, and you want to handle them as little as possible.

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Start by whisking together 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 2 teaspoons castor/superfine sugar in a small bowl.

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As well, assemble a small pitcher of ice water. Cube 1/2 cup cold butter and put that in a bowl as well. Finally, crack 1 large egg into another bowl and scramble it a little. Shove the water and the egg into the fridge and the butter and flour into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

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When you’re ready to go, dump your flour and your butter into the bowl of your food processor.

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Pulse the dough until the butter forms little pea-sized crumbs.

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Tip in the egg, as well as 1-2 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough clumps together.

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I would err on the side of less water as opposed to more. In this batch I think I added 2 tablespoons water and you can see it’s very sticky (gluten-free dough will be stickier by nature, but not this sticky).

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So the next time round I used less water and got this more crumbly dough.

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Squish your dough into a patty and wrap it in plastic. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably three hours, at best, overnight.

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When you’re ready to roll (literally), place a piece of waxed paper on your work surface and lightly dust it with gluten-free flour. Plop your dough patty down and dust that with flour as well.

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Place another sheet of waxed paper over top and carefully use a rolling pin to spread out your dough. Work from the inside out, and flip it over and lift up the waxed paper as often as possible so it doesn’t stick in weird wrinkles.

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When you’re ready to plop the dough into your 12″ pie pan, remember that the dough will stick more to the waxed paper than regular dough, so you might want to chill it a bit beforehand.

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Trim and crimp the edges as usual and chuck it back in the fridge.

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If you’re only making one pie, then halve the ingredients for the filling, but if you’re making two (because really, why not make two?), then here’s how you do it. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups pumpkin purée, 3 300mL cans sweetened condensed milk (900mL total), 4 large eggs, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Nice and smooth and sweet!

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Pour the filling into your two shells and carefully shove them into the oven (preheated to 425°F) on the same rack, if possible. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 35-45 minutes.

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They will be done when the middle is almost set and you can jab a knife into the filling about an inch from the crust and it comes out clean.

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Set those on a rack to cool completely, then EAT!

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Ridiculously Easy Coconut Cream Bars

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I seem to have put myself in the evil cycle of making treats for my bimonthly meetings at the office.  I feel like I’m trying to curry favour with the boss or something.

But these don’t really count as putting in effort, because they’re stupid easy, and the perfect thing to make on a hot day when you don’t want to use the oven.

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Spray a 9″x 13″ baking dish and set that aside for a second.

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Grab a large bowl and dump in 20oz shredded coconut, 14oz sweetened condensed milk, and 2 cups icing sugar.  Give that a good stir.

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Now smoosh that all into the baking dish and freeze it for about an hour.

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When that’s almost ready to go, melt yourself 24oz chocolate and let it cool to room temperature.  I actually melted this stuff just after I shoved the coconut into the freezer and then I took the dog out for a while (more than an hour) and when I came back it was perfect.

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Cut the frozen coconut into squares and dip it in the melted chocolate.  Make sure to get all the holes sealed because the interior will leak out once it warms up.

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Sprinkle the top of each square with an additional pinch of coconut before the chocolate hardens, which will happen quickly.

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Set on waxed paper to fully harden and store sealed in an airtight container — I kept mine in the fridge because it’s quite warm out.

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Fun with Gelatin: Coffee and Cream

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Still so much gelatin and condensed milk to get rid of!  This idea came from the Pie as I was bemoaning the large bottle of Camp coffee extract I hadn’t yet had a chance to use and wouldn’t be able to move.

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This, therefore, is what we’re gonna do.  And I hope it works.  Also, it’s sort of a commemorative thing for Cait, whose birthday was yesterday (Happy Day!), and whose love for coffee is surpassed only by her love for her dog.  And for me (I hope, but all bets are off).

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In one small bowl, plop about 1/4 cup cold water and sprinkle that with 1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavoured gelatin.  This is for the cream layer.  In a slightly larger bowl, repeat the process with 1/2 cup cold water sprinkled with 2 envelopes gelatin.  The slightly larger bowl is for the coffee layer.  Let both of those sit for about 5 minutes.

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Now, whether you use your microwave for this or your stove is up to you, but you’re gonna need two different hot liquids on the go here.  And the order of how you do this of course depends on whether you’re planning to unmould your gelatin or leave it in its container.  If you’re planning to unmould it (inverted), do the cream layer first.  If you want it to stay in the container in which you put it, do the coffee layer first.  The end result of what you’re looking for is a dish composed of about 2/3 coffee layer on the bottom and 1/3 cream layer on the top.

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For the cream layer, heat 1 cup water to boiling, and stir in 1 can sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated.  If you’d like, you can add a few splashes of Irish cream liqueur (but not too much, because alcohol will hinder the gelling process).  Pour that hot mess over your gelatin in the smaller bowl and stir until everything is dissolved and smooth.

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Distribute the mixture evenly amongst your moulds and chill them for at least 25 minutes.

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For the coffee layer, you’ll need 3 cups hot coffee (fresh or reheated or instant, it’s up to you).  Add whatever sweeteners you like and a few splashes coffee extract (if you have it) to intensify the flavour.  Pour that over the gelatin in the slightly larger bowl and stir until everything is dissolved.

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Let your coffee mixture cool a bit (you can always divide the liquid and have half of it hot and half of it cold to cool it faster).

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Distribute the coffee mixture evenly amongst the moulds (either on top of the chilled cream layer or at the bottom if you’re not unmoulding), and chill for at least 4 hours (or 25 minutes if you’re layering with cream on top, then reverse the whole thing … you know what I mean).  I found that if I just poured the liquid in, it punched a hole through the cream layer (which isn’t entirely solid at this point), so I ended up spooning it in gently with a measuring cup and pouring it against the side of the mould.

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I think the very topmost layer of cream gelatin also dissolved into the coffee layer, which makes it more opaque than it was originally.

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To serve, immerse your moulds in hot water for a few seconds, then tip them out onto a plate.  If you were stupid and used plastic cups, like I did, you’re probably going to need a knife and a bit of persuasion to get them out.

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Maybe a dollop of whipping cream on top would go over nicely, or some grated chocolate?

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Confession time: I messed up this recipe when I made it the first time and didn’t use enough gelatin in the coffee layer.  So it didn’t gel.  So the coffee layer tipped out like this:

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And the cream layer stayed in the cup like this.  But was oh so tasty.

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So I froze it in order to get these pictures.  And if you do it that way (with only 1 envelope of gelatin for the coffee) and freeze it, it’s quite nifty: more of an Irish cream panna cotta on top of a nice espresso granita.  Sounds fancy.  Tastes delicious!

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Fun with Gelatin: Pink Strawberry Terrine

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This is another cleaning-out-the-pantry post, but it’s a little less nuts than the one we had on Monday.  At least this one is a bit more common.  It’s only got five ingredients and it’s super simple, and perfect for a hot summer day when  you really don’t want to do any baking.  Like when there’s a forest fire in Québec and the smoke has smogged up the whole island and the sun is a little pinky orange ball.  Those kinds of days.

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I have a ton of unflavoured gelatin packets in my pantry, as well as many cans of condensed milk.  There are lots of things you can do with gelatin, making aspics and whatnots, but I like the idea of creating a terrine of happily suspended fruit.  This one is a nice pretty example.  Then, if you want to get super adventurous, you can try layering your gelatin, and create a lovely contrast by adding sweetened condensed milk to gelatin to create a nice white alternating layer.  Beautiful, right?  And then you can sort of combine the two techniques by creating stained/broken glass jello.  So I’m gonna put all that together.  Because I CAN.

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Also I keep thinking of this, every time I make something with gelatin: I AM MADE OF JELLY.

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Start with some juice.  I like cranberry juice.  Tart and tangy and a lovely colour.  Pour half a cup of room temperature juice into a bowl and sprinkle 2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin on top of that (each package contains 2 1/2 teaspoons gelatin granules).  Leave that for 5 minutes to “bloom”.

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Here I have most of a container of strawberries that I picked up at the grocery store.  I think it’s about 2lb worth of fruit.  Anyway, wash that and cut it up to a manageable size.  Use whatever fruit you want, but I’m going with strawberries because they’re pink and that’s what I have.

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Take another 1 1/2 cup juice and huck that in the microwave (because I didn’t want to turn on my oven in this heat).  Heat that until it boils, which will be a few minutes depending on the type of microwave you have.

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Slowly pour the boiling juice over your bloomed gelatin.  Stir that like a crazy person until all the jelly goodness is dissolved throughout the liquid.

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Add in 1 can sweetened condensed milk.  Stir to combine.  It will curdle a little bit, but don’t fret.  If you want your gelatin to remain clear, leave the milk out of the equation.

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I also added in a splash of grenadine syrup, for more colour.  Let that cool to just warm.

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Toss your fruit into a loaf pan.  You can layer it if you want to get fancy, with different fruits, but that’s a little too high-falutin’ for my tastes today.  Plus my gelatin is opaque so you won’t be able to see the layers anyway.

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Drizzle the gelatin mixture over your fruit, careful not to pour too hard (if you’ve got layers that could be disturbed).  If you don’t want your fruit to float to the top (which will end up being the bottom when you flip it), drizzle only half your mixture in and chill that for at least 15-20 minutes first before adding the rest of the liquid.  This will gel your fruits into the places you want them to be.

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Chill that sucker for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).

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To serve, set the loaf pan in a sink full of warm water for a few seconds.

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Wipe off the pan, and invert it over your serving dish to release the gelatin. I need a bit of practice with my dismount it seems.

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Slice it up like a loaf of bread.  I suggest you use a warm wet knife for this, as you can see that mine kind of fell apart a bit when I didn’t do that.

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Mango Key Lime Pie

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How much do I wish I was visiting my parents right now?  They’ve been in Florida since January, and they always offer to fly us down there every year when they go for a nice sunny break.  Unfortunately the university here doesn’t offer that Reading Week in February that most Canadian universities do.  Instead we get three days off, and then two days of midterms.  So leaving the country right now is out.  I did, however, see this recipe in the Globe and Mail and figured if I can’t be in Long Boat Key right now I can at least have some Key Lime Pie. Even if it doesn’t actually involve Key limes.

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I’m a huge fan of lime pies, and I’ve made two attempts to make my own.  They aren’t pretty, but they’re sure tasty. This recipe avoids the issue of having to deal with Canadian-sized cans of condensed milk (by adding mango as thickener), which means I can go ahead and only make one pie this time.  I also don’t have to grate and juice all those tiny key limes, which is a bonus for me.  I really hate doing that.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a 9″ pie pan, stir together 1 cup graham-cracker crumbs (I’ve used Oreo crumbs before as well, and it’s delicious, and I bet Nilla crumbs would also work), 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup shredded coconut (adds a nice texture to the crust). Melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter and drizzle that over the top.

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Stir it all up with a fork and press it down into the pan and up the sides to form your crust.  Bake that for 10 minutes.

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Let that cool on a wire rack while you’re making the filling, and leave your oven on. If the crust has puffed up during baking (which it probably has), just pat it down again with the fork.

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Ignore the pie filling on the right that you haven’t gotten around to making just yet.

Take 1 medium-sized very ripe mango, peel it, cut it into pieces, and smash it up in a blender.

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Like, so ripe that when you put it down on something it leaves lines in the skin. We’re talking MOOSHY.

Take 1/2 cup of the mango purée and put it into a bowl (you’re supposed to save the rest for smoothies or something but I just chucked it all in, to be honest).

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Mango puree on the left, lime juice on the right. I did everything out of order.

Add in 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (this is like the equivalent of 2-3 juicy limes).  I grated one of my limes before juicing and added that zest in as well.

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Also chuck in 1 300mL can of condensed milk.  Sorry to all you folks who use 400mL cans.  You’re just going to have to figure something else out.  Or chuck in the rest of the can (which is what I would do — screw leftovers).  And when I say chuck the can in I mean chuck the CONTENTS of the can in.  Recycle that can.

Separate 4 eggs and plop 4 egg yolks into the mix as well.  I am going to use the whites to make meringue cookies to serve with the pie.  Because I’m that awesome.

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Stir what’s in that bowl until it’s smooth and lovely.  You’ll notice it’s not green.  Key lime pie is not supposed to be green.  Don’t let anybody tell you different.

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Pour that lovely smooth substance into your pie crust and bake for a further 15 minutes.  It’s still going to be rather un-solid in the middle but it will set as the pie chills.  Put the baked pie on a wire rack until it’s cool enough to chuck in the fridge.  Then refrigerate the thing for at least eight hours, and up to three days.  Honestly, try to wait that long to cut into it.  The longer you wait, the more solid your pie will be.  I promise.

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Serve cold with a dollop of whipped cream or meringue cookie.  Mmmm.  Tastes like summer.

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Pumpkin Pie

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I get a lot of questions from readers I meet about my husband.  The main one is, “why is he called the Pie?”  Well, I’ll tell you why.  And this goes back about nine or ten years, back when we had first met, and long before we started dating.  It’s really a great story.  I’ll tell it to you here:

One day, he told me that he really liked pie.

Yep.  That’s the whole story.  That’s why he’s called the Pie.  And now you know.  I hope you aren’t too disappointed.

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Sometimes, the Pie’s favourite pie is blueberry.  Sometimes it’s apple.  I can’t keep track.  But I know that pumpkin pie, even though it doesn’t qualify as a “true pie”, is at the top of my husband’s list of favourite pies.  And now that I have sort of mastered the art of vodka pie crust, and especially considering the amount of pumpkin purée I have in my possession, it is a logical choice, and this recipe looks lovely.  So here it is, a pumpkin pie that is so from scratch with its home-made pastry crust and fresh pure pumpkin that it’s almost like I made it entirely by hand-stitching individual atoms together (I can do that, you know).

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So, now.  It’s been a while since I made that vodka pie crust from Smitten Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, so I think I’m going to lay it all out for you again, just so we both can get some practice.  If you like, you can take some more of Smitten Kitchen’s tips on better pastry from her second tutorial.  Like her, I’m not a fan of shortening, so I went with an all-butter version of the crust today.  And this dough recipe makes enough dough for two single crusts, so I guess that means I HAVE to make two pumpkin pies.  I will try to sneak one into the freezer so the Pie doesn’t eat it too fast.  That way later on when he grumbles about having no more pie I can dramatically reveal that he is wrong.  I like doing that.

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For the pastryyou need to make sure everything is cold.  If your kitchen is frigid, like mine, this is easy.  For everyone else, just keep chucking stuff in the refrigerator if need be.  Ingredients.  Tools.  Bowls.  You name it.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.

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Cut 1 1/4 cup cold butter into cubes and make sure it’s cold (re-chill it after you cut it before adding it to the mix).

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Dump that into the flour and use a pastry blender to chop it into tiny buttery-floury pieces.  You want to keep going and going and going, using a knife to clean off your pastry blender occasionally, until you end up with a mixture that closely resembles cornmeal.

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Put a dishtowel under the bowl to keep it from sliding around on you.

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Here’s the right consistency. You still need whole chunks of butter in there but you want them small.

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Drizzle 1/4 cup cold vodka (keep that baby in the freezer) and 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture.

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Use a big rubber spatula and a folding motion to bring everything together.

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You don’t want to stir so much as squish and squash everything into one big blob.  It will be pretty tacky, but that stickiness will disappear when the vodka burns off in baking.  You can use your hands to gently squish the remainder together, but don’t work it too much. If you feel you need to add more liquid, drizzle a bit more vodka onto it, but just a little.

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Divide your blob into two even pieces and flatten them into disks.  Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap for at least 15 minutes, and for up to 2 days.

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When your dough is sufficiently chilled, lay a piece of plastic wrap out on your work surface.  Unwrap one of the disks (keep the other in the fridge) and place it in the centre of the plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap over top.

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Working from the inside and moving out, use a rolling pin to flatten your disk into a nice round piece of pastry.  You’ll need a rough circle of about 12″ in diameter to fit in a 9″ pie pan.  Most plastic wrap is about 12″ wide, so you can use that as a guide.

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Notice how you can see gobs of butter in my dough?  That means I will have some lovely flaky pastry.  As the butter melts it will leave a little open space, which will fill with steam from the vodka and water, which will in turn expand the empty space, making the proper pastry flake.

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Chill your flattened pastry again for a bit.  If you put it on a baking sheet and chuck it in the fridge you should be good.  When you’re plopping it in your pie pan, make sure to remove the bottom layer of plastic wrap before rolling it over a rolling pin or folding it into quarters to place it in the pan.  I’ve done both methods here, so you can see what I mean.

Rolling pin:

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Folding:

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Gently lift the edges of the dough to make it easier to press into the bottom of the pan without tearing.

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Trim off the excess pastry from the edges of the pan.

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I used a fork to press the edges more firmly down onto the glass.  Chuck those back in the fridge when you’re done.

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I had some scraps left over from trimming, so I cut up a small apple, sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled out the scraps again to form a small circle.

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I put the fruit on one half, folded it over, and pinched the edges shut.  Then I put it in a sprayed pan and baked it with the pie.

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It looks a little demented, but we’re not going for high quality here, just a snack.

For the pie filling, you need some pumpkin purée.  You can be lazy and buy the stuff that already has the eggs and spices in it and whatever and just dump that in your pre-bought frozen pie shell but that’s just not cool here at Ali Does It.  Make sure if you’re using canned pumpkin that it’s pure pumpkin, without the sugar and salt and all things spicy.

Now, you American folks are likely working from the 14 oz can of Libby’s or whatever it is you have.  Fourteen ounces is about 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin goodness.  Here in the FAR NORTH of Canada we have E.D. Smith pumpkin, which comes in 28 oz cans (~3 1/2 cups), so we generally use half a can for one pie, a whole can for two.  And of course I’m working from a I-have-way-too-much-pumpkin-purée-in-my-fridge perspective.  So I will be using that instead of the canned stuff.

Preheat your oven now, to 425°F and position a rack in the centre of the oven.

Beat up 4 eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in 3 1/2 cups pumpkin purée, 2 cans (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk (I believe some countries sell condensed milk in 400 mL cans — I would just use the whole can anyway for a slightly sweeter pie), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.

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Take your pie shells out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them.  You may end up with extra filling (lord knows I always do).  I emptied it into a smaller pie pan and baked it as-is, for a sort of pumpkin pudding.

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Chuck the pies (and whatever else you now have on the go) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Then reduce the heat to 375°F and keep baking for about 35 more minutes, until the pastry is all golden and lovely and you can stick a knife in the centre of the pie and bring it out clean again (i.e. the filling has set).  You can see that our crustless pie and the turnover turned out equally well, though with them in the oven everything took an extra 15 minutes or so to cook. Let the pie cool completely on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You can heat it up again if you like.  We enjoy ours with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.  Yum!

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