Hallowe’en Holdover Cookies

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Do you have Hallowe’en candy left? We did. But then we had houseguests. But while we did have leftover candy, I made these sweet somethings. I forgot to photograph the middle part but I’m trusting you to know what I’m talking about.

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Start with some hardshelled chocolate candy. You want the stuff with shells otherwise the chocolate will just melt out of your cookie and ruin the structure. Here I have M&Ms, regular and peanut, Reese’s Pieces, and Smarties. For you Americans reading this, these are more like M&Ms – not the chalky discs we call Rockets.

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So pretty!

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Gather up about 1 1/2 cups of candy. Try to avoid eating it all as you empty the little tiny packets.

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Grab 2 1/2 cups flour, and whisk it together with 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Set that aside.

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With a mixer, cream together 1 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I only had white in the photo but brown makes it excellent).

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Tip in 3 egg yolks and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix away.

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Add in your flour mixer and mix on low until just combined. You want this still to be a little crumbly.

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Dump in all your happy candy and stir it in.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop a golf ball-sized lump of dough and form it into a ball. Roll the ball in granulated sugar and flatten slightly onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the tops of the cookies start to crack. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet a little bit before you move them to a wire rack to cool – that way they’ll stay together better.

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Then all you need to do is eat them – easy enough!

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Momofuku’s Banana Cream Pie, only slightly butchered.

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I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix since LongJohn was born – it helps to pass the time while being forced to stay perfectly stationary for long periods of time. I figured going into this that I’d try to stick with documentaries – that way I could educate myself and if I was interrupted (which I often am) then I wouldn’t miss too much plot if they played in the background while I did something else. And so I’ve been watching a ton of cooking documentaries, and I just finished plowing through The Mind of a Chef. In the first season, the focus is largely on David Chang, owner of Momofuku in New York. One of the segments features his pastry chef, who whips up a banana cream pie like it was nothing.

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It looked so easy I figured I could do it even with LongJohn around. And then I had to think about that for a minute. This recipe involves making a custard, and uses four different kitchen appliances, some of them more than once. It really isn’t THAT easy, but it’s easy for me NOW to do. Talk to me five years ago and I would never have attempted this, or I would have addressed it as a challenge. It’s weird how much this blog has made me grow as someone who cooks things. But on to the pie, which is semi-easy if you’ve made things in the kitchen before. I set up a mis en place because I knew LongJohn could interrupt me at any time.

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I also took my butter and, because my microwave is all the way in the basement, I set it outside on my back porch in the sun to melt. I’m that lazy.

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Plus it was like 33°C, which is more than warm enough to melt butter.

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You like my squinty face?

And so it did.

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The recipe I used printed everything in weights (ounces and grams) so I’m going to use ounces here – my apologies. Get your kitchen scale ready. Start with 8 oz very ripe bananas (this is like two). These are the black ones that you chuck in your freezer. Pitch those into a blender together with 2 3/4 oz whipping cream, and 2 1/4 oz milk and blend the crap out of them until they’re lovely and smooth.

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Next, tip in 3 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz cornflour (I’ve come to realize that this is a Britishism for cornstarch, not masa harina, which I used – butchery #1), a pinch of salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Blend that again, scraping down the sides of the blender, until the colour is uniform.

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Pour that stuff into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. Clean your blender while this is going on.

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The recipe says to bring it to a boil but mine never did. Eventually it will be a very heavy paste that holds its shape. Pour the thick stuff back into the blender.

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Grab 2 leaves gelatin or 1 pouch gelatin (I thought a leaf equaled a pouch and used two pouches – butchery #2) and follow the instructions to make it “bloom”. When it’s ready, chuck it in the blender along with 1 1/2 oz butter and blend until smooth (again).

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Next, drop in 1/2 teaspoon yellow food colouring (otherwise your pie will be brown not  yellow) and blend again until the pie is artificially crazy yellow (it will get lighter later, I promise).

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Pour the yellow goo into a container and chill it for 30-60 minutes.

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While that’s happening, make the chocolate crumb for your crust (I actually did this first, because it made more sense to me). Preheat your oven to 300°F and stir together 3 1/2 oz plain flour, 1 teaspoon cornflour (again, cornstarch), 3 1/2 oz sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Tip in 3 oz melted butter (yay, the sun!) and beat until small clusters form.

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Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The clusters should be still moist but will dry out as they cool. In order for this to happen they have to be a bit bigger than what you see in the picture, because these will burn (so either cook them for less time or make them bigger – butchery #3). Apparently this makes more than you need for a 10″ pie so you will only use 3/4 of it but I didn’t want to waste it or store it so I used it all in my 9″ pie plate and it was totally fine.

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Once the clusters have cooled, chuck them into a food processor and pulse until they turn sandy and there are no chunks left.

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Tip these granules into a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

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Work that with your hands until the stuff is moist enough to knead into a ball (I did not do this because my poor carpal tunnel hands are killing me). Press that into the pan. I did it with just the crumbs and it was fine (butchery #4).

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Don’t forget to press it firmly into all the corners of the pan – you don’t want it to be too thick there.

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Now for the rest of the banana cream. Whisk 6 1/2 oz whipping cream and 5 3/4 oz icing sugar together until stiff peaks form (remember that it helps to chill your beater and the bowl beforehand).

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Tip in your cooled yellow goo and mix, mix, mix.

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See? I told you it would get paler.

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Tip half the goo into your pie shell. Cut up another, less ripe banana (I used two because they were kind of weenie) and spread that around on the surface. You can get fancy with the layout but nobody’s going to see it.

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Add the rest of the goo and smooth it out. Make sure none of the banana pieces are sticking out because they will oxidize and turn brown.

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Chill the pie for a little while then serve and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!

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Cloud Cake

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I made this Martha Stewart recipe for one of our two Mother’s Day celebrations earlier this month, and it was easy to prepare all the pieces the day before and then assemble it with a flourish on the day of. The original recipe is not gluten-free but we had Fussellette staying with us and made one simple adjustment to make it that way – you can do it whichever way you would like.

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Start with the meringue: preheat your oven to 275°F and grab three 8″ round cake pans. I happened to have 2 8″ round cake pans and one 9″, so that’s what I used.

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Butter the pans and then line the bottom and sides with parchment. This is easier said than done as the pans are round and parchment is straight. Get creative with the folding. It’ll just add to the allure of the finished product, I promise. Now butter the parchment as well to make sure it sticks.

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Crack open 6 large eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Put the yolks in the fridge for now and leave the whites to come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt until smooth and powdery and when you open the lid it kind of wafts out like smoke. Don’t inhale that. You will cough.

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Now grab your 6 egg whites and beat them with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

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Slowly, a little bit at a time, tip in the sugar mixture and keep beating until you get lovely stiff peaks.

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Smooth the meringue amid your three pans and bake for 1 hour.

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Then turn off the oven and wedge the oven door open with a wooden spoon for another hour. Then move the pans to a wire rack to cool completely. If you’re going to assemble the cake the next day, slip each layer of cooled meringue into a separate sealed bag and suck the air out of it.

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Next, let’s work on the custard cream. In a bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and a pinch of coarse salt. We made a gluten-free version of the flour by combining coconut flour, xanthan gum, and corn starch.

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In a small saucepan, combine your leftover 6 egg yolks (original recipe calls for 3 but why waste them?) with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and a split vanilla bean pod with the seeds scraped out. Stir that over medium heat and slowly add in the flour mixture.

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With ours, because of the nontraditional ingredients, I found the buttermilk reacted with either the cornstarch or the xanthan gum and I pretty much had instant custard. So I stirred it until I was sure the yolks had a chance to cook and then took it off the heat. If you’re using regular flour you may have to work harder at it, so stir until it just comes to a boil and then strain through a fine meshed sieve.

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Pour the custard cream into a bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the surface so it’s completely sealed, and chuck it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

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Now there’s caramel to make too. In the original, Martha used the microwave but we moved ours into the basement and that was too far away. I did this in a small saucepan on the stove. First, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment.

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Then over medium heat, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons corn syrup.

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Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is bubbling and turns a light brown.

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Remove that from the heat and drizzle it over the baking sheet.

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Leave that to cool then chop it up with a knife into little tiny jagged pieces. If you’re assembling the next day, shove the pieces into a resealable bag and squeeze the air out.

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To assemble, start by whipping up some heavy cream to your taste and amount (this is going on the top as garnish so use as much as you like – I think we whipped up about a cup of it). Cream whips better if your bowl and mixers are cold, so chuck them in the freezer for a while if you can.

Plop one of the meringues on a nice plate and smother it with about half the custard cream.

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Sprinkle that with about 1/3 of your caramel pieces.

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Let some fall off artistically to the side. It’s decorative.

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Plop another meringue on and smear with the rest of the custard cream and another 1/3 of the caramel bits. Add the final layer and top that with your whipped cream and the last of the caramel. Serve immediately!

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Creamsicle Pudding

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUSTY!

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I adapted this recipe from Food52 when I had three oranges and two lemons and I didn’t know what to do with them (other than simply eat them, but that’s not very exciting).

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Start by zesting and juicing your 3 oranges and 2 lemons.

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You should end up with just over 1 cup juice (like a cup plus a couple tablespoons, which is good).

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Set a medium-sized pot on the stove with a couple inches of water in it and set it to simmer.

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Then grab a metal or heatproof glass bowl and crack in 6 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks. Give those a thorough beating-up. They probably deserve it, the jerks.

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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups sugar.

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Then toss in your zest and your juice.

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What a lovely colour.

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Set that on top of the simmering water and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir pretty much constantly. If you leave egg yolks and granulated sugar alone for more than a minute they get a bit grainy and we don’t want that. Keep stirring!

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After about 10 or so minutes, the foam will disappear and you’ll have this lovely thick stuff that leaves a trace when you move the whisk. If you test this with a thermometer it should read around 180°F.

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Remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool a bit, stirring occasionally to release more heat. You want it somewhere around 140°F before you put your butter in. My butter was actually frozen so I started adding it in at around the 150°F mark.

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Tip all your lovely citrusy goo into a blender (you can use an immersion blender if you have a deep enough bowl) and add in 2 cups of unsalted butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition, until your concoction is pale and very thick. I may have overfilled my blender here. Oops. All the more reason to make sure the lid stays on.

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The finished product is more or less a curd, so you can use it to fill tarts, spread it on scones or toast (I have some panettone that is simply itching to be slathered), or eat it as a pudding. I’m also tempted to whip up some cream and fold them together to make a frozen fool (though the weather outside is too cold to make me crave cold treats). Just keep it covered and in the fridge if you don’t eat it all right away.

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Rhubarb Bars

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°You guys. Listen. Seriously. These rhubarb bars from Lara Ferroni are my new favourite thing. Honest. I like ’em even better than my famous lemon bars. I was going to bring these into work one day but then the Pie and I decided to eat them all ourselves. So we totally did. We even ate them for breakfast. And I don’t even feel bad about it.

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Start by chopping up about 400g fresh rhubarb into 1/2″ chunks. My stalks were super skinny and tender so I didn’t bother to peel it but if you’re working with the thicker, tougher stalks, then you might want to consider it. Plop the bits into a bowl with 1/3 cup sugar, give that a stir, and let that macerate for about 10 minutes.

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When the rhubarb bits are starting to get a little juicy, plop them into a medium-sized pot with about 1/4 cup water and cook over low heat until everything is mushy.

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Remove your rhubarb mush from the heat and allow to cool. You can purée the rhubarb at this point but it’s not necessary. Just mush it up a little more so there are no solid pieces. Depending on the colour of your rhubarb, your stewed ‘barb will be any colour from an orange-ish yellow to a deep red. Don’t worry if it’s any variation in between.

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Now we need to make a gorgeous flaky shortbread crust for these. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 9″ x 5″ baking dish with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 4oz room temperature butter, 1 cup flour, and 1/4 cup sugar. Start slow when it’s all powdery like this:

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But then it will very quickly come together into a soft dough.

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Press this into the baking dish and let it rest for 15 minutes.

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Then bake it until it’s nice and golden, about 20 minutes.

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While that’s on the go you can finish up your rhubarb goo by turning it into rhubarb curd. In a bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water or the top of a double boiler, whisk together 6 egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar and let those get nice and warm.

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Add in the stewed rhubarb a little at a time until it’s got the taste and consistency that you like. I ended up adding in all of mine.

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When you’re happy, remove it from the heat and tip in 50g butter, cut into chunks.

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Stir that until smooth – you now have rhubarb curd!

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Pour about half to two-thirds of the curd on top of the baked shortbread crust.

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Save the other curd and chuck it in your fridge to use on toast.

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Shove that back into your oven for about 10 minutes, until the curd has set.

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Let that cool completely before slicing into lots of pieces. I found it was best to keep these in the fridge as the curd likes to travel when it gets warm.

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Momofuku’s Crack Pie

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When I first saved this recipe in my Evernote folder, “crack pie” was super trendy. But that was like FOUR YEARS AGO. I am so not trendy. But I had 8 egg yolks left over from making meringues and this is a great way to use them up. The measurements are a bit finicky, probably, I suspect, because they were converted from metric for American audiences, but still workable. I made the cookie crust the day before, just because there are a lot of steps to follow.

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To make the oat cookie for the crust: Preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Technically you’re supposed to do this in a 9″ x 13″ pan but mine was dirty so what’re you gonna do …

In a bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/8 teaspoon baking powder.

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In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together 1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.

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Beat in 1 egg until well combined.

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Then tip in your flour and mix that in well.

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Finally, add 1 cup oats and stir until fully blended.

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Press your cookie dough (because that’s what it is, surprise!) onto your pan.

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Bake for 20 minutes, then cool it completely on a wire rack.

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Those black spots are my buttery fingerprints, burned to a crisp.

Bust it into pieces.

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To construct the cookie crust: Take the crumbled bits of cookie and chuck them in your food processor together with 1/4 cup butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar and pulse until you have fine, clumpy crumbs.

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I actually found it easier (because my processor is super small) to pulse the cookie on its own and then add in the butter and sugar.

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The crumbs should stick to themselves when you press on them.

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Divide the crumbs between 2 10″ pie pans. These are 9″, which will make the filling a bit thicker which means I will have to bake them for a little longer but that’s fine. I rarely use my 9″ pans as it is, so don’t freak out and buy a 10″ one unless you plan on making a lot of skinny pies.

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Press the crumbs onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I may have gone a bit too high up the sides. Crack pies are pretty low-profile.

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Now, in a bowl (don’t use a mixer for this as you’ll beat in too much air), whisk together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon powdered milk (if you are unfamiliar with powdered milk, you can usually find it in the coffee/tea aisle of the grocery store).

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Melt 1 cup butter (it’s a lot, I know) and stir into it 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

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Gently whisk the butter/cream into the sugar/powdered milk.

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Then grab your 8 egg yolks. I am so pleased with how these fit into my storage container. It’s highly satisfying.

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Ever-so-gently whisk the yolks into the rest of the mixture, careful again not to mix in too much air (fluffy crack pie filling will puff up and be way not as good).

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Divide the filling between the two crusts.

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The recipe told me to bake the pies one at a time, but as it involves temperature changes I decided it would be a waste of energy to do so, so I did them both at once. Bake the pies for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 325°F and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the surface of the filling is a nice even brown and bubbling. I had to bake the one in the white pan for an extra 5 minutes, simply because it was thicker.

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Set the pies on a wire rack to cool and then cover them and shove them into the fridge. Crack pie is meant to be served cold, and even cold it’s gooey, like a giant butter tart. It’s a bit obscene, actually.

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Before serving, dust the surface of the pie with icing sugar.

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Slice and serve!

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Gluten-Free Choco-Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

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I hadn’t baked anything since before we left for NYC so I was kind of jonesing for some cupcakes, and these were a perfect match. They actually came straight off the package of Bob’s Red Mill quinoa flour that I was using. As far as gluten-free flours go, quinoa flour is probably one of the closest you can get, consistency-wise, to real wheat flour. When you bake with quinoa flour you end up with lovely fluffy sponge-y cakes. They do, however, taste like quinoa. So if you’re cool with that, then have at her.

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Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium pot, melt 1/4 cup butter with 1/2 cup water and bring that to a low boil.

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Whisk in 1/4 cup cocoa and remove it from the heat. Let it cool down from molten temperatures.

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Sift 1 cup sugar, 1 1/4 cup quinoa flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda into a bowl.

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Add in the slightly cooled cocoa mixture and mix that around.

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Separate yourself 2 eggs. Leave the whites to come to room temperature, and mix the yolks together with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup sour cream. Mix those into the cocoa mixture (make sure it’s not too hot so you don’t curdle your yolks).

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Now, whip up those egg whites until stiff and foamy and then fold them into the mixture.

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Drop that into your prepared baking cups and bake for  20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean. Let those cool completely on a wire rack.

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While that’s baking, why not start with your icing?  I pulled this from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium pot over medium heat.

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Add in  1 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

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Add in 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and stir that in. Stirring occasionally, let the whole thing come to a bubble, and stay at a bubble for about 2 minutes, then remove it from the heat and let it cool enough that you won’t burn yourself on it. Because being burned by hot sugar is bad.

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Beat in about 2-3 cups icing sugar, a little at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. If you find you’ve added too much, don’t freak out – just add a bit more cream and you’re all set.

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Slather the icing all over your cupcakes. I tried to pipe mine but it was too thick so I went with slathering, but you can pipe it if you want. Giv’er!

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