Wingin’ It Wednesday: Fruit Cookies for Fall

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I whipped these up for dessert at Thanksgiving and like all my made-up cookie recipes, they’re dead easy and use the same base. Experiment with what you chuck into them and enjoy!

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Start by whisking together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a dash of cinnamon. I put the cinnamon in not just for flavour, but also to help me determine if I’ve mixed in the baking powder well enough – if I can’t see streaks of cinnamon then that means there aren’t any streaks of baking powder either. Set that aside.

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In the bowl of a mixer, or by hand if you’re Hercules, beat together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until it’s stupid fluffy.

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Crack in 1 large egg and a dribble of vanilla and beat again until fully incorporated.

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Slowly tip in your flour mixture and beat on low until smooth and completely combined. The dough will be pretty stiff.

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Then grab yourself some of your favourite dried fruit!

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I tossed in rough handfuls (and remember we measured my handfuls and they’re precisely 1/3 of a cup) each of dried papaya, cranberries, golden raisins, and pineapple (though I tore up the larger pineapple pieces first).

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Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Roll the dough into smallish balls and space evenly on the baking sheet (they will not expand very much).

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, and then set the cookies on cooling rack to chill out.

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Enjoy!

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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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Pillow-Soft Peanut Butter Cookies

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I’ve made peanut butter cookies before. But I had yet to find the IDEAL peanut butter cookie, the one that stayed soft and fluffy no matter what. UNTIL NOW. This one, adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, IS that cookie. These things are like memory foam for your taste buds, and the cookies just melt away on the first bite. I made them for Krystopf for his birthday and quadrupled the batch so I’d have some to shove in the freezer for later and now I think I’ve found a new favourite.

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Start with 1/2 cup butter that is nice and soft and chuck that in the bowl of your electric mixer. Tip in as well 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar and start beating that.

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Beat it for like five minutes. Honestly, it makes all the difference.

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Next, whip in 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter.

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Then crack in an egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix it all up until it’s beautiful and smooth.

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I took the time here to grab a package of Skor bits and I tipped in the whole package (for my quadrupled recipe – you might want to use less).

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You can skip this if you’d prefer your cookies unadulterated.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour.

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Slowly mix that in with your dough until fully combined – it won’t take long because your dough is already beautifully soft and fluffy. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes so that you can handle it easily.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment (though I recommend baking these one sheet at a time).  Spread some granulated sugar onto a plate. Grab a pinch of cookie and roll it into a ball.

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Plop it on the plate of sugar and roll to coat.

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Shove it onto the baking sheet and flatten it with a fork.

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Do that with all the rest – you will likely end up with about 24 cookies.

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Bake for 8-9 minutes, one baking sheet at a time. The cookies will look totally underdone when you pull them out but resist the urge to continue baking.  Let the cookies firm up on the baking sheet for about 5-10 minutes before letting them cool on a rack and they’ll be just fine.

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These puppies will stay soft in an airtight container for about 10 days. But they haven’t lasted that long here so I can’t say that for sure.

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Berry White Chocolate Scones

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Every once in a while, I get a craving for scones, and they’re so easy to whip up that there’s really no point in NOT making them. I like to use this base recipe from Canadian Living for versions where I’m adding in buttermilk, and then I just kind of wing it from there. Today we’re adding white chocolate chunks and some frozen service berries.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grab your chocolate and roughly chop up a few ounces. Here I used 6 ounces white chocolate.

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In a bowl, dump about 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Give that a good stir.

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Cube up 1/2 cup cold butter and tip that in as well. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter up into coarse crumbs.

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Now tip in 1 cup frozen berries. If you’re using big berries I recommend a rough chop first. You can add in your chocolate chunks too at this point.

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Give them a stir until everything is coated in flour.

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Whisk together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 large egg.

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Tip that into the mix and stir until just combined.

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It will be sticky and gross.

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Form it into a rough ball and tip it out onto a floured surface.

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Dust your hands with flour and pat the dough into a flattened cylinder that is about 1-1 1/2 inches thick.

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Slice that sucker into as many pieces as you want. Twelve is always a good number.

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Line ’em up on your baking sheet – if they’re sticky then flour the parchment as well.

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Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until the scones are dry to the touch and slightly browned. If you are using extra frozen fruit, you may want to add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

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Serve immediately for breakfast, lunch, or dessert – or just a snack!

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Age of Decadence Birthday Cupcakes

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Yesterday was my brand new  minion’s respected co-worker’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her first month on the job (and a milestone birthday she wasn’t really looking forward to) with her favourite treat: a dark, rich chocolate cake. Cake’s a bit hard to transport around the office, however, so I went with the cupcake version instead, and I made someone else do all the hard work for me in choosing the best recipe. I picked Sally’s Baking Addiction’s tried and tested Death by Chocolate Cupcakes and doubled the recipe (as I am wont to do). An entire bar of this lovely dark chocolate went into the process and I think it was entirely worth it.

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Like all good cupcakes, you start with butter and chocolate, and melting things. In the bowl of a double boiler (or in your microwave, but I no longer own one of those), melt together 1 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces chocolate (the recipe calls for semi-sweet but I say use whatever is your favourite).

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Once that’s all smooth and sassy, set it aside to cool a little bit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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In a smallish bowl, whisk together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave that alone and do the next thing.

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In a largish bowl, crack 4 large room temperature eggs,  then tip in 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk-y, whisk-y, whisk-y.

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I kind of miss whiskey …

Pour the melted butter and chocolate into the egg/sugar stuff and mix until smooth.

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Grab yourself 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, tip 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup and top it up with milk. Give it a stir and leave it about five minutes until it’s curdled and thick. It’s not *quite* the same, though, and the Pie likes having buttermilk for pancakes, so I am using the real deal).  Alternate pouring some buttermilk into the chocolatey goo with adding the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. You don’t want to overmix this or the batter will bake up flat.

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And this batter is going to be THICK. Sally says it’s thick like pudding. I think it’s even thicker than that.

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Thick, like dog poo thick. But in a delicious way.

Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Set those aside to cool completely and get started on your icing. Actually, before you do that, break up another couple ounces of that lovely dark chocolate and set them to melt in your double boiler. Once it’s all liquid, set it aside to cool almost to room temperature.

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Beat up about 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter in the bowl of your mixer until it’s pale and fluffy. Sift together (to avoid lumps) 5 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

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Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the fluffy butter and then tip in some of your icing sugar mix. Drizzle in, alternating with the icing sugar mix, 1 cup heavy cream.  Because I don’t remember where I put my mixer shield, this happened of course.

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This one’s for you, Eli.

And because none of my aprons fit me anymore, this happened as well. Baby bellies are cooking hazards, it seems.

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The Pie thought it necessary to remind me that I don’t own very many maternity clothes and should probably take better care of the ones I’ve got. I may have said a few bad words to him in reply.

But when you’re done you’ll get this lovely soft icing that’s pretty much exactly halfway between a ganâche and a buttercream. It’s very delightful. Use that and a wide tip to ice your cooled cupcakes.

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Age of Decadence Cupcakes 20And because age is just a number, I made little number signs out of that melted chocolate (poured on waxed paper and allowed to cool) and shoved them in the top.

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As I was making these, I remarked to the Pie that my youngest teammate, who is 23, was going to ask why there were “hashtags” all over the cupcakes, and he laughed. Then the next morning, the first thing she did when she walked into the room was go, “what’s with all the hashtags?” I so called it. Kids these days … 🙂

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St. Clement’s Cake

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I made this Jamie Oliver recipe for Mrs. Nice’s birthday cake and it was a real hit. If you’re not super into the huge layer cakes with tons of icing then I think this will be right up your alley. It’s a nice moist cake as well so it keeps for quite a few days if you wrap it up well.

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Measurements for this recipe are mostly in metric, so if you have a scale handy I would recommend using it. Start by greasing a springform cake pan with butter, and then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

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Next, grab yourself a large orange and take all the zest off. Juice it as well while you’re at it. Set that aside for a bit.

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In the bowl of your mixer, beat together 125g softened butter with 125g sugar until it’s soft and fluffy and amazing.

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Next, crack in 4 large eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition until everything is foamy and smooth.

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Tip in *most* of your orange zest. Keep some aside for the syrup and topping.

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Next, fold in 100g self-rising flour (see here for a DIY substitute) and 200g ground almonds.

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Smooth that loveliness into your cake pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until fully risen and lightly golden.

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Let that cool in the pan for a few minutes and make some syrup.

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In a small saucepan, tip in 100g sugar and the juice from that orange you smooshed earlier. Add in a pinch of the remaining zest as well for extra flavour if you like. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is totally dissolved.

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Next, take a skewer and poke a ton of holes all over your still-hot cake. Go all the way to the bottom.

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Drizzle the syrup all over the top of the cake and leave it for a few minutes to soak in before popping off the edges of the pan.

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Let the cake cool completely.

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Now I want you to zest and juice 1 lemon. Add a pinch of the lemon zest to your remaining orange zest, but stir the rest of it into 225g icing sugar.

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Drizzle in your lemon juice, stirring the whole time, until you have a glaze that is a nice consistency for pouring.

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Pour your glaze slowly over the entire cooled cake, allowing it to drip off the sides. It’s best to put a sheet of waxed paper under your rack BEFORE you do this.

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Sprinkle that remaining zest on top and leave it to harden a bit. Once it’s set you can transfer it to a plate for serving.

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Enjoy!

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Roast Pork with Apple Cider Gravy

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This was the main attraction for Mrs. Nice’s birthday lunch and it was super good. I used a pork shoulder instead of a pork belly (because I couldn’t find one at the time) and made some drastic adjustments in cooking time, but the recipe is more or less the same as the one from Good Housekeeping.

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Start by preheating your oven to 450°F and grab a large shallow roasting pan. Plop a 3lb pork shoulder right in the middle, so there’s lots of space on all sides. Rub it all over with olive oil and salt and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 350°F and let it keep cooking, sizzling away, for another half hour. Then grab 6 small eating apples (these are giant Cortlands, which are neither small nor eating apples, but that’s neither here nor there), and coat them with oil and salt and pop them in the pan as well.

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Cook for another 45-60 minutes, until the apples have burst and are tender and the pork is registering at about 145°-160°F, depending on how well done you like your pork.

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Plop the roast on a cutting board and wrap it up in foil and a towel to rest and keep warm.

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Scoop out your apples and set them aside for a minute. Drain the contents of the pan into a small saucepan and let that come to a simmer. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour and, when it starts to thicken, add in 2 cups apple cider, whisking until smooth.

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Reduce the heat and leave that for a bit to thicken. Stir it occasionally.

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Slice up your apples and lay them over a big serving plate.

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Carve the pork roast and arrange the slices on top of the apples, and dribble with gravy.

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Serve the extra gravy on the side for your Deadly Mashed Potatoes!

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