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Gluten-Free Whole Grain Cheese and Mustard Muffins

This week I bring you another recipe from my long-ish running series, “Recipes of Future Past”. This one also happens to be gluten-free, and is near the beginning of my gluten-free baking.

Before we discovered that my wife didn’t get along that well with wheat, I had never considered baking gluten-free. I had heard of it, but there wasn’t any real impetus to do so. Shortly after we found out, I decided that I would try gluten-free baking.

I looked up some gluten-free recipes that looked interesting, and I went out and got a whole bunch of different gluten-free flours. I used them in a couple of recipes, but after that, they mostly just sat there unused. That’s because it got complicated. I found that many gluten-free recipes used specific flours. There are so many different kinds, and everyone uses different ones. So having enough for all of the different recipes would mean stocking many, many different kinds of flour. It just wasn’t practical.

What I soon realized though, is that I didn’t have to go that route. I stumbled upon a really great all-purpose gluten-free flour from Trader Joe’s. At that point, I didn’t need to seek out recipes that were specifically gluten-free. I could use any recipe and just substitute the all-purpose gluten-free flour for the “regular” flour. And with this particular gluten-free flour, it works. No more stocking up on half a dozen different kinds of flour. No more researching recipes specially crafted to be gluten-free. Just one substitution and I’m done. Thank you, Trader Joe’s!

But this recipe was made before I figured all of that out. IIRC, I went out and found some millet. It was not a grain I was familiar with, but hey, why not. I don’t remember what gluten-free all-purpose flour I used for this, as I believe it predated my using Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour. My guess is that it was probably Bob’s Red Mill, as that’s the brand I generally find when I’m looking for alternative flours. I did not use the optional walnuts.

I enjoy mustard, and I enjoy cheese, so I figured this would be a good gluten-free recipe to try. And as I recall, it was. I remember them being decent muffins. The only caveat is that between the cornmeal and the millet, I believe they were a little grainy.

It was a while back that I made them, so I don’t remember them all that well at this point. I would have to try making them again in order to have more to share. But given that I would have to get millet specifically in order to make them means I’m not all that likely to do so, unless I can find a reasonable substitute. If that happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I should also mention that around the time I made these, I also made another set of muffins that I found at the same time from the same source: Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Muffins. As I’m constantly expanding the Recipes of Future Past section, you will probably hear about these sooner or later.

If you happen to make these, let me know how they go. I’d love to hear. And if you have any other gluten-free recipes, or recipes that you’ve successfully gluten-freeified, feel free to share. I’d love to hear about those, too.

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Recipe courtesy of The New York Times.

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Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

This week we take on something different. I know you’re used to seeing lots of desserts here at Needs Baked HQ. This week’s recipe is not sweet, but it’s still delicious. A tart for dinner, you say? A delicious crust wrapped around cheese and vegetables, you say? Yes, I say!

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So what is this galette thing anyway, you might be wondering. Yeah, I was wondering, too. It can be a lot of different things, but this one, as many of them are, is like a tart. But it’s a tart without a tart pan. (See here for more info.) You might notice there’s now a new category on the site called tarts, so I think you can safely assume that there will eventually be more to come.

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So why this galette? One night last weekend we were trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I remembered that I had a leftover pie crust from making the chess pie. So we discussed using that and making some sort of vegetable tart. We looked to see what vegetables we had handy and found that zucchini was our best option. So I did a little poking around on smitten kitchen, which always has great recipes, and I found this one which used zucchini.

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Since I was using the leftover pie crust I had, I didn’t use the crust mentioned in the recipe. It’s also from smitten kitchen, but it’s slightly different than the one in the recipe: a little bit of sugar, no sour cream, no lemon juice. After we settled on making this, I took the dough out of the freezer and put it in the fridge so it could defrost but still stay chilled as the recipe required. By the time I got started it hadn’t quite defrosted, so I took it out of the fridge to defrost the rest of the way.

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As far as the rest of the ingredients went, we didn’t actually have two zucchinis, we had one zucchini and one squash, but we figured they would play nice together. I used some pre-minced garlic we had, which was super easy. We actually had to go out and get all the cheeses. But, since we went for a nice afternoon walk through the neighborhood anyway, we just stopped and picked up the cheeses on the way home. We also got some sausages to have with it. I didn’t get any fresh basil, I just used dried basil which we already had.

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I didn’t do an egg wash. As you may know, I generally don’t have eggs around and I didn’t want to get any just for this. I remembered doing a cream wash before, but I didn’t have any cream either. I figured butter might be close, so I melted some butter for a butter wash.

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My wife cut up the zucchini and squash, salted it, and let it drain. (Thanks hon!) I blotted it dry and put it into a bowl to make space on the counter. I then mixed the olive oil and garlic, followed by mixing the cheese mixture.

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By this point, the dough had been defrosting for a while, so I figured it was ready. I took it out of the plastic wrap it was in and started rolling it out. It was hard to work with. It was still a little frozen, or at least really cold, as it wasn’t really malleable. After working with it for a few minutes it finally started behaving, but by that point it had absorbed a lot of flour, which I had needed to use to keep rolling it out. (I probably should have just let it sit some more, but the evening was moving forward with it or without it, and I figured the evening would go better if we actually had something for dinner.) I rolled it out on my pastry mat which has all the sizes right on it, making it easy to measure.

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I covered a baking sheet in parchment paper, and I carefully moved the dough onto it. It was a little messy, and the dough was a little weak in places, but I got it moved. I spread out the cheese mixture, arranged the zucchini and squash, and drizzled the garlic/olive oil mixture on top. Then I folded up the dough. I melted a little butter, mixed it with some water, and used it as a wash over the dough.

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I baked it for 30 minutes, but it seemed like it needed a few more, so I baked it for 5 more. The dough didn’t look quite as brown as in the pictures with the recipe. However, I did use a different dough and a different wash, so those probably made the difference. Also, the zucchini/squash juices were kinda everywhere. I don’t know if I should’ve patted the vegetables dry again right before I used them. I also don’t know if the dough being a little weak in places is why it oozed out. I blotted the top of it with a paper towel and wiped up around the sides. Then I sprinkled on some dried basil and carefully slid it onto a dish for serving.

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It looked fantastic and it smelled great too. I felt very European. And I have to say, it was delicious. Yummy vegetables, yummy cheeses, yummy dough. I was worried that the pie dough might be a little sweet, but it wasn’t. It all worked together perfectly. And the sausages were a great choice to go with it. My only real complaint was that at some point it was gone.🙂 My wife said it was delightful, and she wished we could have one every week. She also described it as “what pizza wants to grow up to be.”

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While I don’t know if we’ll have one every week, I would totally make one again. It was fairly straightforward, very delicious, and a great answer to the eternal question of “What’s for dinner?”. It also made me want to bake more for dinner. How about you? Do you have any favorite dinnery dishes? Any savory servings to share?

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Dough recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Galette recipe also courtesy of smitten kitchen.

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Skillet Biscuit Bread

I have a huge list of recipes that are on my “to do” list. You have one of those, right? As I’m browsing the web, I come across tons of interesting looking recipes, and I add them to a list. I like to think that I’ll get to them soon, but given the number of recipes I come across and the number of hours in the day, it’s never as soon as I would like.

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This one has been on my list for a while, but I should have done it so much sooner, as it’s super quick and easy. Start to finish, it wasn’t much more than 20 minutes.

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I usually do pictures of the ingredients in every post. And while they aren’t always the most interesting pictures of the bunch, I like this particular one for two reasons. One, because it reminds me that from simple ingredients come great things. And two, for the little detail you might have noticed. There’s baking soda in the picture. However, the recipe called for baking powder. Thankfully, in between photographing it and using it, I realized that I had grabbed the wrong thing. Phew.

Dough just added.

Dough just added.

As I mentioned, this was very easy to make. I mixed all of the ingredients together. I had one minor mistake. I had read through the instructions a little while ago, but I hadn’t read all the way through on the night I was making it. I forgot that the extra few tablespoons of water were for once it was in the pan. I added that extra water to the dough by mistake, but it was still okay.

Ready to flip.

Ready to flip.

I used our cast-iron skillet to make it. If you don’t know anything about cast-iron skillets, you should check them out. They are the definition of old school, and they are nonstick the old-fashioned way. They also last a long time. My mom has one that’s been in the family for generations. When you’re cooking with something like that, you get to remember history and think of all the people who have cooked before you.

Flipped and cooking.

Flipped and cooking the other side.

I love ours. It’s one of the best wedding gifts we got. (You might have noticed some of the other ones, like the KitchenAid and Silpats, which have also been outstanding.) It doesn’t have a cover, so I borrowed one from a similarly sized pan to cover it while cooking.

Fresh from the skillet!

Fresh from the skillet!

It cooked quickly like the recipe said it would. It was fun to watch the oil creep up around it, and to watch and hear the bread bubble, sizzle, and cook. Parts of it got a little charred, so maybe I should have spread the oil around a little better.

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And for the million dollar question: how was it? It was nice! I let it sit for a little bit, then cut off some pieces to eat. I tried it with and without butter. It was good either way. It’s simple, yummy bread. Chewy inside, slightly crispy outside. It reminded me a little bit of naan, which is similar in size and shape and is also sometimes slightly charred in places.

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I cut up the rest of it to have another time. And a couple of days later, we had a bunch of it for lunch. It made great impromptu sandwiches and faux bruschetta.

All in all it was an easy and tasty recipe, and I would definitely recommend it. It’s a great choice if you need bread really quickly. Do you have any bread recipes that are fast? Or other favorite fast recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

Recipe courtesy of This Week For Dinner.

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Lime Tart

I hope you’ll forgive me if I post another recipe with limes. Does it help if I mention that there are no further lime recipes for a while? Does it help if I say this one is delicious? Does it help if I invite you over for some?

You might remember that in last week’s recipe I was trying to use up some cornmeal. I had gotten some limes for that recipe, and now I had a bunch of limes. So I found another recipe to use up the limes. Yeah, I know this could turn into a never-ending story, but thankfully it stops with this. (This time at least.🙂 )

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You might notice that there’s no picture of the ingredients this time. Well, I wasn’t sure if the limes were actually any good still. So I had to cut them open and check them out and by that point a picture seemed already too late. Actually, my wife took care of the limes. She zested and juiced them while I was putting the crust together. Thanks hon!

If you’re following along with the recipe, I want to point out a few things. I forgot to put the vanilla in the crust. Oops! Juicing 4 limes made just enough for a 1/2 cup of juice. Also they were not key limes, just regular limes. I didn’t use an egg in the crust.

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I used my friendly neighborhood kitchen helper, the KitchenAid, twice for this recipe. The first kitchenaiding (is that a word?) was making the crust. Mixing it together using the KitchenAid was a snap.

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However, I have to come clean about something. I cheated on putting the crust together. I don’t have a tart pan, so I used a cake dish (9″ round). And rather than roll out the crust, especially if it was going to be a crumbly mess like the recipe suggested, I grabbed the cake dish and just dumped the dough in. I pressed it all along the bottom. Then I pulled some of the excess out and smooshed it up the sides. I tried to keep it from being too thick along the edge, which is an issue I have when making crusts this way. It wasn’t perfectly flat, but it was okay. I put it in the fridge to chill.

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After it chilled, I sprayed cooking spray onto a piece of foil and covered the dough. I weighed it down with pie weights. After the first 20 minutes baking, it looked super poofy and like it was baking unevenly. (I guess that’s why you shouldn’t do it the way I did.) I pricked it with a fork and put it back in for another 20 minutes. It looked very done at that point, so I took it out. Unevenly done, but done. I let it cool.

As it was baking, I made the filling. The zest and juice were already done. I minced the zest with the sugar in the food processor. As I was doing so, what can only be described as lime scented sugar dust wafted up from it. And in the end it turned into sugary lime powder. Yum!

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The second kitchenaiding (I figure if I keep using it as a word it might catch on) was for mixing up all the ingredients for the filling. Easy peasy. Then I put the filling in a saucepan. I had thought it was all combined, but as I was pouring it, I realized it wasn’t. At that point, all I could do was hope that it would combine more while heating. I heated it up a bit different than the directions. It took a total of 12 minutes on medium heat. I was concerned that it wasn’t thick enough, so that’s why I cooked it for a longer time and at a higher heat. Eventually it thickened. (Maybe it needed the extra time and heat because it wasn’t quite combined at the start?)

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The crust was cool-ish when I poured in the filling. I let it set, and I did the jiggle test to confirm. We weren’t quite ready for it, so I put it in the fridge till we were. It smelled lovely all through the making of it: the zesting and juicing, the processing, the mixing, the heating, etc.

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When it got to dessert time, it was hard to cut it. Mainly because it’s a non-stick pan, and I don’t want to ruin it. I need to get something to cut on it, as I keep having this issue. I ended up using two different spatulas and a plastic knife. Eventually I was able to cut it. The second piece was easier, as is usually the case.

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It was a bit of a mess. Maybe it hadn’t really thickened enough, as it was kinda sloppy and all over the place. And even though I had tried to work against it, the crust had bunched up at the edge. I think next time I should make a tart crust properly, or if I’m going to do it this way, I need to adjust my technique by either leaving it lighter around the edge, or starting from the edge and working my way in.

Even with all of the mess and such, it was still really good. There is a nice taste and texture to the crust. Thankfully, it didn’t taste overcooked. The lime filling was nice and limey, which is to say tart and sweet.

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Coincidentally, my wife’s anosmia had kicked in again. You can read more about it here. That time I made a lemon based dessert which she could taste. I didn’t realize it had really kicked in again when I made this, but it was a similar situation. She couldn’t smell it, but she could taste the citrus and the sweet.

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I was hoping that after a whole day in the fridge the filing would firm up more. Well, I can confirm that on the second day, it had firmed up a bit and was much more solid. And still delicious. And I can’t say for sure that it kept getting better day after day, but one taster a few days later said it was one of the best things she’s ever had.

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Now, I could go the punny route and say it was simply sublime. Or I could go the non-poetic route and say it was tasty. Or I could just suggest that you all try it for yourselves and tell me what you think of it. I think I’ll go the last route. So I look forward to hearing how it was for you.

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Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

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Lime Cornmeal Cookies

Someone deserves a prize for coming up with the idea of using cornmeal in cookies. I’m not talking Nobel Peace Prize level of prize, but something would be nice. It was an excellent idea, and it surely wasn’t mine. I don’t think I would have even tried it if not for the proliferation of recipes I found. (Who knew there were so many?) I just wanted to make something with cornmeal, as I had wanted to use up the cornmeal I had gotten for the chess pie. In that search, I practically ran headfirst into this recipe. Figuratively, of course. Spoiler alert: it turned out to be an excellent cookie, but it didn’t use up that much cornmeal.

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I had walked out the door to go grocery shopping without having looked recently at the recipe, and without having it with me. Silly me. I knew I needed limes, but not how many. I got a bag of organic limes, and I figured I could use the rest another time if needed. Actually, while making it, before even tasting them my wife suggested I make a double recipe. In retrospect it would have been a good idea, but I wanted to try them out once first. I only ended up using two limes, but that’s okay. (I wonder what I’ll do with the rest of the limes?)

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I didn’t have eggs handy, and I didn’t want to get any just for this so I used aquafaba. It’s an egg substitute, and it’s really just the liquid left from a can of beans. It works great, it doesn’t taste like beans in the final product, and you would never know it’s in there. (You can read more about my previous adventures with aquafaba here.) And, as a special bonus, we ended up using the beans for dinner that night as well. (We made a slightly modified version of the White Bean Fritters recipe here.) Yay planning! Yay synchronicity!

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So I zested and squeezed one lime at the beginning of the recipe. I got just about 2 tbsps zest and plenty of juice. I used 1 tbsp zest in the recipe and the other almost tbsp for the sugar mix for rolling. I used 1 tbsp juice as needed and saved the rest for later.

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It was easy to put together. I chilled the dough right in the mixing bowl. It took some finagling to get the dough into a 12 inch roll. I wrapped it up in wax paper and kept squeezing, squishing, and measuring until I got it to the right size. It wasn’t exactly round, but it was close enough. I wrapped plastic wrap around the wax paper.

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I had started it early in the day as it needed to rest in the fridge for a while (1 hour and then 8 more hours). I almost put it in the freezer for less time or took it out sooner, but I ended up getting caught up in other stuff so I wasn’t ready for it until the full time frame had passed anyway.

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After its time chilling, I took it out of the fridge. I then mixed up the sugar and reserved zest. It didn’t seem like a lot. I removed the plastic wrap and unrolled the wax paper. I poured the sugar mix out and rolled the dough in it, but since it wasn’t quite round, it needed some assistance. I ended up scooping up the sugar mix with my hands and pouring it over the dough. Then I patted it in, rotated the dough, and repeated. It turns out it was a lot. Plenty in fact.

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With the dough all ready, I started cutting slices. I had an idea of how big they should be after making the world peace cookies. It was a pretty similar setup all around.

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The first round I baked for about 10 minutes. They didn’t seem quite done, so I baked them for another 30 seconds or so. That first round might have been a tad bit undercooked. The second round got a tad bit overcooked, as I got caught up in something right when I should have taken them out. The third round was better (spot on, I think) which was about 11 minutes. Despite the differences in baking times, they were all good in the end.

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I let them cool, and I made the glaze. I zested another lime and juiced it. I used up all the zest as the recipe asked for, but between that lime and the juice I had left from the first one, there was plenty of juice. I used 3 tbsps plus a few more tsps to get it to the right consistency.

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I put wax paper under the cooling rack and spooned the glaze on. The first few got maybe a bit too much, which left not quite as much for the last few, but they all got covered in the end. A little uneven but okay. I’m glad I put down wax paper as it was a big ol’ mess underneath. I let them cool.

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After they cooled, we tried them. Wow. The lime was awesome. They have a nice texture, a little crunchy but still chewy. You can taste the cornmeal, and it works very well. The cookie is not super sweet, but the glaze is pretty sweet. They go well together. With the lime in the cookie, surrounding the cookie, and in the glaze, if you don’t like lime, this is not the right cookie for you. I wasn’t expecting these to be anything special, so I was pleasantly surprised. They were really good.

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The next day, after sitting in the fridge overnight, the glaze was much less sticky. Since that made it easier to travel with them, I decided to bring some in to work. Everyone at work really enjoyed them. One person referred to them as “crack”. After tasting one and enjoying it immensely, someone who was visiting from another office was very jealous upon finding out that I made baked goods regularly. There was some discussion again about stealing me for that office.

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So I would highly recommend these. They’re very good. And they’re easy, even with the lime zesting and juicing. The glaze is a little sweet, so if you want something less sweet, you could probably put in less sugar. But they’re very good as is. Do you have any good recipes with lime to share? I’d love to hear them!

Recipe courtesy of Half Baked.

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World Peace Cookies

Given all that’s happening in the world today, I truly wish that these cookies could bring about world peace. If that were the case, I would happily make them non-stop until that happened. Now to be sure, bringing about world peace is kinda part of their pedigree. They’re named world peace cookies because one time they were made, the person having them thought that if everyone ate these cookies it would bring about world peace. I would be very happy if that’s all it took. I guess we’ll never know unless we try, right?😉

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I made these for my family’s 4th of July party. (You can read some of the history of this party in this earlier post.) I wanted something big enough for a crowd, easy to transport, and that would last a few days because I was making the recipe ahead of time. I found lots of fun recipes, but I settled on this one because it checked all the boxes.

Chopped up chocolate. Yum!

Chopped up chocolate. Yum!

For the chocolate, I used Trader Joe’s Super Dark 73%. I was trying to figure out the difference between bittersweet and semisweet. According to this article at least, there seems to not be a difference. So I went for the one that seemed darkest. I chopped it all up by hand into little chunks.

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It was a pretty easy recipe. Thank you KitchenAid for helping to make it easy. I love setting it to mix things and going off to do something else. It’s like an extra set of hands. (Hey look ma, more hands!) I didn’t use a towel over the bowl like suggested, rather I used the KitchenAid pouring shield (and my hand a little bit). It worked out well.

Dough logs.

Dough logs.

I mixed in the chocolate by hand. In the dough it looked like chocolate looks in ice cream. (Now I know what to do next time I make ice cream.🙂 )

First batch, ready to bake.

First batch, ready to bake.

Following smitten kitchen’s own comment in the comments section below the recipe (and matching my own lack of time to wait around), I ended up sticking the dough in the freezer. It ended up hanging out there for about an hour. That might have been too long, as it was a little hard to cut the dough until it warmed up a bit.

First batch, fresh from the oven. The perspective is very close to the before picture, so you can compare.

First batch, fresh from the oven. The perspective is very close to the before picture, so you can compare.

I had measured out the inch and a half diameter for the dough logs initially. And I measured out the half-inch for the first cookie, but the rest I just guessed on, using that first one as a guide. They were mostly close to that size, although mileage varied a little bit. Some of them did break apart as the recipe warned was possible, but I just smooshed them back together.

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So I chopped off slices to make the cookies and then I baked them. I used Silpats for the first two batches, and then since they were still cooling, I used parchment paper for the third batch. (3 batches x 12 cookies per batch, for a total of 36 cookies.) Some of the cookies got a little warm while they were sitting out as I was cutting cookies for the sheet. The last sheet I stuck back in the fridge for a bit before baking to help counter that.

Second batch.

Second batch.

I did one sheet at a time as instructed and set them to cool still on the sheet, on a cooling rack. I put the cooling rack in the living room, as who has that kind of room in the kitchen.😉 They looked really nice. They didn’t smell overly chocolately or sweet. They were more subtle. I let them cool and put them away.

Third batch.

Third batch.

I tried one the next night. They were really good! A good, solid chocolate cookie. As much as I would like to think it’s possible, I don’t know that they will bring about world peace, but I think they’re good cookies. My wife liked them as well, probably more than me.

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I brought them to the party. After I made them, I had left them in the freezer as the party was a few days away. I took them out of the freezer to travel, and I put them back in the freezer once I got to my destination. They traveled really well. I took them out the day of the party.

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There was a whole lot of dessert competition at the party. I’m not saying that there was an official competition with prizes and everything. (Although, idea!😉 ) However, lots of people brought dessert. But even in the face of such competition, they went over well. People really enjoyed them. They were amused by the story of the name. I got comments on how good they were. And one person in particular thanked me for catering to the dark chocolate lovers.

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The recipe made three dozen cookies. I brought two dozen to the party (and came back with none). That left one dozen at home in the freezer, minus the taste testing we did. My wife doesn’t want to part with them so quickly. So they’re hanging out in the freezer for a while.

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These are easy to make and delicious. So, yes please make them if you enjoy chocolate. Or if you want world peace, because hey, you never know. Speaking of which, do you have any recipes that are so good you think they could bring about world peace? I’d love to hear, so let me know in the comments below!

Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

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Chess Pie

I normally don’t talk about world events on this blog, not because I don’t care, but because this isn’t the forum for it. But I wanted to say a few words about recent events, because they can’t be ignored, and because my dear friend for whom this recipe was made is a tireless advocate for racial justice and equality, and I think she would want it this way.

My heart goes out to the families, friends, loved ones, and communities of those who were killed. These tragedies are heartbreaking. I want a world where everyone is treated fairly and equally, where everyone is safe, and everyone can live in peace. I am committed to working towards that world.


Hey everyone! How are you? I’m fine, thanks for asking. I know you missed all the recipes, so I wanted to let you know I’m back. With more recipes! More yummy things that I’ve baked! More delicious descriptions and pictures! More exclamation points! So sit back and enjoy.

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So what in the world is a chess pie? And where are the checkers pies, dominoes pies, and backgammon pies, too? Chess pie is a classic southern (US) pie. I had never had it before, but I had come across it a bunch when looking up pies. It’s got an interesting name and stories about its name. Is it named after playing chess? A pie chest? From the Rick Springfield song? I don’t know what’s actually true, but the pie piqued my interest.

One dough recipe. Which makes...

One dough recipe. Which makes…

I was looking for something to make for my friend’s birthday/graduation. I asked her what she wanted, and she said she would be happy with anything. Since she’s southern, I thought it would be fun to make a southern dessert in her honor. Intrigued by this funny-named but tasty-looking pie, I decided to make it. I didn’t know if it would be something she would like or not or if it was even part of her southern experience, but I thought I would give it a shot.

...enough for two crusts.

…enough for two crusts.

As I do with most pies now, I started with my go-to pie dough from smitten kitchen. The recipe makes two pie crusts, so I was able to save one for later. (Future yums!) After I made the crust, I didn’t have time to let it sit in the fridge for an hour. So I put it in the freezer, and I let it sit for about 30 minutes, which turned out to be okay. I put it in the fridge for a little bit before taking it out, so it could get to a better temperature.

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Notice the handy circles on the pastry mat. Makes measuring a breeze.

I rolled it out using my handy pastry mat. What makes it particularly handy is that it has the pie crust sizes right on it. No more rolling, guessing, measuring, re-rolling, etc. My first attempt at rolling it out was okay, but it got a little too stretched out while I was putting it in the pie pan. I had to re-roll it, but the second time was the charm. I followed the instructions to pre-bake the crust.

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While it was cooling I mixed up the filling. There’s a lot of sugar in this. It’s a custard pie, so eggs and sugar are to be expected. But the odd ingredients in this one are cornmeal and vinegar. It smelled a lot like vinegar as I was mixing it up, but once I put the eggs in, the vinegar smell kinda went away. It was simple to put together. I mixed it up a fair amount to make sure everything was mixed in.

Pre-baking the crust

Pre-baking the crust

I then filled the pie crust. There was a lot of filling. It ended up being filled pretty close to the top. I carefully put it in the oven and baked it for 10 minutes.

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Then I took it out to put the aluminum foil on the crust. This was difficult. I should have pre-planned it. Trying to get the foil into the right shape and to cover just the crust and not fall off, all on a hot dish, was challenging. I’m afraid this took too long as it seemed the consistency of the filling changed. I will have to practice more if I do something that requires it again. Actually, I guess I should prepare it ahead of time so it’s all ready to go. (I’m interested to hear any tips or tricks you have for this part.)

Filling.

Filling.

I put it back in for 40 minutes. It got really poofy, then it cracked. The “jiggle test” also seemed to indicate it was done. It eventually deflated. It looked and smelled awesome. I didn’t end up doing the optional powdered sugar, although that might have covered up the cracks. I was excited to see how it tasted and what the birthday girl/graduate thought of it.

All ready to bake!

All ready to bake!

At the party the next day, it went over well! When I mentioned to the birthday girl/graduate that I had made chess pie, she immediately asked which kind. So I knew I was on the right track. She really enjoyed it. Everyone really enjoyed it, even if no one else knew what chess pie was. They did learn, however, that it was delicious. It was full of eggy, sugary goodness, surrounded by crust. And you can’t really go wrong with that.

That filling is living on the edge.

That filling is living on the edge.

I’m not the world’s biggest connoisseur of custard pies, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to. Of anything, it reminded me a little bit of Swedish pancake. Swedish pancake is an old recipe which is a specialty of my mom’s, which isn’t really a pancake the way most of us think of a pancake, and I don’t think is actually Swedish. (As far as my research has gone, it seems similar to a Dutch baby.) I think the similarity is due to the deliciousness of baked eggs in both.

Beautiful, if slightly cracked.

Beautiful, if slightly cracked.

In any case, it was a wonderful party. My friend had drawn together an amazing assemblage of fantastic people. She is an amazing and fantastic person herself, so I’m not surprised. I had interesting, heartfelt talks with people from all over the world. And it was a great chance to celebrate her.

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I was also not the only one to bring dessert, as she and others had baked and brought a wide array of delicious dishes. So while the chess pie went over well, it was definitely in good company.

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If you’ve never made chess pie before, I would easily recommend it. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s a great conversation starter. If you have a favorite pie crust, you’re already half-way done. And if you have made it before, I’ve heard that there are lots of different variations on what you put into chess pie. So I’d love to hear, what’s the secret ingredient in your chess pie? How do you deal with covering up the crust while baking? Do you have any other favorite southern desserts? Let me know in the comments below!

Crust recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Pie recipe courtesy of Southern Living.

Stay Tuned

I know you’re waiting for a new recipe with bated breath. I hate to disappoint you, but you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

I’ve been under the weather a little bit, and while I’ve got lots of new recipes to share with you, none of them are ready to share with you yet.

There’s more to come, so stay tuned!

Doing Something

It’s hard for me to believe it, but this post marks post #100 for this blog. That’s not an insignificant milestone, so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on some things I’ve been thinking about.

As a baker, I sometimes feel like it’s not a big deal what I do. I’m not even talking in the scheme of the universe, I’m just talking in the world of baking. It might be different if I were making my own recipes more of the time, but my father-in-law’s lovely perspective notwithstanding, I still sometimes feel like anyone can follow someone else’s instructions. Do you ever feel that way?

Some people tell me they’re terrible bakers, which I always find a little hard to understand. It seems to me that all you have to do is follow the instructions and that’s it. Someone has already laid out the path in front of you, you just have to follow it. But some people are better at it than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, different people have different skills.

If you look at it from another perspective, not everyone has chosen to be a baker. Even if they could have, they have not chosen to. There are countless worthwhile endeavors out there, so you can’t fault anyone for that. But I think that’s part of the difference. I have chosen to. I decided to bake, and I do. That’s not insignificant.

My wife and I have this lovely habit of thanking each other for mundane things. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I’m pretty sure I was following her example. Thank you for taking out the trash. Thank you for putting away the laundry. Thank you for getting stamps. These actions may seem insignificant and not worthy of notice, but it’s our way of acknowledging all the little things that we constantly do. It helps us not take each other for granted.

And of course, I’ll always thank my wife for making dinner when she does so. Sometimes it’s wonderfully elaborate, and sometimes it’s wonderfully simple. If it’s the latter, she’ll often say that she didn’t do much. To which I’ll reply various things. “You did something, and I didn’t do anything.” “Raise your hands everyone here who made dinner.” “Just because it wasn’t much doesn’t mean you didn’t do it.”

The decision to do something is often the difference. Lots of times we could do something and we don’t. And lots of times we just decide to do it. No matter how big or small the action, it’s the action that matters.

To put it another way, and to go linguistic nerd on you for a sec, German has a group of prepositions that can make the words after them be in either the accusative or dative case, depending on the circumstances. It depends on whether or not there’s motion towards the object of the prepositional phrase. If there is, it’s accusative, if there’s not, it’s dative. My high school German teacher, one of my favorite teachers of all time, had a mnemonic device she shared with us for this situation which was “accusative – alive, dative – dead”. (One of her other favorite ones was singing “You’re So Vain” to remind us of the accusative form of the word which means “who”. It’s funny if you know it.)

In any case, my point is that taking action towards something makes a difference. Deciding to do something makes a difference. Doing something, no matter how big or how small makes a difference. If you ever look at yourself and wonder what you’re doing and whether it makes a difference or not, baking or otherwise, this can be a good thing to remember.

What have you done that has made a difference? Big or small. To you or anyone else. Today or in the past. I’d love to hear your stories!

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Millionaire’s Shortbread – Thankful Edition

As you may know, I’ve made millionaire’s shortbread many, many times. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s delicious, and it’s one of my favorite recipes to make. But, I haven’t made it in a while. Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy solution to that, so I decided to take care of it.

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As you may also know, I like playing games. A friend was putting another game together, and I decided to make millionaire’s shortbread for everyone to enjoy while playing. This friend is the one who first suggested I make millionaire’s shortbread, oh so many moons ago. He really enjoys it. I brought it the last time he organized this particular game, and it had gone over really well. I looked for other recipes to make instead, always trying to keep it fresh, but nothing else really struck me, so I went for this again.

A simple dough.

A simple dough.

Since it was going to be a whole gaggle of people, I made a double recipe. I can almost make these in my sleep, but not quite, so I referred to the recipe a little bit as I was making it. The way I cut it, it ended up to be about 60 cookies, although they were not uniform. One of these days I need to make a template or something.

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

I brought about 35 cookies to the game. People were very excited to see that I brought them, particularly those who had them last time and knew what they were in for. The friend I made them for was very happy to have them, as was everyone else. They went over very, very well.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

I have to say the caramel was pretty amazing. Like extra caramely, or something. Really nice. I used different sweetened condensed milk than I normally use, so maybe that was it? Or maybe I’ve just gotten really good at making caramel.😉

Topped with freshly made caramel.

Topped with freshly made caramel.

There were plenty of cookies left, so I brought some into work. People at work kinda fell in love with them. I’ve brought a bunch of different things into work before, including these several times, but people reacted more strongly to these than probably anything else. How strongly?

And then some chocolate.

And then some chocolate.

I got several comments that I should sell these. One person said it made their eyes flutter, and there was even a proclamation that it was my best item yet. People are generally happy when I bring stuff in, but this was above and beyond. These were a big hit.

After chilling they look like this.

After chilling it looks like this.

I received a lot of thanks for making these, both at the game and at work, but I want to thank my friend as well. So thank you, good sir, for first suggesting them, and thank you for putting together an awesome game. These cookies were made in your honor, and I’m glad you enjoyed them.

And like this from the side.

And like this from the side.

If you’ve made these before, you know how simple they are to make, and how amazing they taste. The recipe has a very good effort to result ratio. If you haven’t made these before, I’m not quite sure what you’re waiting for. They are definitely worth it.

Cutting into small pieces. They're very rich, so this is a very important step.

Cutting into small pieces. They’re very rich, so this is an important step.

I’d love to hear your experiences with making millionaire’s shortbread. Do people love them whenever you make them? Do you have your own special recipe or interesting variation? Let me know!

Voila!

Voila!

Another word for it would be... yum!

Another word for it would be… yum!

See my first millionaire’s shortbread post for recipe & recipe attribution.