Tag Archives: large dessert

Tate‚Äôs Bake Shop Chocolate Chip Cookies

On this blog, I’ve written about a lot of the unusual recipes that I’ve made. There was the maple syrup taffy. The mini sweet potato cheesecakes. The lime cornmeal cookies. The different cookies with potato chips in them. Adorable little teddy bears in marshmallow hot tubs. And while I’ve definitely made some more traditional recipes, I haven’t actually written about good ol’ regular chocolate chip cookies. One time I made salted chocolate chip cookies, but that was really the closest I’ve done.

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So, I thought I would do something unusual and make something regular. ūüôā I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. Since everybody and their grandmother has a chocolate chip cookie recipe, which recipe to use could have been a difficult decision. Luckily for me, I had an easy answer. Since I was making them for my friend’s birthday, I thought I would make something he would particularly enjoy.

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He’s a big fan of Tate’s cookies. Now, generally I’m a big advocate of homemade cookies. (Wonder what would have given you that idea?) But if you’re looking to buy cookies that someone else made, you can’t go wrong with Tate’s. For example, in a previous incarnation of one of my gaming groups, we consumed an exceptional amount of them. They’re a NY State specialty, but you can get them all over the place. And since the birthday boy really enjoys them, I thought it would be cool to make some for him, as I have the cookbook from Tate’s. Well, as it turns out, I have a cookbook of theirs, but not the cookbook with this recipe. So I had to find it elsewhere. (Thank you, internet!)

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They were pretty easy to put together. I mean, they’re chocolate chip cookies after all. A few recipe notes: I didn’t have salted butter, just unsalted, so I added extra salt to compensate. I didn’t use eggs. I used aquafaba instead. And it turns out that the 2 cups of chocolate chips was a whole bag.

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I baked them on baking sheets covered in parchment paper. I used three sheets and rotated them in and out of the oven through the process, using one or two sheets per batch. I used my handy-dandy cookie scoop to make the cookies, but that made the cookies too big. So I split the scoops of dough roughly in half, which was about right. I ended up with 46 cookies. (The recipe is supposed to make 54, so I guess mine were a little bigger.)

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I baked the first batch for 12 minutes, which wasn’t quite enough. I baked the second batch for 14 minutes which seemed just right. For the next batch, I also baked them for 14 minutes, but that was too much for these. Some might have been a little smaller. It’s also possible that opening and closing the oven to check a couple of times during the previous batch might have cooled it down a little, which made for the longer time. The last batch was in for 13 minutes which was just right.

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They smelled delicious while baking. That is, for a while they smelled really good, but as with any smell, after a while you get used to it. At one point I went into another room and came back and I could notice the difference. It was like walking into a giant cookie. And while they were cooling, I stepped outside for a couple of minutes. When I came back into the apartment, the scent hit me like a ton of bricks. Err, cookies. It was fantastic.

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Tate’s cookies are known for being big, flat, and crispy. And delicious. Some of these turned out more like Tate’s cookies and some less. I tried one that was closer to the Tate’s ideal and one that was further from that. The further one was good, but had just a hint of Tate’s-ness. (Yes, that’s a word now.) The closer one was also good. It was not exactly like a Tate’s cookie, but it was close. It was buttery, crispy, thin, and delicious.

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I brought some into work for the birthday boy, who happens to be not just a friend but also a coworker. But due to both of us being out of the office for one thing or another for a few days, it wasn’t until several days after his birthday that the cookies made it in. By that point it was also another coworker’s birthday. So, the cookies ended up being for two birthdays. Huzzah! More merriment! More celebration! More omnomnomnomnom.

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They both appreciated the gesture, and really loved the cookies. In fact they loved them so much they, and everyone really, came back for more and more. I mentioned to the Tate’s fan about using their recipe. He said mine were even better. (As he pointed out, one advantage mine had is that they were fresh.) Everyone else loved them as well. I brought in about a dozen and a half, and they were gone very quickly. So quickly in fact that I didn’t really get to make my dessert rounds. So I brought in a bunch more the next day. Those also disappeared quickly. People kept telling me over and over again how good they were. I would have to put these pretty high up on the list of recipes enjoyed by my coworkers.

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They were good, simple, buttery, crispy cookies. I didn’t happen to mention that they were egg-free, and I don’t think anyone had any idea. Aquafaba is generally such a good substitute that no one can tell the difference. Plus, they were just really good cookies. I’m glad I made them. It makes me want to try some more simple recipes.

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Do you have any favorite recipes that wow the crowds but are super simple to make? Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? A favorite style of chocolate chip cookie? Have you been experimenting with aquafaba or other egg substitutes? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Recipe courtesy of Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook via Bon App√©tit.

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Icebox Cake Surprise Edition

I’m a firm believer that birthdays should be special. I think we generally fail to appreciate the people around us. So on people’s birthdays I like to take advantage of the opportunity and show people that I’m thinking of them and that I think they’re special. There are lots of ways of doing this. Obviously telling them is the most straightforward way. But I also like to bake for them.

If I know someone well, I often have a good idea of what to make them for their birthday. My wife’s favorite cake is icebox cake. I’ve made it for her birthday a couple of times so far. (You can see previous posts here and here.). Because it’s her favorite cake, she never gets tired of it. But even so, every year, I try to kick it up a notch. The first year, making it was a big deal. The second year, I baked the chocolate wafers that make up the cake, instead of buying them. This year is no different. What I did to kick it up a notch this year was two-fold. First, I made a giant icebox cake. And second, I actually made two cakes. (I’ll tell you about the second one next week.)

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What made this year’s cake more complicated was that her whole birthday was a surprise. It started with a surprise party. Well, actually it started with nothing. At first, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for her birthday, so we didn’t plan anything. But as it got closer to her birthday it became clear that she wanted to celebrate with her friends. It seemed too late to her to throw something together at the last-minute. But I was undeterred, and I put together a last-minute surprise party. It was a little bit of a challenge – I won’t say how much, but there was a spreadsheet involved – but in the end we got a bunch of people together.

And since the party was a surprise, I decided to make the dessert a surprise too. I bought the ingredients ahead of time, and I hid them. The small container of milk was hidden at the very back of the fridge. I got shelf stable whipping cream and hid it in another room. Everything else was hidden in plain sight. I also had to find time to make the cake while she wasn’t around. That’s difficult when you live with someone. So I took off work on the day of her birthday, which had the added benefit of making sure I got home in time to celebrate. I spent a good chunk of the day baking the cookies and putting the cakes together.

The dough, all mixed up.

The dough, all mixed up.

That’s because I needed to make a lot of cookies. (In case you don’t know what icebox cake is and you’re confused about why I’m referring to cookies in a cake recipe: icebox cake is made of chocolate wafer cookies which are slathered in whipped cream and put in the fridge. After several hours, the whipped cream turns the cookies into a cake-like consistency.) Because I was making two cakes, and one of them needed to be party size, I made a double recipe of the cookies. This is roughly equivalent to 4 boxes of the original wafer cookies.

Making the cookie dough involves mixing it in the food processor. After mixing, I kneaded it all together on freezer paper. Then I rolled the dough into a log and refrigerated it for about 90 minutes wrapped in that same freezer paper. For ease of measuring and mixing, as well as not overloading the food processor, I did it in two batches and repeated these same steps over for the second batch. (The second batch was in the fridge a little over an hour.)

The dough, in log form.

The dough, in log form.

After chilling, I took the logs out of the fridge to cut them into cookies, but in between cutting each batch of cookies, I put the dough back in the fridge. The freezer paper was easier to cut on than the foil I used previously, and refrigerating it in between sheets of cookies helped keep the dough the right consistency. I cut them as thin as I could. Since I was just eyeballing it, the rolls were a little uneven, but I reshaped them as I cut them, and re-rolled any bits I had cut off.

I did one sheet of cookies. Then I did the second and put it in at the half way point when I rotated the first sheet and moved it to the other rack. Then I pulled the Silpat, with the cookies still on it, off the baking sheet and let them cool on a cooling rack. I then used the baking sheet to prepare the next batch.

First sheet, unbaked.

First sheet, unbaked.

I kept them in rotation. I started off with two baking sheets with Silpats on them, but when it became clear I needed a third baking sheet, I started using parchment paper as well. Between cooking, cooling, and prepping, I kept the three baking sheets in constant use. It was a pretty efficient operation.

I baked them for 12 minutes. I wasn’t exact on the sizing, so while they all got cooked, some of them got a little overcooked. I ended up making 138 cookies. I was expecting 160, but I didn’t measure that carefully.

First sheet, baked.

First sheet, baked.

I ended up using around 100 or so cookies for this cake for the party. A regular cake recipe uses 40 cookies, but I needed it to be bigger, as I was expecting between 15-20 people at the surprise party. It took a little longer than I expected to put it together, so it only got to sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before the party.

One reason that it took a little longer was that I had a slight mistake as I was making the whipped cream. I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and I let it go too far. It turned into something closer to buttercream. So, I had to run out and get more cream. Once I got that settled, it was pretty easy to put the cake together. In a moment of inspiration, I spelled out “Happy Bday” in chocolate chunks on the top.

All the cookies!

All the cookies!

As the cake lay secretly resting in the fridge, my wife and I went out to dinner. I had arranged for everyone to meet us at a different bar/restaurant in the neighborhood. I had also arranged with one of our friends to stop by earlier in the day and pick up keys, so that while we were out to dinner she could pick up the cake and bring it to the party.

After dinner, we walked back home from the restaurant, but I told my wife we couldn’t stop at home. I told her there was one more stop we had to make. She was a good sport and joined me on the unknown adventure. The party was only a block away. As we walked in, and walked toward the back, she started to notice a whole gaggle of her friends assembled. She had no idea what was happening, and was pleasantly surprised.

Omnomnomnom!

Omnomnomnom!

After hanging out with everyone for a while, and after she got over some of the shock of it all, we eventually got around to eating the cake. Lots of people had never heard of icebox cake before, but that didn’t stop it from being devoured. Since the cake didn’t get to sit as long as it should have, the cookies were still pretty solid, and not as cake-like as they should have been. It was still quite tasty, but it wasn’t quite icebox cake consistency. However, the birthday girl was very happy with it (and everyone else was, too). That’s what mattered.

What also mattered is that everyone got to celebrate her. As I said, I like to celebrate people on birthdays, but it wasn’t just me. Everyone was truly, honestly, and emphatically excited to be there. People remarked to me over and over how happy they were to be a part of it, how much fun it was, and how great it was to get to appreciate her.

Not pictured here is the extra whipped cream I had to run out and get.

Not pictured here is the extra whipped cream I had to run out and get.

It took her a while to let it all sink in, which was good, because it was a lot to take in. She was happy, I was happy, everyone was happy. And in the end, that was the most important thing.

Normally I would take time here to thank my wife for her help, but this time I want to give a shout out to all of her friends for helping put this together. You know who you are. Thank you.

The cake, almost completely frosted.

The cake, almost completely frosted.

I encourage you all to try icebox cake sometime, whether or not you make your own cookies. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s delicious. But what I really encourage, more than anything, is to find out what makes the people around you happy, and, if at no other time, see if you can arrange to make that happen on their birthday. I can assure you they’ll be glad you did.

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Chocolate wafer recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen. Icebox cake recipe courtesy of Nabisco.

Sour Cream Apple Strudel

Who doesn’t love strudel? Well, the results of my highly (un)scientific poll prove without a shadow of a doubt that nobody doesn’t love strudel. I mean, it is a classic, delicious pastry, but I had no idea just how much people love it until I made it.

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Why strudel in the first place? Well, if it’s deliciousness alone wasn’t a good enough reason. The other reason was this role-playing game that I play. In the game our characters are currently traveling around the world a bit. The guy who runs the game, last time he made dinner from Romania, where our characters were. That inspired me. I found out that this time our characters were going to Vienna, so I thought I would make something Austrian.

Working the dough.

Working the dough.

I have some history with Austrian foods. I studied German and in high school, I was on an exchange program with an Austrian high school (Gymnasium). It was with a school in Graz. Graz is the second largest city in Austria, but it doesn’t get lots of tourists because it’s in the southeast corner of the country away from the more famous touristy stuff. For me at least, that was a good thing. Away from the huge crowds, I really got immersed in the culture, language, food, and all the rest. It was lots of fun being there, and it was also fun showing them around when they visited us in the US. The program was only for a couple of weeks each way, but it had a big impact.

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So, I tried to figure out what kind of Austrian food to make. There are a lot of choices! After finding a few that looked doable, I decided on one that would be easily recognizable, and easily transportable: apple strudel. Also, I settled on this particular version of the recipe because it was easier. Traditionally, you roll the dough paper-thin (so thin that you can see through it). This one didn’t call for that, which was good, because I didn’t really have a space to roll out the dough that thin, and I was concerned about breaking it, honestly.

Apples!

Apples!

The recipe itself is pretty simple. Classic, in fact, and awesome. It has very few ingredients, and very little sugar. Let’s just say that sometimes, simpler is better. For the apples, I chose Gala apples. The recipe just called for baking apples and of the available choices, the Gala apples looked the best at the grocery store.

Filling!

Filling!

Also, eagle-eyed readers might notice an issue with the picture of the ingredients. You’ll see that the little spice bottle is not cinnamon, as you might expect, but rather cumin. Let me assure you that there is cinnamon and not cumin in this. The cumin was next to the cinnamon and I grabbed it by accident. Thankfully I noticed it before I used it.

The first one.

The first one.

It was a very easy recipe to put together. It started with a simple dough. I used a pastry blender to help put it together. I still needed to put some muscle into it, but it wasn’t bad. It was kinda like pie dough.

All rolled up.

All rolled up.

Besides paying attention to the ingredients (see cumin above), it also helps to pay careful attention to the instructions. I didn’t, and so I didn’t realize that the dough needed to be refrigerated overnight. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that kind of time. So I put it in the fridge and turned it to the coolest setting possible. Then I had dinner and hung out a bit. Then I made the filling and did the rest of the prep work that was necessary before taking it out of the fridge. So it didn’t chill as long as it was supposed to, but I think it was okay.

The second one.

The second one.

As for making the filling, the Gala apples were a good choice. They were very easy to cut, and they were nice and sweet. (I tried some of the filling after I made it.) The recipe didn’t say how to cut them, so I cut them pretty small, basically dicing them. I melted the butter, mixed in the breadcrumbs, added the sugar and cinnamon, and then dumped it all into the apple bowl and mixed it all up. Easy peasy.

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

I used my new assistant, the handy-dandy pastry mat, with measurements right on it. That made it very easy to measure. I pulled out the dough and guessed at splitting it into thirds. (I did an okay job, but one ended up a little smaller.) I rolled it out to the right size-ish. I had to guess at splitting the filling too. Mostly fine, but the last one had way too much filling. (Which is why I tasted the filling. I had put it all in at first, but it was too much, and I had to take some out.)

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

After rolling out each piece of dough, I spread out the filling, then rolled up the dough. Fun! I tried pinching the dough closed at the edges and at the seam. Not perfect, but good enough. Some of the dough was thin, allowing apples to poke through, so I patched the dough as needed.

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Originally I was going to use a baking dish, but then I thought I wanted to give the strudel more room. So I used a baking sheet. I had to carefully move them onto the baking sheet. It made 3. I baked them for 55 minutes. Wow, they smelled really good. They were nice and brown when they came out of the oven. I let them cool a couple of minutes. Then I cut off a couple of pieces to try.

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Really, really yummy. Not too sweet. Only a cup of sugar total for the whole recipe, which was a ton of strudel. Nice flaky crust. Good filling. It was almost hearty, but not in a savory way. Just yummy apple-y, pastry goodness.

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I kinda feel like I cheated. The other recipes where you roll the dough super thin are a little more involved, and I think they make a more delicate dough, but this was pretty good. (Thanks hon for helping with the cleanup as usual.)

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The game was the next day. Everyone loved it. They kept thanking me and saying how great it was. I was asked how I made the crust so flaky. (Butter, I replied.) I brought one of the three. It was gone fairly quickly. There were lots of strudel jokes. (None of which are funny unless you were there, unfortunately.) That night, my wife and I had a little bit more. We warmed it up a little before eating it, which was a good call. As I said, not a lot of sugar, but the apples made up for that. It was just really good. Simple, not flashy, but delicious. I also brought some to work. People loved it there as well. Comments ranged from “it was excellent” to “you could sell this”.

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All in all, I would say it was a great choice of recipes. People really went gaga for it. Who knew a little strudel could do that to people? Have you had a big reaction from making strudel? Do you have a favorite strudel recipe? Do you have a favorite strudel besides apple strudel? I’d love to hear all about your strudel experiences. Feel free to share!

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Recipe courtesy of Recipes Wikia.

Cherry Slab Pie

What’s summer without a summer BBQ? (For those who don’t like the rhetorical question game the actual answer is it’s still summer.) I live in¬†NYC where having any outdoor space is a luxury.¬†We are lucky enough to have a tiny little outdoor space, and we decided to have a BBQ a few weeks ago. When I say tiny, I mean it’s big enough for a small charcoal grill and about five people to stand around. (That’s not tiny by NYC standards, just tiny in actuality.) We invited what we thought was just a few friends over. However, once all the dust had cleared from the RSVPs, we realized it was going to be like 25 people¬†or so. I had already decided I was going to make dessert, but I soon realized I needed to make two or three.

Since we were going to have a crowd, I wanted to make something big that would serve a lot of people. I remember reading on smitten kitchen about slab pie and thought that would be a great idea. Apple was the one I had seen, but that seemed a little too fall. I wanted something more summer and found this recipe for sour cherry slab pie. Perfect. It’s big (feeds 20 or so people) and it’s summery.¬†It uses her regular pie crust but about 1 1/2 times the amount. I’ve made that pie crust a bunch of times now. It’s pretty easy, and I know it’s good. I thought, this should be a piece of cake. Er, pie.

Good pie dough requires some diced butter.

Good pie dough requires some diced butter.

Using a pastry blender you turn it into this.

Using a pastry blender you turn it into this.

Add some cold water and you eventually turn it into this lovely looking dough.

Add some cold water and you eventually turn it into this lovely looking dough.

I started prepping the pie on the Tuesday night before the Saturday party. I gathered the ingredients and went at it. As usual, there wasn’t much to it. Although since it was 1 1/2 times the amount of dough, it did take a little while to blend all the butter in with the pastry blender. And it did take a little while mixing in the water, incorporating all the ingredients, and getting it dough like.¬†It wasn’t hard. It was just a little bit of work.¬†My arms got a little tired. Which makes me wonder if everyone who made food before we had modern kitchen appliances was as strong as an ox.

Which you then split in two and smoosh into shape.

Which you then split in two and smoosh into shape.

Once it was all done I laid out some plastic wrap, split the dough in two, smooshed it roughly into rectangles (as requested by the recipe), and put it in the fridge. Making the rest of the pie would have to wait for another night. I aimed for Thursday.

The secret ingredients in cherry pie filling. Yes, those are cherries on the right.

The secret ingredients in cherry pie filling. Yes, those are cherries on the right.

Thursday night, the making of the pie continued. I started late in the evening. (There’s something fun about night baking.) I cleared off the counter and pulled out the ingredients. Since I used frozen cherries (I know what you’re thinking, but it was easier than pitting them, sorry!), I remembered to defrost them the night before. I then had to drain them before using. I measured them out. The recipe called for¬†6 cups pitted, but these were already pitted, and once I drained them it ended up being less than 6 cups. I think it was okay because my pie looked about as filled as hers did.

Mix them together and voila! Cherry pie filling.

Mix them together and voilà! Cherry pie filling.

There was a range of sugar in the recipe. I used one cup. (These cherries weren’t sour, so maybe not as much sugar would be needed, but also her pie was very lightly sweetened, and I wanted it to be a little sweeter than that.) I mixed up the filling and set it aside.

The first piece of dough rolled out.

The first piece of dough rolled out…

... and put into place.

… and put into place.

I rolled out the first piece of dough. It was not an inconsequential task. I’ve learned a little how to roll out dough. (Thank you smitten kitchen!) I remembered to use a lot of flour.¬†I’m not so sure it was even. It was decent, but it was a little thin in places and I had to patch it a bit once I put it on the parchment lined baking sheet. I actually had to purchase a new baking sheet for this recipe. I needed a new one anyway, as one had recently gone to that great kitchen cabinet in the sky, and since I didn’t have one this size (15x10x1), I got one.

With filling!

Once more, with filling!

That's a lot of filling, no?

That’s a lot of filling, no?

I poured in the mixture and spread it around a bit to make it even. Then I rolled out the second¬†piece of¬†dough. It wasn’t big enough at first, so I rolled it out more, but then it was too big. So I smooshed¬†it back into a ball and rolled it out again. This time was easier. I think it was still a little bit too big, but it was okay.

The second piece of dough rolled out...

The second piece of dough rolled out…

I placed it on top. Moving the dough both times was a challenge because they were very big pieces of dough. Both times they stretched and ripped a little. Also finding a spot to move the baking sheet to while I was working on the dough took some finagling. (We were kinda out of space, especially with all the party goods lined up.)

... and put into place. Also notice the holes pricked in the top as well as the cream brushed over top.

… and put into place. Also notice the holes pricked in the top as well as the cream brushed over it.

I folded the crust over and sealed it up. At this point I saw some of the filling was leaking out a little bit. The bottom piece of dough was maybe a little too thin in spots. I pinched it closed. I pulled off a little of the extra dough from the top to help seal it. As instructed, I poked holes in the top with a fork. I brushed it with cream. It didn’t call for much, but I didn’t waste the rest. I needed it for another recipe. (You’ll hear about that¬†next week.)¬†I put it in the oven for 40 minutes to see if that was long enough.

It's a pie!

It’s a pie!

Notice the poofy bits sticking out.

Notice the poofy bits sticking out.

After 40 minutes it was done. When I had checked on it about half way through, I noticed it was a little poofy in one spot. When it was done, it was all kinds of poofy. (Poofy is an industry term.) It was definitely brown and the juices were bubbling. So much so that some of them had spilled out into the oven. I think maybe the crust on the top was too thick or the one on the bottom was too thin. But it looked really nice. And it smelled good too. Not overly like cherries, mostly just crust which smelled and looked delicious. I put it on a wire rack to cool.

Look at that crust!

Look at that crust!

Mmmmm.

Mmmmm.

I decided to do the glaze closer to the time. The morning of the BBQ to be exact. There were some options for how to make it. For mine I mixed 1 tbsp water and 1 tbsp lemon juice with the powdered sugar. It looked nice with the glaze on.

A little glaze, if you please.

A little glaze, if you please.

From this angle it kinda looks like a mountainous landscape.

From this angle it kinda looks like a mountainous landscape.

And now for the question on everyone’s mind: how was it? It was dee-licious. (So delicious, it required an extra “e” and a hyphen in the word.) It had a good¬†flavor. And the glaze was a nice complement. There was lots of dough, which was to be expected because the recipe describes it as having 150% of the dough with 100% of the filling. My wife said¬†the slices of pie were like open-ended pop tarts, which is an excellent description.

As the pie was being eaten.

As the pie was being eaten.

As it turned out, there were many yummy desserts at the BBQ. Other people brought some great dishes. And the other recipe I made kinda¬†stole the show. (You’ll hear about that¬†next week.) So with a pie this big, there was definitely some left over. There were no complaints here! We were¬†happy to have more of the pie around to savor.

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I have to say, in prepping for the BBQ we learned a lot about food planning and scaling. I have much appreciation for those who do this on a regular basis. And I got some more practice in making large amounts of dessert. But I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m sure many of you have made large amounts of dessert? How do you do it? One large dessert? One small dessert scaled up? Multiple desserts? I’d love to hear your large party dessert secrets, if you’re willing to share.

Recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

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