Later, I shall have pie.

During one of my crazy food-shopping sprees, I bought a pie-dish and did not get around to using it. The unused pie-dish in my cupboard was gloomily calling out to me, and the voice was getting stronger each day. Luckily, on one of the days that I got a chance to come home early from work, I gave in to the voice and decided to make some Apple Pie.

What draws me to this dish is that at the end of a typically long day, a slice of warm Apple Pie, with its flakey buttery crust and cinnamon that warms me up from the inside with every swallow, reminds me of dinner time when I was a kid. It’s very much like the climactic scene of the movie Ratatouille, when Anton Ego – the food critic – tastes the eponymous dish and is transported back in time to his favorite childhood memory of his mother feeding him the dish.

IMG_5160It’s not too tough for anyone to make and indulge in some apple pie once in a while. Once you get a hang of how to get the pie dough right, everything will fall into place!

For the pastry dough, you will need:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • ¾ cups cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • Cling wrap

For the filling, you will need:

  • Two big juicy apples
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon (I love cinnamon, so I always add extra)
  • Juice of ½ a lemon

Let’s get started with the trickiest part – the pie dough. I enjoy a particularly flaky buttery crust and that’s how this one will turn out. Take the flour and salt and sieve it together so that the salt mixes evenly. Mix the cold butter with the flour until the mixture becomes cornmeal-like. Add ice cold water by the tablespoon until the flour mixture comes together. Roll the dough into a ball and divide it into two discs. Flatten the discs with the palm of your hand and wrap them tightly with cling foil and refrigerate for 45 minutes. The dough can also be refrigerated overnight in case you plan to bake the pie the next day.

Now for the filling – If you are a sucker for the world’s most heavenly combination (in my humble opinion) – apples and cinnamon – like I am, you might want to have an extra apple handy. Warning: Try your best to avoid eating just the filling, lest you fall short of it for the pie and are forced to make some more.

Peel the apples (or don’t! I never peel them) and slice them thin. Pour the lemon juice over the apples and coat them with it. Mix the sugar, cinnamon (how much ever you’d like), and flour in a bowl, dump the apples in, and give the bowl a good shake so that everything gets incorporated evenly.

For baking the pie, you could use an oven safe glass dish if you do not have a pie dish. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring out one disc from the fridge and roll out the pie dough to a 12-inch circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check to make sure it isn’t sticking. If it starts to stick, gently lift it up and sprinkle a little more flour on the table surface or on the pie dough to keep the dough from sticking. Gently place the rolled out dough onto a 9-inch pie plate and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.

Arrange the apple slices in the dough-lined pie plate. Mound the apples in the center. Roll out the second disc of dough, again to 12-inches and place the second round of pie dough over the apples. Trim excess dough with scissors, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang from the edges of the pie-pan. Fold the dough under itself so that the edge of the fold comes right to the edge of the pan. Press the top and bottom dough-rounds together as you flute the edges using the thumb and forefinger, or you could even press down with a fork for a much fancier crust. Brush milk lightly on the top of the crust and bake for 20 minutes, till the crust begins to brown slightly. Reduce the temperature to 370°F and bake for another 45 minutes. If the pie seems to be browning too fast, cover it lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil and continue to bake until the juices bubble up. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool for about an hour. Cut slices and serve with ice cream. It will taste great just by itself too. 🙂

Red, white and specks of brown.

The title doesn’t give away much does it? It could mean anything and leaves much to the imagination. If someone had spelt out only these colors to me, I would have imagined a bright evening sky, fluffy cottony clouds and a flock of birds flying away into the distance.

What I am actually talking about is a very soft, moist red velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting and chocolate chips. I happened across this recipe while searching for a nice cake to bake for a friend’s wedding anniversary. This cake has turned out to be better than I expected, and I am going to use the same method in all my future escapades with baking. The trick behind the fluffiness of this cake is to use the right combination of ingredients. This cake uses both butter and oil to add extra moisture, improved texture and does nothing else to the flavor of the cake except to subtly enhance it. We also use a full tablespoon of vinegar which acts as a reactive agent with the baking soda for a very light and tender cake. Natural cocoa powder adds a mild chocolate essence while contributing acidity to leavening processes as well. Remember not to use Dutch Processed cocoa because it will make our cake look more brown than red.

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Without further ado, here is what you need to make a delicious, mouth watering Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese frosting and Chocolate Chips. This recipe calls for a very big cake and it can be halved for a smaller one.

  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces, or 170 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (4 ounces, 115 grams) vegetable oil
  • 14 ounces (400 grams) granulated sugar-2 cups
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (170 grams) all-purpose flour-2 1/2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) natural cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (7 ½ milliliters) baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ milliliters) salt
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) buttermilk
  • ½ cup (120 grams) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) red food coloring
For the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese
  • 8 ounces (230 grams) good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 24 ounces (680 grams) unsalted butter, softened-3 cups or 6 sticks
  • 24 ounces (680 grams) powdered sugar-6 cups
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
  • Beat butter, oil and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
  • In a 2 cup measuring cup combine buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar and vanilla and whisk to blend.
  • Whisk together flours, baking soda, salt and cocoa (sift if there are noticeable lumps of cocoa or flour after whisking). Add dry mixture to butter mixture and stir on low until the dry ingredients just start to get moistened. Add half of buttermilk mixture and stir until it is just incorporated. Add remaining liquids and stir to combine. Gently stir in red food coloring and mix for about 30 seconds, scraping down once until the batter is uniform and smooth.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Be sure this rich tender batter is fully done or you could encounter structural problems. Cool 20 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack.

As this cake is super fragile, it is better to wait for it to cool down completely before working on it. It would help if the cake is wrapped in cling wrap and kept in the fridge till the time you want to fill it up with frosting.

For the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • In a medium microwave-safe bowl soften the cream cheese until warm. Stir in the white chocolate and microwave on high for 45 seconds and stir to melt the white chocolate into the cream cheese. If needed heat in 15 second intervals and stir until the chocolate is melted. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to cool while you prepare the rest of the frosting.
  • Beat the butter with the paddle attachment of a standing mixer for 3 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and mix slowly, increasing speed when the sugar is incorporated, until all the powdered sugar is added. Add the vanilla and beat on high for 30 seconds to lighten.
  • When the cream cheese mixture is cool, gradually add it to the frosting in the mixer bowl with the speed set to medium low. When all the cream cheese mixture is added beat for one minute on medium high. Use immediately or beat for one minute on medium high before using it to fill your cake.

Red Velvet

Once the cake is cooled and the frosting is ready, cut your cake in half for the layers, fill it with frosting and sprinkle chocolate chips on to of the cake and enjoy. It will be the best Red Velvet Cake you have ever made!

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On fire..!

Two posts in such a short time! I’m on fire!:) The first time I tried to make white sauce pasta. Mushroom and broccoli penne pasta with béchamel sauce..! Loved it and very happy that I got it right the first time:) I consider this practise for when I make lasagna 😜. If I can make it, everyone else can!

So all you need is mushrooms, broccoli (chopped), garlic – 4 cloves (minced), butter – 2 tablespoons, 2 cups milk, 2 cups grated cheese, salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil and oh! I almost forgot the pasta! Some penne pasta or even macaroni:)

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. For the sauce, in a saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the garlic until cooked. Add the flour and cook (mixing vigorously) for a minute until the raw smell disappears. Whisk in the milk vigorously and bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Take the sauce off the stove and add one cup of the grated cheese and whisk to incorporate well keep it aside. Sauté the mushrooms and broccoli. Add a little salt and the oregano for seasoning.
In a casserole dish, spread the cooked pasta, pour the sauce over it and the sautéed vegetables and give it a stir. Spread the rest of the grated cheese on top and bake at 200 degree Celsius for 30 minutes. Here it is! Hot delicious pasta!!

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After what seems like “forever”….

It does seem like forever since I posted something in my blog. But let me assure you that I have not been sitting idle. I have been wanting to take up Baking classes for a while now – and guess what! I did and it really helps to know the little tricks and techniques to get out a perfect cake or dessert out of the oven (or the fridge :-P). This post is about the cheese cake I made last week. I have tried to get the hang of baking a perfect cheese cake which does not flop when I cut it, for a long time and at my third attempt, I have finally done it. Yay!   image2  In a short and sweet paragraph, I will let you guys in on the results of my experimentation! 🙂

To bake this cake, you will need:

13 Oreo cookies (and yes its an oreo crust!), 2 packets of cream cheese (200gms each), half a cup of sour cream, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup sugar (or less based on how sweet you like your cake), vanilla extract and finally 3 eggs.

Get all your ingredients to room temperature (Secret no 1). They get incorporated much better and much faster when they are all in room temperature. Pulse the oreos, cream and all, and mix with the two tablespoons of butter. Make sure you get the butter on every small piece of oreo and dump them in your buttered up cake pan. Press them together and half an inch up the sides too and put them in a preheated oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 10 minutes and let it cool on a wire rack. Now whisk together your sugar and flour to get rid of any lumps and keep aside. Beat your soft cream cheese until smooth and slowly add the flour and sugar mixture until well combined. Add you eggs, one at a time and mix well. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and the sour cream. Mix just until all the ingredients are well combined (Not over Mixing is secret No 2). Now pour your filling into the pan. The filling will come above the crust and that is okay. Wrap the cake pan securely in aluminum foil. This cake should be baked in a water bath so that the temperature is kept even and low (secret no 3). Place the cake pan in a roasting pan and fill with hot water that comes up to half the cake pan’s height ( take care with the aluminum foil – it should not let any water come into the cake pan). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degree Fahrenheit for about 50 minutes and let it sit in the oven with the door slightly ajar for an hour. Bring the pan out to cool completely on the wire rack before refrigerating it (for an entire night). You can serve it plain or with some blueberries! – Like I did 🙂

photo190578969373943749 Hope some of you try this out and get raving reviews from family and friends 🙂

Soft drizzle & a Glass of wine

It was Saturday morning. I had an entire weekend in front of me when I woke up. The weather was great outside – cloudy, but not dark, slightly drizzling. The rain always makes me go bonkers and it somehow magnifies how I am feeling on that particular day. I was luckily happy and looking forward to meeting a very good friend of mine for lunch. The place we were going for lunch was one of my favorites and I hadn’t been there for a long time. It is a small and quaint restaurant in a resort, fashioned like a fishing hut. Very close to the beach, it has an excellent view. (Most of my favorite places seem to somehow be associated to the beach 🙂 Must be because I grew up near the sea.) I picked my friend up and drove up to The Wharf – that is the restaurant’s name 🙂

The Wharf

We asked for a place outside, facing the sea and ordered Bruschettas for starters, freshly caught King Fish fillets, Chicken with a side of mashed potatoes, corn and peas for my friend and a vegetable lasagna for me, with a glass of Lindemans Red Wine. The food was excellent as always. The Lasagna was wonderfully cooked, the veges were tender and the sheets stayed intact and did not come crumbling once I started to dig in. The wine complemented the food excellently.

There is nothing that can beat the rain, the beach, food, wine and the excellent company of a good friend. Its like the best flavors of life all wrapped in a single package.

Baked Doughnuts

What does a Health Nut do when she wants doughnuts?
She bakes some, of course!

I never fry doughnuts. Doughnuts purists may cringe, but I always fear a greasy result.
And I don’t have to, with two go-to recipes on hand.
There’s a simple, yeasted variety and a softer, richer cake doughnut recipe.
I picked the cake doughnut recipe because Pavi once gifted me a mini doughnut pan just because, and I wanted to use it.
The recipe is an eggless, butterless, quite sinless creation adapted from numerous eggless cake recipes I’ve tried over the years.
And in two of my favourite flavours –
• A dark bittersweet chocolate doughnut with caramel drizzle
• A delicate rose doughnut with white chocolate drizzle

INGREDIENTS
For the doughnuts
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (if you aren’t using other flavourings)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt

For the flavouring
2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
Few drops of rose milk mix

For the drizzle
3 tablespoons sugar
4 squares of white chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease doughnut pan with a little canola oil and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, stir sugar and oil together.
3. In a separate bowl, stir milk and vinegar together and set aside.
4. In another bowl, stir flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together until combined.
5. Alternate whisking wet and dry ingredients into the sugar and oil mixture.
6. Divide the mixture in two – add dark cocoa powder and a dash of espresso if you have it, to one half. Add rose milk mix to the other half.
7. Fill about two-thirds of the up the cavities in the doughnut pan and bake 10-12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then invert pan and remove. Set aside to cool 20 minutes.
8. Place sugar in a tiny saucepan on low heat and keep stirring till you get the Orange colour you like. Keep pulling the pan off the stove if it begins to burn. Quickly drizzle over the chocolate doughnuts.
9. Toss the white chocolate in a little microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 10 seconds at a time. Stir vigorously between each shot, because chocolate can retain its shape though it’s almost melted. When done, quickly drizzle over rose doughnuts. (A tip: Keep the bowl, spoon, everything, BONE DRY. Chocolate hates water and will seize up just because, sometimes)
The picture of the finished doughnuts is very special also 😉

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Just what the doctor ordered

The flu is irritating, exhausting and turns me into a huge fusspot. My mother used to make delicious hot chocolate with pieces of marshmallow floating in it. The feeling of the dark chocolate going down my throat used to fill me with such comfort, that I used to forget about being sick, till the hot chocolate lasted. Then I’d turn into a fussy baby again. I have tried time and again to make a perfect cup of hot chocolate, just like my mom used to. Though I couldn’t perfect it, I have gotten pretty close.

Some Nutella, milk, vanilla essence and a couple of marshmallows is all that it takes. Melt two huge spoons full of Nutella in a double boiler (or even more if you want your cup of Hot Chocolate even chocolatier). Heat the milk and mix it with the molten Nutella. It takes a bit of effort to mix both completely. In the end, add a few drops of vanilla essence and stir. This recipe doesn’t need sugar, but if you’d like it a little sweeter, feel free to add a spoon of sugar. Drop a couple of marshmallows on top, and voila. The next – to – best cup of hot chocolate is right in front of you. Now, all you need is a cozy corner and a good book to go with your cup of hot chocolate.

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Hot chocolate always triggers a flood of happy memories and emotions. A cup of steamy hot chocolate with whipped cream, on a cold rainy day or when you have the flu 😦 is just what the doctor ordered to chase the gloominess away. There is something about that sweet dark brown liquid going down our throats that makes us feel like small children. 🙂

First Rising

Pavi and I have been baking together as a hobby for quite a few years now. From our first dark chocolate and orange cake in Pavi’s tiny old oven, to that cheesecake that just wouldn’t set, we’ve come a long way now. Baking is catharsis to us, and has been part of our bluest moments and our wildest fun.

Today I’m home, and as always, I baked. Ensaimadas or “Spanish Bread” as I knew it, has been a treat all through my childhood in the Arab peninsula. It was one of the things I missed the most upon my return, and I’ve been trying to replicate it for a while now.

Yeast issues – any baker reading this will identify with my plight. Finally, I’ve managed to bully my local town baker into selling me some of his dry yeast. It works like a charm!! I didn’t take pictures as I baked, I’ll add some next time.

Recipe from JunBelen’s blog : http://blog.junbelen.com/2012/01/25/how-to-make-spanish-bread/

INGREDIENTS

For the dough

2 tsp or 1 pack instant yeast
1/4 cup tepid water
1 teaspoon sugar

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs

For the assembly

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup sugar

1. Dissolve yeast in tepid water, which is water with a temperature anywhere between 100 and 110 degrees F. (A tip: if you can hold your finger in the water for 5 seconds with minimal discomfort, it’s just right)

2. To proof yeast, add 1 teaspoon sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. If the mixture doubles in volume then yeast is active.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the milk, melted butter, eggs, and yeast and combine well. On a clean surface dusted with flour, knead the mixture into a smooth elastic dough. Add more flour, if necessary. (It’s ok if the dough is somewhat sticky now. A pro baker once told me that lack of hydration is the main culprit when dough doesn’t rise. If you need to tighten the dough, do it later, after the first rise)

4. Let the dough rest in a bowl greased lightly with canola oil. Cover the bowl with a wet cloth and let the dough rise until the size doubles, about three hours.

5. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Shape each part into a log and divide into eight equal parts with each piece weighing about 2-1/2 ounces.

6. Roll each piece into a 3- by 5-inch rectangular sheet.

7. Place filling of butter, breadcrumbs and sugar in the center, and shape into a roll, tucking the ends under.

8. Then sprinkle the rolled dough with more breadcrumbs. Place the pieces with the seam-side down on a lightly greased baking sheet.

9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Let the rolls rise for another 30 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

It was soft. Rose like a pillow as it was baking. Happy. Sometimes it takes very little to make a happy Sunday 🙂

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One of those days..

Today is one of those days, when all I can think of is food. I do that sometimes when I have nothing else to do or when I am a bit blue. Angel Food cake, Apple Pie, Pizza, Cheese, Toast, Muffins, Bread Sticks dipped in a mixture of Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil and oh, so many others that cropped into my head.

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It is also one of those days when I don’t feel like going to the store to buy ingredients for what I want to cook, but I want them to appear before me magically so that I can start the actual work. Appearance in the scene – My Brother. So I set him to the task of going to the store for me.  was out of eggs, plastic cling wrap and I also needed jam or preserve (decision of the flavour, I left to my brother). I wanted to make Irish Bakewell Tarts, inspired by a post I read earlier. (http://cookingwithcraic.com/2014/11/10/irish-bakewell-buns/).

Ingredients

  • Chilled pie dough, ready to roll out
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk
  • 3/4 cup jam of any kind (my brother chose Mango & Pineapple preserve)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting.

Irish Bakewell Tarts

Like me, if you also did not have chilled pie dough handy, here is how I made it.

All you need is 1 cup All Purpose Flour, 1/4 cup cold shortening/ cold unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 – 4 tablespoons of ice cold water. The dough turns out great if you use a fork to mix the flour and butter (I used butter instead of shortening). Mix the floor, salt and butter with the fork until the flour is wetted entirely and has attained a crumbly texture. Add the water and roll it into a ball. Flatten it on a floured surface, wrap it in clingy foil and chuck it inside the fridge for about an hour.

So this is how you make the tarts..

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan). Grease a muffin tin and set aside.
  • Roll out the pie dough and using a circular cookie cutter, cut out the dough. Line the bottoms of the muffin tin with the pie dough and keep it aside.
  • Beat the cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla & salt. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Continue beating the mixture until pale, fluffy, light and increased in volume (about five minutes at medium speed).
  • Add the flour and baking powder. Mix slightly. Add the milk. Mix on high for 30 seconds to incorporate everything.
  • Spoon a heaping teaspoon of jam on each pie crust liner, then add two heaping tablespoons of batter on top of the jam.
  • Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. They’re ready when a toothpick inserted into the sponge comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar.

These delicious tarts taste even better with a cup of hot tea or filter coffee. My favourite is with the coffee.

One of those days didn’t seem so bad after all:-)

 

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits

I work from one o’clock in the afternoon to ten at night and I find myself with a lot of time in the morning. So I decided to bake some chocolate biscuits. I also had some sprinkles at hand and they add a festive look. My grandmother was utterly surprised to see me up and about the kitchen making a lot of noise. (She is visiting for a few months and has no idea about my antics). I just told her to observe and went on with my work.

Ingredients

For the biscuits

v 2 Sticks soft Butter
v ½ Cup Castor Sugar
v ¼ cup unsweetened Cocoa
v 1 cup All-purpose flour / 1 cup Self-Rising floor
v ½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
v 1 teaspoon Baking Powder

For the festive topping

v 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
v 1 cup of castor sugar
v ¼ cup boiling water
v 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
v Sprinkles

Note: If you use self-rising flour, u can skip the baking powder and the baking soda.

The above measures can also be doubled or halved with respect to how many biscuits you want to make J

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and when you are left with a light whipped mixture, beat in the cocoa powder. Once that is mixed, beat in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. If you find that the mixture is dry and crumbly, add a couple of tablespoons of milk until the mixture gets wet and sticky. Pinch of pieces as big as a walnut and slightly flatten them into flat discs. Place them on your baking sheet and space them well.

Bake each batch for 15 minutes. Even though they will not feel like they had enough time, they will continue to cook as they cool. Transfer them on to a wire rack to cool.

To make the topping, mix the castor sugar, unsweetened cocoa, vanilla extract and water on low speed until the mixture is smooth.

Drizzle the topping over the biscuits and scatter the sprinkles over the topping so that they stick.

Result: My grandmother was delighted that I am taking some interest in the kitchen (if it has to be baking, so be it) and enjoyed the biscuits. She doesn’t eat egg and was very happy that they were eggless.

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