Category Archives: Baked Goods

Benne Wafers, or Sesame Seed Cookies

If there is one book every Southern household should posses, be it a one-bedroom apartment or a grand, ancestral estate; it’s Charleston Receipts. It’s full of amazing recipes, idioms and household tips from days gone by. Some of it is slightly out-dated, to be sure, but a good portion of it is delicious cookies. This recipe is one of a few for Benne Cookies, “benne” being another word for sesame seed.

Before we begin, let’s talk for a second about brown sugar. Brown sugar is my new best friend. Never, ever buy brown sugar. Whenever you need brown sugar, here’s what you do instead: Mix 1 cup sugar with 1 Tablespoon molasses. It will clump up a bit at first, but keep mixing and eventually you’ll end up with what is quite clearly brown sugar. Way cheaper and literally exactly the same thing. You’re welcome.

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Benne Wafers (makes 6-7 dozen, I made a half batch)

1 1/2 c. brown sugar (or 1 1/2 c. sugar mixed with 1 1/2 T. molasses, as per above)

3/4 lb. butter, room temp.

1 egg

3/4 c. flour

1/4 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 c. sesame seed

Pre-heat oven to 300F.

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This is just your standard cookie technique: Mix together sugar and butter, add the egg (a lot of people scoff at the notion of halving an egg, it’s very simple; scramble the egg, then measure it out and use half) and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix  until fully incorporated. Measure out in heaping teaspoons place about 2 or 3 inches apart on parchment paper (they spread pretty far) and bake for 15 minutes, one sheet at a time.

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Raivas: Easy Cookies Because I’m Training

I’ll be honest with all of you, this week I’m finishing up training for the AthHalf race so my posts are going to be short and sweet. Today we’re making raivas, a Portugese cookie that, yes, is supposed to be kind of cakey. It isn’t what we in The States are used to, but they’re great for dunking in tea, coffee or a mulled wine. And they look really cool! Every recipe I’ve found for this recipe is exactly the same (with the exception that some called for 4 Tablespoons of butter as opposed to 5), so I’m going to give credit to the book that I first found it in: Nick Malgieri‘s A Baker’s Tour.

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Raivas

-2 cups all purpose flour

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

-1/2 cup sugar

-3 eggs

First, pre-heat the oven to 350F.

This is a pretty standard technique for mixing cookie dough: mix together the dry ingredients (in this case flour and cinnamon) and set aside. Next, whip the butter and sugar together until it’s nice and fluffy. You can do this by hand or with and electric mixer. Now add the eggs to the butter mixture and mix until they are fully incorporated (you’re better off adding them one at a time, trust me). Add the flour mixture and mix that just until it’s all in there. You don’t want to make too much gluten.

Now comes the fun part: Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. An easy way to do this if you don’t have a scale is to divide the dough in half, then divide each of those into thirds, then divide each of those into quarters. And there you go: 2x3x4=24. Roll each one of these bad-boys into a snake 20 inches long. I find you’re better off just using your fingers, when I tried to use my palms they got all smooshed. Now join the ends together and gently scrunch them up into a scrunched-up shape. Elegant, me. You can also make most letters pretty well, while you’re scrunching. Play around with it. When you’ve got one done, place it on a buttered or papered baking sheet and move on to the next. These only puff a little bit during cooking, so you can place them pretty close togeter. Leave about 1 inche between each cookie. Bake the sheets, one at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once mid-way. Remove to a cooling rack and serve with a nice, hot beverage. Check out the links to some other cool cookie recipes I found.

 

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Wifey’s Spicy Cornbread

This week I followed The Missus around and took pictures while she made cornbread. She makes fantastic cornbread and I thought it would be cruel not to share this with the world. There are those of you who will be aghast at the presence of sugar in the recipe; but I should let you know that neither I, nor my wife, comes from a family native to The South. I should also let you know that the original recipe we started with came from The Joy of Cooking. We’ve been tinkering with it over the years, but I should give credit where it’s due.

Adobo Chili Cornbread (for a 6 inch cast-iron skillet. If using an 8 inch skillet, double the recipe)

-7/8 cups cornmeal (1 cup minus 2 Tablespoon)

-2 Tablespoons sugar

-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1 egg

-1 cup buttermilk (in a pinch you can fake buttermilk by mixing 1 Tablespoon distilled vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup milk)

-2 chipotles in adobo sauce (available at most grocery stores with a decent Latin American selection)

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Butter up your skillet real good, then place in the oven and pre-heat to 350F.

Chop up the peppers in an 1/8 inch dice. I like to use a plastic bag so I don’t mank up my cutting board.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, and mix the buttermilk and egg together with a fork in a separate bowl.

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Pour wet into dry, and whisk together quickly. Once the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, the timer on leavening starts. Mix in the chopped chilis, remove the pan from the oven and pour in the batter. The batter will start to cook immediately, this is good just be careful.

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Put the pan back in the oven and set your timer for 20 to 25 minutes. When it’s done, a knife will come out clean. Let it cool about 10 minutes and it should pop right out of the pan. You can eat this immediately if you want, but the chili flavor will come out better the next day.

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Everybody Does a No-Knead…

No-Knead bread made the rounds online back in ’06 when Bittman made it famous writing for the New York Times. It wasn’t the first such recipe, but it definitely popularized the technique. Since then, there have been myriad variations and of course I have my own. I’ve also  experimented with combining this technique with a similar one I learned about in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, called pain a l’ancienne, which I’ll talk more about later.

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No-Knead Boule

-14 oz. or 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour (you know I love my King Arthur)

-2 oz or 1/2 c. Whole Wheat flour

-1/4 teaspoon dry yeast

-1 teaspoon table salt

-1 1/2 c. water

The mass appeal to this recipe lies in the high fiddliness to tastiness ratio. By which I mean, it’s really tasty and really easy. The only problem with this recipe is that you need a cast iron or enamal Dutch oven. A steel stock pot will not work.

Step one is just mix all this together, cover and leave at room temperature for at least 12 but not more than 16 hours. For some reason leaving it longer than 16 hours has a slightly detrimental effect on the flavor. UNLESS you want to let it go a solid 24 hours, in which case you can also employ the pain a l’ancienne technique by making the dough with iced water, and leaving it in the refrigerator for 12 hours then moving it to room temperature for another 12 hours. The advantage here is a more complex flavor due to enzymes and stuff. Try it out, it’s fun.

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12 to 24 hours later, you’re going to have a big, wet, bubbly mass of dough. It looks pretty thin, that’s alright. Using a rubber spatula, maneuver the dough onto a well-floured surface into a round-ish shape. I like to use the whole wheat flour for this, and I’m serious about the well-floured part, you’re better off using an extra couple of Tablespoons of flour than having the dough stick to the counter. Let is sit for 15 minutes, it’s not going to look any different afterwards, but the glutens will relax and the dough will be much easier to work with.

Run your fingertips under the edge of the dough to make sure it’s not sticking, then fold the dough into thirds like a letter. ‘Cause you know, that’s still a relevant turn-of-phrase. Now fold it in thirds the other way, so you have a nice looking ball. Do your best to brush off any major lumps of flour.

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Flour up a piece of fabric (butter muslin, a linen napkin or even a tee shirt, but not terry-cloth) which you can transfer the dough, seam side down, onto. Fold the corners up to loosely cover the dough and let sit 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Whatever you do, don’t let it get wider than the base of your Dutch oven. Speaking of which, put the Dutch oven in your oven now and pre-heat to at least 500F, or higher if your oven goes higher.

No comes the fun part. When the oven is heated and the bread is risen do these in this order:

-Unwrap the bread, make sure the edges aren’t stuck to the fabric.

-Take the super-hot Dutch oven out of the oven, take the lid off, leave the oven door open.

-Pick up the dough, with your hand under the fabric.

-Flop the dough, seam side is now up, into the pot. Shimmy the pot a little to center the dough. It’s fine.

-Lid on the pot, pot in the oven, shut the door, set timer for 20 minutes.

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After the first 20 minutes, take the lid off the pot and set your timer for another 20. Depending on your oven you may need 25 minutes, the bread is done when the crust is brown and crunchy.

Remove from Dutch oven, let cool to room temp, enjoy. Feel free to knock off any excess flour.

This bread makes a particularly excellent grilled cheese sandwich, by the way.

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Marbleized Shortbread

Shortbread was one of the original posts I wanted to do for this site, but it seemed a little too simple. I don’t want this to be one of those blogs that posts a recipe for scrambled eggs or a cheese sandwich. I’d considered perhaps posting two or three different recipes, e.g. Scotch, brown sugar, and chocolate to make up for the utter simplicity of them, but that still didn’t seem right. Yesterday it hit me all at once, marbleize the Scotch shortbread and brown sugar shortbread. It took a little tinkering to make sure the consistency would be the same for both, but I worked it out and am pretty pleased with the results. Right after I put it in the pan I realized that next time I make this I should make an Earth, or if The Missus has her way, Westeros. Break out a little food coloring and the possibilities are nearly endless.

Marbleized Shortbread

makes an 8″ round (12 pieces)

For Scotch shortbread:

-1/3 cup white sugar

-1 stick butter, room temp.

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

For Brown Sugar Shortbread

-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

-1 stick butter

-1 cup all purpose flour

-1/8 teaspoon salt

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

I would suggest making the Scotch shortbread dough first so you won’t have to wash the bowl between batches. The technique for making each is the same, so I’ll just go over it once. Preheat the oven to 350F.

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Place the butter in a mixing bowl and whisk it good for at least one full minute, then add the sugar and continue whisking for another minute and a half. When the butter climbs the sides of the bowl, just scrape it down and continue whisking. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and salt just until it becomes a solid mass. Place the dough on a plate and start over with the brown sugar, don’t forget to add the cinnamon with the flour this time. For an even more dramatic color difference, you can substitute 1 or 1.5 Tablespoons of cocoa powder for the flour with no  ill effects.

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I baked mine in the 8″ cast iron, but if you don’t have a cast iron skillet you’re comfortable baking in you can use a glass baking dish of the same size. Shockingly, there is no need to grease the pan for this recipe. Take little hunks of both doughs and randomly distribute them around the pan.

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When you’ve got a pretty even distributiton, use your fingertips and gently press it down to make sure the height and density are even. Now use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a glass to smooth out the surface. Good. Now score it with a knife to make 12 pettiecoats (as they are called) and poke it all over with a fork. No one knows why.

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Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, turning about halfway through. When done, the edges will be browned, although the center may feel a little soft. Re-cut the score marks and let cool in the pan 15-20 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. The color will darken as it cools, serve at room temperature.

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Clafoutis, Southern Style

I don’t do a lot of desserts here, which is weird because I do make a lot of them in my day-to-day life. One of these days I’ll get around to making a Queen of Puddings, but today I just wanted something quick and fruit-based. I’ve been on kind of a French kick lately so I decided on a nice clafoutis. Also, as it turns out, since the recipe is mostly eggs, milk and fruit, it’s very easy to convince yourself (and spouse) that this is a suitable breakfast. Awesome

The first question of course is, which fruit? Cherries are the traditional filling because cherries are cheap and plentiful in Limousin, the province of France from which this dish hails, and it’s meant to be a simple dessert. Not anything you’d have to go far out of your way to make. In my case (Northern Georgia in the late summer,) that means blueberries.

I strated with a recipe I found in French Feasts, but figured it would need some alteration due to the juiciness of blueberries, so I dipped into the classic Mastering the Art… which is one of those books I don’t pull out very often, but when I do I’m glad to have it. And as luck would have it, the section on clafoutis has instructtions for a blueberry variation calling for additional flour. Now, this isn’t a verbatim reprint, Mrs. Child and I still have minor disagreements over things like the use of vanilla extract. But I still go to her when I have a question about desserts.

Blueberry Clafoutis

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-1 1/4 lb fresh or frozen blueberries

-1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

-1/4 cup sugar

-1 cup milk

-2 eggs

-2 Tabespoons sugar

-butter for the pan

First, butter a pie pan or 8×8 baking pan and preheat the oven to 350F. Place the berries in the pan and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, milk and eggs. Whisk until smooth. Pour the batter over the berries, and let it sit 5-10 minutes to settle in the crevices. Bake for 1 hour, it will be puffed and browned when done. Sprinkle all over with the other 2 Tablespoons of sugar and let cool to room temp by which time it will have sunk.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

The secret to making the best possibe scones, in my opinion, is to take a page from a vegan cookbook and use bananas instead of eggs. Two notes here: the usual conversion is 1 egg to half a banana, but this ignores the fact that bananas come in different sizes. I always go with 1 egg to 1/4 cup banana. Also, I’ve gotten a few requests to give my flour measurements in volume and weight, so for this recipe I measured out my flour and then weighed it. I also updated Whole Wheat Focaccia with volume measurements.

-1 3/4 cup (9 oz.) all purpose flour

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

-1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, medium dice (or vegetable oil if you’re sticking with the vegan theme)

-1 banana, mashed up real good (should equal 1/2 cup, if shy add milk to make up the difference)

-1/3 cup soymilk or milk (or heavy cream if you’re feeling sassy)

-1 cup additional stuff (here I used some chocolate chips and almonds I had left over, feel free to use dried fruits or nuts)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

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Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the diced up butter. The clumps will stick together so rub them in with your hands to break them up. People tend to freak out about this stage but don’t as long as none of your butter is bigger than a marble, you’re fine. If you’re making this vegan, mix the oil in with the other wet ingredients.

If you’re adding stuff, do this now. Make sure to coat the stuff with flour so it will mix in better.

The best way to mash up a single banana is on a plate, with a fork. No need to dirty up your blender or another mixing bowl. Transfer into a measuring cup, you should have about half a cup. If you have less make it up with milk, if you have more eat it.

Once you’ve got that sorted out, add 1/3 cup of milk to the banana and mix them up together.

Pour over the dry ingredients and mix together very quickly just until everything is combined into a solid mass. I will be best to use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, a whisk will just get all clumpy.

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Transfer to a baking sheet and form into an 8 inch disk. It won’t be perfect, it’s fine, they’re scones.

Dribble 1 Tablespoon of milk over the dough and use your fingers or a pastry brush to even it out. If you like, now would be the time to sprinkle additional sugar over the top although this is not strictly necessary.

Cut the disk into sixths or eighths now, that way when it comes out of the oven it will be much easier to divide.

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Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, immediately re-cut and transfer your little babies to a cooling rack. You can enjoy these right away or over the next 2 to 3 days. Any longer than that and you’ll want to freeze them (be sure to use an airtight bag.) To defrost just pop them in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.

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Whole Wheat Focaccia

Before I forget: binteo.com, a new social networking site which puts regular people in touch with experts, is currently in beta and looking for cooking experts. Check them out if you’re interested in being an expert or finding an expert in photography, gardening, fashion and a few other subjects I can’t remember off-hand.

Anyway, in American bakeries and grocery stores, focaccia tends to be a much thicker bread so the thinness of this one may be surprising to some of you. But take heart, you can still use it to make a lovely grilled cheese sandwich. Credit where credit is due, this is a variation on a recipe I originally saw in the New York Times a few months ago, and I always stick with my King Arthur Flours.

Whole Wheat Focaccia

-6 oz. (by weight) whole wheat flour (1 1/2 cups)

-6 oz. all purpose flour (1 1/4 cups)

-1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

-1 1/2 teaspoons salt

-1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

-7 oz. (by volume) water (7/8 cup)

First things first, mix your flours together in a bowl.

Now, take a bigger bowl and your salt, yeast, oil and water. Pay attention because this is important: Some people have very strong feelings on the order in which you add the ingredients e.g. combine the yeast with the water to make sure it’s active, add the yeast to the flour to prevent clumping, add the salt at the end, etc. Unless your using a recipe which specifically says otherwise, do it however you like. And unless you haven’t used your yeast for 2 months or more, it’s probably fine.

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Stir until the salt and yeast are dissolved, then add in the flour mixture about one quarter at a time. Once the last of the flour is incorporated, cover the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. This will allow the starches and gluten to absorb the water in a process called autolyzation. The upshot of this is higher rising and less kneading.

Once the dough has had a chance to rest, knead it on a well-floured counter for 10 minutes. Keep a little pile of flour so you can dust your hands if the dough starts to get a little too sticky.

Now back into the bowl, oiled this time, and let rise at least 2-6 hours.

If you’ve got a cast iron griddle or 8 inch frying pan, awesome. Get it. If not, place some parchment paper (or flour) on a baking sheet.

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When done rising, flop the dough onto a floured work surface , form into a rough eight inch circle and transer to your baking sheet. Cover lightly with a damp cloth or oiled plastic wrap and let rise for one hour. Halfway through, dimple the bread with your finger tips and top. I like to keep it simple with: 1 Tablespoon olive oil, a sprinke of a big, crunchy sea salt and some dried rosemary. Lately I’ve been using Hawaiian Red sea salt.

Pre-heat the oven to 425F and let the bread rise the other half-hour.

Bake the bread in the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes. The finished product should look a little like this.

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Alternatively, you can roll the dough out very thin after rising, and use it to make pizza. Boo-yah. Top it with whatever you like and bake it at the same temp for 15-20 minutes. This one has summer squash, home-made pepperoni a buddy shipped me from Iowa, mozzeralla and leftover marinara I pureed into pizza sauce.

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Potato Bread

Studies have shown that the most popular posts on Simple and Complex are the baking posts. So without further ado…

Potato Bread (from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri) one of my new favorite cookbooks

-1/2 lb AP flour

-1/4 cup potato, boiled and mashed up good

-3/4 teaspoon dry yeast

-1 1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/3 cup milk

-1/3 cup warm water

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Use a fork to make sure the potato is mashed up nice and fine, then use your hands to work it into the flour. Add the salt and yeast to the flour next and stir it around to make sure you don’t get any clumps.

Regarding flour, I usually use King Arthur but being back in The South I had to buy some White Lily. For those of you who don’t know, White Lily is highly regarded for making cakes and biscuits because it’s made with soft winter wheat as opposed to hard. This leads to a lower amount of protein and gluten, but I’m going to give it a try in potato bread just for fun.

Measure the milk into a 1 cup measuring cup, then add the 1/3 cup of hot water. This way it ends up being warm-ish, which is about what you want. Add this to the flour mixture, and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.

Cover and let sit for 10 minutes to let the flour hydrate and yeast activate.

After 10 minutes has passed, knead the dough by hand for 3 minutes. Then place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours. Go ahead and oil up your loaf pan now.

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When the dough has doubled in size, flop it onto a well floured surface and form it into a rough rectangle which you can roll into a bread loaf. You might need to fold the edges over, it’s fine. In some regards, bread is more forgiving than people tend to think. Loaf shaping is one, also baking temp (but that’s a different story.)

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Preheat the oven to 400F and place the dough in the greased up loaf pan seam-side down, let rise about an hour until it’s almost doubled (as per usual.) I could tell at this point by White Lily experiment wasn’t going so well.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Immediately remove from the bread pan and let cool on a rack for about an hour. As you can see, the White Lily didn’t work for a sandwich bread. However, it is still delicious with brie and jam. I have since learned that White Lily makes a bread flour. Perhaps I’ll use that for a future experiment.

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Leftover Cake Liqueur

I’ve had this post written and sitting on the back burner for a while now, but I’m sending my book proposal to a publisher next week so I thought it apropo to ‘dip into storage’.

Say you only have one slice of cake (any kind will do) but you want to share it with 4 or 5 people and not have to worry about who’s getting the biggest single bite of cake. What’s a fella to do?


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Mix it with booze of course! The example above is a German Chocolate Cake that my wife made for my birthday but you could do this with most any dessert. So far I’ve made this with a few different cakes and tiramisu, but I would absolutely try it with a slice of pie or some Ben and Jerry’s. I’ll make some Chunky Monkey Liqueur and get back to you.

You will need:

-1 slice of cake (whatever a serving is for the cake in question)

-1/2 cup of good vodka (I like Tito’s). #freevodkaplease

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Put the cake and vodka into your blender or a mixing bowl if you’re using an immersion blender. Blend it for 30 seconds to a minute, until it’s really smooth.

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If you’re using a blender, pour the contents into a new container. If you used and immersion blender, you can leave it in the same bowl. Now let it hang out and steep at least four hours. I call this the “let everybody get to know each other” step.

Next, strain through a double layer of cheese cloth or butter muslin if you have any. This also might take a while, although it will go faster if you hang it. When it’s almost stopped dripping, give the cheese cloth a good squeeze to get the last of the liquid out.

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If it’s perfect, awesome. More likely it will be either 1) too thick and require more booze or 2) it’s too boozy and require some heavy cream (you need something with a high fat content, regular milk might break.) You can also use egg yolks, the alcohol will kill off any salmonella.

Serve in little cordial glasses or whatever you have. Depending on what your dessert was (tiramisu or something super creamy) you may be able to serve this in coffee, but test a bit before you present it in case it breaks.

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