Apr 23, 2010

Spring Vegetable Quiche

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Since I told you about my favorite pie crust the other day, I thought, hey, why not throw out a little recipe that is as easy as all get out, illustrating the glory of said crust? Now, I know you might be looking at the photo above and seeing bits of green and what appears to be a savory quiche, and you may be a bit puzzled by the whole thing. Where’s the sugar, man?! And to throw you off a little more, look! Pictures of vegetables! Wheeee!

About now, perhaps you’re checking the URL and making sure you’ve landed on the right blog. Or wondering if I’ve really, finally gone off the deep end. Which, honestly, I nearly do, about three times per week at least. But make no mistake—you’re in the right place, my darlings. I’m all thinking outside the box and seeing the forest for the trees or whatever and throwing savory at you. And I feel fantastic about it. This Spring Vegetable Quiche will make your weekend brunch, I can promise you that.

There’s really no better time to whip up a dish like this, guys. It’s insanely simple to throw together and it’s bursting with fresh, bright, green spring bounty. Fabulous crust aside, it’s a tangle of melting leeks and tender-crisp bits of asparagus, all nestled in a delicate, creamy bed of golden egg custard. With a little pile of lightly dressed greens and a chilly glass of Sauv Blanc on the side, you might just spaz out from gastronomical pleasure and maniacal happiness. It may make you do something crazy, like post the recipe on your granulated sugar-fueled baking blog. I can’t be held responsible.

Spring Vegetable Quiche
Adapted from Martha Stewart

As long as you keep the general amounts the same, you can swap out all sorts of vegetables here. I think adding some little sweet spring peas to the mix would be excellent. Scattering the cheese across the bottom of the crust rather than mixing it into the custard will help keep the crust from being soggy. To make this recipe even easier, you can forgo the scratch crust for a store-bought one. I won’t tell anyone.

Serves 6-8

1 pie crust, placed in a 9-inch glass pie plate, crimped and well-chilled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, well-washed, halved and sliced thin
1 pound green asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (keep the tips intact)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Position a rack to the lowest level of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and asparagus and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute just until the colors brighten and the vegetable just begin to soften, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg.

Place the chilled pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the cheese over the bottom of the pie shell. Place the vegetables in an even layer over the cheese. Pour the custard over all. Bake until the center of the quiche is just set, about 50-60 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving. To store leftovers, let the quiche cool completely before covering tightly and refrigerating for up to 1 day. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Apr 20, 2010

My Favorite Pie Crust

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Oh, friends. How have we come this far and I haven’t shared my favorite pie crust recipe with you? This is vital information and I’m sorry I’ve held out on you. It’s not okay. Because this pie crust is really something.

Now, I know practically everyone has a favorite pie crust recipe, each one with a little secret, a tweak on the basics that is supposed to guarantee a perfect pie crust experience. In fact, I love hearing about people’s pie crust recipes and their little tricks, and have been known to ask such probing questions as party conversation. Pretend you didn’t just hear that.

And in the food blogosphere, well, there seems to be as many reinventions of the pie crust wheel as there are metatarsal-stabbing wooden puzzle pieces on my living room carpet right now, which is to say a temple massage-inducing number. Many are awesome and reliable in their own ways–Deb has one, Joy has one that you don’t even have to roll out, and the great Lebovitz has one that’s all Frenched out. And now I’m adding to the madness with one more variation for you, the pie crust recipe that has my heart forever and ever.

My favorite pie crust is a formula that I’ve tinkered with over time. It’s an irresistibly golden, crisp, flaky, all-butter, melt-in-your-mouth crust with a genius hit of baking powder that really makes it foolproof. It comes together in minutes in the food processor. It’s a crust that you don’t have to be so precious with; even if you give a few too many pulses with the processor or handle it a wee bit too much (cardinal sins of pie crust making), that tiny bit of baking powder will give enough lift to correct all that. Pastry insurance, if you will. It’s a beautiful thing.

So do tell, darling readers…what’s your favorite pie crust recipe?

My Favorite Pie Crust

This recipes makes two crusts, enough for a 9-inch double-crust pie. If you need just one pie shell, halve the amounts. I make this in a food processor, but you could also do it by hand with a pastry cutter or in a stand mixer. I tend to ignore the “process until the butter is the size of peas” instruction in most pie crust recipes and instead go for larger pieces of butter–let’s say lima bean-sized–to avoid overworking the dough while adding the water and getting the dough to come together.

Cold ingredients are the key to all great pie crusts–put your flour in the freezer for 30 minutes, keep the butter in the fridge until right before you use it and use ice water.

For a savory crust, I include the smaller amount of sugar as listed here–it’s great for flavor and browning. For sweet pies, you can add more as you like, up to 2 tablespoons.

Makes enough dough for 1 double-crusted pie or 2 single, 10-inch crusts

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons sugar (see note)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon table salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle the butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Pulse until the butter is the size of lima beans, no smaller.

Add 6 tablespoons of the water and pulse until the dough just begins to form a ball (you may need to add up to 2 tablespoons more of the ice water). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the dough in half, and gently pat each half into a disc. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

After you roll out the crust and place it in the desired pan, let it chill for 15-30 minutes in the refrigerator before filling and baking to prevent shrinking.

To pre-bake or blind bake this crust, freeze the shaped crust in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the pie shell with parchment or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25-30 minutes covered, then remove the pie weights and liner and bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 15 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Apr 18, 2010

Scenes From a Bake Sale

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Wow. Wow, wow, wow! What a day. Guys, if you weren’t exactly local enough to make it to the San Francisco location of the National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale on Saturday, then I really hope that you were able to stop by one in your area. For us here in San Francisco, it was just an amazing day all the way around. We had the most beautiful weather and a sea of enthusiastic customers who went crazy over the the impressive array of goodies that our team turned out of our kitchens for the event. It was, in a word, awesome.

At 11:00 a.m., a bunch of crazy food bloggers descended upon a busy intersection in Noe Valley near Omnivore Books on Food and started setting up our delicious wares. As people started showing up with their goodies, it was hard to not start maniacally shoving things in my face, like, immediately. I couldn’t believe the display of talent and phenomenal taste of my fellow food bloggers. The air was electric–full of butter, sugar and insane amounts of positive energy. Truly inspiring.

Things got seriously promising when we made our first sales before we even got our wits about us and got everything priced–woo-hoo! Even Anita, our illustrious leader, was pleasantly surprised.

But really, with a selection like ours, who could resist? We had everything from the bake sale standybys like brownies and cookies to modern favorites like adorable cake pops and crack-like caramel corn to the super chic–macarons, people! Ooh, la la.

And see those cute little pies next to the macarons up there? Those are called iPies and they are made by a gem of a lady named Patricia Kline who I sort of want to be when I grow up. Those iPies? To die for. And if I am making requests as to who I might like to grow up to be, then I would also like a smattering of Ms. Penni Wisner, please.

She is jazzy and earthy, writes cookbooks and makes loaves of artisan breads that rival any fancy boulangerie in the Bay Area. She, and her bread, are really something–check it:

I can’t even tell you how terrific it was to not only meet so many bloggers and put faces to URLs, but to sell treats to so many lovely San Franciscans (Old! Young! Babies! Dogs!) who were genuinely into supporting the cause and learning more about Share Our Strength. Chills all over and a little misty, more than once, not gonna lie. And then. And THEN!

The pastry goddess that is Rose Levy Beranbaum came by Omnivore to drop some serious knowledge and sign books. There really is nothing like a room full of excited baking geeks. I felt like I was on a high school choir trip all over again. Pretend you didn’t hear that. To distract you, look at this adorable picture of Dame Rose and the wonderful Celia, proprietor of Omnivore and gracious host of of our bake sale. Try to ignore the huge shoulder that I couldn’t shoot around because the place was packed. And I dare you not to covet the massive display of cookbooks–I could inhale this shop, I swear.

Many, many thanks to Anita for doing such a wonderful job with the heavy lifting of organizing the sale, the warm staff at Omnivore Books for hosting all us wacky food bloggers and getting the word out on a grand scale, and of course the good people of San Francisco who came from all over the city to put delicious baked goods in their faces in the name of an incredible charity. Especially one particularly demanding, wee San Franciscan who refused to leave until she mowed half a package of Kerrie‘s Meyer Lemon Madeleines. I was so proud.

Update: We raised $1650 for Share Our Strength! Woot, woot!

Apr 14, 2010

National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale!

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You guys know me by now. Other than loving on crazy, sweet kids like my Little C, my main interests involve baking, blogging and hoarding cookbooks. So you can imagine my excitement at being part of an awesome, huge national bake sale put on by food bloggers to benefit an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. Plus, the San Francisco sale will be held at one of my happy places, the amazing cookbook shop Omnivore Books. I think this is what’s called being in one’s element, no? I hope you will come by, say hi and buy some goodies this weekend!

Who: Your favorite San Francisco-area food bloggers

What: An awesome bake sale benefitting Share Our Strength

When: Saturday, April 17th, 2010. From 12-3 p.m.

Where: Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco, CA 94131 . Click here to find the NFB bake sale nearest you.

Why: So you can put lots of delicious baked goods in your face and not feel guilty, because, hey, it’s for charity!

Also, in what would be defined as kismet, Omnivore opened their space to us for the bake sale on the very same day that pastry goddess Rose Levy Berenbaum will be there to speak and sign books, starting at 3:00. It’s an insane celebration of baking! I can’t wait.

Hope to see you there!

Apr 12, 2010

Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle

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Attention: This Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle is straight up crack. It will call you from the counter top all day long, and when you go out, you’ll think about it on your way home, and feel the need to cram a hunk in your face before you even remove your coat. This is that sort of thing. You have been warned.

If you’ve been following along at home, you might remember a Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle recipe I shared a while back. That was also extremely crack-like and dangerous to have all up in my area. This recipe is basically the same thing, except without the chocolate chips, which some of you may balk at. But trust me when I say that even chocolate chips become a moot point when replaced with a ton of crunchy, salty peanuts that populate the most crisp, buttery cookie dough you’ve ever had. The whole thing tastes like sweet, salty, caramely peanut brittle in cookie form. And if you can think of anything that sounds instantly more addictive than that, well, please report to me, because I want some of what you’ve got.

Thought the amounts of the ingredients are the same, the other thing that’s a little different from my other cookie brittle recipe is that the butter and sugar are creamed together in this recipe, rather then just melting the butter and stirring everything together. This makes the brittle even crisper and airier than the chocolate chip one, and I’m thinking of editing that one accordingly because it’s such a fabulous texture. But it’s all still so easy, I dare you to not make this stuff three times in the first week that you try it. There’s no faster way to the most delicious cookie-type thing you’ve ever had. Actually, I almost wish it wasn’t quite so easy to throw together–it would be far less dangerous that way.

This recipe comes from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies (and how, Ms. Maida), with just a few changes, namely the addition of a good dose of salt. Now, I need to tell you that Maida is one of my heroes. Love her, love her books, love everything about her. Also, you will be seeing quite a few Maida recipes in the coming months around here, because I could not stop myself from bookmarking when I settled in with this classic cookbook that is a year older than me. I am officially now in my Maida period. I just thought you should know.

I also think you should know that I would love to share some of my Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle with you (along with the chocolate chip version and hunks of this stupid delicious cake), at the San Francisco location of the National Food Bloggers’ Bake Sale! The bake sale will be taking place Saturday April 17th from 12-3 p.m. at my happy place, Omnivore Books, 3885 Cesar Chavez in San Francisco. If you live in the area, I hope you will stop by, say hi and buy a few goodies to help support a great cause!

That is, if you can manage to leave the house after making a batch of this cookie brittle.

Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle
Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen pieces

You can either cut the cookies neatly into bars while they are still warm, or if you’re feeling rebellious, you can just wait for the cookie slab to cool completely and then just break it into charmingly irregular pieces. If you don’t have a smaller rimmed sheet pan exactly the size of the 15 1/2 by 10 1/2-inch one called for here (I don’t), then fold aluminum foil into wide, sturdy strips and use them as a damn of sorts to approximate an area of that size on the sheet, give or take a couple inches. Don’t worry about perfection here with smoothing and spreading the dough just so–the more sort of rustic the brittle looks, the better. This stuff tastes best the day after baking and beyond.

1/ 2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into the cup and leveled
4 ounces (1 cup) roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and beat in the salt and vanilla, about 30 seconds more. Reduce the speed to low and gradually stir in the flour, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary. Stir in half the peanuts.

Turn the dough out onto a rimmed sheet pan, about 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough in a thin layer (don’t worry about making it perfectly even). Sprinkle the rest of the peanuts evenly over the dough. Cover the dough with a sheet of waxed or parchment paper and using a rolling pin or a tall, smooth glass, roll over the paper to smooth the dough and press the peanuts firmly into the dough.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the sheet halfway through baking time. Cool in the pan for five minutes before cutting the warm slab into bars, or wait for it too cool completely and break into pieces like brittle candy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Apr 7, 2010

Little Lime Cupcakes

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Ahhh, Spring. In like an infuriatingly schizophrenic lion, out like a lamb. I don’t know what it’s been like where you live, but until this completely bizarre San Francisco weather is finished finding itself like an emo-tastic teenager, I’m just going to camp out in the living room Spring Break-style in a lawn chair with a Corona and a cute little lime cupcake. You can’t stop me.

There’s just something about lime that feels like Spring, isn’t there? It could be the thoroughly awesome way that it pairs with so many great boozy drinks, like, oh, say, the ones I downed when I was young and unafraid and blowing off afternoon college classes in May to join impromptu parties on the porches of dilapidated, likely condemnable off-campus bungalows in Central Illinois. If loving lime in that form is wrong, then Lordy loo, I sure don’t want to be right.

But I also love lime in desserts, and you know, I just don’t think the poor lime gets enough props in the dessert world. When people think citrus desserts, they often go straight for the sure thing, the lemon. Not that there’s anything unlovable about lemon–it’s perfect, really. But lime pops, utterly green and fresh and sharp. And when its zest is sprinkled into cake batter and its juice is made into a zippy soaking syrup, it’s the perfect thing to boost a batch of wee cupcakes into an instant Springtime party, no booze required. Though if you decide to serve them with shots of tequila, well, I certainly wouldn’t fault you for that. That would be the pot calling the kettle black, now wouldn’t it? Hiccup.

Little Lime Cupcakes

You can absolutely make these into 18 full-sized cupcakes–just double the lime syrup and put about 2 teaspoons on each, or more if you really want your cupcakes zippy, and multiply the frosting by 1.5 times. I generously frosted my cupcakes, as you can see in the photos, but if you like less icing on yours, you can probably get away with halving the frosting for minis and keeping it as is for full-sized cupcakes. Increase the baking time to 22-25 minutes for big cupcakes.

Makes about 4 dozen

For the cupcakes:

2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, at room temperature

For the lime syrup:

1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons water

For the frosting:

1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Place an oven rack to the center position and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large measuring cup, whisk together, the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and lime zest. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on low. With the mixer running, gradually drop in the butter pieces and mix until the texture is uniform and the bits of butter aren’t discernable, about 2 minutes. With the mixer still on low, begin slowly pouring in the wet ingredients. When all the wet ingredients have been added, crank the speed up to medium and mix until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Portion the batter into the muffin tins (a scant tablespoon in each liner) and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched, 10-12 minutes. Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the lime syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil until the sugar is dissolved, and the syrup is clear and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.

Make the white chocolate cream cheese frosting: Slowly melt the white chocolate chips, either in a microwave safe bowl at 50% power in the microwave in 45 seconds intervals, stirring after each interval, or over a double boiler. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for a minute on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Beat in the melted white chocolate until smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary.

When the cupcakes have cooled, prick each one deeply with a fork about 4-5 times. Carefully spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of syrup over each cake. Allow the syrup to soak into the cakes for about 10 minutes, then frost and decorate as desired. Refrigerate any leftover cupcakes for up to 3 days.

Apr 3, 2010

Everyday Cookies

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Okay, so we all know that besides a whole lot of tomfoolery, this blog runs primarily on sweet cream butter and granulated sugar. I love that. Full fat dairy and sugar turn me on. But every once in a while, even I get all California with myself and feel the need to reduce a little, for lack of a better word. Up the water and vegetable intake, cut back on the white sugar and flour, run an extra mile and work another date with Jillian into the week. And put the kibosh on the produce that ends up uneaten, like the constant lone banana that is always taunting me from the counter top, destined for the compost. Sidenote: How is there always one poor banana left speckling away in the fruit basket? How?

The funny thing is, after a couple days of this virtuous living business, the sweet tooth takes a back seat, or at the very least, all that sugar seems a little less appealing. No, guys, I’m serious. Why are you all laughing at me?! Psshh.

Anyway. Despite this this new leaf I’ll be turning over for the next 48 hours or so until I can’t take it anymore, I. Must. Bake. It’s in my blood. If I go too many days without whisking or folding, I get the shakes. Plus, Little C is a whopping 19 months old now, and cookies are akin to currency around here. Enter this gem of a recipe.

If ever there were an everyday cookie, this would be it. I mean, granted, in my world, pretty much every cookie can be everyday cookie, but this one is special. They come together in a flash, nearly a one-bowl deal with a wooden spoon, full of the kind of totally wholesome ingredients that just make you feel good all over. Besides the fact that I can already sense the comments coming from friends and family who might be curious if my next trick will involve moving to a commune, I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you. And at the great risk of sounding like a dime-a-dozen press release for a new cookbook for moms or something, this is quick and easy, real food for a real day. And I think that’s pretty great.

This cookie is all oatmeal (some ground into flour, some left whole and tweedy), no white flour, only a bit of raw sugar and that aforementioned overripe mashed banana for a completely satisfying sweetness. Heck, since there’s oil involved, but no eggs or butter, these could even be vegan in flash, just by swapping out the cow milk for soy and using dairy-free dark chocolate chips. And since one of my favorite people in the entire universe is my utterly adorable vegan little sister, this is a recipe I’ll be hanging onto for a long time coming.

Crunchy and nubbly on the outside, with an interior like an awesome banana bread, the texture here is totally craveworthy. Crammed with toasty nuts and bits of chocolate in addition to the all the health involved, these don’t taste like anything other than just dang good cookies. The kind you can shove one after the next into your face without thinking. I’m just saying.

Everyday Cookies
Adapted loosely from Health Magazine, November 2008, of all places

These cookies could easily be made vegan–just swap out the cow’s milk for soy and use a dairy-free chocolate chip, such as the semi-sweet ones by Tropical Source. These could be made even more virtuous by leaving out the chocolate entirely and using raisins or other dried fruits as an add-in. Some shredded toasted coconut wouldn’t hurt, either, if you’re into that sort of thing. Use any nut you like, roughly chopped, and lightly toasted in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes.

Makes about 16

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
1 large ripe banana
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup milk (can be swapped out for soy–see note)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds (or other nut you prefer), lightly toasted
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (see note)

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Place 1 1/4 cups of the oats in a food processor or clean coffee grinder (my preference) and grind the oats very finely into a flour. Pour into a large mixing bowl and whisk together with the remaining 3/4 cup of oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Set aside.

Peel and halve the banana. Chop half into a medium dice and set aside. Place the other half in a medium bowl and mash well with a fork or your hands until it resembles a puree–no big chunks. Whisk in the oil, milk and vanilla.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wets. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir the batter until well-blended. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips and chopped banana pieces. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes. Drop the batter in to mounds, 2 tablespoons each, onto the baking sheets, no more than 9 per sheet. Bake until puffed and golden, 22-25 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Cool for 2 minutes on the sheets before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days (note: after the first day or so, their outer crunch will go soft, but they’ll still be delicious).


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