Monday, February 22, 2010

Crispy Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies

I made these cookies for the Math Tea last Friday. They were well received. I've made them before for other events and have had more than one person declare them to be their favorite cookie. It depends on my mood as to what my favorite cookie is, but they are certainly a top choice.

I was able to get four dozen cookies from this recipe (as opposed to the two dozen the recipe claims.) I had no difficulties following the recipe as given. I used Ghirardelli white chocolate bars for the chocolate.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

February's Cookie of the Month: Chocolate Cream Sandwich Cookies

Don't be deceived by the name of this cookie; the cream is not chocolate. The cream is vanilla flavored and it is sandwiched between two chocolate cookies. A more apt name would be Homemade Oreo Cookies, but I imagine that would raise trademark issues, though you should not construe that as legal advice as I am not your lawyer. Also, this recipe contains no cream, nor dairy products of any kind, which you should also in no way construe as legal advice.

As the only drawback of January's Cookie of the Month: Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, was unexpected spreading, I thought I should pick a cookie for February that is all about spread prevention. Last month, Mark Scarbrough, one of the authors of The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book, posted a comment suggesting that my cookies' unexpected spreading may have been due to overly warm butter. This recipe uses solid vegetable shortening, presumably to avoid the warm butter issue altogether. I also reviewed the book's section on equipment which had this little nugget,

If you have an insulated baking sheet, watch the times carefully--you may also try baking your cookies only in the bottom third of the oven to keep them from spreading too much as they bake.
Indeed, the batches that spread the most last month were baked on an insulated baking sheet. So when I replaced my rusted old baking sheet this month, I invested in a Chicago Metallic Betterbake Large Cookie Pan, instead of another insulated baking sheet. I did bake two sheets at a time instead of one, as the instructions state. I put one rack in the middle of the oven and one on the bottom. I put the insulated baking sheet on the bottom rack. You want no spread, I'll show you no spread.
Booyah! Yes, that's the cookie cutter that I used to cut out the cookies and it almost fits over a baked cookie.
These cookies are super brittle. I've never worked with such a dry dough. The picture above illustrates what happens when you don't roll it out carefully. The dough hardly holds together. It's sort of a pile of chocolate pellets. But if you mush them together, they hold after baking. The original instructions said to, "Prick each disk with a fork, thereby creating a decorative cross-hatch pattern on the cookie." I tried this on one and it shattered. Yes, cookie dough SHATTERED. It was crazy.

Don't freak out if the filling is also kinda white pellets before you add the vanilla. The vanilla is just enough liquid to transform it from the consistency of the slopes at Whistler to creamy smooth.

My totally not independent taste tester liked these a lot. They hold up to dunking in milk very well, though if you like the milk to make your cookie mushy, you have to be a little more patient than with Oreos. The cookies really do melt in your mouth. Oddly, I only got 14 cookie sandwiches out of this recipe, though the book said I should get 21. I might have been able to eek out two more sandwiches if I rerolled the last little bit. But that would have taken another hour of cooling. Not sure the effort is worth it. We both prefer the whoopie pies we made last year. But if you think the filling for those whoopie pies was a little too grown up and unsweet, these cookies' filling might be a good substitute.

Chocolate Cream Sandwich Cookies adapted from The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book: From Chocolate Melties to Whoopie Pies, Chocolate Biscotti to Black and Whites, with Dozens of Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hundreds More by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

For the Cookies

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed, sifted
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C solid vegetable shortening (8 oz.) (If I hadn't found organic solid vegetable shortening at my local store, I probably would not have made these cookies)
  • 1 C plus 2 T confectioners' sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract

For the Filling

  • 4 1/2 T solid vegetable shortening (slightly more than 2 oz.)
  • 1 T light corn syrup (I had this on hand from last month's recipe . . . and I still feel guilty)
  • 1 1/2 C confectioners' sugar, or more if necessary
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t salt (I used the fine sea salt from the NYTCCCs)


1. Whisk (I sifted) the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl until uniform; set aside.

2. Use an electric mixer at medium speed to beat the shortening and confectioners' sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla until smooth. Remove the beaters and stir in the prepared flour mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula just until incorporated. The dough will be quite soft, but it will hold together into a ball. Divide in half.

3. Sprinkle a few drops of water on your work surface, then cover with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place half the dough on it, then lay a second large sheet of plastic wrap on top. Roll out the dough until 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the dough, still between the sheets of plastic wrap, to a large baking sheet; place in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until firm. Repeat this step with the second half of the dough, transferring it, sandwiched between sheets of plastic wrap, to a second baking sheet also placed in the refrigerator.

4. Position the rack in the center of the oven; preheat oven to 350.

5. Remove the rolled-out dough from the refrigerator, peel off the top sheet of plastic wrap, and use a 2 1/2 inch, round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Use a metal spatula to transfer them to a large, ungreased baking sheet, preferably nonstick, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Work quickly here--you want the cookies to be cool when they go into the oven. Also, use the same baking sheet that held the dough in the refrigerator--it will be cool and prevent the cookies from spreading while baking. If there are dough scraps, you can reroll them, but you need to roll them out again between pieces of plastic wrap, then refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until firm.

6. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the sheet back to front halfway through baking. The cookies will be firm but a little spongy--they will crisp as they cool. Cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill it for 5 minutes before baking additional batches--or use the second baking sheet, with the second sheet of dough that's already in the refrigerator.

7. Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, prepare the filling by beating the shortening and corn syrup in a medium bowl until smooth, using an electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in the confectioners' sugar until fluffy, then beat in the vanilla and salt until smooth. You may need to add a little more confectioners' sugar to get a spreadable, frosting-like consistency--but be careful of adding too much, as it will continue to harden as it sets.

8. To fill, place a heaping teaspoonful of the mixture on the flat side of one of the cookies. Spread this gently to the ends, using a small flatware knife or an offset spatula, making an even layer of filling. Top with a second cookie, flat side down; place on a wire rack to let the filling set somewhat, about 15 minutes. Continue creating chocolate cream sandwiches until all the cookies and filling are used.

Previous Cookies of the Month:
January's Cookie of the Month: Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Edited 2/21/2010 to add:
It has been brought to my attention that co-blogger Bob, not co-blogger Rebecca, bought me The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book, notably during these Winter Olympics, from the University of British Columbia Bookstore.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

January's Cupcake of the Month: Streusel Cupcakes

As I mentioned previously, my friend Leah gave me Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat for Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/New Year 2009. My goal this year is to post once a month about my experience baking a recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes. Admittedly, this post is even later than the post for January's Cookie of the Month and whereas at least the cookies were actually made in January, these Streusel Cupcakes weren't made until February. But I did pick out the recipe in January. Does the thought count?

One of the neat things about Martha Stewart's Cupcakes is that it's got a broad definition of cupcake. For example, this month's Streusel Cupcakes come from the Dipped and Glazed section of the book which includes Brown Sugar Pound Cakes, Triple-Citrus Cupcakes, Coconut-Pecan Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache, Iced Pistachio Cupcakes, Pumpkin-Brown Butter Cupcakes, Apricot-Glazed Black and White Cheesecakes, Mrs. Kostyra's Spice Cupcakes, Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes, Stout Cupcakes, Chai-Tea Mini Cupcakes, Chocolate-Spice Cupcakes, Coconut Rum-Raisin Cupcakes, and Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes (someone got a little hyphen-happy towards the end of that section).

The Streusel Cupcakes turned out super moist. The batter is somewhere between a cake batter and a bread dough. It's not pourable. So don't be surprised by that. The Milk Glaze is the perfect ratio of powdered sugar to milk. I used skim milk and it turned out lovely.

One reason I picked this rather nontraditional cupcake for my first cupcake of the month is that I have been pursuing the perfect topping for muffins for months now without success. I thought maybe this topping would be the answer. The original recipe calls for about 3/4 of a cup MORE flour in the topping. My topping, which is typical of my attempts to make muffin topping, turned out way too floury and didn't glom together into little pellets of goodness like I was hoping for. Also, even putting on a wretched excess of topping on each one, I still had 3/4 of a cup of topping leftover. Hence, the adapted recipe below reduces the amount of flour in the topping. But if you've got other suggestions for improving muffin topping, please share.

Also, though the recipe in the book doesn't explain it well, and maybe this is me taking it in a totally different direction, I think you're supposed to kinda half fill each lined cup with the batter and then mush a bunch of the topping INTO the batter, so it's sort of like chunks of cinnamon goodness mixed in with the cakey parts, kind of like Corner Bakery's Cinnamon Creme Cake (of which David is a huge fan, and he loved these, so if you're looking for a homemade Cinnamon Creme Cake analog, this might be it). If you take that approach, use light colored muffin cup paper liners, so you can see through to all the marbled cinnamon/cake goodness.

Streusel Cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat


  • 2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t coarse salt
  • 1/2 C plus 2 T (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 C sour cream

Streusel Topping

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C dark-brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 t coarse salt
  • 1/2 C plus 2 T (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Milk Glaze

  • 1 1/2 C confectioners sugar
  • 3 T milk

1. Make the streusel topping; whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt; cut in butter using a pastry blender until combined but still crumbly. Refrigerate 30 minutes before using.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with light colored paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (I sifted these together and it seemed to work just fine).

3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla and beat again until incorporated (the original recipe calls for mixing in the vanilla by hand . . . can anyone think of a reason why?). Add flour mixture and sour cream; stir until just combined.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, about half full. Sprinkle half the topping over cupcakes, gently pressing into the batter until submerged. Sprinkle evenly with remaining topping. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

5. Make the milk glaze immediately before using; whisk together ingredients until smooth.

6. Place cooled cupcakes on a wire rack set over a baking sheet; drizzle evenly with milk glaze.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Product Review: bumGenius One-Size All-in-One Diaper

Last time, if you recall, we learned a few new cloth diaper vocabulary words. Our new diaper vocabulary word for today is "all-in-one." As in, "The bumGenius organic one-size all-in-one pictured below would be very convenient for a guest diaperer."
As the name implies, all-in-ones are cloth diapers with only one part. There are no inserts or liners. It's all one piece.
One common complaint about all-in-ones is that they take forever to dry. Other diapers address this concern by separating the absorbent part of the diaper, the soaker pad (like the GroBaby or the gDiaper) or insert (like the FuzziBunz), from the less absorbent parts of the diaper, the exterior shell (like the GroBaby) or the exterior shell and a liner (like the gDiaper or the FuzziBunz). bumGenius addressed the drying issue while still maintaining its all-in-one integrity by permanently affixing multiple layers of separate soaker pads, as you can see in the above picture showing a side view of the bumGenius. That said, it still takes longer to dry that the component parts of the diapers previously mentioned because due to the exterior fabric, you can't dry it on the high heat that you can dry soaker pads, inserts, or prefolds.

Why didn't I show you a picture of the interior of the bumGenius? Simple, because it's already stained. So another common complaint about all-in-ones that bumGenius does not address (and I'm not sure any all-in-one could), is that they don't stand up to the intense washing necessary to combat baby poo stains and residue. The washing intensity is limited by the exterior material.

The only cloth diaper I've seen that is even more like a disposable diaper is MonkeyDoodlez. MonkeyDoodlez has a few lines of fitted, true all-in-ones (they also have a line of pocket diapers). There are no flaps attached at the ends, like the bumGenius. The closures are velcro. The whole thing goes in the wash. Of course it has the downside of being difficult to dry and not standing up to the harsh washing some folks deem necessary for cloth diapers. bumGenius has addressed the former problem, at least to the extent any all-in-one could, but not the latter. While the fitted MonkeyDoodlez have the advantage of no snaps to adjust the size to confuse guest diaperers. This particular bumGenius diaper uses a couple of rows of snap-downs to allow a general size adjustment, so it should stay in the diapering rotation longer than a fitted diaper. But it lacks the adjustable leg openings that make the FuzziBunz one-size pocket diaper uniquely awesome. [FYI: bumGenius makes a fitted diaper with velcro closures . . . so the only difference between that diaper and MonkeyDoodlez is the improved drying through attached flaps)]

End verdict: great for guest diaperers, but the drying and staining issues make this one not for me, choosing among cloth diapers. Might be just the thing for someone choosing between disposables and cloth, though.

My other diaper reviews:

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mobile Hack

So, imagine you're a new parent. Your baby hits that magical phase where they LOVE the mobile rotating over their crib/changing table/pack 'n' play. But the mobile only lasts about 5 minutes before needing to be wound again in addition to playing the most cloying lullaby of all time. What is a tired parent to do? Hack the mobile.

I surfed over to American Science & Surplus and bought the small mirror ball motor. AS&S's description:

Slowly I Turned...

Feel the need to have something rotate from the ceiling? This gear motor was made to turn a mirrored ball, but would be just as happy turning a globe, mobile, raincoat, rubber chicken or anything else that needs rotating. The light-duty DC motor runs on (1) "D" battery that you add, spins at 2-1/2 rpm, and works with anything that weighs under 6 lbs. The off-white plastic housing measures 5" long x 1-9/16" dia with a 5/16" dia cup hook on the business end and a removable triangular mounting hook at the ceiling end. Lots of Halloween, craft, diorama, robotics and science-fair applications.

Here's how it looks in our set up.

A comparison with the original mechanism:

You can see that the small mirror ball motor is a little longer. It is also slightly heavier (pretty much the same weight as the D battery that powers it). It rotates more slowly, but based on the squeaks of glee I hear from the pack'n'play, it's fast enough . . . and apparently my baby likes Built to Spill. :)

Mobile with annoying musical wind-up rotating device: $44.99
Small mirror ball motor: $14.95
Getting through dinner without having to get up ten times to wind up the mobile or listen to lullabies: priceless.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Product Review: FuzziBunz One-Size Pocket Diaper

In my ongoing effort to give a fair and balanced account of the state of cloth diapers today, I went to my local granola crunchy baby store and bought pretty much one of every type of diaper they had, including a FuzziBunz one-size pocket diaper.

Did you catch all the diaper lingo I dropped? What does it mean?

A pocket diaper has two parts: the stuffing and the envelope. Instead of a snap-in soaker pad, like the GroBaby or a smoosh in soaker pad like the gDiaper, in a pocket diaper you slide the soaker pad into an opening between the exterior shell and an interior liner. You can see the fuzzy white liner in the pictures below. So unlike the GroBaby and the gDiaper every time this diaper is used the whole diaper, both the stuffing and the envelope, have to be laundered. Kinda a bummer once you get used to the potential for reuse of both the GroBaby and the gDiaper (or prefolds with covers, a.k.a. what we were diapered with as kids, . . . another adventure I've recently embarked upon).

Another bummer of the pocket diaper is that the interior lining gets seriously soiled, but because it's attached to the exterior of the diaper, you can't brutally wash and dry it like you can the soaker pads in the GroBaby, the reusable soaker pads in the gDiaper, or good ol' prefolds. Mind you, thusfar the snow white lining of the FuzziBunz I'm using has shrugged off stains like baby poo is just no big thang, so maybe my concerns about the cleanability of pocket diapers in general is inapplicable to FuzziBunz. Only time can tell.

The upside of the pocket diaper is that it's very straightforward for guest diaperers, like baby sitters or grandparents. The only way it could be more straightforward is if it had velcro closures instead of snaps. But other than that, you could pre-stuff one of these and leave it on the changing table for the babysitter and you'd be good to go. The only reusable diaper that is more straightforward for a guest diaperer that I've seen is an all-in-one . . . but that's a story, and diaper vocabulary word, for another day.

Onto our next diaper vocabulary word: one-size. A one-size diaper has some sort of mechanism for adjusting its size to allegedly fit all sizes of all babies. Now, that's a pretty tall order because babies come in all shapes and sizes and you don't want an ill fitting diaper. Most one-size diapers have a row or two of snaps on the front (possibly referred to as "snap-downs"), like the GroBaby one-size and the BumGenius one-size. FuzziBuns doesn't have that, though it does have a ton of snaps to make the tummy opening "adjustable." But the FuzziBunz has a cool little feature that I think every one-size diaper should steal if it's not patented: adjustable elastic for the leg openings.

It's REALLY low-tech, just elastic with button holes in it strung through a casing along the leg gussets attached on both ends to buttons. But it's those leg holes where leaks are most common, so this is quite an elegant solution to a ubiquitous problem.

You can see in the picture above that the extra elastic and the buttons kinda tuck into the interior lining of the diaper, so the don't bother your little one's bum.

This is the leg gusset on the tightest "setting," which was actually too snug on my 10-pounder. That means this one-size really could work on even smaller babies, whose legs would not sufficiently fill other one-sized diapers to prevent leaks. Pretty snazzy. I wonder if the lack of "snap-downs" will result in the FuzziBunz not being so one-size on the large end of the spectrum. We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, the FuzziBunz one-size pocket diaper is the best fitting diaper we've got, even if we do have to wash all its parts after each use.

So the jury is still out on whether this one-size really will fit through toddler-hood as well as it fits newborns and whether the interior lining will hold up to either the staining power of baby poo or the washing necessary to remove it. I'm not ready to commit the amount of money required to make FuzziBunz my exclusive diaper, which would be considerable considering you have to wash them for each diaper change. But, if I had a heavier rotation of guest diaperers, I'd definitely consider at least buying a few more. If I had a friend who was really choosing between disposables and cloth, I'd definitely recommend this over either the gDiaper or the GroBaby, as it's just much more like a disposable.

My other diaper reviews:

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Monday, February 01, 2010

January's Cookie of the Month: Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

As I mentioned previously, co-blogger Rebecca gave me The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book: From Chocolate Melties to Whoopie Pies, Chocolate Biscotti to Black and Whites, with Dozens of Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hundreds More by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough for Hanukkah/Christmas/Solstice/Kwanzaa/New Year 2009. My goal this year is to post once a month about my experience baking a recipe from The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book. Admittedly, this post is late, but the Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies themselves were actually made on January 31st, so they still count as January's Cookie of the Month.
[A quick editorial warning: the pictures are awful. They're either blurry or in poor lighting or both . . . sorry. I'll try to do better next time.]

When we're not making New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies at Chez Kelman we often make oatmeal cookies, either with raisins or chocolate chips. But I usually find them too crunchy. I'm not a big fan of crunchy cookies. So when I saw the name of this cookie recipe, I was totally stoked. It's even more exceptional given the authors' professed bias towards crunchy cookies. One neat thing about The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book is that they include a handy little icon in the top corner of the recipe to indicate whether the cookie is crunchy, hard, fudgy, chewy, or cakey. The icon for the Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies indicates they are chewy. Sounds like just the oatmeal cookie recipe I've been looking for.
The cookies spread a lot more than I expected, particularly on the insulated baking sheet, less so on the non-insulated baking sheet. I was hoping for a thicker cookie. But they were still chewy with just a bit of crunch around the edges. And the thicker cookies fell apart pretty badly when transferred to the cooling rack even when I let them cool on the cookie sheet for five to seven minutes instead of the one minute suggested by the recipe. If I were you, I'd let these cool on the sheet for as long as your patience can stand.
But unexpected spreading and crumbling aside, these cookies were insanely chocolaty. As you can see in the recipe the ratio of oats to chocolate chips is one to one, which is CRAZY for an oatmeal cookie. I mean, the batter barely holds the chips together there are so many chips. Particularly with the 60% cacao chips, I thought it was a bit much, though my taste tester vehemently disagreed. I prefer a higher dough to chip ratio, but that's me. The next time we make these, and there definitely will be a next time, I think I might follow one of the suggested variations and substitute half the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips or raisins. Oh, that's another cool thing about this book, it has LOTS of suggestions for variations for each cookie.
Soft Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies adapted from The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book: From Chocolate Melties to Whoopie Pies, Chocolate Biscotti to Black and Whites, with Dozens of Chocolate Chip Cookies and Hundreds More by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough


  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (the book includes all sorts of handy tips both in the introduction and in each recipe, like using cool, not cold, not warm, butter and cutting it into small pieces first, but I'm leaving those out in the interest of (A) reducing my risk of carpal tunnel and (B) feeling less guilty about posting their recipe by trying to encourage you to buy their book)
  • 1 C dark brown sugar
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 T light corn syrup (yes, I finally broke down and bought corn syrup . . . do you think they'll kick me out of the CSA?)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 T milk
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 3 C rolled oats
  • 3 C chocolate chips (I used my Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips that I discovered in the process of perfecting the NYTCCC)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk (I sifted) the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

2. Soften the butter in a large bowl using an electric mixer at medium speed for about a minute. Add brown sugar, sugar, and corn syrup and beat at medium speed until light consistency and pale brown color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, egg white, milk, and vanilla until smooth. Turn off the beaters, add the flour mixture from step 1, and beat at low speed just until incorporated. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon (I used the electric mixer) until the chips are evenly distributed.

3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a large ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 13 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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