Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Category


They say that the more you write, the more you want to write. It’s true. I woke up this morning feeling like I hadn’t chatted with y’all in forever. I checked my last post date and realized that it was just a mere four days ago that we had our last convo. Really?! It can only mean one thing: we’re becoming besties.

Besties are a good thing to have on your team. I’ve been really blessed to have several besties over the last twenty-ahem-sorry-something’s-caught-in-my-throat-and-you-can’t-hear-my-real-age years. But the standard for besties, the one by which I measure all other potential besties, is Meghan. Meghan and I met in children’s church about a hundred years ago at (I think) age 7. We were sitting next to each other in story circle and, being the chatty girls that we were/are, found each other much more interesting than whatever our teacher was rambling about. Ten minutes later, after countless warnings to stop talking, we were separated. But not for long. From that moment on Meghan and I were two really weird peas in a pod. Same classes, same schedules (whenever we could manage it), same thoughts. People didn’t say one of our names without the other.  Every wall came down and our freak flags flew higher than they probably should have. We were so strange, y’all. And I’m not saying that to be self-deprecating. It’s just a fact. Our teachers would totes confirm. In each other we found all the acceptance and support that we could have ever needed. And we found laughter. SO much laughter. It was the laughter that kept us afloat. It reassured us that, no matter what came our way or what bad fortune befell us, there was always hope. It was our silver lining.

Meghan and I don’t live in the same city anymore. Haven’t for years. But for the rest of our lives we will be connected by a shared history. By a friendship that saw it all and knew how to bend so it wouldn’t break. My life changes like leaves on a tree. The seasons keep coming and the colors never stay the same for long, but she will always be my roots. Do you have a friend like that? I hope so. I hope that everyone, at some point in their lives, gets to experience the beauty of true friendship. It’s life-altering to really see and be seen. When someone that’s not related to you, who has no real obligation to be there for you, sees your whole heart – good, bad, and otherwise – and chooses to be there for you, well it gives you the confidence to face the rest of the world boldly. Because who cares what other people think when you have a Meghan?

We used to love to cook together. Anything and everything from breakfast to dessert, we didn’t discriminate. Being in the kitchen with each other was one of our favorite pastimes. I’m still not sure how we managed to not burn down one or both of our houses. The Lord was clearly with us. If Meghan lived in Austin, or if I was ever able to take a trip to el valle, this is the cake I would make for her. Or better yet, that we would make together. For old time’s sake. Go find your Meghan. Have a reunion and gossip about the whole world and make this cake. Throw in some really good dessert wine, just to promote the laughter.


Mexican Chocolate Fudge-Pecan Cake
adapted from Rebecca Rather’s “The Pastry Queen”


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chocolate-Pecan Glaze

1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 cups sifted powdered sugar (sifted, then measured)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour a 9″ tube or 10-12 cup bundt pan (srsly, Baker’s Joy Spray will make your life much easier.)

For the cake: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cocoa and whisk until smooth. Add water and whisk until smooth, being careful to not boil the mixture. Remove pan from heat and add in sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla to warm cocoa mixture all at once. Whisk until smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt all at once. Whisk until dry ingredients are completely incorporated (a few small lumps are fine, don’t worry getting it totally smooth.) Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done when it has slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan and feels firm to the touch. Let cool in pan for about 20 minutes.

For the glaze: Melt butter over low heat in a medium saucepan. Add milk, cocoa, and powdered sugar and whisk until glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, salt, and toasted/chopped pecans.

Loosen sides of cake with a knife or off-set spatula and invert onto serving plate. Spoon the glaze over cooled cake, covering it thoroughly, letting it drip and ooze down the sides and pool at the bottom. Cake will keep up to three days, covered, at room temp. Not that it’ll be around that long.


the chocolate cake equivalent to a best friend


Besties encourage one another and since we’ve been hanging out y’all have encouraged me more than I ever could have hoped to expect. Thanks for that. Your support has meant the world to me. Cheers to chocolate and friendship and the past that has made us who we are today. Cheers to Meghan.




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So, I know we’re supposed to be on this whole international dessert tour thing, but today we’re coming home to the good ole US of A and here’s why: it’s the last day of freedom for me. Starting tomorrow I will be, for all intents and purposes, a full-time nanny to two adorable little girls. And I’m excited. I am. I swear. But the last four months have maybe been the best four months of my whole existence. Unemployed life has been really good to me. Like whoa.

Can we take a second to just reflect on what I’ve done since the end of March? I’ve read maybe seven books. All amazing. I’ve watched some of the best movies ever made for the very first time, including all three Lord of the Rings  and episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Star Wars (the reason I will be asking Santa for an ewok this Christmas.) I’ve watched an exorbitant amount of tv online. It’s shameful to admit just how much, so I won’t, but know that Hulu has become my best friend. Sad? Maybe. But I loved every minute of it. Some personal recommendations: Once Upon a Time, Smash, Downton Abbey, and Merlin. A-MAH-ZING. Oh yeah, and I ordered business cards for a makeshift business! That was a big one. I’ve reconnected with old friends that I had missed SO much. I’ve made new friends! I’ve decorated and crafted and attended game nights which are my absolute favorite thing to attend besides weddings. But most of all, I’ve baked. I’ve bared my heart and soul in my kitchen on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis and it’s reignited the fire that was so rudely put out by working 80 hours a week in a commercial kitchen.

And you know what? I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of this next chapter than to spend some quality time with my measuring spoons and mixing bowls. They love me. I love them. It’s a beautiful friendship. I also have a beautiful friendship with chocolate. The apple I’m eating as I’m typing this is totes jealous. It knows it can’t compare to what we’re about to make. S’mores brownies. That’s right, you heard me. Fudge-y, chocolate-chunky, brownies topped with toasty, golden-brown marshmallows. Do you feel the heat from the campfire? Can you smell the hotdogs? Can you see the stars and hear the rustling of leaves and sleeping bags? I can and it’s almost enough to send me and a duffel bag out to the family ranch for a night of camping. Almost. The rattle snakes stop me pretty quick. Instead I’ll just make a blanket fort in my apartment and read by flashlight with a c.d. of nature sounds playing in the background to really fool my brain into thinking I’m a legit camper. Good plan.


  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons strong coffee or water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 bag marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks

you thought i was joking about my blanket fort? please. i’m a nanny. we don’t joke about forts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 or 10-inch square baking pan.

Combine butter and cocoa powder in a small bowl and place over a pot of simmering water.  Make sure that the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.  Add the coffee or water and stir to melt the ingredients.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together the eggs and the sugar.  Add the vanilla extract.  When the butter and chocolate have melted and come together, slowly stir the chocolate mixture into the sugar mixture.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir to combine.  Fold in the nuts.

Pour the batter in the pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.  Bake for 18-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set the oven to broiler.  Top brownies with marshmallows (I used one big marshmallow per serving but you can also use mini ones and just sprinkle them all over.)  Once the broiler is heated, place the brownies on an upper shelf close to the broiler.  Keep the oven door slightly ajar and do.not.move. Stand there and watch them because it will only take 1-2 minutes and if you close that door and walk away I promise you your marshmallows will catch on fire. Nobody wants to deal with that. Trust me.

If you’ve chosen to use mini marshmallows instead you might need to have hot water running while you slice your brownies. Rinse your knife after each cut to ensure a clean slice.

These brownies are good. These brownies are great. I’m about to go put one more on my plate.



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Chocolate Babka

You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to get all cultural. A few years back, when my best friend and I lived in this perfectly wonderful, crap-shoot of a crayon box house in a sketchy neighborhood in east Austin (that was a lot of detail for one sentence) we tried celebrating other cultures by having parties! We started with a Mexican fiesta. And we bought all of our supplies/decorations at, where else, FIESTA! There were Mexican dresses involved, and those tall candles with pictures of saints on them, and churros. (Spoiler alert: churros will absolutely be featured here at some point in the near future.) People loved it so of course we promptly picked another culture to celebrate a few weeks later. Being that we both shared a deep, burning love of The O.C. and it’s starring family it seemed only natural that we honor them by partying down Jewish style. There would be matzo balls and strudel and yamakas and bagels and shmear for EVERYONE!

adam brody and i having dinner at the imaginary restaurant in my head. cutest couple ever.

So we made a facebook event page and invited our friends, all nine of them, thinking they would be just as excited as we were. Wrong. Our friends, all nine of them, bailed. Not one of them showed up. And a few called us racist. Come again? Racist? By wanting to learn about and celebrate a new culture? It was the event name that turned them off: “Are Jew crazy? We Are!” And maybe the picture we used for the invite, a cartoon drawing of an Hasidic Jew. Okay fine, it was a little irreverent, but it was funny! And so we sat in our living room and pretended to be Linda Richman and Barbara Streisand on the set of Coffee Talk all by our lonesome as our roommates, I’m sure, sat upstairs and tried to figure out how they got roped into living with what were arguably the weirdest girls at UT. I think they did that a lot that year. I don’t blame them.

Four years later and I’m still semi-obsessed with Yiddish. Adam and I remain good friends, but my love for him has been eclipsed by my love for Zac, who also claims a Jewish heritage. It’s true. I wikipedia’d it. I should probably clarify that I’m referring to Adam Brody and Zac Efron. We’re on a first name basis. I forget that other people aren’t. But as wonderful as Yiddish words and imaginary relationships with beautiful boys are, they pale in comparison to chocolate babka. It’s like a cinnamon roll but on steroids and with streusel. Streusel is maybe one of my top three favorite things in the whole world. It should be sprinkled liberally on  top of everything, including my grave when I die. See that my wishes are carried out, will you? This yeast bread is rich with butter and eggs, layered with a mixture of chocolate, cinnamon, and (yes, more) butter, rolled and twisted and folded, and then topped with streusel. Talk about gilding the lily. It may give you a heart attack, but I promise you’ll die happy. I can sprinkle streusel over your grave, too, if you’d like.

***Note: The babka has been baking for approx. 40 minutes now and I’ve never, in all my baking experience, smelled something this wonderful coming from an oven. This is exciting. Get excited.


3/4 cup warm milk, between 100 – 110 degrees (just slightly warmer than body temp, for reference if you don’t own a kitchen thermometer)
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
3/4 + 1/8 cups of sugar, plus a pinch for sprinkling over yeast
2 whole large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 + 1/8 cups (which translates to 1 and 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for bowl and loaf pans
1 pound semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Streusel Topping

1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

*Makes 2 regular sized loaf

1. Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In a bowl, whisk together 1/4 plus 1/8 cups sugar, 1 whole egg, and egg yolk. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 1 stick of butter piece by piece while mixer is running. Continue mixing until butter is completely incorporated and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. I like to set the covered bowl on the bathroom counter, turn on the shower, and let it get steamy. It’s the closest thing to a proof box there is and creates the perfect environment for yeast to grow. Anywhere near a dryer or a warm oven would work too, though.

5. Place chopped chocolate, remaining sugar (1/2 cup), and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter (or your fingers if you’re me/uncivilized), cut in remaining  3/4 stick of butter until well combined; set filling aside.

6. Generously butter a 9-by-5-by-2 3/4-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream; set egg wash aside. Punch back the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces. Keep 1 piece covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 12-inch square; it should be about 1/8 inch thick.

7. Crumble a little less than half of the chocolate filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Brush the edges with egg wash. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons of filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough and remaining filling.

8. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of the loaves with egg wash. Crumble streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover pans with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place 20 to 30 minutes.

9. Bake, rotating halfway through, until golden, about 55 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack until cool. Remove from pans and serve. Babkas freeze well for up to 1 month.

Praise Jesus for Jewish breads. Is that going too far? No wonder nobody came to our party. Please don’t be a shmuck. Stop schlepping around and make some babka!! I know it’s a big undertaking, but I seriously cannot express how good it is. There are no words. My vocab can’t handle it. My brain can’t handle it. I promise, you’ll never make anything else for holiday mornings ever again. Now someone please come take it away immediately.



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things not seen

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Things not seen. This seems to be a recurring theme in my life as of late. It’s been the topic of countless conversations. It’s taken up residence in every corner of my mind, squatting and refusing to be evicted as though its constant presence will somehow lead me to resolution. It hasn’t. Well, no concrete resolution anyhow. I think that’s what led me here: the need to process and examine.

I quit my job. I had a good job. I had a real title and a (really great) salary and for the first time in my life I felt like I was on track. Only it wasn’t the right track. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job. I loved the people I was working with and I love baking but 70-80 hour weeks left me emotionally and mentally and physically exhausted. I was pushing things that really matter in my life further and further down my list of priorities and I justified it with my lack of free time. I quit because I felt God telling me to quit. I heard him calling me to something different, but what I had no clue. I still don’t. I heard two things: quit and wait. So I did and I am. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. Things not seen, I suppose.

It’s interesting to me how the things in life that seem to hold the most importance, the most weight, the most significance, are the things that can’t be measured or tracked or even studied. Someone recently explained this theory they have about attraction. You know that spark people talk about? That jolt of electricity that draws you to certain people? It has the power to stop me dead in my tracks and to render me utterly speechless. That’s rare. So the theory he posed was that it actually is electricity. Now, I hope I can get this correct, what I think he was saying was that the electrons in our body are sending out this signal, this energy. We also have tiny receptors all over our bodies that respond to the energy emitted by others. The trick is that only certain people’s receptors respond to certain people’s energy. Sparks. We’ve all felt them, been brought to our knees by this powerful yet unseen force. And though we can’t prove it, the feeling it produces can seem more real than anything else in our lives.

It’s the same with God. I could tell people all day long about how real he is in my life. I could try and explain the inexplicable, that I feel loved by a force, by a creator, that I have never seen. I could even point at evidence of his presence in my life, but until you’ve experienced it and felt it in your own life you would never believe me. Because it’s crazy. It’s mystical and other-worldly and makes absolutely no sense. It can’t be proven by research. Things of the heart never can.

I’ve been unemployed for two months now. Two months and two days, to be exact. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting just slightly worried. You see I’ve been living off of money that I had saved up and it’s beginning to dwindle. I’m running out of funds and I need a job. I need an income. I’ve been banking on this nanny position that I really want, but I’m still waiting to find out if it’s a sure thing. And if it’s not, I have a very small window in which to find a job before I become penny-less. That’s terrifying. But I’m not terrified. A little worried, sure, but not terrified. I should be. I absolutely should be terrified of not being able to pay my rent, but for some reason I have this incredible sense of peace about it. I know that the Lord will lead me where and when he wants to.

I’ve had a lot of time over the last eight weeks to dig deep and explore things about my God that I’ve always assumed but didn’t know why I assumed them or even if I was correct in my assumptions. One of them is that he has a very different plan for my life. For as long as I can remember I’ve longed for relationships. I’ve longed for true and deep and real relationships. I love easily. I love greatly. It’s not me and it’s not of me. I’ve tried to use it for me and I’ve often wanted to take credit for it but nothing about the love I feel in my heart is a result or expression of myself. I am deeply flawed and selfish and sinful by nature and it is for these reasons that I’ve neglected that love, and run from it, and ignored it in the hope that it would go away and leave me in guilt-free peace. It hasn’t. I don’t think it ever will. But because I love greatly, I also crave love greatly. In the (not-so-distant) past I’ve let that desire consume me. I’ve let it grow and fester and develop into resentment and jealousy because I wasn’t going back to the source. I wasn’t filling that desire with a love that satisfies. I thought I wanted human love. But human anything is never enough. There’s an innate desire in each of us, whether we recognize it or not, for something much bigger. It was a longing placed in the heart of man to know and be known by our creator. It’s life altering when you finally feel the love of the one you were designed for and by. That happened for me recently. I’ve always known the Lord loved me on a deeper level, but it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I truly felt it in the innermost part of my soul. It’s as if a switch was flipped and this light and warmth began to flood into the deepest parts of me that had never before experienced light and warmth. It was lovely. I began to see and understand that my purpose in this life is not about me at all and that, though my journey through it might look completely different than that of my peers, it was by no means less valid or less special. Each of us has been given strengths and tools that are unique. They help us navigate our respective paths in the best way possible. And just as each gift is different, so is each path.

I’ve been a hear-er for a long time now, but I can’t claim to be all that much of a do-er. In Romans, Paul is very clear about the consequences of hearing and not doing. It is the do-ers, he says, who will be justified in the eyes of the Lord, not the hear-ers. I’ve seen and heard God, but listening and following are two very different things. I think too often in this life we hear God speak but we pretend that it’s not him. We second-guess it, put it on a back burner, justify not obeying by any means necessary. I’m realizing more and more that there are no coincidences in this life and when God places something on our hearts or in our brains it would behoove all of us to stop and not only take note but to act on what it is we hear. Stop the behavior that convicts you. Call the person you’ve been thinking about. Quit the job that God tells you to quit. It’s scary, to step out on faith. It means putting all your eggs in one basket. I’ve put my eggs in a lot of people’s baskets. A long time ago I sat in a restaurant just off campus and  had a conversation I’ll never forget with a boy about eggs and baskets. I think we called them apples instead of eggs, but eggs makes more sense to me now because they imply fragility. At the time all of my eggs were in his basket. Was he trust worthy? Definitely. Was he a good person? Without a doubt. Did he drop my eggs? Absolutely. I was heart broken for a very long time. We’ve all experienced the disappointment that comes from placing our trust in unreliable hands. We’re gun-shy and our scars leave us with a skeptical spirit and a guarded heart. The bottom line is that people are people, and regardless of intent we all fall short at one point or another. It’s why Jesus preached forgiveness so vehemently. We are a broken people in desperate need of an unbroken savior. Unbroken. Without fault. Trust-worthy. God will not drop your eggs. He will not fail you. He will allow you to endure hardships. He will send you down dangerous paths and life will be difficult. But he will not disappoint you. It’s in those dark spots that his light shines the brightest. It’s those moments in which we fully understand our need for a savior and it’s usually those moments, the moments when we’ve been broken beyond comprehension, that the Lord sees most fit to use us. To wrestle with your own sin and mortality and brokenness is, I think, to come to terms with that innate desire for God.

Like every big event in my life, I think there was a very specific purpose for which I was led to my job at the resort. When I retrace the steps that led me there I see the divinity of it all. I think I know what that purpose was. But I’m gonna keep it to myself. It’s our secret, mine and God’s. For now, at least. There’s little to no doubt in my mind about it. I have no proof, it’s unseen, but I would bet money on it and not be scared of losing. Living out God’s plan for your life, truly living in his will, is exhilarating and scary and reassuring all at the same time. My prayer is that I would become a do-er. That I would hear God’s voice and respond with my whole life. Next steps? I’m applying to the Austin Stone Institute. Austin Stone has been my home church since about my sophomore year of college. I’ve grown there and I believe their theology to be more biblical and true than a lot of other churches I’ve visited. This program will give me the opportunity to learn more about why I believe what I believe. It will give me the scholarly and concrete knowledge to back up what I already believe in my heart. It will help me to articulate my faith. And I’m getting pretty excited about knowing my savior more fully. I still need a job. Several people have expressed concern that my new job of choice is nannying, but I think that’s what I’m supposed to do. Besides allowing me to make use of my huge love for kiddos, it also gives me the flexibility I’ll need to bake on the side (because I am by no means ready to give up on baking) and the opportunity to really build a clientele (because moms always need birthday cakes.) And who knows, I could wake up a year from now and have gone in a completely different direction. I have no idea where God is leading me ultimately, but I don’t need to see hard evidence for me to believe. I feel it and and it gives me hope, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

And when you need something sweet, these chocolate chip cookies don’t disappoint either. Because this is, after all, a baking blog. Right?

nom nom nom

nom nom nom


  • 1 cup Shortening
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Mexican Vanilla Extract
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1-2 cups Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 375.

Cream shortening, both sugars, and vanilla on high until thoroughly combined. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda and pass through a fine mesh sieve. Add to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing on the lowest speed after each addition until just combined. Add in chocolate chips and pecans and mix until just incorporated.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by either rounded tablespoon full or small ice cream scoop (I find ice cream scoops provide the best and most consistently sized cookies) onto parchment and bake in preheated oven for approx. 11 minutes or until just golden.

These are my favorite cookies of all time and have won me countless friends and one job. Enjoy them as much as I do.



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