Red Velvet Cream Cheese Buttercream with Chocolate Cupcakes

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This red velvet cream cheese buttercream is undoubtedly the star of the show. The chocolate cupcakes are great of course but when topped with generous swirls of this magical, wickedly good frosting, they outdo themselves.

The buttercream recipe was what intrigued me at first. I had all the ingredients on hand and so I set about whipping up a batch. Not only did it not disappoint, it had me weak in the knees with excitement. It was just like biting into a fantastic red velvet cake – sweet, tangy, a tiny bit chocolaty and oh so delicious!

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It was only when I had had three tablespoons of frosting, straight from the bowl, in the name of taste testing that I realized I needed to find an accompanying cupcake recipe for it and a bunch of people I could share those cupcakes with. Being home alone with a big bowl of addictive frosting was not going to end well.

Happy to report, I gave them away to the teachers at my toddler’s school and they loved it!

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You should definitely give this one a go. It will change your life. Baking life at least.

Read the notes at the end of  this post for an egg free version of these cupcakes made using Aquafaba

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • All  purpose flour – 3/4 cup
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – 1/2 cup
  • Baking powder – 3/4 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Large eggs – 2
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Light brown sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 2 tsp
  • Oil – 1/3 cup (Anything neutral will work. No olive oil) 
  • Buttermilk – 1/2 cup*

*I always make buttermilk by whisking yogurt with water. Here I added 1/3 cup yogurt in a measuring jar, topped it up with water till the 1/2 cup mark and whisked them to combine

Red Velvet Cream cheese Buttercream

  • Salted butter – 1/2 cup
  • Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup
  • Package of cream cheese (8 oz or 226 grams) – 1
  • Red food coloring – 6 to 8 drops*
  • Icing sugar – 3 to 4 cups
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp

*I used McCormick’s red food color. You can use any brand you want. Just follow instructions as given below

Note: This buttercream needs to sit for a few hours to reach its rich, deep red color. Aim for a dark terracotta color when you make it, store it for a few hours in the fridge (preferably overnight) and thaw it out before frosting. The color will have enough time to mature and you’ll have a true red velvet colored frosting to go on your cupcakes

Yield – 22 small cupcakes with frosting

Method

Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners
  • In a large bowl whisk all your dry ingredients together – flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • In another bowl add eggs, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, vanilla extract, and oil. using a handheld mixer or a whisk, mix these ingredients thoroughly until combined well
  • Pour half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk very briefly to mix. Add half of the buttermilk and whisk again. Repeat this process once more time with the rest of the wet ingredients. Be very careful not to over mix
  • The batter will be thinner than a regular cupcake batter. Pour the batter into the liners till they are half to two thirds full. No more! These cupcake rise quite a bit
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the tray around once in between. When done a tester inserted into the cupcakes should come out clean
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting

Red Velvet Cream cheese Buttercream

  • Make sure your butters are softened and the cream cheese is chilled. In a bowl sift 3 cups of icing sugar and cocoa powder together and set aside
  • In a large bowl, using a mixer, whip salted and unsalted butter until it turns fluffy and light. This takes 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the cream cheese and continue to whip until fully incorporated. About 5  minutes
  •  Add the vanilla and food coloring and whip on high speed until it turns light and fluffy
  • Gradually add the icing sugar-cocoa powder mixture to the butter and cream cheese mixture while whipping on low speed
  • Once you’ve added all the sugar and cocoa powder whip the buttercream on high speed until it is well combined. This takes 2 to 3 minutes
  • At this point you can add one or two more drops of food coloring to the buttercream. You can also add more icing sugar, one quarter cup at a time till you arrive at your desired level of sweetness
  • Keep in mind that the color of the buttercream deepens gradually over time. So aim for a deep terracotta color and keep it covered in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight)  and the color will turn a true bright red as you see in the pictures

Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days. For anything longer than that they will need to be refrigerated.

Notes – To make these cupcakes egg free use 6 tbsp (3 tbsp = 1 egg) of aquafaba. Whip it in a bowl till it turns frothy. Proceed with the rest of the recipe instructions as given. The egg free cupcakes will be a little more tender than those made with eggs but will taste just as fabulous! 

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The cupcake recipe is adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction and the buttercream recipe is adapted from Wicked Good Kitchen

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Strawberry Cobbler

Have you had one of those evenings where you’re halfway through dinner prep and you have a sudden craving for dessert? Something warm and gooey that you could dip your spoon into and lick clean? This happens to me quite often. Of course you’re tempted to abandon dinner plans and address that craving first. But you cannot feed your toddler dessert for dinner. Wait, can you?

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In a situation like this you should make a Cobbler! It’s warm, gooey, bubbly and jammy and will address your craving without derailing your dinner rush.

It doesn’t need any special equipment, uses the most basic of ingredients and turns out great with almost any fruit you have lying around – fresh or frozen. You can bake it in individual ramekins or one big dish. What I’m trying to say is – it’s versatile and it may win you a parent-of-the-day award.

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So let’s get to it shall we?

Yield – 4 to 5 small ramekins. This recipe can be doubled to feed a larger crowd

Ingredients

  • Butter* – 1/4 cup melted and cooled
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp
  • All purpose flour – 1/2 cup
  • Baking powder – 3/4 tsp
  • Milk** – 1/2 cup
  • Strawberries or mixed berries – 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups

*I’ve used salted butter. You can use unsalted butter too in which case add 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients

**I used 2% milk but you can use any milk you have on hand

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Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 177 degree Celsius. Grease 4 small ramekins
  • Add flour, baking powder and 1/2 cup sugar to a bowl and whisk to combine
  • Add the milk and whisk to mix thoroughly. Add the melted and cooled butter to the batter and mix to combine. The consistency should resemble loose pancake batter
  • Spoon berries into the ramekins. Top them up with the batter and place some more berries on top. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar and bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes till the tops are golden brown and crisp
  • Serve while still warm with ice cream or whipped cream

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This dessert is best eaten fresh and warm straight of the oven. But if you have to save it, wrap it in clingfilm and store it in the refrigerator. Warm it up in a 350 F oven for 5 to 7 minutes just before serving.

Recipe adapted from Completely Delicious

Pear & Almond Cake with Amaretto Caramel Sauce

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My toddler loves pears. Which is why I buy them by the sackfuls. Which is also why I always end up with a bunch of pears that ripen all at the same time. There’s only that many pears we can eat per day! There are oh so many elegant pear desserts I want to try but this particular bunch had gone too soft. Hence this cake.

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You can use bottom of the bowl, overripe pears and still have this cake turn out stellar! It’s a very simple, no fuss recipe. The only work involved is whipping butter and sugar and that only takes about 5 minutes.

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This recipe was originally measured out in grams. I have converted them to cup and tablespoon measures. I have included the weight measurements in italics if you prefer to go that route.

This recipe also mentions Self Rising Flour. You don’t have to rush out to the grocery store to buy a bag, or worse, abandon this project altogether! You just need all purpose flour, baking powder and salt and you can make your own batch of self rising flour. Recipe for that is given below.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Peeled and roughly chopped pears – 3
  • Unsalted butter* – 1 cup (200 grams)
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (125 grams + 1 tbsp)
  • Large eggs – 2
  • Self rising flour** – 1 cup minus 5 tbsp (100 grams)
  • Ground almonds or Almond meal – 1/2 cup plus 4 tbsp (80 grams)

*If using salted butter leave the salt out of the self rising flour recipe given below

**Self rising flour – Take 1 cup all purpose flour, add 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk to combine. Measure and use as directed

For the caramel sauce

  • Salted butter* – 1/4 cup
  • Light brown sugar – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Amaretto extract – 2 tsp (optional)

*If using unsalted butter add 1/2 tsp of salt to your recipe

Method

The cake

  • Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 degree Celsius. Grease and flour a 9 inch circular cake pan. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature and the butter is softened
  • In a medium saucepan melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add 1 tbsp of sugar and stir till it melts. Add the peeled and chopped pears and simmer till they turn brown and the sauce thickens a little
  • In a large bowl add the remaining butter and sugar and whip together using a mixer till it turns light and fluffy. This will take 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the eggs one by one and whip thoroughly after each addition
  • Add the flour to this mixture in three batches and combine on low speed just until incorporated
  • Add the ground almonds or almond meal and using a spatula stir it gently through the batter
  • Pour the batter into the cake pan. Level with a spatula. Arrange the cooked pears evenly over the surface of the cake. Pour some of the sauce from the saucepan over the cake
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes till the cake turns golden brown and a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean
  • Cool the cake in the pan set over a cooling rack. Once it is completely cooled remove from pan

The amaretto caramel

  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Add the sugar and cream and stir. The mixture will foam up quite a bit. Make sure you use a saucepan with tall sides
  • Let it cook for about 5 minutes stirring constantly
  • Add vanilla extract, amaretto and salt (if using) and stir
  • Let the sauce simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes till it reaches the desired thickness. For this cake I prefer an unsalted, slightly thin caramel sauce that pours easily over the cake without clumping

Assembly

  • Place the cooled cake on a cake stand or plate. Pour the amaretto caramel sauce generously over the cake and garnish with additional chopped or slivered almonds

This cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days. Anything longer than that, it will have to be stored in the refrigerator.

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Recipe adapted from Frugal Feeding

Apple Cinnamon Scones with Maple Glaze

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Is it September already?! I know ‘time flies’ and all that but this year, in particular, has driven by at top speed. I enjoy summer and I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. If there is a silver lining to this whole autumn-winter business it is that baking season is just around the corner. That can never be a bad thing right? Apples, figs, pears and all those warming spices? Yes please! Though, I have to admit, that was not the inspiration for this recipe.

 

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These scones came about because dear old husband bought the wrong brand of applesauce, which the toddler disapproved of in no uncertain terms, and I needed an excuse to use it up. That and the lone apple languishing in my fruit bowl. Don’t be fooled by these humble origins though. These scones are legit!

Tender and crisp on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside and flecked with  juicy bites of apple that pop in your mouth – this may be my favorite scone version yet!

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They are surprisingly easy to make. You need simple ingredients. You don’t need to bring any of them to room temperature. No need for fancy equipment or elbow grease.

Just add all the ingredients to a bowl, mix till you get a slightly wet dough. Form into two circles and cut into wedges. That’s it! You’ll go from dreaming about scones to having them with your morning coffee in about half an hour.

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Yield – 12 scones

Ingredients

For the scones

  • All purpose flour – 2 cups
  • Granulated sugar – 1/3 cup
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder – 1 tsp
  • Cold butter – 1/4 cup*
  • Unsweetened applesauce – 1/2 cup
  • Chopped apple – 1/2 cup
  • Half and half – 1/2 cup**

For the glaze

  • Icing sugar – 1 cup
  • Milk – 2 tbsp
  • Maple syrup – 2 tbsp

*I used salted butter. If using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients

** If you do not have half and half you can use an equal quantity of milk

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425 F or 218 degree Celsius. Shred cold butter using a grater and place it in the freezer while you get the dry ingredients ready
  • In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine
  • Add the shredded butter to this bowl and cut it in using a pastry cutter or a fork. The flour mixture should begin to look a little like sand with pea sized bits of butter still visible
  • Add applesauce and half and half to this mixture and stir with a spatula to combine. You should arrive at a soft dough that is just a tiny bit sticky and still wet. If the dough is too wet add flour one tablespoon at a time till you arrive at the right consistency
  • Add the chopped apples and gently fold them through the dough with a spatula
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two halves. Do not knead. Using floured hands flatten each half of the dough into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter. Cut each circle into 6 wedges
  • Place these wedges on a parchment lined baking sheet at least a couple of inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes till they turn golden brown and a tester inserted into a scone comes out dry
  • Transfer them to a cooling rack
  • For the glaze – Add all the ingredients to a bowl and whisk till smooth.
  • Top the scones with glaze while they are still warm and allow the glaze to set for about 5 minutes

These scones are best eaten fresh out of the oven while they are still warm. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Warm them up in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating!

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Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Magpie

Almond & Oat Cookies

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I don’t bake cookies as often as I should. I have a long list of cookie recipes that I want to try but have not gotten round to yet. These cookies are on the top of that list. These cookies should, in fact, top every cookie list out there. They’re crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. They are thin and light. They are rich and buttery. They have almonds and oatmeal (my favorite cookie ingredient).

You see what I’m talking about!

 

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Heads up – this cookie uses up a lot of butter and sugar – that’s where the ‘rich and buttery’ trait comes from. But let me tell you, this cookie is worth every single calorie. I have had half a dozen of these over the weekend and I have no guilt! None.

So quick and easy to make. Just whip butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla and then add the all purpose and oat flour mixture.

 

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Stir chopped almonds through the dough and you’re ready to scoop!

 

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They go oh so well with coffee! I am definitely making these again. With Amaretto. For sure.

 

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Yield – 32 cookies

Ingredients

  • Salted butter – 3/4 cup*
  • Light brown sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Granulated sugar – 1/3 cup
  • Large egg – 1
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour – 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp
  • Oat flour – 1/2 cup (directions given below)
  • Finely chopped almonds – 1/2 cup

*You can use unsalted butter too. Just add 1/8 tsp of salt to your dry ingredients

Method

  • Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 F or 177 degree Celsius
  • Pulse half a cup of rolled oats or old fashioned oats in a food processor till you end up with a fine powder. This is oat flour
  • In a medium sized bowl combine all purpose flour and oat flour and whisk to combine
  • In a larger bowl whip butter and sugars together with a mixer till it turns light and fluffy. This takes 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract and whip again for a minute till they are thoroughly combined
  • Next add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, whipping briefly each time to combine
  • Add the finely chopped almonds and stir them through the cookie dough with a spatula
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Using a 1 tablespoon measure as a scoop, drop cookie dough onto the sheet with a gap of at least 3 inches between each scoop. Gently flatten each scoop of dough just a little. These cookies spread a lot!
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes till the edges turn golden brown
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Do not attempt to move the cookies while they are still warm. They may break. They harden only when cooled
  • Store in an airtight container. If you find that the cookies soften after a couple of days put them back in a 350 F oven for 2 to 3 minutes and they will crisp up again
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Recipe adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Parmesan-Thyme Focaccia

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I can probably bake cupcakes in my sleep but the thought of baking bread gives me nightmares. After three failed attempts I had almost given up on breads. But like with anything worth having, persistence pays. So does common sense!

Lessons learnt so far- start with simple, basic recipes. Pay attention to technique and the most important one, have patience! Baking bread is so much more rewarding than baking a cake (did I just say that?!) I truly enjoy the process. If you have not done this before, I urge you to give it a shot. It is so worth it!

 

Focaccia is a great place to start. It’s simple and superbly flavorful. You can play around with your choice of herbs and spices. It is a very versatile bread too – you can make sandwiches or just dip it into your favorite soup for a very comforting meal.

You can also bake it in any shape you like. I divided my dough in half after the first rise. Rolled out half into a rectangle to be baked on a sheet tray and sectioned the other half and baked it in my cast iron wedge pan

Yield – One 9 x 14 inch rectangle

Ingredients

  • Warm water (between 110 and 115 F) – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Honey – 2 tsp
  • Active dry yeast – 1 package (0.25 ounces)
  • All purpose flour – 3 and 1/2 cup + extra as needed
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1/4 cup plus more for drizzling on the bread
  • Grated parmesan – 1/3 cup
  • Sea salt – 2 tsp
  • Fresh thyme – 6 sprigs (you can use dry too)

Method

  • Take warm water in a bowl. It is advisable to measure the temperature with a thermometer. The optimum temperature for yeast is 110 to 115 F. Add honey to water and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on top and mix briefly. Set this aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast blooms and the water turns foamy
  •  Use a stand mixer or hand mixer with the dough hook attachment, run it on low speed and gradually add the flour, olive oil, salt and parmesan to the water and yeast mixture. Once it’s all added in run the mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes
  • If after 5 to 7 minutes, the dough doesn’t pull away from the sides and gather around the dough hooks, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time till it comes together. The dough should not be too sticky
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gently bring it together into a ball
  • Grease a large bowl and dump the dough ball into it. Now flip the dough ball in the bowl so that the entire ball now has a coating of oil

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  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel or greased cling film and leave it in a warm place to rise. This takes about an hour and the dough will almost double in size
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently roll it out into a rough rectangle till it is between 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick. Place it on a greased baking tray, cover with a greased cling film and let it rise again for 15 to 20 minutes

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  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 204 degree Celsius
  • After the dough has risen, poke deep holes all over it with your finger. Drizzle olive oil generously over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle thyme and sea salt over the entire dough

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  • Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. The focaccia will be slightly golden and will easily slide around on the tray when done
  • Slice and serve with more olive oil

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Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Baked Churros

That’s right! Baked, not fried.

I’ve been wanting to make a baked version of these insanely addictive treats for quite some time now. My mom absolutely loves them and I so wanted to bake her a batch while she was here, visiting us. But every time we went out to eat she would skip the entree and order a plate of churros for herself. I did not want to double up on those calories so I kept delegating this recipe to the bottom of my baking to-do list.

Then I found the perfect motivation. I made a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s Hot Fudge Sauce. This stuff is indeed the bomb. I want to put it over everything! And what goes better with chocolate sauce than churros?

I mean, just check this out!

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It’s easy to make – half an hour from beginning to end – and it’s something you can easily whip up for company. Best part is, no special equipment needed. Just a saucepan, spatula and some elbow grease!

Let’s get started

Yield – 24 Churros each 4 inches long

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Large eggs – 3 (at room temperature)
  • Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup (If using salted butter leave out salt from the dry ingredients)
  • Light brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract -1 tsp
  • Granulated sugar with 1 tsp of nutmeg or cinnamon for dusting finished churros – 1/3 cup

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 degree Celsius
  • Add butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, salt (if using) and water to a medium sized saucepan and place it on medium heat. Stir occasionally till the sugars and butter melt completely
  • Let the liquid come to a boil and then take it off the heat
  • Add in the vanilla extract and flour to the hot liquid and stir vigorously till a smooth dough is formed and it begins to gather around the spatula
  • Make a well in the center of the dough and and the first egg. Stir vigorously again till the egg is completely incorporated. It takes a couple of minutes. You will see the dough getting smoother and shinier after the egg is mixed in
  • Mix the other two eggs one at a time stirring thoroughly after each addition. Here’s a visual guide. The image on the right was taken after the three eggs were added

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  • Fill the dough into a piping bag fitted with a wide open star tip and pipe the dough in straight lines on a parchment lined sheet tray. I piped them about 3.5 to 4 inches long

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  • Spray or lightly brush the piped dough with oil. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes
  • When done the churros will be crisp and golden brown on the outside and will slide around easily on the tray
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes
  • Take granulated sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon) in a wide bowl and mix. Toss warm churros in the sugar till they are lightly coated. Serve!

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Notes – These churros are best eaten fresh, right out of the oven. You can dip them in any sauce of your choice – melted chocolate, salted caramel, fudge – all work great! If you want to make these churros in advance, cool them and store in an airtight container. Just before serving, warm them in a preheated oven at 350 F or 180 degree Celsius for 5 minutes and then toss them in the sugar – nutmeg mixture 

Recipe adapted from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt