Date Banana & Walnut Cake

2014-08-30 20.33.04Ever hit that afternoon slump and reached for a chocolate or biscuit? Dates are pretty much the Middle Eastern equivalent to a biscuit with your tea/coffee and have saved me from the biscuit tin on many occasions. They’re also all over the place at the moment as a healthier natural sugar alternative. Healthy is not an adjective I’d use to describe this cake. Despite the bananas and the dates, there are all the usual suspects – butter, eggs, flour. It wouldn’t hurt to have yourself a little slice though; there are worse things for your waistline (hello blondies).

For some light reading with that cuppa check Y Magazine where this recipe featured2014-08-30 20.32.26

 Date Paste:

  • 40g pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp as water

As easy as 1,2,3.

  1. De-stone the dates and soak them in warm water until soft.
  2. Drain and place the dates in a food processor.
  3. Add 2 tbsp. of water and blend until smooth and creamy.

I’ve used this to top yogurt, blended into smoothies, with cheese on crackers – don’t knock it ‘til you try it, it’s fairly versatile and freezes well too.2014-08-30 17.29.55

Banana Date & Walnut Cake:

This recipe originally called for honey but I substituted that for by date paste and reduced the amount of sugar resulting in a toffee like sweetness that isn’t too overpowering.

  • 175g butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 75g sugar
  • 3tbsp date paste
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 100 chopped dates
  • 350g bananas (weighed in their skins)
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140 Fan
  2. Grease and line an 18inch cake tin (you could also use a bundt tin)
  3. Take the butter out of the fridge and let it soften while you pit and chop the dates.
  4. Place the eggs, butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and date paste in a large bowl and beat until light and creamy – you’ll be able to see the colour of the batter change and become paler.2014-08-30 17.44.56
  5. Mash the bananas and chop the walnuts.
  6. Add the bananas, dates and walnuts to the creamed mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.2014-08-30 17.54.40
  7. Spoon the mix into a cake tin and level it off, it’ll be quite thick.2014-08-30 18.06.55

Bake for 40 – 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack, it will break easily as it’s so moist so don’t be tempted to move it too soon. 2014-08-30 20.17.42

For the date glaze:

  • 50g butter
  • 2tbsp date paste
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  1. Heat all the ingredients except the walnuts in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for about a minute until it has thickened slightly.
  3. Stir in the walnuts and remove from the heat.
  4. Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes before pouring over the cake.

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Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee for and cut yourself a slice for all your hard work.

 **Wordpress hasn’t been getting on with the internet here but I seem to have worked around it, fingers crossed**

Back to Basics

When I was little I used to ask Mum to make me apple sauce – all the time. I loved it. I’m assuming that love for stewed apples is what drove me to start baking copious amounts of apple crumble, courtesy of Delia Smith’s One is Fun. My favourite cookbook for a very long time. When dessert was requested for a family roast dinner, at short notice, this little piece of nostalgia came to mind. Fuss-free, easy to whip up and very forgiving (I’ll admit I may not have stuck 100% to what’s written here) apple crumble and custard it was. 2014-08-16 10.58.16

Normally I can’t get enough of spices but in this dessert it’s not necessary to go overboard. The cinnamon is all you need to bring out the flavours of the fruit. Although I added a couple of cloves for a little depth, they’re not essential. The beauty of crumble is in its simplicity but I just couldn’t resist a twist on the topping. I ground up some almonds and a handful of oats to throw into the crumble. Nothing too exciting, it was mostly to add bulk and stop it being too sandy.

  • 6 red apples (Braeburn, Jazz, Jonagold – whatever is in your fridge)
  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Cloves (a couple whole)
  • 100ml water
  • Handful sultanas
  • Squeeze of lemon

*Most recipes say to use cooking apples but I just used what was in the fridge. Apples like Bramely sort of melt as they cook whereas Braeburn’s hold their shape. The sultanas I added for some natural sweetness and because they’re nice juicy little gems to come across amongst the apples. *

Preheat the oven to 180C

Peel, core and chop the apples roughly into cubes.2014-08-16 11.18.02

Tip into a pan along with the spices and sugar, pour the water over and allow to stew over a medium heat.

Squeeze in some lemon juice – I hate sickly sweet fruit and red apples are much sweeter than green so it just added some tang.2014-08-16 11.26.28 2014-08-16 11.51.53

Leave the fruit to stew for 15 minutes or so until it’s soft and slightly golden.

Meanwhile mix together your crumble topping:

  • 150g butter
  • 200g flour
  • 50g oats
  • 50g almonds
  • 100g brown sugar

Whizz the almonds and oats in a food processor – briefly, you want them to add texture to the topping so not too fine.2014-08-16 11.31.12

Rub together with the sugar, butter and flour.

You should have a sandy-ish texture with lumps and bumps here and there. Squeeze some of the mix together to make slightly bigger chunks if you like. 2014-08-16 11.40.36 2014-08-16 11.50.39

Once the fruit has stewed tip it into a casserole dish and sprinkle the crumble mix generously over the top.

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Bake at 40 – 50 minutes, or until golden.2014-08-16 14.34.04

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes so the topping gets a slight crunch, serve with custard or cream.

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By the end of dinner we were all wed fed and very much satisfied, myself perhaps a little bit too much. I just love those apples.

 

 

 

Top 5 summer eats

Leading a nomadic life this summer has meant the baking side of things has sort of fallen by the wayside. However, baker or nomad I am still human, I still need (and love) to eat. I love updating this blog so, while this isn’t a cake, brownie, or biscuit recipe it is a different offering of deliciousness – my top 5 summer eats. There’s nothing stopping you whipping up any dessert delights after you’ve read on and ignited your appetite!

They’re nationwide so if you happen to be in any of these places do check them out, in no particular order: top5eats

 

1.Caribbean Wrap, St. Nicholas Market, Bristol

The morning after the night before I decided a 45-minute walk into town was the perfect cure. Fuelled by the prospect of food I trudged through the downs into town. Past the harbourisde I made a beeline straight for the market. I’d spotted it earlier in the week and there was absolutely no other option. Market food is always cracking value and full of great flavour. Walking through St Nicks was like a sensory overload for my poor hungry brain and belly -too many choices for an indecisive girl with a raging appetite. I sampled Moroccan falafel and homemade iced tea. Drooled over stunning towers of cake and handmade pork pies, but Jamaica had me at jerk chicken. After Bristol Carnival the previous weekend a craving for Caribbean had been developing all week. I satisfied it for under a fiver with a huge helping of saltfish, various root veg, coconut creamed spinach and of course… rice and peas.

http://www.stnicholasmarketbristol.co.uk/index.php/en/

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2. Krab Pot, Port Isaac, Cornwall.

Having spent a couple of days exploring the Cornish coastline I was itching to get my claws into some crab. Ha, pun intended. A token visit to Doc Marten’s pad and a wander up the cliff side to admire the views was sufficient enough time for me to work up an appetite. It doesn’t take long. The menus in the restaurants were all pretty similar and it was the décor outside the Krab Pot that drew us in. Cosy is one way to describe it. The service left a little to be desired but that didn’t matter once I was served my plateful of dressed crab. The salad was a simple green one, the crab light and fresh – not overly dressed. It was a little on the pricey side but pretty standard for the area. If you’re looking for something more wallet friendly the sandwiches come in generous portions. Two thick slabs of homemade bread, filled with whatever you choose (crab is an option), served with a side salad and crisps. I heard one customer praise the moules mariniere to no end so those may also be worth a try. We rounded off with some clotted cream fudge from down the road, probably the highlight of my day.

http://thekrabpot.com 

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3. Rustique, Lendal, York

I absolutely couldn’t fault this place. Go for the 2 or 3 course set menu, it’s not worth just having a main when you could have extra for the same price. The garlic mushrooms were creamy and cooked just right, not too soft for my liking. Following the mushrooms came pan-fried sea bass on sweet potato mash. The fish was lightly seasoned and the cream didn’t overpower the sweet potato. The leftover garlic sauce on the steak was ideal for soaking chips in – never content with having my own dinner I had to sample my partner in dining crimes too. Speaking of which, don’t bother with anything but the banana crepes for dessert. My crème brulee was good but I definitely suffered serious food envy as I watched the crepe, slathered in caramel and filled with warm gooey banana, disappear in front of me.

http://www.rustiquerestaurants.co.uk/rustique-york-lendal/

4. Kentish Canteen, Kentish Town, London

Just a tube stop away from Camden, Kentish Town is just as full of fantastic foodie finds. We hit the Kentish Canteen for some brunch on a Saturday morning and when my eyes clocked the Clonakilty Black pudding I knew we’d be getting good nosh. Like most great things in world Clonakilty pudding comes from all the way across the Irish Sea. Yes, I’m biased. The spice blend is top secret and they’d do well to keep it that way. Hearty and full of flavour the pudding was the perfect accompaniment to my wholemeal sourdough topped with eggs Florentine.

http://www.kentishcanteen.com

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5. El Piano, Grape Lane, York

The best meal I’ve had for four quid. Without a doubt. Value for money just doesn’t cover it. Students, get in here! York is absolutely full of fantastic little eateries and I’d passed El Piano a couple of times but never had the opportunity to go in. For £3.95 I ordered the soup and salad. As I was waiting for mine to take away I got an eyeful of the platters being ordered by those dining in. They looked immense and I was excited to see what treasures my takeaway box would reveal. The ‘salad’ was a pick n mix medley of kiwi and tomato salsa, red cabbage coleslaw, celery and potato salad, bulgur wheat with sultanas and, finally, a generous spoonful of hummus. Not just one but two different types of bread accompanied my massive pot of vegetable soup. I’d never tried cornbread before and was pleasantly surprised by it’s texture and slightly sweet flavour. An absolute must for a budget friendly lunchtime treat.

http://www.el-piano.com2014-08-12 14.00.59

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Picnic

In preparation for the beginning of the bake-off and in true British summer style, my friends and I decided to have a picnic. We are all relatively unfussy lovers of all things edible so there was no end of picnic possibilities. There was plenty of hummus, veggie sticks, and ripe plum tomatoes, a tapas picnic of sorts.2014-08-06 19.12.09 There was, however, a centerpiece- the star of the show, a deliciously cheesy, spinach, bacon, mushroom and feta quiche. Quite the mouthful.

The bacon and mushrooms are not part of the original recipe but we decided to go all out and it was no mistake. Some sun dried tomatoes wouldn’t go amiss either.2014-08-06 19.24.06

So, let’s start with mains and perhaps if you keep reading you’ll find a dessert to follow.

  • 100g butter (if you’re using bacon this is not necessary)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 275g frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 100g mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 200g feta, crumbled
  • 200g mild Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly pepper to taste
  • Shortcrust pastry for a 23cm (9in) dish
  • (I used shop bought for the first time ever! Time was of the essence, use your
  • own recipe or try this one)
  • 4 eggs
  • 250ml milk

Preheat the oven to 190C

Roll out your pastry enough to cover the pie dish with some overhang, keeping in mind it will shrink as it cooks.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the frying pan along with a knob of butter, perhaps 20g if you’re a stickler for precision, cook over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes.

Add the finely chopped onions and sauté until soft, add the garlic last as it’s most likely to burn.

Let the flavours come together for a couple of minutes over a low heat before adding the mushrooms and spinach.

In the meantime beat the eggs, add the milk, some salt and pepper and beat further to combine.

Check your veg, continue to cook until most of the water has evaporated, then add the crumbled feta and half of the cheddar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the mix from the pan into the prepared pastry case then, pour over the milk and egg mixture, allow the two to combine.

Stick it on the oven, removing after the first 15 minutes to sprinkle the remaining cheddar on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes more, the quiche is done when there’s only a very slight wobble in the middle – like a cheesecake. 2014-08-06 18.39.55

Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Once we’d had our fill of carrot sticks and quiche it was just about 8 o’clock. Now, no picnic is complete without cake and by the time the bake-off started we had all settled down, cuppa in hand and a slice on our laps. It was the perfect combination of a quintessential apple crumble and bright summer fruits.2014-08-06 20.44.57 Light, in every sense of the word, but not without that dense-ness necessary to hold the berries in place and leave you just satisfied. The perfect way to end the picnic and, considering the theme was cake, start the bake-off!

 Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease and line a loaf tin

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 175g muscovado sugar
  • 175g butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1 small eating apple
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g blackberries
  • 125g raspberries

Start by rubbing together the flour, sugar and butter just like you’re making a crumble topping or pastry. Make sure all the butter is rubbed through and you have a sandy texture.

Measure out 5 tbsp. of the flour, butter and sugar mix, into a separate bowl. To those 5 tbsp. add the cinnamon and demerara sugar, leave aside for now.

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Grate your orange zest finely, and the apple down to the core – don’t worry about peeling it.

Beat the eggs and then stir in the zest and grated apple.

Add the teaspoon of baking powder to the dry ingredients followed by the wet egg mixture. Stir with a light hand, gentle but quick, until the mixture is just combined and drops easily from the spoon. 2014-08-04 21.06.59 2014-08-04 21.26.38

Fold in 3/4 of the berries try not to break them.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, level off and place the rest of the berries on top. Finally, scatter the crumble mixture over to cover them.

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Bake for 1hr 15 – 1hr20 mins.

Check after 50 minutes and cover the cake with tinfoil to stop it burning.

When finished a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Allow it to cool for 30 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.

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Et voila!

If you intend to follow suit, you’ve time to whip up both these delicious treats in time for the second episode tomorrow evening.

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2014-08-06 20.53.30

Back with Brownies

Hello and apologies for the dry spell! I’ve spent the past few weeks teaching teenagers, an experience to say the least and one that didn’t give me much time for baking. In true Blue Peter style I had prepared a couple of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ posts, however I couldn’t access this blog AT ALL on the school Wi-Fi so my efforts were futile. Some tech-savvy child probably could have helped me but I never actually thought to ask. I’m sure you’ve not been going hungry and life has hardly been devoid of treats but wait ‘til you see what I’ve got in store. They’re decadent, delicious, delightful. Rich chewy brownies combined with a fruity raspberry cream cheese and dotted with gorgeous little bursts of fresh raspberry. Naughty and nice in every bite.

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I present to you, Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies and here’s the how:

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Brownies:

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 95g all-purpose flour

Raspberry Cheesecake swirl:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80g raspberry jam
  • 100g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C and line your baking tray ready to go.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmer water, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature (15-20 mins)

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Once cool, stir in the sugar and then add the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.

Whisk in the vanilla and then gently fold in the flour.

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Set that aside while you crack on with the cheesecake layer, it’ll take you all of two minutes.

Beat all the ingredients EXCEPT the whole raspberries with a handheld mixture until nice and smooth. I added a couple of extra drops of red food colouring to give a more intense colour but that isn’t necessary – the aesthetics are all up to you.

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Now, pour ¾ of the brownie mixture into the pan, leaving the last ¼ in the bowl. Drop dollops of cheesecake mixture alternatively on top of the brownie, spoon the remaining brownie batter on top and then swirl with a knife. Try not to over-swirl or you just end up with a mess

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Finally press some fresh raspberries into the top of the mixture and stick it in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out not quite clean. You want them fudgy but not too undercooked

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As with any brownies, and particularly ones with swirls or extra jazzy bits, leave them to cool COMPLETELY before even attempting to lift them out of the tin and refrigerate before slicing. I know, I know, the temptation… it’s a test of willpower worth the wait.

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Soda Bread

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I’m not a bread kind of girl. I know people that live for toast but not me.  That is, unless it’s soda bread. I could eat soda bread all day, everyday. Preferably spread thick with salty butter and honey or heaped with smoked salmon and a drizzle of lemon juice.  My Irish family are all great cooks, whether it’s a roast, apple pie, lasagna or strawberry mousse (my favourite ever dessert, I don’t think I’ve had a birthday without it) food is always delicious and my aunties in particular knock up a mean soda bread. I’ll never bake one half as good but when the craving struck I decided to have a go. My mini loaf was neither a raging success nor a huge disappointment and it did the trick!

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*Because making the bread is quick and I wasn’t sure I’d blog it I didn’t take any ‘process’ pictures. Instead you’ve got a breakfast overload. Enjoy!

Preheat the oven to 190C

  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • 50g oats
  • 230ml buttermilk
  • 15g butter
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

**Double for a normal sized loaf**

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter.

Pour in the buttermilk and mix it up quickly, you’ll have a really sticky dough.

Shape the dough into a round and place on a lightly oiled piece of baking paper.

Score with a deep cross (this helps the bread to cook better inside but you may still find it slightly doughy, I did)

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I had to bake my loaf for about 40 minutes and it was a small one so I’d recommend up to an hour if you’re making a larger one.

The bread should be a nice golden brown when done and should sound hollow if you knock on the bottom.

Leave it to cool a while on a wire rack before slicing.

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I went for a different choice of topping to normal, a poached egg and avocado to sort me out after an early morning sweat session. It didn’t disappoint but a slice of bacon or salmon certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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I can never just have one slice…

Bye-Bye Brownies

…a.k.a Peanut Butterscotch Cheesecake Brownies 

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My housemates are packing their bags and heading off to join the circus. Well, not quite. They’re packing them to go explore Asia & Australasia and I am incredibly jealous. So jealous I’ve attempted to make them put on a stone before they embark on their adventures. If you can’t beat ‘em and you can’t join ’em… fatten ‘em up! I joke girls. You’ve probably guessed now why I’ve called them ‘bye-bye brownies’, I’m going to assume you have anyway. These girls have been fantastic guinea pigs and have spent hours tirelessly taste testing even my most interesting creations. They have never once complained, nor faulted my baking skills, regardless of temperamental ovens or experimental mishaps. They’ve praised me far too much and far too kindly so thanks gals and I hope you enjoyed these!

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So what do we have here? All the good stuff. Chocolate brownies filled with butterscotch chips, marbled with a creamy peanut putter cheesecake mix. Quite a mouthful, literally. They’re deliciously indulgent, sinfully calorie laden and worth every bead of sweat you might have dripped not to feel guilty about eating them. If you don’t feel an ounce of guilt then good for you, get on and enjoy. You’ll probably burn them off with the excitement of eating them anyway.

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Brownies:

  • 230g dark chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 80g flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150g butterscotch chips

Grease a 9×9 pan and line with baking paper

Heat the oven to 180C

Melt the butter and chocolate

Set aside and leave to cool while you weigh out the rest of the ingredients

Whisk in the sugars then add the eggs one at a time beating until smooth after each addition.

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Add the yolk and vanilla then whisk again

Fold in the cocoa powder, flour and salt followed by the butterscotch chips.

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl

  • 120g cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 50g sugar
  • 125g peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

Whisk the cream cheese, egg and sugar together until smooth.

Add the peanut butter, salt and vanilla essence and whisk again, it’ll be quite thick, just add milk a little bit at a time until it’s slightly smoother and creamy – you don’t want it runny at all.

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Easy as that.

Use about 2/3 of the brownie mix to fill the bottom of the pan.

Dollop spoonfulls of peanut butter mix on top followed by spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter.

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Use a knife or toothpick to swirl the two together creating a marbled effect.

It’s really tempting to overswirl but try your best not to. Just drag the knife in straight lines from one edge to the other until you’ve got the desired effect.

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Stick in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes.

Allow the brownies to come to room temperature before placing them the fridge where you should let them cool until completely firm and ready to slice without making a runny mess.

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When they’re ready to be cut use wet cloth to clean the knife between each slice.

Enjoy!

 

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