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My friend Allison, who lives up the hill, has a few apple trees in her front yard that produce an astonishing number of apples. There are a few varieties – some larger eating apples, some medium – not quite crabapples, but not full-size either – and some tiny red crabapples that are perfect for jellies. She always lets me pick some, and they’re so great for baking with. I love a good apple cake, and thought I had made them all until I started noticing people make Ruthie’s apple cake, from the cookbook Friday Night Dinners by Bonnie Stern, during Rosh Hashanah. It’s a spectacular cake, loaded with chunks of apples and walnuts. I instantly adored it – not only the taste of it, but its rugged good looks.

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I’ve noticed lately that I have a glut of jam on my pantry shelves – I keep making it, and not eating it fast enough. We’re also getting into mincemeat season, and when I came across these in my archives, I remembered not only how delicious they were, but considered how amazing they’d be with mincemeat. I love a substantial cookie, and these are baked in muffin tins, which allows them to bake up nice and thick. They’re like crumble in cookie form – reminiscent of date squares, but with your choice of jam, and crispy edges.

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Last weekend, I came across a recipe in the Guardian for a banana cake made with just the banana peels – an intriguing way to address food waste. I’ve made a *lot* of banana bread in my lifetime, and generally my strategy is to toss overripe bananas into the freezer whole, and then pull them out to thaw in a bowl when it’s time to bake. (If I’m in a hurry, I cover them with warm water to help them thaw more quickly.)

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This was the trickiest of the lot, but perhaps the most satisfying to crack. The cheddar Mmmuffins had a slightly sweet, cakey texture, and were brilliant orange. My initial tests were tasty but missing the mark… it wasn’t until a CBC listener messaged me with a tip: back in the eighties, working at a different chain eatery, she used powdered cheddar when making the muffins. I added about half a pack of the cheese mix from a box of KD and voilà—extra cheesiness, but also that intense orange colour that acts as a visual cue, making them taste even cheesier. You could, of course, use extra-old white cheddar here—and you could omit the powdered cheese… just expect them to look a bit different.

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I think I’m most excited about these – I remember them clearly, yet never thought to make a butterscotch-pecan muffin since. I used the same base as the chocolate chip muffin, swapping out brown sugar, adding chopped pecans and Skor bits (which I think are more accurate than the butterscotch chips some have suggested – though those would be tasty too!) – and a streusel on top. I baked some batter right away and some that sat for awhile and saw a similar, though not as dramatic, difference in the rise compared with the chocolate chip. If you’re looking for higher peaks, let it sit for awhile (just on the counter) before you bake them.. but they’re pretty fantastic just baked right away.

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Seeing as it’s the first week of July, and traditionally the air is filled with the deep-fried smells of Stampede, and half my calories are typically consumed in the form of mini doughnuts, I thought I’d post a recipe here. I did a virtual midway food class yesterday, and people were thrilled to have the ability to turn out actual cinnamon-sugar mini doughnuts in their own kitchens. This is the sort of thing you become known for – I want to be the aunt/grandma/friend who makes mini doughnuts to eat warm when you’re sitting in my kitchen or on my patio.

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I came across some doughnuts that resembled Edvard Munch’s The Scream recently on the internet-only they were made with that soft biscuit dough that comes in a tube. They looked so great though, and I’ll take any excuse to fry some dough, so I mixed up a batch of yeasted doughnut dough to do the same.

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As happens every year, I get into the habit of frying things during Stampede week, when I’m obligated to make at least one batch of corn dogs and mini donuts. For weeks after, I start seeing everything in the kitchen as potential for the deep-fryer – could it be battered? will it be crispier fried than roasted? I’m often asked what to do with the oil once I’ve used it, and the answer is: I use it again, and again (so long as I’m not cooking things that flavours the oil, like fish) and then once I’m in the habit I refresh the oil and the frying pot sits on my stove and gets used for much of the summer. When you think about it, it beats turning the oven on when it’s 30 degrees.

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“Dirty” doesn’t have the same edgy cache it did last fall, what with all the hand washing and not touching things, but dirty blondies remain in regular rotation around here nonetheless. W has developed a habit of making these when he wants something cookie-like; they’re like chocolate chip cookies in bar form – blondies with a bit of a chocolate edge that take approximately three minutes to stir together.

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