Linzer Cookies with Chestnut Paste and Black Raspberry Jam

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Nothing beats a delectable cookie that’s buttery, crumbly, and not too sweet with a hot cup of tea. Linzer cookies tick off all these boxes and more, they’re my absolute favorite to eat in the morning, the afternoon, and occasionally late at night before going to bed (don’t judge me).

While these Austrian Linzer cookies are traditionally made around Christmas time, the heart cut out shape makes me think of Valentine’s day. Besides, they look so gorgeous that you would want to share them with your loved ones or on social media – they’re seriously instagrammable! They do take some time to cut out, bake and assemble but the delight on people’s faces makes it all very worthwhile.

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I also love how versatile they are; The dough is made by combining flour, ground hazelnuts, sugar, eggs, spices. After baking the dough cutouts, I filled them with a thin spread of chestnut paste and black raspberry jam then topped it all off with powdered sugar. You can use almonds instead of hazelnuts and any type of filling such as nut butter, chocolate paste, jams, as well as fruit curds. Since I had chestnut paste leftovers from the previous chocolate roll recipe, I decided to add a thin layer into the cookie sandwich – you can also leave it out completely.

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The baked cookies are very crisp once baked, but they become much tender the next day especially after filling them with jam and storing them in an air tight container.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious ~ makes about 30 cookies 2.25″ (5.7cm)

Ingredients:
Cookies
160g (5 oz) whole raw hazelnuts
25g (2 tbps) light brown sugar

320g (2¼ cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

226g (2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) powdered sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Extra powdered sugar for sifting
Black Raspberry Jam (I used Beth’s Farm Kitchen Jam)

Chestnut Paste (optional)
150g chestnut paste – recipe in link
10g powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp brandy or rum

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and toast raw hazelnuts on a baking sheet until fragrant and skins begin to loosen about 8 minutes. Take the nuts out of the oven and rub in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins (some skins may not come off), then cool to room temperature.

2. After cooling, place roasted hazelnuts and light brown sugar in a food processor and pulse until nuts are finely ground.

3. Whisk together hazelnut meal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.

4. Using a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, beat together softened butter and powdered sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the hazelnut mixture until just combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until dough comes together. Divide into two equal disks, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

5. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and adjust racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Place one disk between large sheets of wax paper, roll out to 1/8 inch thickness and freeze for 10 minutes. (I found it easier to work with the a really cold dough). Use a linzer cookie cutter to cut out the solid shapes – these will be the bottoms of each cookie – and carefully transfer them to one of the prepared baking sheets. Gather the scraps, roll out the dough, and repeat to make more solid cookies and transfer to second prepared baking sheet. If the dough becomes too soft to roll out, chill until firm.

7. Freeze the cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes before baking to ensure that the cookies keep their shape.

8. Bake cookies until golden, about 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and allow to cool for 3 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer cookies directly to wire racks.

9. When baking sheets have cooled, repeat Steps 6 through 8 with the remaining portion of dough, this time using the cookie cutter with a punched-out center.

11. Once the cookies have fully cooled, sift the extra powdered sugar over the cookies the punched-out centers.

12. Make the chestnut paste by mixing it with the sugar, vanilla and brandy until combined. Spread the solid bottom cookies with a thin layer of chestnut paste and about ½ tsp of jam. Place the cut-out cookies on top to complete the sandwich cookies.

13. Store cookies layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container for a week. They can also be frozen for up to a month.

 

Chocolate Roll with Chestnut Cream and Marrons Glacés

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I named this cake “Chocolate Roll” because first I’m very kind of late to post a Bûche de Noël recipe and second, the cake is so fabulous that there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t make it any time this winter season.

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When I was a kid we always had Chestnut yule logs during the holiday season and it was my favorite thing to eat. I decided to recreate that exact cake for this year’s annual family Christmas Eve dinner. However, I couldn’t find chestnut paste in any local Lebanese market – so I looked up a couple of make-from-scratch recipes and the process turned out to be so much easier than I expected! It’s basically a mix of roasted chestnuts and sugar syrup puréed in a food processor. The most time consuming part is roasting and peeling chestnuts but I didn’t mind it because the taste is absolutely divine. I went with Yossy Arefi’s flourless chocolate cake recipe that I found on Food52 and filled it with the homemade chestnut cream and chopped marrons glacés. The last step is to cover it with rich dark chocolate ganache and refrigerate it for a couple of hours before serving.

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I’ve baked this cake three times in the last two weeks. The combination of the airy bittersweet cake, cold sweet chestnut cream, and unexpected marrons glacés pieces got me completely hooked. It also looks so elegant when sprinkled with powdered sugar and decorated with some leaves.

Chestnut Paste is incredibly rich and delicious when made from scratch and it can be used in countless ways from pastry filling to mousse and ice cream. Now that I’m done writing this long post, I’m going to have another slice of cake with a shot of espresso.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients and Directions:

Roasting and Peeling Chestnuts (for this recipe you’ll need 200g peeled and roasted high quality chestnuts, approximately 20 whole chestnuts.)

1. Preheat your oven to 425° F (220°C). Carefully make a long slice across the rounded top of the chestnuts with a sharp serrated bread knife. Be sure to cut through the shell only.
2. Place cut chestnuts in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer.
3. Once the water begins to simmer, remove the chestnuts from the water using a slotted spoon or a strainer and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.
4. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells begin to peel back where you cut into them.
5. Remove sheet from the oven, place roasted chestnuts in a bowl and cover with a towel for 15 minutes to allow them to steam. Then proceed to peeling them.


Chestnut Cream Filling
• 200g peeled, roasted chestnuts
• 90ml (1/3 cup) milk
• 68g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
• 80ml (1/3 cup) water
• 2 tablespoons Brandy
• 1 Vanilla Bean
• 120ml (1/2 cup) cold heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks
• 3 whole Marrons Glacés cut into small pieces

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer chestnuts with milk until soft about 10 minutes.
2. To make the sugar syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer until the sugar dissolves.
3. Drain chestnuts and puree in a food processor with the sugar syrup until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and chill in the refrigerator until cool, 30 minutes.
4. Fold in the rum, de-seeded vanilla pod, and whipped cream.


Flourless Chocolate Cake
• 6 egg yolks
• 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 40g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder, sifted
• 5 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 375° F (180°C) and line a 9″x13″ (25 x 35 cm) jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar on high until the mixture is pale and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla then the sifted cocoa powder.
3. Wash and dry the bowl and whisk, then beat the egg whites on medium high until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
4. Stir 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the egg yolks to lighten everything up. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared jelly roll pan and bake until the cake springs back and is dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes (the cake will deflate).
6. Turn it out onto a clean kitchen cloth that has been dusted with cocoa powder. Using the edge of the towel, gently roll the cake into a long cylinder. Let the cake cool completely in the towel while you prepare the ganache.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
• 170g (6 oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped
• 180ml (3/4 cup) heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream to a bare simmer, then pour it over the chocolate. Stir until smooth and let sit at room temperature until it cools to a spreadable consistency.

Putting it all together
1. Gently unroll the wrapped cake.
2. Spread the chestnut cream over the top and dot with marrons glacés.
3. Using the towel, roll the cake back into a tight cylinder and transfer to a large plate.
3. Spread the cooled ganache over the cake.
4. Drag your spatula or knife over the surface to give it a “barky” look.
5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Finish by decorating the plate with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Pomegranate Cake with Tangerine Rosewater Syrup

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Semolina flour is one of those incredibly versatile ingredients that’s always worth having on hand. I’ve used it in desserts like Halawet el Jibn, Bohsalino, and even Sfouf cake (which is the most viewed recipe on my blog!)

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In today’s post, I baked a simple semolina lemon butter cake and paired it with two seasonal fruits: pomegranate and tangerine. The juicy pomegranate seeds that are sprinkled on top of the cake batter add a subtle crunch to each bite and the tangerine syrup is mixed with rosewater, giving a bolder citrus taste. The result is an insanely moist cake with a hearty texture, slightly chewy edges, and refreshingly bright flavors that reminds me of warmer weather.

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Ingredients:

Cake:
¼ cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
185g butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
150g (2/3 cup) sugar
150g (1 cup) flour
80g (½ cup) semolina
½ cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Syrup:
125ml (½ cup) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
60ml (¼ cup) water
2 teaspoon rosewater

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line one 8″ (20cm) round cake pan with parchment paper.
2. Mix yogurt with lemon juice, set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature butter with lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
4. Fold in the flour, semolina, and yogurt-lemon into the butter mixture using a rubber spatula. Mix until just combined.
5. Spread the thick batter into prepared pan, top with pomegranate seeds then sprinkle demerara sugar evenly.
6. Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Meanwhile, make the syrup: Stir the tangerine juice, sugar, and water in a small saucepan over high heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolved. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Take off the heat, stir in rosewater, and strain into a jug.
8. After taking the cake out of the oven, let it stand in the pan for 5 minutes then turn onto a wire rack top side up. Pierce cake all over with a skewer and pour about 3/4 of the syrup over hot cake. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream and extra syrup.

Optional:
 Sprinkle extra pomegranate seeds before serving.

Light Banana Bread

Brownie Box | Light Banana Bread

Would you believe me if I said that I can never get banana bread recipes right? Whenever I have overripe bananas on hand I prefer making pancakes, muffins, or ice cream because I used to dread ending up with a failed banana bread. No matter how many recipes I tried, the result is always the same: a cooked outside with a dense/raw center. But I recently decided to give it another try, after all it should be in every baker’s repertoire.

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In a desperate attempt to bake the perfect loaf, I tried Joanne Chang’s recipe from her book Baking with Less Sugar. While, yes, the technique of whipping the eggs and heating bananas are extra steps to a seemingly easy banana bread recipe, they made me wonder if the end result will be successful. And to my surprise it turned out perfect from the first time! Moderately sweet, airy, tender and fool-proof. I added a streusel-ish topping consisting of walnuts, oats, and cinnamon to give an extra chew, but you can leave it out if you prefer a simpler version.

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Recipe adapted from Baking with Less Sugar

Ingredients:

• 80g (¾ cup) raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
• 175g (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp kosher salt
• 3 large eggs, room temperature
• 80g (6 tablespoon) sugar
• 70g (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
• 4 medium very ripe bananas
• 90g yogurt
• 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:
• 2 tbsp rolled oats
• 2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
• 2 tsp coconut oil
• 2 tsp honey

Directions:
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 325°F (165°C). Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 9″x5″ (23×13 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. Put the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
4. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil. Be sure to pour it carefully to avoid deflating the air in the batter.
6. In a microwave safe bowl, mash 3 bananas with a fork (I prefer leaving a few chunks) and microwave for one minute until they are hot. Alternatively, cook in a saucepan on medium-high heat until soft and mushy for 2 minutes. Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Mash the remaining banana and add it to the mixture.
7. Add the banana mixture to the egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.
8. Fold in your dry ingredients and nuts by hand with a rubber spatula until combined, making sure that there are no white streaks in the batter. Then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
9. Mix the oats, walnuts, coconut oil, and honey in a separate bowl and sprinkle over cake batter.
10. Bake for 55-60 minutes until the top of the banana bread is golden and springs back when you poke the center.
11. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before turning it on a wire rack.
12. Banana bread can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 day, or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two weeks then thawed overnight at room temperature.

Note: If you have a loaf pan that’s smaller than 9″x5″ pour less of the batter in the pan and bake the remaining mixture in a muffin pan.

Hazelnut Cognac Torte

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For the longest time, I thought that torte and cake are used to describe the same thing. But there is a fine distinction between both terms, and if you’re curious to know how then keep on reading!

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Torte is technically a type of cake that uses little or no flour and high quality ingredients (think ground almonds, liqueur, or jams and fruits), therefore making it denser and heavier than a regular cake. Because of its texture, tortes are generally sweeter and shorter in height.

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My grandma bakes this fool-proof torte on a regular basis – she even recommends swapping the hazelnuts with pistachios. The addition of cognac really enhances the nutty taste without overshadowing it.

My favorite thing about this dessert is its chewy edge and unexpectedly moist center. Don’t hesitate to spread some chocolate ganache on top (if the choco-hazelnut combo is your thing).


Ingredients:
300g (2 cups) whole hazelnuts, skin on
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
150g (1 stick + 3 tablespoon) butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g (1/2 cup) flour
1½ baking powder
2 tablespoon cognac

Directions:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line a 10″ (25 cm) round cake pan, set aside.
2. Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind in short quick bursts until they turn into coarse meal. Turn off the processor if the meal starts to clump together, that means that they’re overground.
3. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes until pale and creamy.
4. With the mixer still on, add in the eggs one at a time and the vanilla extract. Mix for another 3 minutes on high.
5. Add the flour, baking powder, and ground hazelnuts. Beat for a few seconds until mixture is homogeneous.
6. Turn the mixer on low and pour in the cognac.
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Barazek Ice Cream

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

I remember having black sesame ice cream for the first time at a Japanese restaurant in NYC and I immediately fell in love with the intense nutty flavor. At first I thought it was a very odd ice cream choice, especially that its color is a muted dark grey, but it ultimately became one of my favorite ice cream flavors.

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

The idea of making white sesame ice cream came up when I had a lot of Barazek cookies from my previous post (read more about these sesame pistachio cookies here), and I wanted to create a recipe that incorporates them. I looked at the ingredients list: sesame, honey, butter, milk, pistachios – and it occurred to me that I could make white sesame ice cream and add in bits and pieces of crunchy Barazek in it. To make this dessert even more impressive and special, I roasted a handful of whole shelled pistachio with butter and honey.

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

Barazek Ice Cream | Brownie Box

Ingredients:
Honey Roast Pistachios Topping:

100g raw shelled pistachios
1 tbsp honey
10g unsalted butter

Toasted Sesame Seed Ice Cream: (Makes 1 Litre – Recipe adapted from Milk and Honey)
80g sesame seeds
240ml whole milk
3 tsp tahini
1 tsp vanilla extract
500ml heavy cream
6 egg yolks
120g caster sugar
15-20 Barazek cookies, broken into pieces

Directions:
Make the topping:
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
2. Melt the butter and honey in small pan. Remove from the heat and mix in the pistachios.
3. Spread them out on the parchment paper and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven, stir, and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

Make the ice cream:
1. Toast sesame seeds in a shallow frying pan over medium heat. Stir or shake the seeds often while toasting them until golden.
2. Pour the toasted seeds into a small saucepan. Add the milk, 250ml of the cream, tahini and vanilla extract and bring to a boil.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the mixture cool down to room temperature then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight to infuse the flavor.
4. Once the mixture has chilled, strain it through a fine sieve and discard the seeds, reserving the milk-cream. Pour it into a saucepan with the remaining 250ml of cream and bring to a boil.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale (almost white in color). Turn the mixer on low and carefully pour the hot cream mixture in a thin line.
6. Place the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon (8-10 minutes). Pour into a clean bowl and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold (around 4-6 hours).
7. Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once you’re done with the churning, mix in the barazek pieces and transfer into a container. Top with honey roast pistachios.
8. Freeze until firm enough to scoop.

Barazek (Sesame Pistachio Cookies)

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

I don’t know where to start describing Barazek to people who are not familiar with this traditional Syrian pastry. The title of the post makes it seem like a simple recipe, but it’s definitely not your average everyday treat. The buttery crunchy texture of the thinly spread baked dough is contrasted with chewy toasted honey sesame seeds on one side and pistachios on the other side. They inevitably remind me of long lazy afternoons in Beirut, drinking arabic coffee with the extended family, and devouring these wickedly addictive cookies.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Damascus is known for creating the best barazek that are typically bought in tin boxes with other delicious sweets that the city is famous for. They’re made from butter (or ghee), flour, sugar, milk, and ground mahleb – a spice made from ground cherry stones. The dough is then coated with honey syrup, sesame seeds, and pistachios.

My family used to get these bite sized cookies from a sweet shop called Semiramis and I distinctly remember them having a very deep golden color with a serious sesame flavor. Lately I’ve been itching to try my luck in making them from scratch (especially that Syria feels like a world away), so I tried my best to recreate the same texture and taste here. It was a very tough process because of all the recipe variations available: some called for eggs, others called for adding semolina, rose water, cream of tartare, even vinegar! It’s quite the dilemma.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

After a lot of tinkering in my kitchen, I felt hopeless at times when the end result was not at all what I was aiming for, and at other times I felt like I conquered the world when the barazek turned out  just as good as the ones we used to get from Damascus. None of my friends or family believed me when I said that each bite made a good reason to spend a ridiculous amount of time making them (this recipe yields 90 cookies!). But let me assure you that they’re worth every effort and you can always freeze them for later cravings. I never tried freezing the dough, but I’m sure that it freezes just as well as any other cookie recipe.

Barazek Sesame Pistachio Cookies | Brownie Box

Makes approx. 90 cookies, 4cm- 1.5in diameter – They taste batter the next day!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup organic honey
1/4 cup water

200g (1½ cups) white sesame seeds
175g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1g (½ tsp) baking powder
¼ tsp ground mahlab (optional)
312g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
2.5g (1 tsp) active dry yeast
80ml (1/3 cup) skimmed milk
40g (1/3 cup) chopped or slivered raw pistachio

Directions:
Honey Syrup:
1. Combine honey and water in a small saucepan.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until honey dissolves (Around 3 minute).
3. Remove from heat and let it cool down.

Cookies:
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar (or use your hands).
3. Add ground mahlab and baking powder and mix.
4. Add yeast and flour and mix until homogeneous. Gradually add the milk to form a smooth hard dough (you might use less milk to avoid a tender dough).
5. Cover dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper
7. Pour enough honey syrup on a medium sized plate just to cover the surface and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top (don’t use all the sesame, just enough to cover the syrup). Place the chopped pistachios on another shallow plate.
8. Shape about a teaspoon of dough into a ball and flatten slightly with the palm of your hands.
9. Dip one side into pistachios, flip and press the other side with the sesame mixture using your fingers to press the dough into a flat disc.
10. Place the cookies sesame side up on the baking sheet about an inch (2 cm) apart.
11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the edges are a deep golden color.
12. Store in an air tight container up for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.