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gluten-free vanilla bean macarons

Culinary Bucket List: Vanilla Bean Macarons

gluten-free vanilla bean macaronsThere are some things I have always wanted to try but have been slightly (or not so slightly) intimidated by. Now that FrannyCakes has matured a little bit, I want to start tackling these items one by one.

I have been waiting for this moment for a while. The moment where I sucked it up and attempted a macaron. No, not a macaroon. A macaron. One o. The snooty french sandwich cookie that dreams are made of.

If you have never had one, you need to get your hands on one ASAP. Hopefully you live near a bakery or patisserie that makes these and does it safely/ without cross contamination.

collage of gluten-free macarons

Because they are heaven in cookie form. Nutty, chewy clouds. With a pop of flavor in the middle. Seriously. I am in love.

With a cookie.

And I am OK with that.

Now, once you have fallen under the magic spell of macaron love, you, intrepid baker, will want to make some yourself. I am going to beg you to do one thing. Do not google macaron recipes. So very many are filled with “essential tips” that are totally not essential. Or they will convince you that there are some sort of pastry gods who dole out rare moments of success.

The internet is afraid of macarons. And it is mostly uncalled for. Sure, if you mess up, it will most likely make ugly cookies. But I am pretty dang sure that sugar, almonds and egg whites will taste good no matter what deformed shape they have taken.

But I know a few things that might help you stay on the good side of those pastry gods.

  1. Prepare a mise-en-place. This is a very, very basic step. And one I skip way more often than I should admit to. When making something like macarons, timing and precision is key, so having your ingredients measured out and ready to go when you need them increases your chances of success. Plus, it is just a good habit to get in to. (It helps keep things neat and easy to clean!)
  2. Weigh your ingredients. I can’t believe I still need to tell you all that this is better. But it is. Weights are more precise and more consistent than the volume measurements that American bakers are more familiar with. In this recipe I even weigh the eggs because a slight variation can have unintended consequences.
  3. Use an oven thermometer. Most ovens aren’t really the temperature that they say they are. You will be amazed at how dramatically your baking improves from simply getting your oven set properly.
  4. Be patient and precise. Reread the recipe until you are comfortable with the progression of steps. Pour slowly, stir carefully. There is no rushing in macronage! Also, separating your eggs carefully so you don’t break the yolks is quite important!
  5. Use a stable merengue as a base. Sure these are a French cookie, but that doesn’t mean that you need to make a French merengue. Swiss merengue (cooking egg whites & sugar into a syrup and then beating) and Italian merengue (beating a sugar syrup into egg whites) produce a more stable merengue than just egg whites and sugar beat in a mixer (French Merengue). Do a little extra work and be handsomely rewarded.
  6. Start with a basic flavor/color and then move on. Additional flavor components and colorings add more variables to the mix. Wait to add them until you are comfortable with your technique.
Gluten-Free Vanilla Bean Macarons

Recipe Type: Cookie
Cuisine: French
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 35 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 18
Oh, magical, temperamental cookie. Read the advice above, and remember that according to Chef Keller, these improve if you freeze them for a day! (Even though they are kind of awesome right out of the oven…)
  • 212 grams (1 3/4 cups + 2 1/2 tablespoons) almond meal
  • 212 grams (1 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) confectioners’ sugar
  • 82 (1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons) egg whites
  • 90 grams egg whites (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) egg whites (yes, you need both quantities, divided)
  • 1 vanilla bean, slit open
  • 236 grams granulated sugar (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons), plus a pinch (about 5 grams)
  • 158 grams (2/3 cup) water
  • Your favorite buttercream flavored with vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste.
  1. Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper to fit your cookie sheets. Trace 2 1/4 inch circles with a fine point marker like a Sharpie approximately 1 inch apart in alternating rows of 3 & 4. Turn the parchment paper over and lay it on your sheet pans/ cookie sheets.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (convection) or 400°F (standard).
  3. Place the almond flour in a food processor and pulse to grind it as fine as possible. This is really not an optional step unless your almond meal is ultra fine. Most isn’t, and skipping this step can leave you with lumpy macarons. (Although the flavor won’t be bad)
  4. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. If you have more than a couple of tablespoons of almonds remaining in the sifter, re-grind the flour in the food processor. Create a mound in the bowl with the almond flour mixture, then make a 4-inch well in the center, leaving a layer of the flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams | 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons egg whites and combine with a spatula, stirring until evenly distributed and paste-like. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl and mix until they are fairly well distributed. Set aside.
  5. Place the remaining 90 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) of the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment. In a small saucepan, combine the 236 grams (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) granulated sugar and the water and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203°F/110°C, stirring only until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear.
  6. While the syrup continues to cook, add the pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed (a 5 or 6 on my mixer), and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248°F/12o°C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
  7. When the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed, and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. Do not panic when the meringue deflates.
  8. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl might still be warm to the touch, the meringue should have cooled; if not, continue to whip until it is cool.
  9. In the bowl with the almond mixture, fold in one-third of the meringue, then continue adding merengue to the almonds little at a time (you might not use them all – I used about 90% each time I have made these. You can pipe the left over plain merengue out when you are done and make little pavlova shells) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the “ribbon” slowly moves. The mixture shouldn’t be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be slightly stiff than too loose. So go slowly! Take your time! You want to make sure that your mixture does not have any ribbons of plain merengue, where there are no almonds or your shells could crack.
  10. Transfer your mixture to a pastry bag fit with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Hold the bag upright about a half inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough of the mixture to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and repeat, filling the remaining circles on the first pan.
  11. Next (and this is important!) Lift up the sheet pan and firmly (but not too hard) tap the bottom of the pan to the spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the pastry bag (there will be some, and if that doesn’t make them go away, wet your fingertip and tap them down).
  12. If you are using a convection oven, which I recommend, bake the shells for 8 to 10 minutes. You want to cook them until the tops are shiny and crisp. If you are using a standard oven, place the sheet pan in the oven and then immediately lower the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, again, until the tops are shiny and crisp.
  13. Set the pan on a cooling rack, and if using a standard oven, preheat it to 350°F again.
  14. Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles on the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.
  15. Pipe a buttercream (or ganache) filling onto one half of the shells and pair them with a matching half. Be gentle when sandwiching them together, you could accidentally smush them.
Please don’t try to convert this recipe to volume. Just get a scale and weigh. You will be happy that you did. You will need a candy thermometer. Again, this isn’t really optional if you want success. Finally, don’t skip the tracing out of circles step. It makes it so much easier to get consistently sized cookies. Which makes matching them up easy peasy.



gluten free chocolate chip cookies

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, a classic treat

gluten free chocolate chip cookiesLittle black dresses. Peep-toe pumps. Red lipstick. Cucumber sandwiches. Sunday Roasts. French vanilla anything. Chocolate chip cookies.

I am a fan of classic things.

I have a go-to red lipstick. A perfect pair of pumps. Almost all of my dresses are little black dresses. I know how to swing dance and salsa. I can waltz and cha cha. (I cannot for the life of me do the Cha Cha slide.) I still wear Chanel No. 5 whenever I put on a suit.

When I need cheering up? Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Some Celine Dion. (Ok, fine, and maybe some 90’s pop)

Classics endure.

Like brownies, Sunday roasts and chocolate chip cookies. All things that are always a good choice.

Yes, there happen to be 2 other recipes for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies on frannycakes (one a birthday cake cookie with chocolate chips, the other a toffee chocolate-chip cookie), but neither of them is just a classic chocolate chip cookie.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, a classic treat
#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Cookie
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 36
  • 350 (2 1/2 cups) grams gluten-free all purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon xantham gum**
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 215 grams (1 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 225 grams (2 sticks or 1 cup) cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 350 grams (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper, but do not grease them.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the gluten-free flour, xantham gum if using, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the sugars at medium speed.
  4. Add the cold butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. You are not looking for light and fluffy, you just want to mix until they are evenly combined.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix at medium speed just until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and do not over mix.
  6. Add the flour mix in 2 parts with the mixer at a low speed just until mixed. Then stir in the chocolate chips until just combined
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet, two inches apart.
  8. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer while the oven preheats.
  9. Preheat oven to 375° F. (Or 300° F. for a flatter, more spread out cookie).
  10. Bake 12-15 (20-22 for the cooler temperature) minutes until golden. Transfer cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool.

*This recipe works best with Cup4Cup flour from Williams-Sonoma. It will work with other blends that are not bean-based and do not have leaveners already added. Better Batter or Jules Nearly Normal Flour will work well here. You could also use your favorite home made blend.
**Xantham gum is only necessary if your blend does not include a binding agent such as xantham gum, guar gum or expandex.



gluten free almond horns (they are also dairy free!)

Some days are hard and you just want a cookie (a recipe for gluten-free almond horns)

Do you ever have a day like that? When the whole world seems determined to get you. I have these cookies for you if you ever have a bad day. Chewy, and delightfully crunchy, these are a traditional pastry that are naturally gluten & dairy free (but be careful, some people put flour in theirs, so always ask if someone brings them to you…)

Read more

GF Ratio Rally: Pinwheel Sugar Cookies

I found out that my new coworkers already read my blog. They asked me questions about my baking on my first day. And they have asked for something spectacular for the company Christmas party. Peppermint brownies? Eggnog blondies? Decisions, decisions.

But, let’s procrastinate those decisions and talk cookies.

These cookies are brought to you by the numbers 3, 2, 1.

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gluten free iced double chocolate chunk ginger chip cookies

Chocolate & spice cookies

gluten free iced double chocolate chunk ginger chip cookies

I have been having an incredibly busy couple of weeks. Have you missed me? Life has been topsy turvy, I launched 2 website redesigns at my day job, have a third one launching this week. I am probably going to be having surgery on Thursday (if everything goes according to plan). Needless to say, October has been one heck of a crazy month.

I also realized that the month is mostly over, and I haven’t baked much at all this month. There has been so much going on that I hadn’t been able to just stop and take a few hours to create a recipe and bake something. And I really needed to bake something. And I had no idea what to bake. So I did what any baking-obsessed girl would do. I pulled out 2 things from my cabinet and hoped that I could make a dessert that would be delicious. Thank goodness it worked.

Lately, I have been obsessed with ginger. There were brown butter ginger doughnuts, bourbon ginger peach pie, ginger pumpkin doughnuts. I had been buying these awesome ginger chips (chocolate chip sized bits of candied ginger) until they stopped carrying them at Williams-Sonoma. I had to settle for regular crystallized ginger & chopped it myself. and I finally got my hands on some of those new Enjoy Life Mega Chocolate Chunks. So clearly I had to make ginger & chocolate cookies. I am in love with the texture of these. They are soft but not crumbly. They are wonderfully delicate with just a touch of chew.  I want to start a campaign to get Enjoy Life to add these cookies to the package. They are that good.

Iced Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Ginger Chips
#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 7 mins
Total time: 27 mins
Serves: 60
Chocolate & ginger make a delightful pair and in these cookies, they dissolve in your mouth.
  • 385 grams (3¼ cups) gluten free all purpose flour*
  • 1½ teaspoons xantham gum**
  • 55 grams (6 tablespoons) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 170 grams (1½ sticks) butter or Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, softened
  • 215 grams (1 cup firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg***
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 100 grams crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 100 grams (1/3 package) Enjoy Life Mega Chocolate Chunks
  • 170 grams (1½ cups) confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon milk****
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Sift together flour, xantham gum (if using), cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (this recipe won’t work with a hand mixer – the dough is too stiff) cream together brown sugar and butter.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg. Beat to combine.
  4. Pour in the vanilla, scrape down the sides and beat again.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 even groups, scraping down the sides between additions.
  6. Mix in the ginger & chocolate chunks and stir until they are evenly distributed.
  7. Separate the dough into thirds, put them into seperate ziploc baggies and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
  8. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Grease or line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  10. Divide the dough (it will be pretty stiff) into balls the size of ping-pong balls (about 2 tablespoons of dough) and as you put them on the cookie sheet, smoosh them so they are about 3/8 of an inch thick. Leave about an inch of space between the smooshed dough.
  11. Bake for 6-8 minutes.
  12. Once your cookies are baked, combine the sifted powdered sugar, milk and lemon juice together. Dip the still warm cookies into the glaze and set on a cooling rack (put news paper or a cookie sheet under the rack to collect drips). If the icing is too thick, add more lemon juice or milk ½ teaspoon at a time to achieve your desired consistencey.

*I used Williams-Sonoma Cup for Cup flour blend, but I also highly recommend the Jules Nearly Normal flour for people who can’t have dairy (I also use this blend fairly regularly). You can also use this all-purpose blend from No Gluten, No Problem.

**If your blend already has xantham gum (or Expandex, guar gum, etc,) you can omit this.
*** If you can’t have eggs, dissolve 1 tablespoon ground flax with 3 tablespoons warm water.
****Feel free to use any kind of “milk”. I use the So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk, but you can substitute with what you prefer (Soy, almond, hemp, dairy, etc.)

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gluten free toffee chocolate chip cookies


gluten free toffee chocolate chip cookies

I am sitting in the Westin where the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo  is in Dallas and all I can think about is the bag of these cookies that I left on my kitchen table when I left.  (I know, cookie abuse).

I would love to paint you a picture of the comedy of errors that was our 8 hour adventure to Dallas. There were cancelled flights, gate changes and airline rebookings galore. There was one little box of dried fruit and gluten-free airline snacks were few and far between.  I am about to melt into bed from exauhstion.

But, I digress, this isn’t a post about air travel woes.

I love chocolate chip cookies. In college, I had the recipe for toll house cookies memorized. I could whip up a batch half asleep when I wanted to do something nice for my roommates before I left for the day or at 3 in the morning as sustenance to get a study group through a marathon final exam study session. I am not even sure if I measured most of the time because I knew the recipe so well.

I have made so many failed batches of gluten free chocolate chip cookies that I was certain that I was never going to eat a good one again.

But man, I had a craving for some cookies. As much as I love pumpkin, I needed a break from pumpkin-themed baked goods. I wanted a good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie. And, since I know a thing or two about chocolate chip cookies, I wanted to elevate these beyond the ones that you learned to make in junior high. They have a soft, chewy center with crispy golden edges where the sugars caramelized. The secret to the dynamite flavor? Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I beg you not to use milk chocolate! They will be too sweet) and toffee bits. The toffee bits melt slightly into the cookies and add a surprise layer of caramel goodness.

Oh, and there is no creaming til light and fluffy, no letting your butter soften and no pre-heating the oven. Just go with me here. And don’t deviate from the recipe. At least the first time. You will be happy you listened to me.

#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Cookie
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 36
Cookies are something that I don’t make very often. They aren’t the prettiest of baked goods, but there is something magical about the chocolate chip variety. And these are just a step above your run of the mill chocolate chip cookies.
  • 250g (2 cups) gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons xantham gum (if your blend doesn’t have it)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • teaspoon salt
  • 170g (1½ sticks)unsalted butter, cold
  • 200g (1 cup lightly packed) brown sugar
  • 100g (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 200g chocolate chips
  • 100g heath chips
  1. Sift together your flour (or flours), xantham gum (if using), baking powder and salt.
  2. Grate the butter on a box grater or microplane into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Cream together the sugars and butter untill the mixture resembles sand. You don’t want to get to the light and fluffy stage.
  4. Add the vanilla, egg & yolk. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the flour in 2 parts. Scrape down the bowl and mix completely before adding more flour.
  6. Stir in heath bits and chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop 2 teaspoon portions onto a greased cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and pop your cookie sheet in the freezer for 15-20 minutes while your oven heats up.
  9. Put the cold cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on the tray for about 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. Maes about 3 dozen cookies…if you don’t eat half the dough yourself.
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gluten free lemon thyme shortbread with cup 4 cup flour from williams sonoma

Lemon Thyme Shortbread & C4C flour review

cup 4 cup gluten free flour from williams sonomaThere was a bit of hubub on twitter over this flour. Mostly it was about the price – not sure why. 3lbs of the King Arthur Gluten Free Flour is $16 and 3lbs of Jules Nearly Normal flour comes out to about $12 (she sells 5lb bags). It is a little more expensive, but not horribly so. It is a product sold at Williams Sonoma, they sell premium cookware and foods. Pasta sauce from there is expensive too ($12 a jar!). It is a premium store that sells premium products. Call me snooty, but I love shopping there. And I am ok with paying a price for luxury/ premium goods.

And yes, the flour is fairly pricey. But, is it good? Yes. Very.

Blondie and I got up early last Sunday and went to a gluten-free baking technique class. Ours was taught by a delightful pastry chef who gave some good tips for baking – and taught Blondie quite a bit about gluten-free ingredients and baking. I even learned a trick about baking cookies.

The whole point of this class was to sample their new brownie & cookie mixes (which don’t taste like they came from a box at all – but I still think they are cheating). And to demo their new flour. (Williams-Sonoma, please have more Gluten-Free technique classes!)

Cup4Cup is a gluten-free flour blend developed by Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery fame. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the flour. I baked some shortbread cookies to test it out. I have had some disappointments in the past when it comes to gluten-free flour blends. And there are very few that I recommend without hesitation. This one is now on that list.

The batter seemed a little gummier than I am used to, but the cookies are a little chewy (but not gummy) and did not turn to dust when I touched them (this has happened). There were no strange flavors (which some brands AP blends have) and the texture of the baked good was spot on. Sometimes when you bake gluten free cookies, you need to substitute shortening for some of the butter so that they do not spread into one giant cookie. This flour held its shape in baking, a major plus.

I also used this while testing my fried doughnut recipe that will be live on Wednesday for the Gluten Free Ratio Rally. It actually seems to be working (the dough is raising now, but the texture seemed spot on. The dough had stretch and absorbed the right amount of moisture). I will have to try a loaf of bread with this next…

I also love that I can pick up a bag of this stuff when I am wandering around Williams-Sonoma ogling the kitchen goods that I am going to register for when I get married. I also am really impressed that a fancy-schmancy player has entered the game.

This blend will not work for those of you who also have problems with dairy or gums, as this blend has both. My only aversion to dairy is that I don’t like the way that milk tastes.

I am going to make sure that Blondie has a bag of this in his pantry for when I come to town. (Especially now that he finally has measuring cups and spoons – I can deal with not having a scale for our weekends together)

I would definitely put this as one of my preferred store-bought blends. I think it might have worked its way up to second favorite blend.

There are some limitations to using a prepared flour blend. You can’t change the ratio of grains to starches depending on what you are baking. (So no whole grain breads). You also can’t change the amount of the binding agent (xantham gum, guar gum, flax, expandex, etc.) But, you can make your grandma’s famous chocolate cake without doing math.

This blend beats out my other favorite blend in one aspect, I can just go into a store and pick it up. (Maybe not in Champaign, but in Chicago). No expensive shipping because flour weighs alot!

If you are baking a recipe from a gluten free site (such as this), just total all the flours and use this in it’s place. It works as a weight substitution and as a  volume substitution.

So, thank you Williams-Sonoma and Chef Thomas Keller for this flour.

gluten free lemon thyme shortbread with cup 4 cup flour from williams sonoma

Gluten Lemon-Thyme Shortbread
#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Cookie
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 30
These are a light, summery cookie. They are not too sweet, but they are tangy with an herb kick. They would go great with some vanilla ice cream for a summer dessert.
  • 230 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 grams (½ cup) sugar
  • 340 grams (2 ½ cups) gluten-free all purpose flour blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (the juice from 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until it is just blended.
  2. Add the flour in 2 batches, scraping down the sides of your mixer after each addition.
  3. Add the lemon juice and mix to combine.
  4. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.About halfway through this time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Roll the dough out and cut into the desired shape (I did 3 inch circles).
  7. Arrange about a half inch apart on a greased cookie sheets and bake for 13-17 minutes.
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