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Sour Cream Coffee Cake a Great Addition to Breakfast


Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This is a great cake for a Christmas breakfast — or any time you need to want something ahead. That’s because the addition of sour cream makes the body of the cake so moist that it’ll keep for days.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to it, which is a hallmark of my mother’s better recipes. That means it’s fairly simple to make, and yet the way the topping and cake complement each other is rewarding.

I didn’t have enough pecans on hand, so I used crushed slivered almonds and added a slash of almond extract to the cake and it worked fine. But read the instructions closely. I didn’t put anything down under my cake rack and a decent amount of the topping crumbled off. Also, you’ll want to get this on a serving plate as quickly as possible so the somewhat fragile top doesn’t crack.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

2 cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Topping:
½ cup crushed pecans
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons brown sugar

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line tube pan.

Mix flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla.

To make topping, mix pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Put half of dough in tube pan. Then add just a little less than one-half of the topping. Spoon in the rest of the dough and top with the remaining topping.

Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted past topping and into cake comes out clean.

Let cake rest 10 minutes before turning onto cake rack over waxed paper or something easy to clean up, because some of the topping will shake loose. Immediately remove wax paper and turn onto serving plate.

Makes 1 cake.

From Annaliese Griffin

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Add a Little Spice to Your Honey


Honey

During a recent visit to The Monterey on South St. Mary’s Street, a friend and I shared a dessert that was a delicate combination of fresh strawberries and local goat cheese ricotta topped with honey infused with a touch of fennel.

A few days later I discovered a series of flavored honey recipes in the new “The Herbal Kitchen” by Kami McBride (Conari Press, $18.95), each easy to make and easy to use in a number of different ways. Here are three short combinations that would work on a toast point smeared with goat cheese or cream cheese as an appetizer, in a vinaigrette or served with cheese after a meal.

Here’s her process for making an herbal or spiced honey:

“Put the honey into a sterilized jar.

“Put the jar into a double boiler over low heat.

“Gently heat for 15 minutes or until it is warm. do not boil or overheat the honey, just warm it up until the herbs can be easily mixed in.

“Stir the herbs into the honey while it is still warm.

“Remove jar of honey from double boiler and let cool.

“Store the honey in a cabinet for two weeks before eating.

“Occasionally stir the contents, mixing herbs thoroughly into the honey.

“Just leave the honey in the herbs as you use it. There is no need to strain the herbs out at any point.”

Cinnamon Honey

“This honey turns toast into a yummy treat and livens up pancakes, waffles and all warm breakfast cereals,” McBride writes. “If you are catching a cold, make a tea with just Cinnamon Honey and it will help to send your cold on it’s way.”

1 cup honey
3 tablespoons powdered cinnamon (see note)
1 teaspoon powdered allspice (see note)

Note: You can reduce a ground spice into a powder with a spice grinder, a food processor, or mortar and pestle.

Curried Honey

“If you like curry, this an exemplary honey for cooking. Put 3 tablespoons on a chicken before baking, or mix it with baked vegetables,” she writes.

2 cups honey
2 tablespoons powdered coriander
1 tablespoon powdered cumin
1 tablespoon powdered tumeric
2 teaspoons powdered mustard seed
2 teaspoons powdered fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon powdered clove

Flexibility Honey

“All of the (spices) in this honey help to reduce inflammation and increase circulation throughout the body,” McBride writes. “Adding turmeric and ginger to your diet helps with arthritic complaints. You can also warm this honey up and scrub it on your feet. Leave it on for 10 minutes and wash off with warm water. The honey foot rub will warm your body and increase circulation.”

2 cups honey
1 tablespoon powdered turmeric
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon powdered juniper berry
1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom

Recipes from “The Herbal Kitchen” by Kami McBride

 

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Ask a Foodie: What Makes Chocolate Mexican?


Q. So, what makes Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream Mexican?

— MDM

A. “Mexican chocolate … is rather granular, with a certain rustic quality – you can still taste the toasty cacao pods. It’s usually flavored with cinnamon, and often nutmeg or allspice, too.” David Tanis writes in “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys.”

Tanis also offers the following recipe. You can find Mexican chocolate along with other baking chocolates in most supermarkets in San Antonio.

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

3 cups whole milk
8 ounces Mexican chocolate
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan. Grate the chocolate coarsely, then stir it into the warm milk. Add the sugar and salt and stir over low heat for about 5 minutes until everything is well dissolved. Let cool.

Churn the mixture in your ice cream maker for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer to a container and freeze for at least 1 hour.

Makes 4-6 servings.

From “Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys” by David Tanis

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Roasted Beets With Anise, Cinnamon and Orange Juice


Beets and licorice? “The licorice flavor of the anise complements the earthy flavor of the beets, and the cinnamon and orange juice both highlight the natural sweetness of the beets,” write Dave Lieberman and Anahad O’Connor.

Roasted Beets With Anise, Cinnamon and Orange Juice

1 1/2 pounds beets, peeled, rinsed and cut into roughly 2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
3 large cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1/3 cup good-quality orange juice

[amazon-product]0061780278[/amazon-product]Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a roasting pan with a double layer of aluminum foil.

Toss beets, olive oil, salt, anise seeds, cinnamon sticks and orange juice together in the roasting pan and cover loosely with another piece of foil. Roast the beets, shaking a couple of times along the way, until fork-tender, about 45 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “The 10 Foods You Should Eat” by Dave Lieberman and Anahad O’Connor

(Photo: Alistair Williamson)

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Eggnog Gives French Toast a Welcome Kick


French ToastIf you have any leftover eggnog in the punch bowl, you can make this treat on Christmas morning.

Eggnog French Toast

2 cups homemade eggnog (see note)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons rum or 1 teaspoon rum extract
12 slices day-old cinnamon raisin bread
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
Nutmeg, for garnish
Cinnamon, for garnish
Maple syrup, for serving (optional)

In a medium bowl, beat eggnog with the eggs and rum.  Put mixture in a  flat pan. Soak bread in eggnog mixture about 5 minutes, turning to be sure all of the bread is soaked.

In a skillet, melt some of the butter until it begins to sizzle. Then add 2 slices of bread, cooking on both sides until toasted. Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on top before serving. Pass the maple syrup.

Note:  If using store-bought eggnog, use 2 cups eggnog. Whisk in 3 eggs and add rum and/or bourbon (or rum extract) to taste.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From John Griffin and Bonnie Walker

(Photo: Mathilda Tan)

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Lift Your Christmas Spirits With Some Cocktails


Remake your favorite cocktails or try some new concoctions this Christmas. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Just remember, if you’re out partying, to drink and drive responsibly.

Mele Kalikimaka Martini

Mele Kalikimaka Martini

I love Christmas kitsch. And nothing is quite as wonderful as Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters singing “Mele Kalikimaka,” Hawaii’s way of “saying Merry Christmas to you.” I will now enjoy it even more with a Mele Kalikimaka Martini in one hand.

Mele Kalikimaka Martini

1.5 ounces SKYY Infusions Pineapple
3 ounces eggnog
Splash of coconut cream or coconut milk
Nutmeg, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

In a shaker filled with ice, mix Skyy Infusions Pineapple, eggnog and coconut cream. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Makes 1 martini.

From SKYY

MexiCabo Hot Chocolate

This adult take on Mexican chocolate is a real winter warmer.

1½ ounces blanco tequila
4 ounces hot chocolate
½ ounce coffee liqueur
Whipped cream
Cinnamon

Pour tequila, hot chocolate and coffee liqueur into a coffee mug. Top with whipped cream. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Makes 1 drink.

Adapted from Cabo Wabo Blanco Tequila

Noël Impérial

This punch recipe gets its sparkle from Champagne and an extra kick from Grand Marnier.

3 spoonfuls of fruit cocktail
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces pineapple juice
6 ounces Moët & Chandon White Star Champagne (almost 2 cups)

Directions: In the bottom of a 17-ounce pitcher, muddle the fruit cocktail. Add the Grand Marnier, simple syrup, lemon juice and pineapple juice. Stir contents. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. When ready to serve, stir contents and top with chilled White Star Champagne. Stir again and serve with cocktail glasses filled with ice.

From White Star/Kim Haasarud, Liquid Architecture

Candy Cane Swirl

Mint lovers can indulge their passion this holiday season. Here’s yet another way to enjoy candy canes.

Candy canes, some crushed fine
1 ounce SKYY Infusions Raspberry
3 ounces cranberry juice
1/2 ounce Grenadine
1/2 ounce peppermint schnapps
Lemon-lime soda

Rim martini glass with crushed candy cane. Combine SKYY Infusions Raspberry, cranberry juice, Grenadine and peppermint schnapps into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with lemon-lime soda and garnish with small peppermint candy cane.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From SKYY

Holiday Glögg

Holiday Glogg

Holiday Glögg

This variation on Scandinavian mulled wine includes vodka.

1.5 tablespoons mulling spice
12 ounces vodka
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry red wine
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons blanched almonds
4 tablespoons raisins

Wrap mulling spice in cheesecloth. In a large saucepan, combine the vodka, wine, cheesecloth with mulling spice, orange zest and sugar. Allow to very lightly simmer over medium heat for at least 30 minutes (do not boil). Discard the mulling spices. Drop a few raisins and almonds at the bottom of each mug and top with the hot liquid.

From SKYY

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WalkerSpeak: Shaking Up Some Surprises About Cinnamon


cinnamon1While doing some baking recently, I pulled down three different jars of cinnamon from my spice cupboard. One was from Saigon. Its label told me it was the “world’s best cinnamon.”  The other was also from Saigon (no telling why I had two of these) and the last one was from McCormick.

But, I thought, isn’t the “best” cinnamon from Sri Lanka? I seem to remember stories of traders sailing to distant, exotic lands to load up on the spice, a valuable commodity.

There’s a simple answer here, according to sources I checked. That is that yes, Sri Lanka produces the best true cinnamon in the world, and it is the land where this variety of cinnamon originated.

So, what about those bottles of Saigon cinnamon? This powdered spice turns out to be cassia, not cinnamon. The two spices are closely related, originating from the bark of two different types of laurel trees. Experts differ on how many types of cinnamon and cassia are in the family, but estimates range from between 50-to-250 different types.

Cassia, for a very long time, has shadowed cinnamon around the globe as a sort of doppelganger, or spice substitute for the “real” thing. This is according to “The Spice Bible,” by Ian Hemphill (Robert Rose, $22.95). The two spices probably shared space in the cargo holds of those trading ships long ago.

cinnamon2Cassia, which has a darker color and more penetrating taste, with a little bitterness, is thought to have originated in Assam, a region in India that borders on China. According to “The Spice Bible,” there are references to cassia found in China going all the way back to 4000 BC.

Cinnamon is distinguished by being the first spice to be mentioned in the Old Testament. It is also said to stretch back to the time of the pharaohs in Egypt, where it was used in the embalming process.

While cassia and cinnamon are sold side by side in the United States and most other countries, it is illegal to sell cassia as cinnamon in England and Australia. In France, however, there is only one word for “cinnamon” and it refers to both cinnamon and cassia — canelle.

That word made me think of the similar word in Spanish, canela. This is true cinnamon, a pale tan in color and rolled up into many concentric layers of papery-textured spice (see photo above). Mexican cooks love canela, using it for their treats, sauces and hot chocolate. Mexico is, according to Wikipedia, the world’s main importer of true cinnamon.

Cassia has darker, harder bark, usually flat on the bottom and curled up into two facing, single curls on top. Cassia is what you find in a hobby store around Christmas time, the long, fragrant sticks tied up with ribbons for decorating. While some swear by canela, true cinnamon, many bakers in the U.S. buy cassia for its more aromatic properties.

Two more things:  Just for fun, go to the Dean & Deluca’s website, deandeluca.com, and look up “canella.” This is yet another spice, sometimes called “white cinnamon.” This one is from a tree grown in the Caribbean regions and unrelated to cinnamon.

Or, Google the Web for a rather strange contest that’s been going around for some time – the Cinnamon Challenge. Apparently very few people can ingest a heaping tablespoonful of ground cinnamon without upchucking. It also looked like YouTube had some video examples, too. I decided not to watch.

Sources: “The Spice Bible”, Wikipedia

Recipe: Snickerdoodles

(Photos: Jozsef Szoke and Davide Farabegoli)

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Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls


Great tasting cinnamon rolls are best with fresh ingredients and good cinnamon. Invest in another jar of fresh spice if you think your cinnamon has been sitting around in the cupboard for years.

After using this recipe, I made some changes it in it. I cut the sugar added to the dough to one quarter cup. I also cut down the amount of brown sugar in the filling from 2 cups to 1-1/2.  I thought even that was a little too much, so next time I will probably cut the packed light brown sugar to a cup.  (The recipe below reflects these changes.)

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls

2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
5 1/2 cups flour
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons  grated orange rind (try to not get any of the white, just zest)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Non-stick cooking spray

Filling:
3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
3/4 cup dried cranberries OR currants OR raisins
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Glaze:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

SweetPotCinRolls5

Boil peeled, diced sweet potatoes until tender. Drain and mash.

For Rolls: Pulse yeast, water and 1 teaspoon sugar in a food processor 4 times or just until combined, using the metal blade. Remove metal blade, scraping yeast mixture into food processor bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. (If making by hand, stir together these ingredients in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes.)

 Stir cooled potatoes and 1/2 cup flour into the yeast mixture and blend well, then add the rest of the flour.

Stir cooled potatoes and 1/2 cup flour into the yeast mixture and blend well, then add the rest of the flour.

Insert short plastic dough blade into food processor; add 1/2 cup flour to processor bowl and process 2 minutes. Add mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, buttermilk, the rest of the sugar, butter, orange rind, salt and and soda, along with 4 cups flour; process 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup flour, and process 2 minutes or until a dough forms, coming together to hold a shape. (If making by hand, mix in ingredients and stir in same order as above, then knead the dough on a flat, lightly floured surface, for at least 5 minutes.)

Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

If you're making by hand, turn dough out on a floured surface to mix and knead a few times before placing it into a clean, lightly oiled bowl, covered, to rise in a warm place.

If you're making by hand, turn dough out on a floured surface to mix and knead a few times before placing it into a clean, lightly oiled bowl, covered, to rise in a warm place.

Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll into a 10- by- 18-inch rectangle. Spread evenly with Filling. Roll up dough, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Cut into 12 (1 1/2-inch) slices, and arrange in a lightly greased 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes. (For me, this dough made closer to 18 cinnamon rolls.  These fit just fine into a buttered 9-by-9-inch baking pan.)

 Roll out dough in a large rectangle and spread on brown sugar and cinnamon filling. Start rolling the dough in from one of the long sides, as you would for a jelly roll. Then, start cutting rounds from one end.

Roll out dough in a large rectangle and spread on brown sugar and cinnamon filling. Start rolling the dough in from one of the long sides, as you would for a jelly roll. Then, start cutting rounds from one end.

Bake rolls at 400° for 10 minutes. Remove rolls from oven; drizzle Glaze slowly over rolls, starting at 1 edge of pan and drizzling in a circular pattern.

Bake rolls 7 to 10 more minutes or until lightly browned and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove rolls from oven, and invert onto a baking sheet. Invert again, glaze side up, onto a serving platter. Let cool 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm.

When rolls are done, let them cool awhile before you put on the glaze or icing (while the rolls are still warm).

When rolls are done, let them cool awhile before you put on the glaze or icing (while the rolls are still warm).

For Filling: Stir together butter, sugar, pecans, raisins or dried cranberries, until blended.

For Glaze:  Stir together sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a light boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in cream and vanilla.

Makes 12-15 rolls.

Adapted from Domino Sugar

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Add a Robust Red Cabbage Dish to Your Oktoberfest


RedCabbageRotkohl mit Apfeln (Red Cabbage With Apples)

The aroma from this side dish comes from the sugar, apple, cinnamon and spices. It will fill your house like a potpourri.

4 tablespoons oil (see note)
1 head red cabbage, core removed and sliced thin
1 onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices
1 tablespoon brown sugar or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 cinnamon stick (see note)
6 cloves
1/2 cup dry wine, white or red
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Heat the oil in a large braising pan over medium-high heat. Once it is warm, but not too hot, add cabbage, onion, apple, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, wine, water, vinegar, bay leaf, cloves and salt. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 1 hour. Stir once.

Remove the lid and continue to cook, allowing most of the liquid to evaporate, about 35-45 minutes. If the rest of the meal is not ready, cover and let simmer until 5 minutes before serving. Uncover and let the rest of the liquid evaporate. Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaf and any cloves you may find before serving.

Note: The traditional German version of this dish is to use bacon drippings instead of oil. The cinnamon stick is not traditional, but using it helps you cut down on the amount of sugar you need to balance the flavor of the cabbage; if you don’t want the cinnamon, you may want to use another tablespoon or two of sugar.

Makes 10-12 servings.

From John Griffin

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Griffin to Go: A Nut for Lychees


Lychee

Lychee

Despite common usage, the lychee is not a nut. It is a fruit that grows well in warm, tropical climates.

It is also an addiction for those of us with a sweet tooth. For the lychee — or litchi, as it is often spelled — is truly sweet.

You wouldn’t think it to look at. In the market or on the tree, the rough, knobby exterior looks more like a hard strawberry. According to research on the subject, lychees are often referred to as alligator strawberries in some cultures — the deep South or India, depending on whom you believe — though it’s a term I’ve never heard. The skin feels like an alligator’s or a file you’d use to sand a 2-by-4.

Until I moved to Florida, I was only familiar with the canned variety of lychee, sometimes served as a dessert in Asian restaurants along with its cousins, rambutan and longan. But the evergreen trees thrive in the eternal sun and the humidity, far better than some of the humans. When a colleague brought a box of the red fruit with the milky white center into work, I had to be shown how to peel them, how to pick the best ones and how to determine which ones to avoid.

Now that they are in season and you can find them in neighborhood groceries (I found them in a box in the produce section of my nearby H-E-B; they were even on sale), I thought I’d share a couple of tips I learned:

  • Pick lychees that are firm yet have a little give at the top. These are likely to be the juiciest.
  • If the fruit is too firm, it may not be ripe. If it is hard and looks more shrunken than the others, it may have dried out.
  • Lychees bruise relatively easily, despite the tough skin. So, look for blemishes or discoloration around a soft spot.
  • To peel, pull the stem off or dig a fingernail into the skin near the top until it breaks. You can use a knife, if you’re one of those who doesn’t like to touch his or her food.
  • A membrane lines the skin. Peel it back, should it stick with the meat of the fruit.
  • At the center of the lychee is a large nut-like seed that you discard.

The rest is all about enjoying the highly sweet fruit and its juices. I’m getting a sugar rush typing this.

I generally eat just one or two straight from the skin. But there are numerous ways to incorporate lychees into your cooking, whether you are using fresh or canned.

One is the Watermelon Salad you’ll find in another post on this site (click here). Toss them in salads, especially fruit salads. Add to your sweet-and-sour stir-fries; their limpid texture is a nice contrast to the crunch of water chestnuts. Or you can place halves on a ham instead of pineapple.

If you are looking to add more sparkle to a brut Champagne, place half a lychee at the bottom of your flute.

The following recipe is adapted from a Web site devoted to lychees:

Tropical Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

2 kiwis, peeled and diced
1/2 pineapple, cored and diced
1 mango, pitted and diced
1 pound strawberries, stemmed and cut into bite sizes
1 cup lychees
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons lychee jam or apricot jam
10 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Butter-flavored cooking spray
2 cups cinnamon sugar (see Note)
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, pineapple, mango, strawberries, lychees, white sugar, brown sugar and jam. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter-flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit and spice mixture.

Note: To make cinnamon sugar, mix sugar and cinnamon in the desired proportion, which generally ranges from 3-1 to 12-1, according to Wikipedia.

Recipe adapted from lycheesonline.com.

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