Chocolate Cream And Home Made Meringues

c5On a regular basis when visiting my grandparents as a kid, at the end of the meal a big bowl was placed in the middle of the table. Being shorter then, all I could see above the rim of the bowl was a mound of whipped cream. I would squeal with joy and excitement—I knew exactly what was soon to be scooped out and placed in a bowl in front of me. Grandma’s chocolate cream. It’s the simplest thing. Not more than 5 minutes to throw together, then a few hours rest in the fridge. 

A velvety smooth, almost pudding like, chocolate. Not too sweet. Fluffy whipped cream is a must. The key ingredient to make this dessert complete: meringues. The sweetness and crunchiness brings it to a whole new level. We used to crush the meringues in our hand and carefully, like a calm snowfall, let the bits of meringue coat the chocolate and cream. Nostalgic much? You bet. Yum.signaturec2

Chocolate Cream

3 tbsp corn starch

4 tbsp cacao

4 tbsp sugar

3 cups whole milk

1 tbsp vanilla essence

In a large sauce pan, mix together all the dry ingredients, then add the milk. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 3 min. Stir constantly.

Add vanilla. Stir and transfer to a bowl or individual dishes. Sprinkle the surface with sugar (to prevent skin forming on the surface). Let the mixture cool slightly then cover in plastic wrap and move to the fridge to let it set for at least 2 hours.

Meringues

Meringues Suisse – is a lovely and professional method of making meringues by beating an egg white mixture in a double boiler. It creates a less brittle meringue, useful when they are small and delicate. It also helps ensure the sugar is properly dissolved, to prevent a crunchy final product. 

 

4 egg whites

250 grams icing sugar (2 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Half fill a medium sized saucepan with water and heat until simmering.

Separate the egg whites and place in a large metal bowl – preferably unlined copper. Rest the bowl over the simmering pan and begin whisking the eggs.

Combine the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, while whisking. Continue beating the eggs at high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has a glossy texture. Mix in the vanilla.

Pipe the mixture on parchment paper into your favourite shape. Bake in a very cool oven, less than 100°C, for 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of meringue.

Serve with whipped cream and meringues. Serves 4c1c4c3

Chicken (not in a pot) Pie

c5Well, summer certainly flew by. I had grand plans to stuff this blog with amazing recipes and photos of fresh summer foods made with ingredients grown locally here in the County. Alas, I failed miserably. Today, we finished processing apples for our 2016 Golden Russet Cider and I realized autumn is almost over as well. But what a beautiful few months we’ve had.

Many of my friends love autumn weather. Though I do prefer summer heat, something must be said about crisp cooler days, warm sweaters, curling up on the sofa with a soft wooly blanket, hot baths, hot teas and heartier foods. c2

A chicken pot pie is a perfect autumn meal. While dining out, I will almost always order them if I see them on the menu. It can be risky since they can be bland. Of course, I always hope they will be amazing. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose.

Recently, I decided to make chicken pot pie at home. You may already know I have a hard time simply following a recipe. I need to make it my own. Tweak things here, change things there. Remove any hint of blandness. This is my chicken (not in a pot) pie. Quite different from what you may be used to. And why not? 

See you again soon.

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1 package frozen puff pastry – thawed

Poached Chicken:

3 chicken breasts

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup water

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

Filling:

1 cup brussel sprouts, quartered

1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic

3 stalks celery

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

1 tsp curry

1/2 cup dry apple cider

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4  cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 apples

salt

pepper

2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1 egg, whisked

In a large sauce pan, Poach the chicken breasts in the tomato sauce, water, vinegar, salt and sugar until cooked through, 15-20 min. Transfer breasts to a plate and let cool, then shred them. Set aside the tomato sauce.

Finely dice the red pepper, garlic, celery and jalapeño pepper. 

In a sauce pan, sauté the vegetables along with the curry in butter and olive oil until soft, 6-7 min. Add cider, cream, tomato sauce (from poaching the chicken breasts) and vinegar. Let simmer for 10 min. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, peel the apples and grate them into the mixture along with the shredded chicken, stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In two 9” diameter pie dishes, divide the filling equally. Add the cheese. Cut the pastry dough in two equal pieces and roll out. Place the pieces over each dish, overlapping the edge.  

Brush surface with the egg. Poke the dough with a knife a few times to allow steam to escape. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 min until golden brown and puffy. Serves 6-8. c6c1c3

Strawberry Trifle with White Chocolate & Saffron Ganache

s8An afternoon spent by the lake? For me, that is sadly a rare occasion. The hours in the day are simply not enough and my ‘to-do’ list keeps growing longer and longer. It’s easy to bury yourself in work, doing things that seem important but, in the grand scheme of things, it might not make a big difference whether they get done today or another day. s1

Your own self being on the other hand, well, that is important. There’s only one of you. Take care of yourself. Spoil yourself once in a while by giving yourself time – even if it’s not there. Find it, and do something you really want to do. 

Yesterday was one of those days for me. I felt I needed a ‘me’ day. Well, a half ‘me’ day anyway. I got up early, did some painting on the house to make sure I had accomplished something productive, then, after lunch, I exhaled and smiled. It was time to go. s2

On a sunny day, spending it by the water is what I enjoy the most. There is nothing more tranquil and relaxing. Soothing for your soul. I interact with a lot of people every week, so for me this is a great way to zen out. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget about the rest of the world, when all you hear is the waves making their final crescendo against the shore.

I was still able to hunt down some county strawberries, so a fresh strawberry trifle was a marvellous addition to a sun filled afternoon by the water. For this recipe I replaced the vanilla custard, which is usually used, with a white chocolate ganache with saffron. 

Have you ever had strawberries and saffron before? I hadn’t but sure will again!s5

White Cake:

3 egg

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup cold milk

Ganache:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 pinch saffron strands

200g white chocolate

2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

2 cups cream, whipped

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a blender, whisk egg and sugar until white and fluffy. Sift flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and add slowly to the egg mixture. Add vanilla and milk and mix on low until just blended.

Pour into a greased springform pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 min, or until golden and centre of the cake is set. Leave in pan while cooling. 

Ganache:

While the cake is in the oven, make the ganache. 

In a medium sauce pan, bring cream and saffron to a boil. Remove from heat and add the white chocolate. Stir until melted. Let cool.

Assembly:

In a large glass bowls or 6 individual glasses, repeat layers of cake, ganache, strawberries and cream. Finish off with a layer of whipped cream and a drizzle of ganache. 

Can be made a few hours in advance if kept in the fridge.

*Before assembling, taste the ganache to know the level of saffron. Remember it’s fairly pungent, so add the ganache accordingly.s7s6s3

Semla

s2Take a freshly made, golden brown bun, cut the top off. Scoop out the centre of the bun and fill it with a delicate, soft almond and marzipan paste flavoured with vanilla. Cover the paste with lightly sweetened whipped cream before placing the top back on and dusting the whole creation with icing sugar. Sounds delicious? Well it is. 

This is the very traditional Swedish semla. It originated a long time ago and was only eaten on one day of the year- the day before the Lenten fast begun. The Lent was a six week long christian fast ending on Easter Sunday. Preparing for this meant loads of very fatty food were consumed on this day – always on a Tuesday. The day is still known as Fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday. s4

Nowadays, semla is more or less the only thing that reminds us about this out drawn fast. And this almond and cream bun is sold and eaten for 3-4 months out of the year, rather than on this one very special day. It’s not bad though for a little bun to gain it’s own day. If you happen to be in Sweden tomorrow, on February 9th, which is Fettisdagen this year, go ahead and treat yourself. You can’t escape them this time of year. Enjoy it with a rich dark coffee or a nice cup of your favourite tea.

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For the buns:

75g butter

1 1/4 cup milk

50g fresh yeast (5 tsp dry)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp horthornsalt

1 2/3 cup cake and pastry flour

2 cups all purpose flour

1 egg

For the marzipan filling:

Enough for 6 semlor   ********?

200g almonds with skin

3/4 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract

1 egg white

25g marzipan

1/4 cup whipping cream

centre of 3 buns

1 cup whipping cream

1 tbsp icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the milk and warm to a temperature of 98F (37C). Remove from the stove and add the yeast. Mix well and let stand for 10 min. 

Meanwhile, in a blender add salt, sugar and egg. Beat well. Sift together horthornsalt and flour. Add the yeast to the egg mixture while stirring and then slowly add the flour, a little bit at a time. Touch the dough to feel if it is too sticky to handle. If too sticky, add a tbsp or more of flour until the dough can be handled. It’s very important not to add too much flour, or you will end up with really dry buns. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest, in the bowl, for about 30 min. 

Preheat oven to 485F.

Scoop the dough onto a flat surface dusted with flour. Kneed into a ball and divide into round balls, roughly 2″ diameter. Place on a baking sheet, cover and let rest for another 20-30 min. They are ready when you gently poke the buns and they spring back up. Brush them with lightly whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 min or until golden. Transfer the buns to a rack and let cool. The buns can be stored in the freezer and thawed as needed. 

Only prepare as many buns as you need. 

Cut off the top of the buns, about 1/2 down. Pick out some of the bread in the centre of the bun, and crumble it into a bowl. Crumble Grate the marzipan into the bowl and add the sugar, cream and vanilla. Stir until you get an even paste. It should be quite loose, but not runny. Fill the centre of the buns with the marzipan filling. 

Pipe or scoop some whipped cream on top of the filling and finally place the ‘lid’ back on. Dust with icing sugar and place on a serving platter.

Note: The traditional way of eating semlor is to start with the lid. Scoop some of the cream onto the lid and take a bite. Once the lid is gone, the rest of the bun can be eaten with knife and fork, but I prefer to see who manage to take a bite without getting the tip of their nose covered in whipped cream!s1s5

Tarragon Chicken

tc1Memories. Some of them will bring a smile to our face and some will make us turn bright red. The other day a song by Phil Collins came on the radio. In an instant, I was thrown back 25 years to the 9th grade. A week long school trip in a double decker bus to Paris. I remember killing travel time by listening to this live album on my portable “Walkman” cd-player. Even though I had a proper seat assigned to me, most of the trip I sat in the corner of the spiral stairs connecting the first and second floor of the bus. Not sure why since it wasn’t the slightest bit comfortable and people constantly bumped into me on their way up or down. Maybe it was the quietest spot around. I’m not sure. Either way, it didn’t seem to bother me. I was a serious day dreamer growing up. Part of my brain was always in my own world. I drifted away, gazing out the window, pretending to be attending an amazing live concert by Phil Collins. 

A few hours before arriving in Paris the bus pulled off the road and we all got out in front of what seemed to be a rather non-pretentious and run down gargote. I turned off Phil. Time for lunch. I ordered the special – tarragon chicken. Ridiculously delicious. Chicken cooked with vegetables and broth. A splash of cream and lots of tarragon. What a match. When I got back home I told my parents about the dish and that evening my mom made the Swedish adaptation of the same dish. Very close. She said it’s a Swedish classic. Who knew.

I wonder if Phil Collins likes tarragon.tc3

1 large carrot

1 large onion

1/2 bulb of fennel

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

8-10  skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 cups chicken stock

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch fresh tarragon

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup white vermouth

2 tbsp flour

1 green onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

Peel and roughly dice the carrot, onion and fennel. In a large cast iron pot, melt the butter and olive oil. Brown the chicken on medium-high heat 2-3 min/side. Drain off the fat from the chicken, then add vegetables and chicken stock along with the garlic and half the tarragon. Let simmer for 20-25 min or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and drain the broth into a separate pot. Discard the vegetables. On high heat, reduce the broth by half or 2/3. Add cream and vermouth. Mix the flour in a little bit of water and add to the broth. Finely chop the green onion and the rest of the tarragon and add as well along with salt, pepper and mustard. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve with rice or potatoes. Serves 4-5tc6 tc2tc4

Fresh Figs – Three Ways

f2Fresh Figs – Three Ways

As I have mentioned in previous posts, living in the country certainly has its perks. Locally grown and raised food is easy to get your hands on. It’s easy to feel spoiled. There are certain things, however, that seldom cross your path. 

I was recently on auto pilot in the local grocery store in search for ideas for dinner. It had been a crazy busy weekend and my brain was fried. I was browsing through the produce section waiting for something to jump out at me. The corner of my eye caught it first and I instantly woke up from my haze. I turned towards these drop shaped, dark purple/black/green beauties. I stood, for a second, contemplating not whether I would grab some or not but rather how many. All of them? There were quite a few on display. While carefully placing them in a paper bag I opted for ten. The rest I left for others, most likely equally surprised.

I have to admit, I forgot all about dinner. Back home I happily presented Bruno with the paper bag. His eyes lit up and he devoured one before I had even time to blink. “Nom nom”, his lips smacked and down went the last bite of this perfectly ripe, fresh fig.

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– The savoury fig comes with a dollop of goat cheese/devon cream wrapped in prosciutto. Balsamic vinegar glaze and chopped walnuts adds so many subtle layers while the fig is still in focus. 

– The sweet bite is accompanied by a ball of marzipan, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chili pepper. Finish it off with a mint leaf. 

– Serving fresh figs on your cheese tray is a great classic. You can’t really go wrong. No explanation needed.

A glass of our Sparkling Golden Russet apple cider or Pinot Noir goes beautifully with either one of these fig options!

 

Savoury Figs

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1/4 cup goat cheese

1 tbsp Devon cream

5 fresh figs

5 slices prosciutto

Balsamic vinegar glaze

Chopped walnuts

In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese and cream.

Cut the figs and prosciutto in half, lengthwise.

Place a small dollop of the cheese mixture on top of each fig. Wrap in prosciutto and attach with a skewer. Decorate with a couple of pieces of walnut and a drop (you don’t need much) of glaze. Makes 10 pieces

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Sweet Figs

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5 fresh figs

Marzipan, room temperature

Honey

Chili pepper

Fresh mint leaves

Cut the figs in half, lengthwise. 

Roll small balls (about the size of a large chick pea) of marzipan.

Place marzipan ball on top of the fig, then drizzle with honey.

Sprinkle with chili pepper and decorate with a mint leaf. Makes 10 pieces

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Figs and Cheese

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Simply cut fresh figs in quarters and add to your favourite cheese board. No further instructions needed.

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Spinach Soup with Egg Halves and Carrot Slaw

ss1We all have them. They come and go. Difficult to avoid. I’m talking about the days where you just want to stay in bed. Not move, not care, not anything. The reasons might be all different but the feeling is universal. I recently had one of those days. The weather was cold, grey, rainy and windy. Coffee didn’t even lift my spirit, which is rare. I knew I had to get up and get on with my day and was looking for something to cheer me up. 

This Swedish spinach soup came to mind. Traditionally served with egg halves and hard bread. I recently picked up some local eggs from a nearby farm and the yolk is the brightest orange you’ve ever seen. This in turn inspired me to go crazy with the colour. A refreshing carrot slaw with ginger and orange zest became a great side snack to the soup which offers subtle spinach, onion and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg. The meal did lift my spirit. Thanks to both flavour and colour. Try it. It’s the perfect lunch on a day when feeling a tad blue.

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Soup:

2 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tbsp flour

5 cups vegetable broth

500g frozen spinach

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt

white pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boiled eggs

Carrot Slaw:

4-5 grated carrots

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

salt 

pepper

In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the carrot slaw. Set aside to marinate while you make the soup.

In a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. When slightly browned add the onion and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté for 2-3 min until slightly translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and mix well. Let cook for another minute. Add about a cup of the broth and stir well. When simmering add the rest of the broth along with the spinach and nutmeg.

Let simmer for 10-15 min. Take of from the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup along with the boiled eggs. The carrot slaw can be served on crackers or hard bread or on its own on a side plate. Serves 4.ss5
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Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Shots

s2You might think this is very much a fall post. That is true. It would be a perfect fall post. Except it’s not. March has finally arrived and spring is just around the corner. The long winter months are over and we can start looking forward to seeing the the earth come to life again. In anticipation of the new season, with all that it will give us, I find celebrating what has kept us alive throughout fall and winter is a nice gesture. In the olden days root cellars were very popular. Before grocery stores became what they are today and before modern refrigeration, this was the way to survive. Everything that needed to stay cool was put down there. Potatoes and carrots, apples and onions, squash and pumpkins were stored along with preserved vegetables and fruits. Perhaps even a few bottles of wine. I really love the traditional Swedish root cellar. They were outside of the house, dug into the ground and covered with dirt so that they resembled a grassy mound with a small door.  I would love to eventually build a one behind the house. I will tell you more about them in another post. So, this will be one of the last ‘winter posts’ for a while. These butternut squash and apple cider shots are a great amuse bouche or hors d’oeuvre for your next dinner party. I am using The Old Third Golden Russet Apple Cider of course.
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1 butternut squash

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

6-8 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh ginger, one 1″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cup dry apple cider

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt & pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 package sliced bacon

 

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1″ pieces, discarding the centre core. Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger. In a frying pan heat up the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onion and ginger 2-3 minutes, then add the squash and garlic as well as the thyme sprigs. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is soft, 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, fry the bacon crisp, either in a heavy skillet, or on a baking sheet in a 450F oven. Let the bacon cool then crumble it together into small pieces. Put aside. 

Remove the soup from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glasses just before serving.Decorate with the crumbled bacon. Makes 24-30 shots or 6 appetizer size servings. 

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Rustic Oven Baked Pancake

rp8Brunch. I love that word. For me it’s tied with fun times with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Almost festive. This Swedish oven baked pancake is a wonderful option next time you have friends staying for the weekend. Traditionally chunks of bacon are added to the batter before baking, although I prefer it without. The reason being has nothing to do with taste or flavour. Serving it plain gives you the opportunity to consume it savoury or sweet. A side of fried bacon or sausages drizzled with maple syrup is a mouth watering salty option. Whipped cream and strawberry or blueberry jam with a dusting of icing sugar is ideal for the sweet tooth. It’s easy to make and its moon landscape surface is sure to make a longer lasting impression than the more common flat pancake.

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3 cups milk

1 1/3 cups flour

5 eggs

pinch of salt and sugar.

Butter

Pre-heat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, sift the flour into the milk and whisk together until a smooth mixture forms. 

Add the eggs, salt and sugar and keep whisking until well blended.

Pour into a buttered 11”X17” baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbles have formed. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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Budapest Roll

b7I was quite spoiled growing up. Having a stay at home mom who baked and cooked everything from scratch had its perks. I’m sure I wasn’t always appreciative about it though. I mean, why couldn’t we have tasteless store bought loaves of bread like most of my friends? I do now, however, look back at it all with very fond memories and a lot of gratitude. Breads, cookies, cakes and jams as well as all kinds of food. One of my all time favourites and a real treat was “Budapestrulle”. A melt-in-your-mouth meringue and hazelnut roll with whipped cream and mandarins. Originally created by Swedish pastry chef Ingvar Strid in the 1950’s. It has, surprisingly, no resemblance to Hungary’s capital Budapest. It is quite easy to make although you might need to take a deep breath before rolling it up. I guarantee you will love it. In this recipe I have substituted the hazelnuts with almonds which works just as well.

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6 egg whites

1 1/3 cup sugar

150g ground almonds

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 cup whipping cream

2 cans mandarin oranges

Dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar while beating the egg whites on low speed. With the use of a spatula, carefully fold in the ground almonds and vanilla with the egg whites. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 min, or until set. You can check by poking it with a toothpick. If it comes out dry, it’s ready. Move meringue and parchment paper to a drying rack and let cool completely. While meringue is cooling, drain the mandarin slices. They need to be fairly dry before being put on the cake.

Flip the cake upside down onto a new sheet of parchment paper. Carefully peel off the parchment paper (brush it with warm water if it doesn’t loosen). Spread the whipped cream over the bottom of the cake. Place the mandarin slices evenly on top of the cream.

Now comes the tricky part. The rolling. Don’t panic if it cracks or start to break. Place the long side of the cake in front of you and start rolling it. Don’t press too hard (you’ll end with an empty roll of meringue and a pile of whipped cream and mandarines in front of it if you do.) I find using the parchment paper helps the rolling ones you get started (hold on to the paper rather then the cake). Remember not to press too hard. Once rolled up make sure the edge of the roll is facing down.

Melt the chocolate and drizzle on top. A dusting of icing sugar is pretty as well. Cut diagonally in a zig-zag pattern so that you end up with triangular pieces.

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