Texas Sheet Cake

Texas Sheet Cake isn’t really a thing up here in the Great White North. I hadn’t heard of it until about 2008 when I started reading food blogs, and saw The Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Her recipe is a thin chocolate cake that you top with a boiled chocolate and pecan frosting, and it’s supposed to be a no muss, no fuss affair. I finally made one a few years ago, although the icing component of the recipe I used was kind of a disaster (you can actually see it over here, check out #37).

I was excited to make one again for this week’s Baked Sunday Morning, because it’s always fun to tackle a recipe that didn’t work well in the past, but especially since the Baked boys put their own twist on it. Their recipe also has a thin chocolate cake base, but is topped with a peanut butter frosting and chopped peanuts. My own little twist was to sprinkle mini chocolate chips overtop, because while I love peanut butter, for some odd reason I don’t love actual peanuts in my treats.

Texas Sheet Cake Slice

The cake base was quick and easy to mix up, and I followed my friend Dafna’s advice and used a 4 qt saucepan, because the chocolate mixture you have to boil bubbles up pretty aggressively. The cake bakes up quickly in about 15 minutes, and you have to start making the frosting as soon as it goes into the oven, because the frosting has to be poured over the cake while it’s hot. The peanut butter frosting is very different from a traditional buttercream; instead you need to bring evaporated milk, butter, peanut butter and salt to a boil in a saucepan, and mix it into a pile of icing sugar. It’s very runny and more like a glaze, which then gets poured over the hot chocolate cake.

I cut my cake while it was room temperature, but you’ll get cleaner cuts if you chill it in the fridge before slicing. The cake component is super hydrated, and not that sweet, which balances out the peanut butter frosting. So far, the slice I tried was room temperature, but the boys note that they prefer this cake chilled, so I’ll try another slice tomorrow from the fridge. One final thing: the recipe calls for 1/4 cup shortening which I didn’t have, so I just left it out to no ill effect.

TEXAS (SHEET CAKE) FOREVER!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Cherry Chip Cake

by byn on February 25, 2015

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Icing

Cherry Chip Cake

When I was a little kid, my birthday cake choices pretty much alternated between Rainbow Bit and Cherry Chip. I was pretty excited when I discovered how to make Rainbow Bit Birthday Cake from scratch, and when I saw this Cherry Almond Bundt Cake on The Novice Chef Blog, I knew it was going to be another important moment in my life.

There are some fairly terrifying ingredients in this recipe, but if you can handle two jars of maraschino cherries and a weird tube of almond paste, you’re almost all the way to Cherry Chip heaven. I thought this would be perfect for Valentine’s treats, and I mixed my way to two dozen cupcakes and one little loaf, which I legit could not. stop. eating. It tastes even BETTER than I remember, and the pretty pink is just so cute! It’s very hydrated, and really almond-y, and my co-workers went nuts for it. Except the one allergic to nuts of course — I made him some shortbread hearts too.

If you go the loaf route, you can top it with a quick glaze made of icing sugar and maraschino cherry juice, but if you make cupcakes, you have to take Danielle’s advice and mix up some Cream Cheese Frosting. We’ll talk about that frosting another day, because it’s taken me 5 years to figure out to make pipe-able cream cheese frosting, and we all have Annie to thank for that!

Cherry Chip Cupcake

Cherry Chip Cake

Source: The Novice Chef Blog

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes + 1 loaf (or one big bundt cake)

Ingredients

Cake

16 oz jar maraschino cherries

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

4 oz almond paste

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp almond extract

1/2 cup milk

Glaze

1 cup icing sugar

2 tbsp cherry juice

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350, and line your cupcake tins with liners and spray your loaf pan (or bundt pan if you’re using that).
  2. Strain the cherries, saving the juice for later. Add the cherries to your food processor and pulse until chopped. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and 1/2 cup cherry juice.
  5. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, almond paste and sugar until well blended. My almond paste was in a tube and kind of tough to blend in. In retrospect, I should have kneaded it a bit before adding it, or maybe warmed it up a touch.
  6. Beat in the eggs two at a time, scraping down the bowl in between, then mix in the vanilla and almond extract.
  7. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk/cherry juice. (I did three additions of dry//two additions of wet). Fold in the chopped cherries.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes (start checking after 15 minutes to make sure) and the loaf for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  9. For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and cherry juice and pour over top.

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5th Blog-iversary!!!!!

by byn on February 17, 2015

in General

When I was getting ready for my trips to New York last Fall, I was trying to think of all the places I ate the last time I visited The Big Apple in 2009. I was about to check the Planet Byn archives to re-live all the good eats when I realized…I didn’t have this website back then. At this point, after FIVE YEARS of blogging, it just seems like it’s always been part of my life. I still love it just as much today as I did five years ago. Let’s take a look back at most viewed posts, my favourite posts, and some fun highlights of the year!

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts {from the archives}:

  1. Dinosaur Birthday Cake
  2. Lemon Meringue Cookies
  3. School Bus Birthday Cake
  4. Easter Candy Bark & Homemade Cream Eggs
  5. Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts {from the last year}:

  1. The Dream Slice – My first giveaway!
  2. Bananas Cake – Love this post for Baked Sunday Mornings because I re-created the cover photo from Baked Elements.
  3. Vanilla Bean Malt Cake – My #1 overall recipe from Baked Elements.
  4. Blueberry Lime Cornmeal Muffins – #MessyBakerMonday FTW!
  5. Turtles Thumbprint Cookies – Mmmmm.

My Favourite 5 Posts of the Last Year:

  1. S’Mores Ice Cream – To celebrate Gastropost’s 100th Mission, I churned up this Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with a milk chocolate swirl, and graham cracker crust crumble.
  2. Compost Cookies – I finally cracked open my Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook to make these amazing cookies.
  3. Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Squares – These squares are pretty special because they’re the first treat I brought in to my new department. They loved them!
  4. Brioche Buns – My white whale. So happy I conquered this one.
  5. Snickers Brownie Bites – Just love everything about this post. Hi Dwayne!

The highlight of my foodie year was obviously the launch of Baked Occasions, and my trip to NYC for the opening of Baked Tribeca. It was just the most amazing, incredible opportunity, and I love that I got to be a part of it. I won’t go on and on about it again, because you can read 1,000 words on that experience here.

When I started this site 5 years ago, all I wanted was a space to document my baking projects and adventures in the kitchen. I love that I’ve kept it up over the years, and I think the longest I’ve gone without a post is a month! I love that my photos have improved, although I still don’t have the time or patience for that much photography. I love that I now have blogging friends, and not just online but in real life. I love that when I started this blog I had never baked bread, made marshmallows or owned an ice cream maker, and now I’m a bread-baking, marshmallow-making, ice cream-churning machine. I love that my Mom called my Aunt Joan in Nova Scotia to read this post to her over the phone!

I’m excited for this year! I seem to have accumulated a large stack of cookbooks over the past year, so I want to do a deep dive on some of them, and actually make something else out of the Momofuku Milk Bar book. I want to host a few more Gatherings (I know I say that every year). I want to bake more pies, because how can I ever hope to get better at crimping the edges of pie dough if I only make two pies a year? I want to keep up with my Baked Sunday Mornings crew, because that has seriously become my favourite part of blogging in the past year. I want to add to My Favourites, because I still need to document my favourite recipes for Banana Muffins, Chocolate Chip Cookies and many others!

Thanks for reading!

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Milk & Cookies Shooters

Today we’re having a Virtual Baby shower to celebrate our friend Jan, and her baby boy that’ll be here quite soon! Good thing Jan herself is an expert in party planning, so I had a look on her website, Family Bites, and in her book, Gatherings, to see what I could bring to this party. I found this post for Milk & Cookies Cocktails on her blog, and as she writes, what a perfect idea for a baby shower.

This is a pretty quick and easy addition to a treat table for a baby shower, and as a bonus you could even prepare the cookie garnishes in advance and pop them in the freezer until party time. You could fill the glasses with regular milk, almond milk, or even bring it to another level with milkshakes. For the non-expecting party guests, check out this recipe for Milk Punch (milk/cream + bourbon + sugar + vanilla = YES!) because, let’s be honest, sometimes I require booze to make it through a baby shower!

Congratulations to Jan + Family! Wishing you all the best as your wait for your little guy to arrive!

Make sure you check out what everyone else brought to the party!

Milk & Cookies Shooters

Source: Family Bites

Ingredients

– a batch of your favourite chocolate chip cookie dough (this is mine)

– lollipop sticks (I got mine at Bulk Barn – make sure you know what size glasses you’ll be using so you know whether to get short or long sticks)

– blue & white sugar (again, Bulk Barn)

– honey or agave syrup

– martini glasses or little plastic wine glasses

Directions

  1. First get your cookie garnishes ready by rolling the cookie dough into 1″ balls (I found it helped to chill the dough for about half an hour before doing this so it wasn’t too sticky). Press a lollipop stick in the middle of the dough and reshape so it’s covered (don’t poke the sticks through the dough, which is what I did first, and just makes a mess). Place cookie sticks on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake according to the recipe.
  2. To get the glasses ready, pour some honey onto a plate and mix up your sprinkles on a separate plate. Dip the edges of the glass lightly into the honey, then dip in the sugar and kind of press it in a bit. Keep the glasses upside down for a bit so the sugar can adhere.
  3. When ready to serve, flip the glasses over and fill with milk. Add the cookies. Voila!

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Nutella Chip Cookies

by byn on February 11, 2015

in Cookies

Nutella Chip Cookies

There are some people you just love to bake for, and my friend Janelle is one of them (previous examples here and here). She’s always so excited to receive treats, and they literally go directly into her desk drawer, for fear that someone will see them, and she’ll have to share. I love this!

I just discovered at Christmastime that J loves Nutella, but I already had a Mint Chocolate Chip version of this Brownie Brittle on my holiday baking agenda for her. Good thing February 5th was World Nutella Day, and the Baked Boys have a recipe for Nutella Chip Cookies in their new book to celebrate.

I made these last weekend and gave them to J today; she declared they’re her new favourite, even AHEAD of the Brownie Brittle. And that’s saying a lot!

Just a heads up that you have to chill the dough for 4 hours before baking; I suggest scooping the dough prior to chilling, which I noted below.

Nutella Chip Cookies

Source: Baked Occasions

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cubed, at cool room temperature (take out of fridge 20 minutes before baking)

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup Nutella

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked and coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and Nutella and mix until fully combined.
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again until fully combined.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and salt, and mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough into balls, and roll with your hands until nicely smooth. Place on the baking sheet, right next to each other, and when done, wrap the entire sheet in plastic wrap. Chill for a minimum of 4 hours or up to a few days.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, and place cookies about 3″ apart. Bake for 11-13 minutes (actually 14 minutes was perfect in my oven). Let cool about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack. Obviously you need to eat a couple while they’re still warm.

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Toffee Coffee Cake Surprise

I’ve always liked the mythology surrounding Groundhog Day. Where I live in Canada, we look to a little critter called Wiarton Willie to predict the length of our winter, but I’ve always been partial to Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania. He’s just so much cuter. I’ll definitely pay attention tomorrow morning to see if both Willie and Phil see their shadows.

While I never really though about baked goods that celebrate Groundhog Day, the Baked boys have got you covered. This is really one of the most fun parts of Baked Occasions; there are recipes for every random holiday you can think of.

This Toffee Coffee Cake has a filling “burrowed” (get it?) in the middle, which is made up of chopped Skor bars and toasted almonds. The cake itself is nice and hydrated due to a heap of sour cream in the batter. The method for making the cake was a little odd to me, as you first mix together the butter, flour, sugars and vanilla, before adding the eggs and then the sour cream. The batter is quite thick, and I kept checking the recipe to make sure I wasn’t supposed to add milk at some point.

Of course I was too excited to try the cake, and it was still a bit warm when I tried to take it out of the pan, so a little bit of the top was stuck to the bottom. I gently pried it out and dusted it with icing sugar to hide the lumps, but I guarantee no one at work tomorrow is going to care. Happy Groundhog Day!

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

 

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January on Planet Byn {2015}

by byn on January 31, 2015

in Monthly Recaps

IMG_5661

I’m happy to report that it was a pretty good January on Planet Byn! I’m normally in grumpy hibernation mode, but was actually in fairly good cheer this month. I didn’t eat out much, but I cooked a lot at home. Here’s what I was up to on the food front:

  • My friend Christina hosted a potluck at her house, and it was EPIC. I’m a huge fan of potlucks anyway, but when you have a potluck full of food bloggers, it’s just brought to another level.  I can’t even list everything that was there, there was just so.much.food.  My personal feeling about potlucks is that they are always full of main dishes and desserts, so I decided to bring a kale salad to balance out all the rich dishes I knew my friends were bringing. I made this one from Kiwi + Bean and am now obsessed with it! I also brought this Pear Galette, but had some structural issues with it. It tasted amazing though, so I’m going to make it again with a couple of changes.
  • The Superbowl of awards shows went down, and Kristine came over as per usual to watch and police the red carpet. We had this White Cheddar Mac & Cheese from Hungry Girl Por Vida, and while I was skeptical of all the stuff in it (apple, sage, caramelized onions), we really liked it. I made the kale salad again, plus that Peppermint Roll I talked about the other day.
  • I made these Caramel Shortbread Squares for my new friend at work – the one who is allergic to nuts – and I didn’t kill him! Hooray! I actually ran all the bowls, spatulas and everything I was going to be using through the dishwasher before I made them, just to be sure there was zero traces of nuts. He loved them and was so happy he got a treat, after 6 months of me not letting him try anything I brought in.
  • Everyone knows I have a pretty severe seafood aversion, but one of the things I’ve come around to in the last year or so is shrimp (mostly due to Carole making me try everything). I conquered another milestone this month when I actually cooked it at home. Unprecedented! I made these Chili Cashew Shrimp Noodles from Half-Baked Harvest and they were so good! I am actually going to make this again this week.
  • I made these Banana Bread Muffin Tops from Oh She Glows, and loved them. Danielle made them too, and agrees. It’s hard to believe they have no butter, flour or sugar in them, instead they use coconut oil, ground oats, and dates.
  • My friend Gwendolyn was in town from Calgary and we met for lunch at Lisa Marie, and it was OUTSTANDING. Seriously, we shared a Bacon Explosion Benedict and Fried Hen & Waffles, where the waffle was of the jalapeno cornbread variety. On the side we tried their trademark Pad Thai Fries as well as the Dijon & Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes. I guess if you’re only going to eat out once in a month, you might as well go out with bang like that!

Other non-foodie things I was obsessed with this month:

  • The Bachelor started again, and I’m not even ashamed to tell you that I refuse to make plans on Monday nights because I need to watch this live.
  • I saw American Sniper, and was riveted by this beefcake version of Bradley Cooper. Highly recommend.
  • My Book Club met to discuss Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and I picked The Girl on the Train for our next book, as it’s supposedly the next Gone Girl.
  • I only read one book this month, One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I really enjoyed it, so will now have to pick up some of her other books. Danielle said Me Before You is amazing.
  • Three words: BEYONCE DANCE PARTY. Enough said.

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Gingersnaps with Lemon Sugar

Gingersnaps really aren’t my favourite type of cookie, and I don’t necessarily reach for citrus desserts, but I decided to give this week’s Baked Sunday Morning recipe a try anyway.

I was mostly motivated by the fact that this is a one bowl, one spatula recipe, and it was really quick to mix up. The dough includes vegetable oil instead of butter, molasses, and of course ground ginger and cinnamon. My dough was really soft, and hard to roll into balls, and a little bit challenging to roll around in the lemon sugar.

The recipe notes that you can bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes for a chewy cookie, or 15-20 minutes for a crunchy cookie. I went with 12 minutes, because if I have to eat a gingersnap, I want it to be the chewy kind, not the crumbly kind.

My cookies turned out really flat, so I’m curious to see how my fellow recipe testers fared. They were crunchy around the edges, but chewy in the middle, and I was surprised the lemon sugar didn’t give them an overwhelming citrus flavour.

You can find the recipe here!

More Baked Sunday Mornings here!

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Brioche Burger Buns

by byn on January 17, 2015

in Bread

Brioche Burger Buns

These burger buns have been my white whale. Even though I feel like I’ve conquered my fear of yeast over the past five years, for some reason, this recipe has given me nothing but frustration the handful of times I’ve tried it.  But I didn’t give up!

I finally had success with it over the holidays, and it was a very humbling experience. Since you can’t go to therapy for bread baking disasters, here’s where I will work through my issues, and document my notes to myself for next time:

  • The first few times I attempted these buns were on weeknights after work when I had limited time. Of course it was a disaster. I may have gotten too cocky after some of the bread baking successes I’ve had as of late. I think it’s better for me to leave the yeast projects to the weekend.
  • The recipe notes that the dough is supposed to be on the sticky side, so I was always afraid of adding flour during the kneading process. This resulted in a dough that was practically impossible to shape after the first rise. Lesson learned: it’s okay to add more flour whenever it starts to get sticky during the 8-10 minute knead time. The buns will still be okay; they won’t turn out tough.
  • My dough was still quite tacky during the shaping stage, but instead of giving up like the last time I tried these, I found that a light spritz of non-stick spray right on my hands really helped me to shape them and not get so frustrated.
  • I really need to follow all the instructions. I thought – I’m sure I don’t need to spray the plastic wrap with non-stick spray – to place on the shaped dough balls for their second rise. Cut to me prying the off the plastic wrap and it taking half the dough with it. Womp womp. I sprayed the crap out of it this time, and all was well.
  • Seriously, I need to follow the instructions. Each time I tried to make these, I skipped the baking sheet of water on the lowest rack in the oven. Each time my buns baked up flat, without the puffy shape you want in a burger bun to sink your teeth into. Of course you can see where this is going. I finally added it, and of course, my buns puffed up just like they were supposed to. Success!

As far back as this post in 2010, you can see evidence of my unhappiness with store-bought buns, and now my burger bun dreams have finally come true. These babies are soft, but sturdy, and just taste incredible. Along with barbecued burgers in the summer, here are some other things I can’t wait to stuff into these: Pulled Braised Beef & Onions, Slowcooker Buffalo Chicken, Pulled Chicken with Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce and of course, yesterday’s Sloppy Janes.  They also freeze really well, so you can make a batch and stash the leftovers for another day.

Brioche Burger Buns

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

3 cups bread flour (13 1/2 oz)

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp butter, softened

1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)

3 tbsp milk

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp active dry yeast

1 egg

+ egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water)

+ sesame seeds for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Take a deep breath, and make sure you’re not in a rush. Okay? Let’s go.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter and with clean hands, rub it into the flour mixture until crumbly.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, add the water, then stir in the milk, sugar and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy. (If your yeast doesn’t foam, it’s dead. Buy new stuff and start again).
  4. Beat the egg in a little bowl with a fork.
  5. Alright, add the yeast mixture and the beaten egg to the flour mixture, and stir together with a spatula until everything comes together.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead it like you mean it for 8-10 minutes. The dough is quite sticky, so don’t be afraid to add more flour as you need it.
  7. When the dough is kneaded, shape into a ball and add to a lightly greased clean bowl (I spray it with non-stick spray), cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled, 1 – 2 hours. (Mine only takes 1 hour).
  8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. When the dough is ready, punch it down, then cut into 8-12 equal pieces, depending on how big you want the buns.
  9. Roll each piece into a ball, and if the dough is too sticky, spray your hands lightly with non-stick spray, and that’ll help.
  10. Place the dough balls on baking sheets (6 per sheet), then cover them with plastic wrap that you sprayed with non-stick spray. Don’t skip the non-stick spray, because I have, and it’s a disaster. Let the buns rise for another hour.
  11. Now this is key: take another baking sheet and fill it with water. Place a rack on the lowest level in the oven, and place the water filled baking sheet on it. Now preheat the oven to 400.
  12. Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake on the middle rack, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes, until nicely golden brown.

 

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Sloppy Janes

by byn on January 16, 2015

in Beef & Pork, Dinner

Sloppy Janes

Sloppy Joes have a bad wrap, right? They’re messy, meaty, and just not cute. But it turns out that when you make the sauce from scratch and stuff the filling inside fresh soft buns, they’re totally delicious, not to mention quick and satisfying.

I saw this recipe on A Cozy Kitchen a couple of years ago, and have been making it ever since. I was briefly interested in a vegetarian lentil version after having it at my friend Alexis’ for lunch one day, but settled back on this.

The delay in posting is partly attributed to my quest to make the perfect bun for these, which I finally did over the holidays. That’s them in the picture! I have so much more to say about that process that I’ll do a separate post tomorrow.

In the meantime, this is another legit one-pot 30 minute meal. The leftovers also freeze really well, which I like for quick winter weekend lunches. I’ve been eating these with my friend Heather‘s dill pickles and it’s an insanely good combination.

Finally, I am a lady, so I’m calling these Sloppy Janes, not Joes.

Sloppy Janes

Source: A Cozy Kitchen

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1/2 yellow pepper, diced

1 lb ground beef (I use extra-lean)

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated with a microplace

15oz crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup ketchup

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or 1/4 tsp if you don’t want them too spicy)

1 tsp brown sugar

+ burger buns, homemade if you’re up for it

+ grated cheddar

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and yellow pepper and saute for 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
  2. Add the ground beef, breaking it up as you stir, and cook until it’s no longer pink, about 5 more minutes. Add the garlic, and let cook for a minute more.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, ketchup, W sauce, cayenne pepper and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste and add more salt if it needs it.
  4. Serve on toasted buns with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese if you like.

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