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archive for chocolate

back on track

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Recipe: mendiants

At the start of the summer I had grand plans to resume long trail runs, big hikes, and backpacking with Neva while exploring new wildernesses. Then we got a puppy. And while Yuki is an exceptional dog, puppy training can derail some (or all) of those big summertime adventures. The incessant smoke from western wildfires didn’t help either. As September neared, my oncologist said I could stop my tamoxifen (estrogen modulator), which I had been taking daily for a decade to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. That was great news! Except I think it left me feeling tired. In the last month, I’ve finally begun to pull myself out of this funk that slowly crept in and took over my life. Part of that process involved long overdue household upgrades, massive cleaning, and also important life updates – like who will take Yuki and Neva if we both die? Folks, make sure you have a will and make sure it is up to date! Another part was putting my physical and mental health ahead of things like social engagements, social media, other people’s drama, or this blog. The older I get, the more I value my time and what I do with it.


quality time outside with a good friend and good pups



Before we get to the super fast, super easy, super awesome recipe, I need to share Maggie’s story in the hopes that someone out there will see her and realize that their life will be incomplete without this sweet girl. Maggie was surrendered this summer to RezDawg Rescue (the wonderful organization that rescued our beloved Yuki). She was terribly malnourished and neglected. Under the care of her foster family, she has returned to a healthy weight and her beautiful coat is growing back. Despite what she’s been through, she has a lot of love to give. Maggie is a smart and gentle 5-6 year old yellow lab mix who is looking for her forever family and is available for adoption now. Believe me, if we could handle a third dog, she would be my girl. If you or someone you know is interested in providing Maggie with the loving and caring home she deserves, you can apply to adopt at this link: https://www.petstablished.com/pets/public/6615. She is currently being fostered in Longmont, Colorado. You don’t have to live in Colorado to adopt Maggie!

maggie is on santa’s nice list



This year’s cookie list is shorter than last year’s list for the sake of my sanity. One of the simplest and most popular sweets I distributed last year were mendiants, which I learned to make 11 years ago in my advanced pastry skills program. Traditionally, these one- or two-bite French confections are disks of dark chocolate studded with dried fruits and nuts. They are crazy easy to make if you merely melt the chocolate without bothering to temper, but tempering the chocolate gives the final product a shiny finish, that distinctive snap, and a longer shelf life. I had a lot of fun thinking up flavor, texture, and visual combinations.

dark chocolate, candied kumquats, hazelnuts, dried apricots, chopped raw pistachios, toasted coconut flakes, pulverized freeze-dried raspberries, cocoa nibs, candied ginger, dried organic rose buds, flake sea salt, almonds, dried cranberries



If you opt to melt your chocolate, do it gently over a water bath or at half power in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each zap session. If you decide to temper the chocolate, you can see how I go about the seed method. You’re not limited to dark chocolate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are a little finicky compared to dark chocolate due to the milk solids and cocoa butter content. They tend to burn more easily and temper at a lower temperature, so you’ll have to be more vigilant.

seeding the melted chocolate



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skepticism

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Recipe: salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies

“Have you tried Alison Roman’s salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookie?”

Ellen and I were discussing shortbread cookies when she asked the question. I actually had it on my list of recipes to try, but I hadn’t tried them yet. She hadn’t tried them either, but she didn’t see what all the fuss was about. And there has been a lot of fuss over these cookies in baking circles. I’m always looking for good shortbread recipes because I find those to be the best cookies to ship. Fast forward a week and Ellen is texting me as she recovers from foot surgery. A friend had made the cookies and dropped some off for her convalescence. “They are gooooood.” Okay, I trust Ellen’s tastes, so I set about making a batch to see what was what.


we took some backcountry skiing, because that’s what we do



The first batch I baked was very frustrating. The weights and volume measurements in the recipe didn’t really jive and had discrepancies by as much as 15%. I went with weights, because that’s far more accurate and easier to troubleshoot. The cookies spread too much and too quickly once they went into the oven, which could very well be my altitude (8500 feet above sea level). While the texture and flavor were good, the appearance was unacceptable (for my standards). Even baking the second half of that batch at a lower temperature and for longer resulted in more spreading than I was willing to tolerate, although slightly less. Research on the internet revealed that the New York Times version used more flour. I figured it was worth another shot.

vanilla, butter, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, turbinado sugar, flake sea salt, chunk chocolate

beat together cold butter, sugars, and vanilla

mix in flour until just combined

add the chocolate



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the naming of things

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Recipe: chocolate grand marnier ice cream

We celebrated a victory of sorts this past week. Neva is now old enough that she can be at home alone for 8 or more hours without having an accident. This is wonderful news. However, Neva has a tendency to throw up if her tummy is empty for more than 4 or 5 hours. It would be an easy enough fix if we could have a dog sitter swing by to take her out to potty and give her treats during our absence, but finding a reliable anything in this town is another matter. A few months ago, I set about researching treat dispenser options. I didn’t find any that met our requirements: dog can’t reach it to break it, dispenser on self-timer. The closest one allowed the owner to dispense treats through an app on their smart phone (for $180). That doesn’t work when we’re in the backcountry with no cell reception. So we fashioned our own for a fraction of the cost and named it Dino.


this is dino

a simple dispenser made of random household items

the lid opens at the set time and drops the treats for neva



Jeremy built and programmed the microcontroller. I designed and built the dispenser, trained Neva, and tweaked the system to eliminate failure modes. We have it on the fireplace mantel so Neva can’t destroy the device. After much testing, we happily have a solid system that works! You can see a video of it operating and Neva getting treats on my Instagram.

We took a last minute trip to Crested Butte this weekend to fix some electronics at the house and figured why not make the most of it? We grabbed skis, the dog, our laptops, and drove west.


isolated storms dotted our route to crested butte

finally enough snow for neva to run on the dog-friendly ski trails



Halfway to Crested Butte, we met up with my good friend and professional pizza slinger in Buena Vista. I had texted her the day before, “Would you mind sharing some of your sourdough starter with me?” She placed the jar in my hand and in return I gave her a bag of cheese, salumi, nuts, fancy salt, Sumo oranges, and dog treats. This is how food people roll. She rattled off feeding instructions which I promptly forgot because it was freezing in the cold wind (but she emailed me detailed instructions). We hugged good-bye and for the next two hours on the road, I worried that I was going to kill my sourdough starter. It just so happened that another good friend had given me a kombucha scoby the week prior. I attempted my first brew the day before I learned we were going to Crested Butte, so there was double anxiety that I might be killing both my scoby AND my sourdough starter. But I’m home now and they are both alive and well. In commemoration of not dying, I named the scoby Scooby, and the sourdough starter Wheatley.

happy scooby and happy wheatley



It’s always good to know how to do things. When it comes to food and cooking, the opportunities are endless and I am constantly learning something new. The last time I tried my hand at a boozy ice cream, I felt the results weren’t as firm as I would like an ice cream to be. I had been itching to test another recipe to improve on the texture. This chocolate Grand Marnier ice cream looked promising because it had chocolate, less alcohol than the last ice cream (alcohol prevents freezing), and I thickened the custard with more egg yolks.

cream, grand marnier, milk, orange, sugar, gelatin, eggs, water, chocolate (not pictured: vanilla extract, salt)

heat the sugar, salt, milk, and cream

steep the orange zest in the hot cream

chop the chocolate



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