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april doings

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry brioche

When I left the house Tuesday morning, we still had a couple feet of snow blanketing the yard. Several hours later I stepped off my plane into the sticky, warm embrace of Charlotte, North Carolina to catch my connection to Virginia. April is about as late as I am willing to visit the southeast because it’s usually after my local ski resorts close, but before Virginia weather becomes unbearably and oppressively hot and humid. Jeremy and I spent a few days with my parents – a belated celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary. Really though, any opportunity for us to spend time together is a celebration of sorts. We dined out, we dined in, we drank many fine bottles of wine, everyone had a lovely time. It’s also a chance for me to observe how my parents live their lives when we are apart. Obviously, they don’t indulge in the wine and food the way they do when we visit, but I like knowing that they are surrounded by caring friends and neighbors, that they get regular exercise, and that they are generally happy and in good health.


sunset from my parents’ backyard

breakfast out at a local diner

dad pours a 24 year old dom pérignon

the view of the front yard



As you can see, spring has full on sprung in Williamsburg and I imagine it is that way around most parts of the country. Jeremy and I did a quick 5-mile run that didn’t involve clambering over snow or scrambling up rocky trails (crazy, I know) and gave us green-out because everything is so leafy and springy. Dad took us night-fishing and we caught and released a couple of channel cats (catfish). We met with neighbors over cocktails and shared a dinner with a longtime family friend. I cooked red wine braised short ribs for my parents. And we watched The Revenant, which made me homesick for the American West. Also, I couldn’t wait to get back to my little pup pup who was living it up at doggy camp with all of her pals.

post bath, pre-treats



Around this time last year, we were prepping our house and our lives to welcome little Neva. We knew full well that our freedom was limited, so we got our last spring backcountry ski trips and trail runs in, we enjoyed some meals out, and I shot a lot of recipes. But one recipe in particular was begging to be made. If you know anything about me, you know that I am crazy for huckleberries. [The thought had occurred to me to change this blog to Use Real Huckleberries, but I am still quite devoted to butter.] One day, a search for “huckleberry brioche” brought me to a million blueberry brioche recipes. How is that? The blueberry brioche recipe came from a cookbook by the name of Huckleberry, which was written by the owner of a Santa Monica bakery, Huckleberry. Well, I didn’t want to make blueberry brioche, but blueberries are often substituted for huckleberries, which are harder to come by (but so much better than blueberries), so why not substitute hucks for blues? Why not! Of course, if you don’t have hucks – you can always make the recipe as it was originally intended.

huckleberries, lemon, yeast, sugar, bread flour, all-purpose flour, butter, eggs, salt, milk, cream, egg yolks



There was a major snafu from the beginning and that was because there is an error in the original recipe. The flours were listed by weight and volume. The volumes were correct, but the weights were not. Unfortunately, I mostly go by weight when possible, so my dough looked really dry and wrong. I stopped before adding the butter and looked online for clues. Apparently, the cookbook has a number of errors that people were (rightfully) upset about. The weights for the flours were doubled in the blueberry brioche recipe. Luckily, I caught it in time to double the rest of the ingredients. I wound up with two loaves instead of wasting my precious ingredients. Still, I would have liked to dope slap the editor.

Fresh berries are going to give you the best results. In April, my only choice was to use frozen huckleberries, but my reasoning went like this: the fresh berries are placed in the freezer while the dough is being prepared, so the berries are partially frozen when you use them. My berries were just MORE frozen. See? I’ll tell you why it makes a difference and how to counter the effects a few paragraphs down. If you can use fresh, use fresh – but frozen will work in a pinch.


whisk the yeast into the warm milk

add the eggs, yolk, flours, sugar, salt

the dough should start to pull away from the sides



**Jump for more butter**

the berry essence of spring

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Recipe: baked strawberry doughnuts

I’m ready for it. Ready for spring. The ski resorts are closing one by one in Colorado as the season winds down. I’m okay with that, because spring means spring skiing in the backcountry. It means climbing glazed ice in the mornings when the temperatures still dip below freezing. It means you have to unzip the vents in your ski pants and strip down to short sleeves because the air is warm and the sun beats down on you as you make your way up the mountains. Talk about earning your turns. But by mid-morning, the snow beneath your skis is heavy with water and feels soft when you glide over it. And there aren’t those horrible winter winds. It’s a great way to gear up for summer trail running, hiking, and backpacking.


neva playing in fresh snow late last week

i nabbed last tracks on a local trail the day before it closed for elk calving season



Jeremy and I are preparing for summer, too. We’ve been updating our summer running and hiking socks (I am a huge fan of Bridgedale socks) as well as some footwear and fuels for endurance training. We are especially excited about taking Neva trail running now that she is a year old. She has been pretty good on our ski tours this winter and we hope that translates well to trail runs. But there is still plenty of snow in the high country with more in the forecast through the end of the month, so we shall ski until we can’t ski. Neva seems fine with that.

neva dug a hole to china looking for her tennis ball

ah, the insanity…



Another reason spring is on my brain is strawberries. You can find strawberries all year in grocery stores, but the winter berries that ship in from the southern hemisphere are flavorless at best. It isn’t until spring when the berries start to look, smell, and taste like actual strawberries. I bought a few pounds of organic strawberries last week to see if they were any good. They weren’t the best, but they weren’t bad! I know in a month or so they will be much better and then I’ll set to work making strawberry jam and strawberry vodka and strawberry syrup for summer entertaining. But for now, these baked strawberry doughnuts are the bombdiggity even if the strawberries aren’t at their peak.

you’ll need to butter your doughnut pans

and flour them



I bought doughnut pans for baking doughnuts a few years ago and liked the results well enough. The doughnuts don’t come out like their fried counterparts, but they are still quite good and take a smaller bite out of your caloric allowance. Plus, there is the added bonus of easier cleanup. Cleaning up after deep-frying is a pain. I didn’t feel enough excitement about the baked doughnuts to make them very often – partly because I stored the pans in a hard to reach cabinet and partly because I could get a really good cake doughnut on the road between Crested Butte and Nederland (Daylight Donuts makes great doughnuts). And then I found a recipe for strawberry doughnuts made with real strawberries.

flour, vegetable oil, salt, baking soda, eggs, butter (for the pans), strawberries, sugar, vanilla, buttermilk

stir the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together

combine the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla

it might look curdled, but that’s okay



**Jump for more butter**

friends with kids

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Recipe: pralines and cream ice cream

It may be spring, but snow is back in the forecast! We’re pretty psyched about this because last week our home in the Front Range got about… 40 inches of snow. We stuck it out in Crested Butte though, because we had a prior obligation, and because there are plenty of things to do here if there isn’t any powder. Although powder really is the very best thing you can ski. We took Neva uphill skiing on the mountain again and she was actually better behaved than the first time and we all had a lot of fun skiing down.


crested butte had some colorful sunsets

and it was a little windy (neva’s ears were both straight up before this snap)

this is neva having a ball



We are just now wrapping up a weekend hosting some of my dear friends (since elementary school and junior high) and their families in Crested Butte for a ski vacation. Despite the lack of fresh powder, they all enjoyed the mountain, the town, and the scenery. There were kids, too. A baby, a tweener, and a teen. I don’t really hang out with kids too much because I don’t have any by choice, but I like playing auntie. I always marvel at what incredible parents all of my friends are because my friends are incredible people. Aside from happy talk, funny faces, and bouncing babies around, I am at a loss with kids younger than 2 years. But I chuckled to myself watching the tweener and teen – two sisters – interact on the slopes, the lifts, and at our house. They are normal sisters who have their spats and know how to push buttons, but also love each other and are friends. These are good, sweet girls. I hope they recognize what an important bond they share. I know that’s hard to do when you’re that age, but a sister is one of the best things in the world.

the baby was fascinated with the lights

super sweet sisters



Even though there are plenty of great restaurants in Crested Butte for dining out, I felt the privacy and quiet of our house would be nice for a couple of dinners. I kept things simple so that I could spend quality time with my friends. For dessert, I served a couple of homemade ice creams and brownies. I think of homemade ice cream as the easiest dessert because you can make it ahead of time, you can make multiple flavors, and people can have as much or as little or as many kinds as they want. Because it is so versatile, I like to collect a variety of ice cream recipes to draw from throughout the year. I recently tried making a batch of my mom’s favorite flavor, which was also my grandma’s favorite flavor. You know those bank security questions? If there was a question that asked, “What is your mother’s favorite ice cream flavor?” the answer would be: pralines and cream.

eggs, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean, salt, pralines (not pictured: vanilla extract)



A couple of weeks ago I posted a recipe for homemade pralines. They’re pretty easy to make, but if you aren’t in the candy-making mood, you can just as easily use purchased pralines. My method is straightforward: make vanilla ice cream (our favorite recipe comes from David Lebovitz) and stir chopped pralines into the freshly churned batch. Commercial varieties of pralines and cream all seem to have a ribbon of caramel swirled into the ice cream alongside the pralines. You can stir that into the ice cream with the pralines, but I just felt that sometimes it’s possible to have too much sugar.

heat milk, cream, salt, and sugar

steep a vanilla bean and the seeds in the warmed milk mixture

roughly chop the pralines



**Jump for more butter**