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Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Recipe: gougères

For some reason, I had this naive notion in my head that there was plenty of time to get all of the holiday, work, house, and social tasks done before leaving town. I hadn’t counted on losing three of those days to back pain which turned my three remaining days into an all out assault on my to-do list. Do you bakers ever think to yourself in the middle of mixing a batch of cookie dough, “Maybe I’ll just give them three kinds of cookies instead of four…”? Because I think that quite a bit – especially when I reach up to scratch my forehead and wind up leaving a smear of creamed butter and brown sugar where the itch was. Still, I stuck with four types of cookies and tossed in a batch of brittle at the last minute to boot! At some point around midnight, I looked up from the hundreds of cookies on cooling racks covering every known inch of counter space and said, “I hate cookies.” Jeremy, who was in the final stretch of his exam-grading marathon held his hand up, his gaze still fixed upon the exam, muttering, “I’ll commiserate with you in just a moment.”

Truth is, I love giving cookies to people and watching their faces light up with smiles. Cookies are miniature edible gifts. Kids love cookies, adults love cookies, strangers love cookies. Most are hand-delivered although a few get shipped. If I happen to see you in that 48-hour window of time between The End of Baking and when I leave town, you should probably expect cookies. Wednesday was the day to wrap up all business, clean the house (because it sucks to come back home to a dirty house), deliver cookies, pack for Crested Butte, and meet up with people I don’t get to see very often.


ramen lunch at oak with erin

happy hour selfie with my baby cousin!



My aunt, cousins, and cousin-in-law made a detour to Boulder en route to Vail for a happy hour get together. When Mom learned that her younger sister was going to be seeing us in Colorado, she instructed me to gift them a bunch of food stuffs because… well, because Chinese mothers always think you will starve. I tucked four kinds of cookies in the bag, too. My aunt was recovering from the flu and she apologized for not making some cookies to give us. I reassured her that cookies were the last things I wanted to see for a while. The hope is that my immediate future involves three flavors of skiing, savory snacks, and time spent with my guy. Now, if you are knee-deep in party season, I have a nice savory appetizer to share. It’s cheesy, elegant, and has a French name.

gougères: water, white pepper, flour, gruyère, eggs, salt, sugar, butter



Gougères are savory little baked puffs of choux pastry. It’s similar to the puffs in cream puffs, but these are baked with cheese. You can use all sorts of cheeses, but Gruyère is my favorite in gougères. They even rhyme!

combine the butter, sugar, salt, and water in a pan

add the flour all at once

quickly stir the flour into the liquid



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the winter routine

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Recipe: chinese orange beef

Each fall I return to the slopes and wonder if I will remember how to telemark ski. The first run brings painful aching to the arches and a burning in the quads, but I know that it will get better on the second run, and the third, and… Curiously, the pain seemed to be shorter lived this time. Trail running has a lot to do with that. Usually our first day on the mountain (resorts) involves a lot of crappy snow, but this year’s first day was sweet. Our mountains have received a good bit of natural snow and cold temperatures for snow-making. I’m getting jazzed for ski season and all the different kinds of skiing to be done.


powder at copper mountain



The news is aflutter with the lake effect snow storms in western New York dumping several feet in some areas, bringing back memories of my graduate school days in Ithaca. We only got the occasional big dump snow day at Cornell and there’s something about East Coast snow that is so very different from Rocky Mountain powder. Walking to and from campus through the snow, we’d have to carry Kaweah when we crossed the roads because her paws would get wet in the salted slush and then freeze. On nights when we worked late and I was too tired to cook, we’d sometimes order takeout from Ling Ling’s which required slipping and sliding up and down snowy hills in a car that wasn’t suited for winter. Whenever anyone in my department discussed ordering from Ling Ling’s, we grad students always laughed and held an imaginary phone up to our ear, “HelloLingLing!” No matter what you ordered, the restaurant always said, “OkayTenMinute.” I was a fan of the orange beef – a Americanized Chinese food guilty pleasure.

green onions, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, white vinegar, flank steak, oranges, egg whites, cornstarch, sugar, salt, baking soda, chili garlic sauce

slice the orange zest in strips

slice the flank steak across the grain

prepped ingredients



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cuckoo for coconut

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Recipe: toasted coconut custard tart

It’s been snowing on and off since last week. Exciting, right? But you can’t go ski just any snow. We had received several inches of fluffy, dry snow on top of bare ground, which meant there was no base to speak of. Rather than being overeager and rutting my skis, I opted for a trail run when we finally got out of single digits. I’m so glad I waited, because the sun came out and helped pack down the snow on the trails, and then we got more snow. What a lovely pair of words… MORE SNOW. Despite 11°F and nasty winds over the weekend, we got our first ski tour of the season in (rather late) and it was fantastic!


rosy sunrise

the sun is far more welcome in winter

jeremy makes his way through snowy trees

so happy that winter finally decided to show up



Snow on the ground is a wonderful thing. Jeremy and I began longing for ski season about 2 weeks after our last ski tour in mid may. Despite all of the trail running and hiking and biking and backpacking of summer, I feel like I’m stronger in winter. I burn more calories, too! We don’t feel as guilty indulging in a little dessert during the cold weather months. But even if you aren’t a ski dork like me, I tell you what – this toasted coconut custard tart is worth making and eating. Just give yourself an extra hour of walking.

for the tart crust: egg, butter, salt, flour, confectioner’s sugar

pulse the butter into the dry ingredients

drizzle in some egg yolk

the dough should clump together, but remain grainy



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