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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



**Jump for more butter**

discards for the win

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Recipe: sourdough waffles

Our floor lamp in the great room is on an automatic timer. I generally try to have it come on a little after sunset, when the skies give up their light at the end of each day. We’ve been doing this “chasing the sun” schedule for nearly 13 years now, but I still feel a boost of giddiness when I get to start setting the timer for later each day. It’s not that I don’t love winter, because I do love it very much. I just think with a little over 3 weeks left of official winter, I’m looking forward to spring backcountry skiing, longer days, and hopefully some big ass spring storms to replenish that high country snowpack. In the meantime, we are dutifully logging our ski days as best as we can. And Neva is definitely happier for it.


little neva lives for the dog-friendly nordic trails

happiest pup on the planet



When I first read the care and maintenance instructions for my starter, Wheatley, I thought there was a typo. It said to take a small fraction of the starter, feed it, and discard the rest – either in the trash or the compost, but don’t pour it down the sink as it could grow and clog up the pipes. Discard? Food? I soon understood that keeping it all would be an exercise in madness. In an effort to reduce waste, I began to take the very smallest fraction (5 grams) of starter for feedings before bread-making and save the discard in the refrigerator for things like delicious, fluffy waffles.

starter discard

flour, starter discard, eggs, butter, baking soda, salt, sugar, buttermilk



Waffles and pancakes are a great way to use up discard or unfed starter. This recipe uses a cup of discard and easily doubles if you want to freeze waffles or pancakes for quick breakfasts on weekdays. It does require a little planning, which may present difficulty for the non-planners, but the rest of you will be just fine. The night before you make waffles (or pancakes), stir the discard, buttermilk, flour, and sugar together in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter overnight at room temperature. That’s called the sponge.

combine the discard, flour, sugar, and buttermilk

cover with plastic and let sit out overnight



**Jump for more butter**

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



**Jump for more butter**