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white and fluffy

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry meringues

The Front Range got the goods this past Wednesday – 8 inches of snow to replenish our dwindling reserves in the mountains. Since then, our region has been hammered with several unseasonably warm and sunny days. Hey East Coast, I think we should arrange for a trade! Of course, you make due with what you get. I don’t wait for perfect conditions because I’d only get 3 ski days a year around here. I just pick the type of skiing that is best suited for the weather and snow conditions, and get myself outside. It’s all about exercise, the mountains, and fresh air. I do the same in summer, except without the skis.


powder in the glades

putting skins away

skinning up the side of the drainage



It almost felt like summer on Sunday. We skinned up into the backcountry through snow that was fast disintegrating into mashed potatoes, peeling off layers of clothes as the sun rose higher into the sky. Jeremy and I unzipped the side vents in our ski pants and I kept my long-sleeve top on for sun protection rather than for warmth. And this is early February. In the mountains. Above 10,000 feet. I chose this route because Erin was sick over the weekend and told us to ski tour without her. It’s a “No Dogs” trail, which means I would never ask Erin to ski it since No Dogs translates into No Banjo – and Banjo is my puppy buddy.

“It’s just as well,” I muttered to myself as I watched Jeremy make his way up the steepening valley headwall in front of me. The snow was crappy for ski touring and I had already taken Erin on a crappy ski tour the weekend prior (where there wasn’t enough snow). Since I convinced her to pick up skiing and sold her my old gear, I feel obligated to show her how awesome it can be on our local trails. Sadly, the conditions have been less than awesome. Like way less than awesome. But I need to give Erin more credit than that. She’s thrilled to get outside with Banjo to explore our lovely mountains by ski, no matter the lack of snow or overabundance of wind. Aside from Jeremy, Erin is the only person with whom I regularly hike and ski.

On the car ride home from last week’s ski tour, Erin told me she wanted to attempt making meringues. She had heard that our high altitude can cause problems. Was this true? I waved the question away. No, altitude hasn’t posed any problems for me. Meringues are easy. But I told her that I’ve been researching and obsessing over one kind of meringue – all based on a photograph – and I was going to experiment soon. I promised I would report back on my findings. You may or may not have seen the gorgeous giant billowy meringues made famous by Ottolenghi. I’ve actually been oblivious to them until I recently purchased Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Flipping through, looking for savory vegetable recipes, an image of those signature meringues piled high on a cake plate grabbed my attention. What? How? I need to – they’re so beautiful!


frozen huckleberries, lemon, superfine sugar, more superfine sugar, eggs

egg whites, lemon juice, sugar, sugar, huckleberries



Ottolenghi’s raspberry meringues resemble giant dark pink and white variegated roses. I wanted to create those large cloud-like confections, but there were a few issues to address. First off, my meringues always wind up beige instead of white. Second, how does he apply the berry splatter without turning the meringues soggy? Eventually, with the guidance of this article based on Ottolenghi’s technique and some kitchen testing, I managed to create this obsession I’ve had for the past few months. For the sauce, I used frozen huckleberries (foraged from this past summer), but you can easily substitute fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries… pick your berry.

Use superfine sugar, because it will incorporate and dissolve into the egg whites faster than larger granules of sugar. Spread the sugar out on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. You’re going to heat this up in a hot oven until it just starts to melt at the edges. When this happens, start whipping the egg whites in a stand mixer on high speed. You really want to use a stand mixer because these need to be whipped for 10 minutes. My arm hurts just thinking about whipping that by hand. You’ll need to move quickly (and carefully) and take the baking sheet out of the oven, lift the parchment (with the sugar) off the pan using oven mitts, and slowly pour the sugar into the whipping egg whites. The directions say not to let the sugar brown in the oven, but mine did a little bit (hey – photographing this stuff makes timing tough). It’s okay, but not ideal. I think if the sugar is liquid (hot), you can pour it into the egg whites, but if you have shards of hardened sugar, don’t add them to the mixer because they won’t dissolve. Also, pour the sugar in on the side of the bowl to avoid any unnecessary excitement. If you pour it directly onto the whisk attachment while it is running, you will have hot sugar flying all over your kitchen.


spread the superfine sugar on a parchment-lined baking sheet

start whipping the egg whites when the sugar begins to melt at the edges

a little too melty, but you get the point

pour the sugar into the egg whites



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stay on target

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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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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