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archive for pastries

practice makes better

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Recipe: peach pie

For the past couple of years I’ve sent an email in August to a local organic farm in Boulder asking them to alert me when they have tomato seconds ready for sale. The email comes some time in September depending on the weather and the tomato crop. Each year, I pick up more poundage because I am so in love with home-canned tomatoes, I want to be sure we don’t run out. I use them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce, stews, soups, chili. Last week, I received the email to come and get the tomatoes. I got 100 pounds and spent three days coring, scoring, blanching, peeling, dicing, simmering, and canning tomatoes. When I closed my eyes for my 5 hours of sleep at night, all I saw were tomatoes. 48 pints later and I have 20 pounds remaining for a different method because I ran out of Weck jars.

48 pints of the best tomatoes

Meanwhile, Neva is finding out that the start of the school year means no more daily excursions onto the trails or lakes. She still gets out every day, but we’re getting her used to being at home because when winter comes (and by winter, I mean the winds), there will be days when home is better than going outside. Plus, we’re finally able to leave her alone for up to 8 hours. Now that she’s nearly 18 months old, we’re noticing just how different she is from Kaweah. Kaweah was not a bright girl, but Neva is an even dimmer bulb. Based on our only other data point, Neva is slower to pick up just about everything. But that’s okay, we work with her a lot and she remains a happy, ridiculous, sweet little pup.

just as happy on a local hike as she is on a big mountain hike

caught lounging on the people bed

The fall colors are moving in around here. Our aspen trees are still more green than gold, but I think some areas will flip that balance in a week or less. I didn’t shoot much of the fall colors last year because of the puppy, but I wasn’t sure I was feeling it this year. These days I’m more likely to snap a photo on my phone (most pictures here are coming off the iPhone) or if I’m lugging it around, maybe my smaller dSLR. Of course, as soon as I stood under the canopy of a small stand of golden aspens this morning, I felt that mojo return. The worry was that I was rusty, but the ideas and creative thought process came back as soon as I looked up.

getting low to shoot this brilliant shrub from below

classic sunburst + aspens + colorado bluebird sky

golden canopy

I’m a firm believer in practicing to get better at something and that applies to pies! My friend recently commented that I don’t make pies very often. I laughed because she actually keeps track of the sweets and treats that come out of my kitchen… and because she’s correct. I don’t make many pies. Pie crusts drive me crazy and removing a slice of fruit pie practically ruins the whole pie. But I like pie. I like pie a lot. I decided that I needed to tackle some recipes until I found one or a couple of reliable and excellent pie crusts. With peach season drawing to a close in Colorado, I felt I needed to get some practice on a basic peach pie.

flour, ice water, cider vinegar, more flour, sugar, salt, more sugar, nutmeg, egg, lemon, butter, peaches

It’s really all about the pie crust. Pie crust should be flaky and tender and baked golden brown. I find that my pie crust dough is almost always too dry and crumbly. But when I add enough water to make it comfortably workable (i.e. not crumbling apart) it’s too wet or it’s overworked and the crust becomes more of a cardboard texture. So I was extra mindful of not adding more liquid than the recipe requires.

place the butter, flour, and salt in a food processor

pulse until the butter resembles little pebbles

beat the egg yolk, vinegar, and ice water together

drizzle the liquid into the dry ingredients

**Jump for more butter**

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 in-between

Monday, December 28th, 2015

Recipe: carne adovada empanadas

The last week of December – that time between Christmas and the new year – always tends to be one of the busiest at the ski resorts. Lots of people take time off for the holidays and head to the slopes with their families and extended families and friends. After the last good powder day on Christmas, we’ve switched from skiing the mountain to hitting the Nordic trails. The big storm tracks have cleared out and the trails are firming up under bluebird skies for some great skate ski conditions. It’s such a great workout that single digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures actually feel pretty good, unless you stop moving… then it gets quite cold quite fast.

jeremy wears two passes: his and neva’s

I’m also using this opportunity to work on some baby quilts. Actually, LOTS of baby quilts – some of which are for babies that aren’t babies anymore, but bona fide kids! I may be years late, but the sentiment is there. Plus, I carried two of my baby blankets around with me until… well, I have them in my bedroom now. These are flannel rag quilts because I don’t have the skill or time to make anything more complicated. Squares are good enough for me.

soft and colorful fabrics

The neat thing about this period before the new year is that parties seem to have an “anything goes” theme. Festive, yet not necessarily Christmas. I rather like that. It’s all about celebrating the end of 2015, looking ahead to 2016, and eating empanadas. Last month I made a big batch of carne adovada and decided to save some out to make empanadas. These are not traditional in any sense, just a New Mexican take on the revered empanada which turned out to be pretty darn delicious.

water, carne adovada, cheddar, paprika, green chiles, salt, vegetable oil, flour, butter, onion

I used the dough recipe from my favorite Argentine empanadas recipe. It’s straightforward to make and has a nice texture when baked. You can, of course, fry the empanadas (they are so so tasty fried), but my pants can only handle the baked version. Plus, it’s less clean up.

melt the butter and water

pace a pinch of paprika in a well with the flour and salt

mix the liquid into the flour

you’ll wind up with a nice oily dough

wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate

**Jump for more butter**