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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 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**

holidaze

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Recipe: pistachio cream puffs

We are in snowy (it’s snowing right now!) Crested Butte and just delivered our last bag of cookies and confections to friends in our neighborhood this evening. After this post is done, I am officially on holiday! That means I’ve also completed our annual greeting card, which I invite you to view here (click the link): http://jenyu.net/newyear/.


baby puppy neva is ready to welcome 2016!



So let’s get this party started. This recipe is one for entertaining or for those of us who love pistachio cream puffs. There are a lot of shortcuts you can take to make this scrumptious dessert a reality, but I’m going to go through all of the steps here and you can decide where you don’t have the patience or time to deal with certain parts of the recipe. The most time consuming step of all is peeling the pistachios. You absolutely do not have to do this, but if you like the color green the way I like the color green, it’s almost mandatory. Peeling took me over an hour and the process made me a little crazy. If you should choose to peel your pistachios, blanch them in boiling water for a minute, then drain the nuts and plunge them into ice water until they are cooled throughout. Drain the pistachios, spread them out on a kitchen towel, and start peeling the skins off. They should come off easily, but like I said – it is a most tedious task. The main components of the cream puff are: the pistachio pudding, the puffs, the chocolate glaze, and the filling (which includes the pudding).

the pudding: sugar, more sugar, egg yolks, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt, pistachios, butter, cornstarch, water, milk

make a paste with sugar, pistachios, and water

pulse the ground pistachios with the sugar and water

pistachio paste



**Jump for more butter**