gougères vanilla sugar boozy mississippi bourbon mud pie linguine with clams


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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



**Jump for more butter**

sugar sugar

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Recipe: vanilla sugar

I’m up to my elbows in butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate. Yes, it’s that time of year again – the cookie frenzy. Thanks to a back muscle spasm over the weekend that kept me from standing or walking, I had to rush getting all of the baked goods and confections out the door in one very long and exhausting day. But they’re done and you can stick a fork in me!


these went to jeremy’s staff



In addition to the cookies, marshmallows, and homemade hot cocoa mix, I included a jar of homemade vanilla sugar. It’s such an easy do-it-yourself project and it makes a great gift with a personal touch. Use vanilla sugar in place of regular sugar for that extra vanilla oomph. Even if you can’t think of a use for it, just open the jar and get a whiff of that floral, sweet, and heady perfume.

you’ll need whole vanilla beans and sugar

slice the bean lengthwise

scrape out all of those beautiful little seeds



**Jump for more butter**

here’s mud in your eye

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Recipe: boozy mississippi bourbon mud pie

Mud is the one thing that can get us down around here. Mud is not snow and it is not firm trail. You can’t ski it, you shouldn’t be riding it (mountain bikes really tear up muddy trails), and it kinda sucks to hike or run it. But we do hike and run in the mud because we try not to let it keep us from getting outside. Plus, the mud around here is more annoying than terrible – we have lots of rocks which makes for firmer ground. It’s nothing like what we’ve encountered in the backcountry of New Zealand. Holy hell. New Zealand mud can swallow you whole. Right now, patches of debris are cropping up along the nordic trails and the parking lot at our local hill is dirt and mud.

But this week, we discovered that not all mud is bad. At least, not mud pie. And by mud pie, I mean Mississippi mud pie. It all started because I wanted to know what a mudslide was. It’s a cocktail more akin to melted ice cream with lots of booze. But thanks to the interwebz, I was immediately diverted to mud pies. What’s a mud pie? My Crested Butte neighbor’s daughter was making mud pies with her friend one rainy day, but that was with real mud. The more I read about mud pies, the more intrigued I became. Then I found this recipe that adds BOURBON and I knew it was my destiny.


the crust: sugar, butter, salt, oreo cookies (without the creme centers)

place the cookies in a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb

mix with sugar and salt



You can use chocolate wafer cookies for the crust, but I couldn’t find any and I happened to be passing through Trader Joe’s where there were boxes upon boxes of TJ’s chocolate Joe Joe’s. If you need to make this dessert gluten-free, use the gluten-free TJ’s Joe Joe’s or some other equivalent brand. Nifty. Because I prefer a slightly higher crust-to-filling ratio and because the pie dish I used is deeper than my other dishes, I increased the amount of crust ingredients by 20%. There is no baking involved, just good old melty butter.

stir in the butter

pour the crust into the pie plate

press into the bottom and along the sides



**Jump for more butter**