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archive for sweet

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**

you bet your boocha

Monday, February 19th, 2018

Recipe: kombucha (plain, ginger, huckleberry ginger)

Happy Chinese New Year! The house has been cleaned, dumplings eaten, luck symbol hung upside down on the front door (translates to “luck arrives”), parents called, and red envelopes delivered to young friends. A low-key lunar new year celebration was just right for me, mostly because my February has been dedicated to fermentation. In addition to making delicious breads from my sourdough starter, I am also brewing kombucha!

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. My motivation for brewing my own kombucha (booch) was more curiosity than anything else. I like the stuff, but drank it infrequently because it can become a spendy habit. Yet, kombucha is ridiculously easy and inexpensive to make. The only “exotic” component is the scoby, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Think of it as the equivalent to the mother for making vinegar. You can purchase scobys (try a local homebrew supply store or go online), get one from a friend, or make your own. Once you have a scoby, you’re set (unless you kill it – don’t kill it).

I got my scoby from my buddy, Erin (Canyon Erin), who grew hers from its infancy and split one off for me with some starter tea. I named it Scooby. Scobys are weird, ugly, and a little gross looking – at first. After brewing a few batches, you will come to love your scoby(s) like a pet. It feels rubbery and slippery, and all manner of random things float untidily off of it in the tea. But the scoby is what transforms plain old sweet tea into magical, fizzy, slightly alcoholic (less than 1%), tangy kombucha.


meet scooby, my scoby



Making kombucha is easy. I’m on my fourth batch now. The long instructions look daunting, but that’s only because the instructions are for newbies so they don’t kill their scoby. It basically comes down to: make sweet tea, stir in starter tea, slide the scoby into the tea, cover, ferment, bottle, carbonate, refrigerate. But there are tons of additional notes that go with that list.

I use purified water because our municipal water is chlorinated (I checked the town water quality report online) and chlorine can kill your happy bacteria. I read from a bread baker discussion that you can leave the water out on the counter for a day and the chlorine will evaporate because it’s rather volatile. So there’s that. For my first batches of kombucha, I stuck with organic black tea. Plain black tea works well. You can use other teas like green teas or white teas or a combination of teas, but avoid flavored teas – especially ones with added oils. And I make the sweet tea with organic granulated sugar. Please, people, don’t use artificial sweeteners. You will starve your scoby because it requires real sugar. The sugar is not for you, it is for the fermentation process. The starter tea comes from the previous batch of kombucha. If you bought or were given a scoby, it should have come in some starter tea.


sugar, black tea, scoby, purified water, and starter tea



The first step to making kombucha is to brew sweet tea. Boil your water, stir in the sugar until dissolved, and then drop your tea bags or loose tea in. Let the tea steep until the liquid has come to room temperature because hot tea is going to kill your yeasts and bacteria. If you are in a hurry, you can set your pot of tea in an ice bath to cool it down faster, but I prefer to leave mine in a cool part of the house for a few hours. My climate is quite arid, so while the tea is cooling I cover the scoby with a bowl or slip it into the starter tea to prevent it from drying out.

adding sugar to the boiled water

steep the tea until the water cools to room temperature

remove the tea bags (or strain the loose tea)



**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**