In Colorado food writer Allyson Reedy’s house, dessert is always on the menu.
Her family eats dessert after dinner, of course. But they’re also big fans of the oft-overlooked lunch dessert, plus various baked goods throughout the day.
“Sometimes there’s even a second dinner dessert, because I’ve found that there’s a positive correlation between how many brownies or cookies I eat and my quality of life,” said Reedy, who is also a regular contributor to The Denver Post.
This deep love for sweets — and her constant quest for new and better recipes — inspired Reedy to write “50 Things to Bake Before You Die,” a best-of-the-best compilation of decadent dishes from bakers, chefs, restaurateurs and cafe owners across the country.
“I selfishly wanted all these amazing dessert recipes, so I went out and somehow conned bakers like Joanne Chang and Christina Tosi to share their best recipes,” said Reedy, 40.
The book, which was published by Ulysses Press this week, also features Reedy’s unique, humorous writing style, plus gorgeous photos from Denver photographer Greg McBoat. But writing the cookbook was the easy part. Not only did Reedy have to test every recipe (often multiple times) to make sure they worked, but she also had to create a perfect, photoshoot-worthy version for the book.
All told, she went through roughly 30 pounds of butter, 12 pounds of flour, 65 pounds of sugar and 16 pounds of chocolate in her Broomfield kitchen. Reedy did the math, too: That’s the equivalent of 98,415 calories of butter, 46,640 calories of flour and 112,441 calories of sugar. (The chocolate was too tricky to calculate because she used so many different types.)
Even after all that baking and writing, Reedy still loves both. She’s been writing about food since 2009 for publications like The Denver Post, Bon Appetit, Real Simple, HuffPost, Thrillist, Eater, AFAR, 5280 Magazine and many others. Her book “Breaking the Chain: How I Banned Chain Restaurants from My Diet and Went from Full to Fulfilled” was a finalist for the 2012 Colorado Book Awards.
“I originally started writing about food because, at that time, it was the love of my life,” she said. “I’ve always loved eating and trying new things, and food just brings me so much joy. Writing about it came naturally, and I’m so lucky I’ve gotten to do it for so many years now.”
Colorado creations to make at home
Among the dozens of recipes she tracked down and included in the book, Reedy made sure to highlight creations from the Centennial State. There’s a brown sugar peach cobbler from Summit County-based blogger and cookbook author Tieghan Gerard; a lemon blueberry pie from The Long I Pie Shop in Denver; and chocolate cheesecake mochi muffins from Third Culture Bakery (which recently closed its Colorado locations).
Chef Jeff Osaka, culinary director and owner of Osaka Ramen, Sushi-Rama and The Empire Lounge and Restaurant, shared his recipe for classic crème brûlée, which can also be used to make other desserts.
“I love the base recipe because of its versatility,” he said. “If you just temper in your eggs and chill it, you have the sauce for crème anglaise. If you churn and freeze it, you have vanilla ice cream. And if you bake it, you end up with the custard for crème brulee.”
Jen Essex, owner and head baker at Denver’s boutique dessert studio Ruby Jean Patisserie, unveiled the secrets of her blueberry galette, a no-fuss pastry that’s easier to master than on foot. Essex’s recipe can also be adapted for other berries, stone fruits and even savory fillings.
“I love creating desserts and cakes for my clients that are high end (and) that really exceed expectations, but when baking at home for friends and family I love to take on a more simple approach,” she said. “I find that people relax more when you have more familiar foods.”
Here are a few recipes from Reedy’s book to tempt your sweet tooth. Or you can buy the book and try all 50. Your choice.
Jeff Osaka’s Classic Crème Brûlée
Makes six 8-ounce ramekins
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean (split, seeds scraped)
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar, divided (¾ cup for custard; ¼ cup for caramelized topping)
- Special equipment: kitchen torch
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the cream, vanilla bean, and its seeds into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and allow vanilla to seep for 15-20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar until well blended and just starting to turn pale yellow in color. Add the hot cream a little at a time, stirring continually to avoid scrambling the eggs.
Pour through a fine mesh strainer to capture any lumps of sugar, vanilla bean, or any overcooked eggs.
Ladle the liquid equally into the six ramekins. Place ramekins in a large baking pan, and pour enough hot water into the pan to come 1/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with aluminum foil and bake just until the custard is set around the edges but still a little loose in the middle, approximately 40-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
For the caramelized topping, divide the remaining ¼ cup sugar equally among the ramekins and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form the crispy caramel top. (Be careful, as the sugar may splatter.) Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Jen Essex’s Blueberry Galette
Makes one galette
For the crust:
- 1 7/8 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cups (1 stick + 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
- 1/3 cup water, very cold
- Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
For the filling:
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1/8 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons corn starch
For the crust, mix salt and flour. Using a bench cutter or knives, cut in butter into the flour/salt mixture until butter pieces are pea-sized.
Mix in water and knead quickly. Add more flour if mixture is too wet, or more water if too dry. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours.
Combine all filling ingredients. Roll your pie dough into a 12-inch round circle.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place dough onto the sheet. Put the fruit filling in the center of dough, leaving a 2-inch rim. Pile fruit high and crimp dough edges. Freeze for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Egg wash the folded sides of the galette and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake for 1 hour (or longer), checking for a brown and crisp crust. Let rest for 30 minutes, then you’re free to serve with vanilla ice cream.
Extracted from 50 Things to Bake Before You Die by Allyson Reedy. Copyright © 2022 Ulysses Press. Reprinted with permission from Ulysses Press. New York, NY. All rights reserved.
IF YOU GO
“50 Things to Bake Before You Die” release parties with Allyson Reedy:
- April 7, 6-8 pm at Willow & Tulaire, 2359 W. Main St., Littleton
- April 19, 6 p.m. at Tattered Cover, 8895 Westminster Blvd., Westminster
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