A frequent writer for The Denver Post, 5280 and Bon Appétit, and our very own copyeditor, Allyson Reedy’s first book titled Breaking the Chain: How I Banned Chain Restaurants from My Diet and Went from Full to Fulfilled (Diversion Books) chronicled her year-long experience as she sought out local alternatives to fast food chains.
This month marks the launch of her second book, 50 Things to Bake Before You Die: The World's Best Cakes, Pies, Brownies, Cookies, and More from Your Favorite Bakers, Including Christina Tosi, Joanne Chang, and Dominique Ansel (Ulysses Press).
Aside from her writing endeavors, Allyson’s quite an adventurous eater and has been known to partake in food-eating contests around town. But we’re not the only ones she’s wowed. Her ravenous appetite once inspired a waiter to write her a love poem.
We took a minute to catch up with her between bites.
So you are a food writer and you just finished a cookbook! I’m assuming you’re an avid baker then?
I am actually the worst cook! I’ve always enjoyed baking, but it’s not like you’d want me to make your wedding cake or anything. I mainly just like eating obscene amounts of brownies and cheesecake, and when I went looking for a collection of the absolute best dessert recipes, I couldn’t find it. So I had the gumption to start asking all of these amazing chefs and bakers—Christina Tosi, Duff Goldman, Joanne Chang, several talented people in and around Denver—if I could use their best dessert recipes. Somehow they said yes!
What Colorado bakers and chefs contributed recipes to the book?
I started with one of my favorite food bloggers, Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest. She’s incredible, and so is her brown sugar peach cobbler recipe. I also have a classic crème brûlée recipe from chef Jeff Osaka, a blueberry galette from Jennifer Essex of Ruby Jean Patisserie, a blueberry lemon pie from Shauna Lott Harman of The Long I Pie Shop, and chocolate cheesecake mochi muffins from Sam Butarbutar, cofounder of Third Culture Bakery, which recently closed in Aurora.
What was the most challenging part about making this book?
I was so excited to get and eat these incredible recipes, that I didn’t think the whole book part through. Specifically, that I’d have to bake them in such a way that they look like a real-life professional—which I am not!—made them. That was the most challenging part: baking everything to look cookbook-worthy perfect for photographs.
Are there any desserts in here that surprised you?
I’ve always maintained that I don’t like fruit with dessert. I’m more Team Chocolate or Team Peanut Butter. But it turns out that I just don’t like bad desserts made with fruit, which so many grocery store pies and tarts are. The lemon layer cake from Charleston’s Sugar Bakeshop is what first turned me, and then other recipes, like Ruby Jean Patisserie’s blueberry galette, made me a full-fledged, card-carrying member of Team Fruit Dessert.
What are your top music picks to help get that kitchen vibe flowing?
For everything in my life—baking, exercising, scream-singing—I turn to 80s soft rock. There’s nothing like Hall & Oates, Air Supply and Phil Collins to get me going.
If you could invite three people to help you devour the desserts, who would they be and why?
David Letterman, because he’s long been my celebrity crush; Christina Tosi, so she could bake me more delicious things to eat; and, well, someone who eats fast, because if they can’t eat fast, they’re not going to get anything when eating with me.
50 Things to Bake Before You Die is available wherever books are sold. Allyson will be signing books and serving sweets at Willow and Tulaire in downtown Littleton on April 5 and at the Tattered Cover Westminster April 19 at 6 p.m. Follow her on Instagram to learn more @allysoneatsden.
Jennifer Essex, Owner of Ruby Jean Patisserie in Denver, CO
God bless the galette. Less fussy but just as stunning as an intricate pie, the galette is a free-form pastry, which means if it doesn’t turn out the way you intended, you can totally claim artistic license. There’s *almost* no messing it up, which is probably why “galette fails” has only 291,000 Google results while “pie fails” has more than 31 million. (Yes, I looked it up.) Galette: easier than pie.
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Combine all filling ingredients. Roll your pie dough into a 12-inch round circle.
4. Put the fruit filling in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch rim. Pile fruit high and crimp dough edges. Freeze for 45 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Egg wash the folded sides of the galette and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
6. 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.