black tahini and dulcey chocolate chip cookies

February 21, 2018

Hi friends! Have any of you ever been to Turkey? My mom and I are planning a girls trip there this spring and I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off to get everything organized for it. It's so funny — when I worked a full-time corporate job, vacation planning seemed like a breeze. It seemed like everything came together fairly quickly and easily. In retrospect, I must have spent a lot of time actually planning for it at work (lol, as opposed to doing my real job, but shhhh don't tell my old bosses). Because now that I'm spending 80% of my week in the kitchen, I barely found the time to book all our hotels and flights. But no matter — it's done, and I got us a room in a cave hotel in Cappadocia where we will ride hot air balloons. So send me all your best recs pretty pleasssseee.

To prep for the trip, I watched that Turkish documentary about all the cats in Istanbul and got reallllly excited. I've also been spending a lot of time on Wikipedia reading about Turkish cuisine. I'm especially stoked about Turkish breakfasts (it seems their breakfast game is on point) and of course, Turkish desserts. Looks like there's going to be a lot of dope baklava, kanafeh, milk pudding, and Turkish delights. For savory food, I'm looking forward to some epic kebabs, meze, and hummus spreads.

Speaking of hummus, let's talk about these tahini cookies. I've been meaning to make Danielle's recipe for tahini chocolate chip cookies for ages, and was recently reminded of them when Sarah brought a batch of her own version for us to taste in Vermont. They were absolutely delightful and caused the wheels in my head to start spinning: what would happen if they were made with black tahini instead?

Because black tahini is made with black sesame seeds, it has a stronger and more ashy flavor than regular tahini (which is made with white sesame seeds). Regular chocolate was a little too heavy and bitter — I ended up swapping it out for Valrhona's dulcey white chocolate, which is sweeter and tastes a bit like dulce de leche. Valrhona makes some of the best chocolate in the world and are currently the only makers of dulcey chocolate; be sure to join my giveaway on Instagram to win a bundle of their chocolate!

A big thanks to Valrhona for providing me with the chocolate used in this recipe as well as the chocolate for the Instagram giveaway! I really do love Valrhona products and almost exclusively use their chocolate in my chocolate chip cookies — it makes a world of a difference. 

also featured:

Some baker's notes:
  • Black tahini is available online; in the past, I've also seen it available in the international section of Whole Foods. You can go ahead and make this recipe with regular tahini too, but your cookies will come out a completely different color and look more like regular chocolate chip cookies. Valrhona Dulcey feves are available online via their site or on Amazon; I occasionally see their feves in the bulk section of Whole Foods as well. In a pinch, you can substitute with white chocolate chips, but your cookies will taste different than mine — it's worth sourcing out the Valrhona feves! 

  • This recipe, which is adapted from a combination of Danielle's and Sarah's, produces a really soft dough that's a little hard to work with. Be sure to freeze the dough overnight, or it'll be a little bit of a mess and spread out way too much. Just be sure to pat down each dough ball before baking since the cookies don't actually spread that much on their own after they've been chilled. For extra big cookies like the ones you see in the photos, I used a 3 tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion out dough balls and smooshed two of them together to create a mega 6 tablespoon sized ball of dough. This method resulted in 8 extra-large cookies; if you just use a 3 tablespoon scoop without the smooshing part, you'll end up with 16 regular-sized cookies. 

blood orange cake donuts

February 12, 2018

A few years ago, I realized that I'd told the same story about Valentine's Day almost every year since blogging. I won't go into much detail about it in this post (especially since you can read all about it in my posts from 2014 and 2015), but it was a story about how in seventh grade, I'd written an essay about how much I hated the holiday. I've switched it up in subsequent years (the story from 2016 about writing a failed Valentine to my last college crush is probably my favorite), but truthfully, every year, it's a struggle to come up with something new.

This year, I thought about telling you guys the story of how Erlend and I met, but honestly, it's kinda, sorta... boring? While we didn't meet online via OkCupid (look at me, showing my age) or Tinder (let's all stop for a hot second and think about the fact that, in the not so distant future, all the wedding stories will be about how the couple met online), it was still pretty unremarkable: we went to college together, were friends for a long time, and then eventually started dating. There was some drama around us getting together because he'd previously dated a mutual friend of ours, but it was honestly just the petty bullshit that you deal with when you're in your early twenties. And maybe that makes for a more interesting story, but I genuinely don't even remember most of it since it was so long ago and most of those folks are now completely gone from my life (which I am very, very thankful for). And there you have me and Erlend's Meet-Cute in a nutshell — I told you it was unremarkable, lol.

So instead of focusing on Erlend, my past relationships and crushes, or re-telling my seventh grade story, I thought I'd try something different. Let's talk about my love for Portland, Oregon. For ease, I always just say that I'm from Portland, but if you saw my Instagram Stories the other day (or are a close reader of my blog), you'll know that's not technically true. I was actually born in the Philippines and lived in a number of different places both abroad and in the USA; I eventually wound up in Portland because of college and ended up settling here again after stints in San Francisco, Denver, and New York.

My relationship with Portland is a flawed one and an incredibly hard one to explain. When asked what I like best about Portland, I can't give a coherent or articulate answer. Instead, what sticks out are seemingly insignificant, maudlin details: the sound the trains make at night from my house; biking down Ladd on a quiet, misty morning; how the city seems to come alive on a lone, sunny day after many weeks of rain. It's not a perfect place by any means — it's far too white and homogenous, and is rife with the income equality, population growth, and limited infrastructure problems that seem to plague all the smaller cities that have come into fashion in the last few years. More and more, the things that make it special seem like relics of yesteryear too. But there must be something about it I really like, because cumulatively, I've lived in the city for about a decade. And whenever I leave, I always find a way to come back.

And although this isn't the sweetest Valentine — I did spend half of it pointing out Portland's flaws, after all — maybe it's more real this way? True love isn't a constant summit, but a valley of peaks and lows. You take the bad with the good, and the ability to recognize the bad and accept it anyway is one of the truest forms of love there is.

So Happy Valentine's Day, Portland! This one's for you.


Some baker's notes:
  • Unlike traditional donuts that are shaped and raised with yeast, these are cake donuts! They taste more like cupcakes and you bake then in a special donut pan to get that classic donut shape. To fill the donut cavities in the pan, I've found it's easiest to use a piping bag (in a pinch, pour the batter into a Ziploc bag and snip off a corner — it doesn't need to be fancy). Be sure not to go overboard, or your donuts will be too big and rise too much, losing that classic hole. Most recipes call for you to fill the cavities two-thirds of the way up, but I've found that's still too much — halfway up should do the trick! 

  • Depending on how dry the temperature is that day, you might need more or less blood orange juice to get the glaze consistency right. You don't want it to runny, or it'll run down the sides of the donut and you'll lose that clean, freshly-dipped look. You want just enough liquid so that it almost seems a little dry; aim for a very thick paste texture as opposed to a runny one. Once you dip a donut, flip it over quickly to avoid any excess dripping and immediately sprinkle the toppings of your choice on the glaze. I used these cute sprinkles from India Tree, goat-themed candy hearts gifted from Vermont Creamery, and freeze dried raspberries, but go wild and use your favorites! 

  • Unfortunately, these cake donuts tend to go stale fairly quickly as the bottom half of each donut is basically just unfrosted cake. Make sure you enjoy them within 24 hours! 

grapefruit cream tart

February 7, 2018

A few weeks ago, I started working on developing a lemon bar recipe for my book, Weeknight Baking. Do you know how many lemons it takes to make a batch of four recipes' worth of lemon bars? The answer: A LOT. I purchased a pound or so at my local grocery store, and was dismayed that I kept having to go back to buy more. Finally, I caved and just bought 10lbs worth at Costco and after doing so, and after about my eight batch from scratch, I eventually realized that I actually hate lemon bars (they're equal parts too sweet and too sour for me) and wound up scrapping the recipe from my book entirely. Now I have 10lbs worth of lemons in the kitchen, go me.

The sensible thing to do would be to make a dessert for this blog (like these really cute mini lemon pound cakes with beet glaze, or this ever-popular passionfruit and blueberry cream tart) with all those lemons, but then I got lured by all the other citrus on display and bought more of those instead. Specifically, the cute little kumquats and what I thought were blood oranges. Imagine my surprise when I cut into one at home and discovered I'd been tricked — I'd actually bought pink grapefruit instead! As I was placing them in my basket, I knew that they seemed too big to be blood oranges, but the sign behind them claimed otherwise. And who was I to question the supermarket gods?

So here we are today — what was supposed to be a blood orange creamsicle tart is now... a grapefruit cream tart. My supermarket flub actually worked out fairly well in the end! I think blood oranges would have been too sweet for the cream recipe (which is adapted from this lemon blackberry tart recipe from yesteryear and also makes an appearance in these lime meringue tartlets and the previously mentioned passionfruit tart), since I literally just swapped out lemon juice for grapefruit juice instead. Because grapefruits are sweeter than lemons and I didn't reduce the original recipe's sugar quantity, the grapefruit cream is a just a touch on the sweet side (I mean, I like it, but I have a pretty big sweet tooth so it works well for me). I ended up topping the tart with sliced kumquats, which adds a tart flavor to each bite to temper the sweetness. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • This recipe requires a handful of special equipment: a digital candy thermometer, an oven-safe glass bowl, and a blender. You'll need to cook the curd to specific temperatures to get it to set properly; you can probably wing it without one and cook the curd until it thickens enough for a whisk to leave a trail behind, but it can be touch-and-go so I really recommend sourcing a thermometer instead. The glass bowl will be baking in the oven at a relatively high temperature, so be sure to source a high-quality brand like Pyrex for the task. As for the blender, it's not actually necessary, but it'll make your life a lot easier and your filling a lot smoother. You'll need the blender to help incorporate the butter into the grapefruit curd; in a pinch, you can use an immersion blender (which is what I always used in the past iterations of this recipe, until I realized the filling came out much smoother in my high-powered blender) or manually whisk (but your arms will probably get reallyyyy tired). 

  • Although the crust is relatively simple to put together, it does have a tendency to crack here and there. Using European style butter (I recommend Vermont Creamery's) will prevent cracks since European butter has more fat than American butter. If you don't want to bother with sourcing European butter, simply reserve a pinch's worth of raw dough to spackle into any cracks when the tart is fresh out of the oven and cooling on a wire rack. There's no need to bake again — the residual heat from the tart will bake the new dough.

  • I was disappointed to find that, after adding eggs to my pink grapefruit juice, the mixture turned into a dark yellow color instead of a pink one. I used a few drops of red food coloring to get it back to its pinker state. If you're opposed to food coloring, go ahead and omit it, but know that your tart will come out yellow rather than pinkish-orange like mine. 

overnight ube cinnamon rolls

January 31, 2018

Not a whole lot of folks in this space know this about me, but I actually was born abroad in the Philippines. I spent the first part of my childhood growing up in Manila and visit at least once a year since both my parents retired there. Filipino food has a special place in my heart, and in some ways, shaped my diet today. My staple grain of choice is white rice, my vegetables of choice are usually stir fried Asian-style in some sort of soy sauce/fish sauce situation, and there is nothing more comforting to me than a bowl of Filipino adobo.

That being said, Filipino desserts were never really my jam. With the exception of leche flan (of course, my grandmother made the best one from scratch, without a formal recipe or even measuring any ingredients), I was never really fond of any Filipino desserts. There are a lot of different kinds of Filipino desserts and sweets, but the ones I most vividly remember were rice-based and too gelatinous, dense, and sticky for my childhood self. Most Filipino desserts are also flavored with tropical fruits and roots like coconut, ube, cassava, jackfruit, and mango. Maybe it was just a case of the grass being greener on the other side, but my childhood self instead wanted the exact opposite: Western desserts. Airy cakes made with vanilla and chocolate, crumbly shelf-stable cookies, and super artificial candy like Fruit by the Foot.

I thought that as I grew older, I would become more fond of Filipino desserts. But it never happened. My feelings towards Filipino desserts remained neutral at best, indifferent at worst. What did happen though, was a gradual but burgeoning interest in the flavors often used in Filipino sweets. Like ube. Ube is a purple yam frequently used in Southeast Asian desserts; a lot of folks get it confused with taro or purple sweet potatoes, but it's actually its own variety of root vegetable. It has a mild, sweet flavor, but a vivid purple color to make baked goods stand out a mile away.

Although ube is frequently used in desserts in Asian restaurants and snack shops, I was really inspired to see my friend Autumn use it in more Western desserts at the establishments that she and her husband owned in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Her husband would serve ube kolaches (a Czech pastry popular in Texas, where Autumn is from and I went to high school) at his bar and her bakery, and her cookie delivery service featured ube crinkle cookies on its menu. Autumn inspired me to make a blog-related resolution for this year: to use more Filipino flavors in Western desserts. By the end of the year, I'm hoping to have more dessert baked goods featuring some of the flavors of my childhood. And I'm starting with these ube cinnamon rolls — the ube not only gives them a beautiful, vibrant look, but also pairs wonderfully with the cinnamon for a unique, fusion baked good. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • To make these rolls, you'll need two sources of ube: ube halaya jam and ube extract. Ube halaya jam is available online, and can usually be found in the Filipino/Hawaiian aisles of an Asian supermarket (Portlanders — I bought the Monika brand at Fubonn, but I also saw some available at Uwajimaya). Ube extract is trickier to source in real life, but can easily be purchased online (I used the McCormick brand). You can always substitute ube extract with vanilla extract, but note that your rolls won't be as vibrantly purple as mine (since the extract contains purple food coloring). It won't likely be as flavorful either since ube halaya jam has a pretty subtle taste. 

  • Speaking of which, because ube is such a subtle taste, some folks who've tried the cinnamon rolls suggested omitting the cinnamon for a stronger ube flavor. I made these rolls a handful of times, omitting the cinnamon during one trial. It's good! But definitely less fusion-y. So if you want a true cinnamon roll, stick with the cinnamon. But for ube lovers, go wild and commit fully to the ube and omit the spice. 

  • Depending on how you roll the dough, it's likely that you'll end up with more rolls than can fit in the pan. If you're baking the rolls in a 10-inch cast iron pan like I did, I recommend only placing 5 buns in the pan — it makes for a more attractive mega-bun, and crowding too many rolls in a pan might cause them to expand upwards rather than sideways. You can bake any additional rolls on a sheet pan; just be sure to leave enough space between them to allow them to expand properly when baking.

matcha, white chocolate, and pistachio milk tiramisu

January 24, 2018

Because I've been working on classic desserts for Weeknight Baking (ya know, the stuff you crave on a weeknight — brownies, chocolate chip cookies, that sorta thing), I find myself more drawn to the more unusual and exciting flavors for my blog. Sumac creme caramel. Black sesame layer cake. This matcha and pistachio milk tiramisu.

Now, I am not a tiramisu person. I'm a baby about caffeine; if I have any after 12PM exactly, I'll be up until 5AM in the morning. It always baffles me when people have a night time coffee or espresso after dinner — how do they sleep? I get offended when I'm out to dinner and the only desserts on the menu have caffeine in them. Is the chef trying to rob me of my precious sleep or something?

So no, I've never been a tiramisu person. With one exception — in the seventh grade, I went to school with an Italian kid named Francesco Straddiotti (I wasn't joking when I said he was Italian). I've written about this before, but for special occasions, his mom would make us tiramisu from scratch. It was light as air, incredibly fresh and creamy — nothing like the heavy, overly sweet versions I'd had before. As a seventh grader, I still hadn't developed the taste for coffee, but Francesco's mom's tiramisu was so well balanced that I barely noticed the espresso. I ate bowl after bowl, and bounced off the walls all day along with the rest of my class. Because pro-tip: you probably shouldn't feed a bunch of twelve and thirteen year olds a coffee-based dessert.

Now I'm not going to lie — making it from scratch is a bit of a pain in the butt. Traditional tiramisu is frequently made with raw egg yolks, but that freaks me out a little bit so I opted for a slightly more complicated version: making a zabaglione to fold into the cream and mascarpone. Zabaglione is a type of Italian custard made primarily of egg yolks and sugar; it's gently cooked for a few minutes and thickens into wonderful creaminess.

And because I'm averse to coffee these days and getting more lactose intolerant by the second (see: old age), I swapped out the espresso traditionally used with matcha and some of the dairy used in the recipe with pistachio milk. The matcha and pistachio milk play well together, with the nutty flavor from pistachio balancing out matcha's sometimes bitter, seaweedy taste. All of those umami, savory flavors are tempered with the addition of white chocolate.

The matcha is from my friend Erica and her tea shop, Tea Bar. Erica is one of the baddest boss ladies that I know. She opened the first Tea Bar in Portland at the ripe old age of 23, and has since expanded to more locations throughout the city. Tea Bar's menu is small but mighty; Erica lovingly sources the tea from family farms around the world, curating a wonderful collection of tea and exciting drink menu. You can now try some of them with her new line for drinking Tea Bar at home — be sure to check out my Instagram account, where I'm doing a giveaway of my personal favorite flavors, including the matcha used in this recipe.


A big thanks to Erica and the Tea Bar team for providing me with the matcha featured in this post and the tea for the Instagram giveaway! You can read all about Erica and Tea bar in her recent interview for Paper magazine


Some maker's notes:
  • This recipe uses a handful of fussy ingredients, like pistachio milk and pistachio extract. Pistachio extract is easy enough to find online (specifically, I used the Watkins brand), but pistachio milk is a bit trickier. I actually used a homemade version from my friend Molly's blog, but there are a ton of recipes available online. Real talk — I've only ever seen pistachio milk at the farmer's market and I don't know if pistachio milk is available commercially. For this recipe, you can either make your own or substitute with another commercially available nut milk of your choice — almond would work particularly well, as would cashew or coconut milk. You can also just go the janky route and use regular milk with pistachio extract stirred in — it won't be the same, sure, but it sorta captures the whole spirit of the recipe anyway. Similarly, if you don't want to source pistachio extract, vanilla extract works wonderfully too. 

  • I wasn't kidding when I said that this recipe is fussy. To make the matcha mascarpone filling, you'll need to first make a white chocolate ganache, then the zabaglione, then whipped cream, then another batch of whipped cream for the topping. And that's not even counting the dipping sauce and the assembly. And pistachio milk, if you decided to make that from scratch. SORRY. You can break it up over a few days — the zabaglione and ganache keep perfectly well in the refrigerator. Just be sure to make the whipped cream the day of serving, since that's the component that tends to lose its integrity fast. 
Copyright © hummingbird high || a desserts and baking blog. Developed by FCD.