blood orange curd linzer cookies

February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Does anybody have special Valentine's or Galentine's Day plans? Erlend and I do NOT have any, and I am more than okay with that. The Valentine's Day industrial complex is strong in New York City. Our regular restaurants are offering crazy prix fixe prices for a limited menu, and there are vendors at every subway stop shilling overpriced, wilted roses. Even the Valentine's candy here is twice as expensive as everywhere else! Aside from that we're also not really the romantic type — neither of us know when our anniversary is, and it always takes us a minute to figure out how long we've been together.* So I think we'll pass, thanks.

*Don't mistake that for indifference; Erlend is my Valentine, through and through. He's the Type B to my Type A, the ying to my yang, etc, etc.

Truth be told, these linzer cookies are about as festive as I'm willing to get for Valentine's Day. Which doesn't seem like too much of a stretch for the special occasion, but it actually is. Why? I kinda sorta hate making rollout cookies. Although I have always loved eating them, I definitely groaned when they exploded in popularity over the last few years (thanks to the really awesome Instagram accounts of @bakedideas, @vickiee_yo, and a bunch more folks I don't have room to name). Look through my Recipe Index — I barely have any recipes involving rollout cookies! I pretty much avoid making them at all cost.

I'm also just really bad at it. I'm terrible at bringing the dough together (like... is it supposed to have the texture of chocolate chip cookie dough, or something else?). I'm even worse at rolling them out evenly and shaping them with cookie cutters. I don't have a trusty recipe, and a bad recipe can leave you with deformed cookies with a bad texture. The texture is either too hard and brittle, or too soft to hold up against a jam filling.

When Jennifer from Savory Simple sent me her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, a few months ago, I bookmarked a bunch of delicious-looking recipes, including this one for blood orange curd linzer cookies. I fully intended to make another recipe (she has such delicious ones to choose from, like hot chocolate with salted caramel whipped cream and cherry vanilla jam crumb bars), but her linzer cookies kept stopping me every time I flipped through her cookbook. They were adorable enough to convince to try a rollout cookie recipe one more time.

And I'm glad I did! Jennifer's recipe for linzer cookies worked better than any that I've tried in the past. Based on a shortbread dough, the cookies come together easily and hold their shape in the oven beautifully. They're also delicious, with a strong butter and vanilla flavor that pairs well with Jennifer's sweet, citrusy recipe for blood orange curd. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • The blood orange curd will be a little bit thicker than your typical curd or jam. This is okay — it's easier to keep the cookies together this way! You'll also end up with more curd than what's needed for the cookies. It keeps in a sealed mason jar for about 1 month; use the extra on pancakes, waffles, toast, and more!

  • Linzer cookie dough is different from traditional chocolate chip cookie dough. It doesn't come together fully in the stand mixer; you'll need to do some kneading on your end to get it to a rollable state. The easiest way to handle it is to dump it on a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up, and knead it together until it forms a disk. No need to worry about overworking it like pie dough! It's very forgiving and will be delicious no matter what. Keep re-rolling the scraps into new cookie shapes to have as many cookies as possible!

  • I was super ADD when I made these and couldn't decide on which cookie cutters to use. I ended up using all of them, resulting in cookies that are 1-inch, 3 1/2-inch, and 5-inch wide. As a result, I don't actually know how many cookies this recipe yields beyond what Jennifer says. I've included the yield and instructions as it is in her cookbook. Note that your yield will be different depending on what cutters you use as well. I used the following cutters: a super mini heart from this set, a small heart, circle cutters (from this set), and a fluted biscuit cutter

apple and pear mini pies

February 8, 2017

A few weeks ago, I headed to my friend Erin's apartment to weave these beautiful, herringbone mini pies. She'd posted a beautiful, regular-scale version of a herringbone lattice pie the week before and I hadn't been able to stop staring at the photo. I kept trying to reverse engineer the pattern in my head. I thought I'd figured out everything there was to do with pies, you see. I'd spent the last year baking a pie a month, a project that had exposed me to a variety of pie making styles and lattice crusts. But it turns out that I'd missed this one. Finally, I texted her, inviting myself over: "Teach me your ways!"

It was a gloomy Saturday, and I arrived at Erin's bright, plant-filled apartment in East Williamsburg armed with a sweetgreen salad and a bag of apples and pears from the Union Square Farmers Market. I sat, unhelpfully alternating bites between my salad and the delicious honey lavender cake she'd made the day before, as she prepped the fruit and patiently answered my questions about her apartment, the lattice we were about to make, and their upcoming trip back home to New Zealand.

Later, we both sat at her marble topped kitchen cart, ready to weave. I'd rolled out the dough and fitted them to the mini pie tins; Erin had processed the pie dough through a fettuccine machine to shape them into thin, even strips for our lattice. She pulled up Stella Parks' herringbone lattice tutorial on Serious Eats and began reading it out loud; each of us folded and braided the pie dough to match Stella's instructions. Rich, her husband, put on a soundtrack of the Pandora Bon Iver radio station and flitted around us every so often, taking photos of us in action. Braiding the pie wasn't difficult, but it was absorbing, quiet work — each pie took about 20 minutes to weave.

If you're wondering why I went through a seemingly ordinary and maybe even banal day in such great detail, it's because of this: it was wonderful.

A lot of the work that I do is solitary. Which is strange, because technically, I'm actually always talking to people. I spend the day writing emails, text messages, and leaving comments on social media. With G-chat and iMessage, I can have an entire novel's worth of conversations with friends, coworkers, and acquaintances in an hour, during which we'll jump back and forth between work, gossip, and something completely random, before ending up right where we started. But still. Despite (and possibly because of) all this digital conversation, I go embarrassingly long stretches at a time without having said a single word out loud to another person.

But there's often a fine line between artistic, romantic solitude and, well, plain old isolation. When I spend so much time in my head, it can start to feel like I'm just there alone by myself, doing the things that I do. But that's not true. Behind every blog is a living, breathing, and very real person with whom I share an entire universe with. We're driven by the same passion and interests, and are overwhelmed and struggling with the same challenges. It's amazingly wonderful how therapeutic it can be to actually get together and share our craft, trade tips and techniques, and collaborate in real life. That day, I went home from Erin's place and felt like some of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.

Therapy lattice, indeed.

The pie dough is made from the now ubiquitous Four & Twenty Blackbirds all-butter pie crust. We made up the recipe for the filling on the spot, and followed the crazy talented Stella Parks' herringbone pie crust tutorial word for word. You can check it out (complete with a video!) on Serious Eats. You can also see more of these pies and hear Erin's side of the story on her pretty blog, Cloudy Kitchen. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • To get the pie dough into thin, even strips, we used two different types of pasta maker attachments for Erin's KitchenAid mixer. There's pros and cons to using the pasta maker. The major pro is obvious: you get thin, even strips without the usual hassle of doing it by hand. You'll likely also have no trouble getting the pie to keep its shape while baking. And that's because of the con: using a pasta machine will almost always guarantee that your pie crust will be denser (it definitely won't be as tender and flaky) and slightly overprocessed. The tradeoff is up to you; we've included instructions on how to make the pie by hand and how to make it with the help of a pasta machine in the recipe below. If you decide to go with the pasta machine, note that we used the fettucine machine (available from this attachment set) for the skinnier lattice, and the lasagnetti machine (available from this attachment set) for the thicker lattice. Pro-tip: it's much easier to braid when it's skinnier.

shake shack sliders + feast portland 2016 memories

February 1, 2017

I'm going to Portland in a few short weeks and I am beyond excited! I have my dentist and optometrist appointments all lined up, and I've got a checklist of things to fix at my house. I know that those things don't sound particularly exciting, but still — I'm really stoked to be heading home for a few days!

I'm especially excited because the last time I was in Portland, I was in town for Feast. I didn't get a chance to run any of the boring errands I listed above because Feast was kinda/sorta crazy/hectic. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of it! Because what's not to love? It's an amazing food festival hosted by my friends at Little Green Pickle and Bon Appetit magazine. And in addition to celebrating Portland's (already rockin') local food scene, other really awesome chefs from around the country fly into the city to cook delicious food for Feast too!

One of my favorite events at Feast is the Sandwich Invitational. Think of it as a giant picnic where the best chefs come in and make you all the sandwiches you could possibly eat. I realized I never shared my pictures from last year, so here we go:

From the top to the bottom:
  • A crispy pulled pork sandwich with smoked oyster mayo and cabbage slaw on ficelle bread by Portland chef Ken Forkish (of some of my personal favorite restaurants in Portland, Ken's Artisan and Trifecta Tavern)
  • A kimchee-brined pork burger with sambal mayonnaise, American cheese, and a pickle slaw by Portland chef Dustin Clark (formerly of Portland gems Wildwood and Besaw's
  • A pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich with Gouda and a spicy pepper relish from Chef Ben Ford of Ford Filling Station fame in Los Angeles (and Harrison Ford's son, apparently!) 
  • A bulgogi club sandwich modeled by my friend Rachel and created by Chef Han Ly Hwang of Kim Jong Grillin', a much beloved Portland food cart
  • A homemade Shake Shack slider by Chef Michelle Lopez of Hummingbird High
Okay, OKAY, just kidding on that last one. My Shake Shack sliders weren't a part of Feast at all. It's just that editing these Sandwich Invitational photos made me hungry enough that I went out and actually made my own sandwich!

PS — that is Erlend modeling the sliders. My arm is not that hairy. Or white. 

To be fair, this isn't really my own sandwich either. It's a direct knockoff of the beloved Shackburger from New York's Shake Shack burger chain. If you haven't heard or tried Shake Shack, it's definitely worth seeking out. It's like the In-N-Out of New York City, but a bazillion times better. All the ingredients are super fresh and high-quality; to wit, the burger patties are 100% Angus beef! They're smashed thin and seared perfectly to achieve crispy, salty bits throughout the burger. That goodness is then sandwiched between a toasted and buttered potato bun with super fresh tomatoes, a ruffle of lettuce, and the perfect umami sauce.

Shake Shack doesn't currently have a location in Portland, so I was eager to try and recreate them for all my friends there who are missing out (real talk: I am packing Martin's Potato Buns in my fancy new suitcase). With the exception of halving the recipe to make slider versions, I followed Kenji's recipe on Serious Eats down to a tee and was impressed by how accurate it was. I had successfully made a Shackburger at home! I've included the instructions below, but really, you should check out Serious Eats for the full story. Enjoy!

Bonus Track — Here is a photo of me and my friends Celeste and Molly (who you guys probably already know!) at the Sandwich Invitational afterparty (appropriately called "Pork of Ages"):

also featured:
tray || tumblers || ramekin

This post was done in partnership with Feast Portland and Alaska Airlines, who provided the transportation and accommodations for me to attend Feast Portland 2016! Even though I'm from Portland and maybe a slightly teensy bit biased about everything to do with the city, I genuinely think that Feast Portland is one of the best food festivals in the country. It's worth checking out even if you're not from Portland! Dates are already set for 2017 ;-) As always, thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my awesome sponsors.

Some maker's notes:
  • To me, Shake Shack tastes like Shake Shack because of the burger bun. Shake Shack uses sandwich buns from Martin's Famous Pastry Shoppe, a Pennsylvania Dutch mass bakery that specializes in potato buns. Indeed, there's nothing quite like them — they're soft and squishy, yet hearty enough to hold a juicy patty of meat. They have an unmistakeable sweetness and pale yellow color similar to brioche. If you live in the East Coast, you can buy them at pretty much every supermarket. For everybody else, you can order them online (like Steph did!). I used the dinner roll variety to make these sliders!

  • Shake Shack burger patties are made using a "smash and scrape" technique. The meat is first patted into a disk, before being placed on an incredibly hot griddle and being smashed with the back of a spatula. The patty is then "scraped" off when it's time to flip. The trick here is to use a well-seasoned nonstick pan (I used my trusty Finex skillet) and not too much oil. According to Kenji, you want the meat to stick to the pan in order to achieve its flat, sheath-like, and almost crispy crust.

black tahini morning buns + a kitchen tour

January 25, 2017

I've been trying to share more of my life outside baking on Instagram, to varying success. You guys don't seem to be as into New York architecture as I am (every time I post one of these types of pictures, I lose about 20 followers), but you seem to love my Brooklyn apartment (yay!). So today, in addition to these incredibly delicious black sesame tahini rolls, I thought I'd share a peek into my cramped but sunny kitchen/dining room to give you guys a fuller look into my life:

I was inspired to start branching out and share other aspects of my life because I was just so motherfreaking bored of all the food photos. Don't get me wrong — I love a well-styled shot of a beautifully braided pie or a funkily decorated cake. But it was all starting to look the same after a while. And then it WAS all the same. There are days where I scrolled through my feed and really couldn't tell who posted which picture. And that led me to a minor existential crisis: what makes my stuff different from everybody else's?

Because when it comes to food blogging and styling these days, I'll be the first to admit: nothing. In that context, I'm a dime a dozen — just another boring food blogger with a sweet tooth and a pretty marble tabletop. Yay.

What makes me different from everybody else is, well... me? The messy stuff you don't actually get to see too much of on any of my accounts. Like the fact that my kitchen is literally actually just a tiny corner of the living area that we've turned into a dining room and/or bike room. And how we've cluttered up every inch of surface area possible and added those beautiful wooden shelves that you all love (wink, they're from Rejuvenation) with too much gosh darned kitchen crap (which, despite my snark just now, all bring me joy and therefore can never be konmari-d out of my life, so don't you even dare suggest that). Or how my cat will jump onto any freaking countertop just to chase a patch of sunlight (and how many, many desserts have been ruined because of this pesky habit).

Oh yeah, and the ceiling leaks.

Almost forgot about that.

So what is the point of all this? I don't know, maybe just to remind folks that behind all these beautiful images of highly styled food, we are all still very human and normal. That the imperfect is still very interesting. And that we should share more of that! I hope you guys will share some more of your life outside of the frame too.

*jumps off soapbox*

Now, let's talk about these buns, hun.

I first discovered black tahini (like regular tahini, but made with black sesame seeds!) at Shalom Japan (a Jewish-Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg — yes, that exists and is SO delicious) and have been daydreaming about using it in desserts since. The black sesame gives the tahini a slightly bitter and almost smoky, wood-fired flavor that pairs well with rich white chocolate and tangy creamy dairy like crème fraîche and cream cheese. I've put all three in these rolls to great effect. Enjoy!


This post was done in partnership with Rejuvenation, one of my favorite Portland-based companies who graciously provided the open shelves, hardware, and furniture for the kitchen nookI had the chance to visit Rejuvenation's warehouse when I was in Portland last, and was blown away by the thought, quality, and care that went into the craftsmanship of all their products. Their products are timeless, and have really helped make my Brooklyn home both beautiful AND functional. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own, and thank you for supporting Hummingbird High and all my partners!

Some baker's notes:
  • Whenever I bake bread, I like to split up the process as much as possible and allow the dough to rise overnight in the fridge. I usually make the dough the night before I plan on serving these in order to avoid sitting around for 3 hours waiting for dough to rise. If that's your jam though, you can make these all in the same day — just be sure to let the dough rise for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before shaping into rolls, and then repeating the rising process. 

  • I also like to use instant yeast as I find the proofing to be more consistent than fresh or active dry. Instant yeast works best when activated at 120 to 130 (F); remember that yeast is a living thing, and you can kill it if you activate it at too high of a temperature! 

  • Black tahini is available online, but I also found a jar at my local Whole Foods. Per Serious Eats, you can make your own (and since black sesame seeds have a higher oil content than regular ones, it requires less oil!), but I would shell out for the high-quality Kevala variety that I used. It's made with nothing but black sesame seeds and really brings home that wonderful toasted flavor from black sesame seeds. You can read more about black tahini in this awesome Food52 article.

a banana bread with less sugar

January 18, 2017

I promised myself I wouldn't overdo it over the holidays, but when I stepped on the scale at the start of January, it quickly became apparent that I had broken my promise.

I've never been a dieter. For most of my life, with the exception of a few years in college and in my twenties, I've always been active. I played soccer and ran track all throughout middle school and high school (something I find funny now, given how much I hate running these days). We rarely ate out as a family. My mom kept us well fed with plenty of home cooked meals, mostly of the Southeast Asian variety. And having moved to the US from the Netherlands and the Philippines, my family found most of the American processed foods mystifying and stayed away from them. I wasn't a big TV watcher, and social media wasn't even a thing yet. All of these things combined for a healthy, active life.

It was as an adult that I fell the bandwagon. Eating out in Portland was wonderful, and at the time, cheap. I ate out two, three times a week. I still biked around everywhere, and went through a rock climbing phase that was replaced by a three year Crossfit obsession before swinging back to rock climbing again. But if I'm being honest, none of these things were enough to offset the decadent, salt-and-fat laden meals at Pok Pok, Bollywood Theater, and more.

For me, it's always been a struggle to reconcile my love for food and my health all these years. There are a lot of bloggers who swing the other way on the pendulum — it seems that a surprising number of blogs are often started by folks recovering from disordered eating, folks who are trying to teach themselves to learn to like food again. And that's great, but I'm just the absolute opposite. Even with the full knowledge that flour, butter, and sugar have adverse effects on my health down the line, I'll indulge anyway because I love all of it so much. My self-control just ain't there. And I've tried. I gave up refined-sugar for a month; the feelings of bliss and peace with myself never came, even after my body allegedly detoxed itself and kicked my addiction. I've ran marathons and picked up weights three times my own, just so I could justify my weekly bagel and burger habit. All I learned was that these extremes don't really work.

For me at least, it seems that moderation is the key. There are other ways to cut back without going cold turkey or starting a new routine from scratch. For the last few weeks, I've been experimenting with cutting back on flour and sugar in recipes. Less flour leads to more moist (but less stable) bakes. Less sugar leads to less moist and flavorful bakes, but that can easily be compensated with the addition of more fruit and chocolate.

One of my favorite reduced sugar recipes I've tried so far is this banana bread recipe from the famed Flour Bakery in Boston. The original recipe had more than a cup of granulated sugar; this version only has 6 tablespoons. Joanne Chang, Flour's head baker and founder, compensates for the lack of sugar by using incredibly ripe (the point of being almost fully black!) bananas and cooking them to bring out their natural sugars. Enjoy!


Some baker's notes:
  • I know that I'm probably going to get a troll in the comments criticizing the recipe for reducing sugar, but adding more oil and crème fraîche. Which, fair. But I belong to the school of thought that sugar is worse for you than fat, especially if the fat is not a gross trans hydrogenated fat like shortening. If that's not for you, feel free to make the original recipe with the full amount of granulated sugar, which is available in this recipe for banana bread french toast.

  • Like with any banana bread recipe, it's important to use really, really ripe bananas. For this one, you want to be almost uncomfortable with how ripe these are — they need to be almost black, to the point of needing to be thrown away. The longer you ripen the bananas, the sweeter and more sugary your bread will be (which is important for this reduced sugar recipe!). In a pinch, you can bake the bananas in the oven to ripen them faster, but it won't be the same. I also share some other ripening tips in this recipe for The Violet Bakery's banana bread; be sure to check it out!

  • While loaf cakes come together pretty easily, it can be a challenge to get the center to bake as quickly as the edges. I have some tricks that I use to ensure an even bake; check out my tips on baking with a loaf pan in this cake toast recipe
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